March 1, 2017
Teachers Talk - Plickers - A simple and affordable student response system
Laura Lui, Intermediate Vice-Principal/Teacher, Deer Lake SDA School, Burnaby, BC

Filing back into the classroom from recess, the discussion among the Grade 4 students changes from the latest tetherball match to world continents. On the classroom screen is a simple question followed by four possible answers. “Which continent is the biggest? A-Africa, B-North America, C-Europe, D-Asia.” Within two minutes, all the students are at their desks without any teacher direction, engaged and ready to answer. This is a typical scenario that occurs in my classroom after having implemented the Plickers system.
There are many classroom response systems available to educators for surveying students or for collecting immediate feedback. However, traditional electronic transmitter systems can be quite costly and difficult to implement. Enter Plickers: a paper-based clickers system that is virtually free, easy to use, and engaging for students.
Plickers is a student response system that requires one mobile device and paper cards for each student. The best part of this system is that students do not need a device to participate. This eliminates the high costs associated with providing devices for each student which is required by other response systems such as Kahoot, Poll Everywhere, and Socrative. Furthermore, the initial setup only takes a few minutes before the system is up and running, ready for use in your classes.
After setting up a free Plickers account, teachers can simply download the mobile app and a PDF to print unique cards which act as “clickers” for up to 63 students in a class. The instructor can now create multiple choice or true or false questions, filed under folders for organization. If you have a screen connected to a computer, log in to Plickers using a web browser and select “Live View” which will display the questions from your device to the screen.
Each Plickers card contains a unique pattern that is shaped into a pixelated cube. Each side of the cube corresponds to an answer (A, B, C, or D) and the student rotates the card so that their chosen answer is at the top. For example, if the student believes the answer to be “B,” then he will orient the card so that the B is standing upright. In class, the teacher will then use the Plickers app on a mobile device to scan the cards.
In Live View, students can also see when their answer has been scanned successfully as a check will appear next to their name. I encourage my students to place their card face down on their desks after it has been scanned to avoid re-scanning a different answer. Once all cards have been scanned, teachers can choose to display the responses in a simple bar graph and then reveal the correct answer.
As with all student participatory activities, it is essential to create a classroom atmosphere where it is safe to share answers and make mistakes. In my Grade 4 and 5 classes, even the students who are usually more reluctant to participate in a public forum were very engaged because the anonymity associated with this response system helps students feel safe. There is no easy way for students to know how each of their classmates responded to the question. The teacher, however, gets instant, live feedback on the mobile device while scanning and will know instantaneously if the concept was well understood or if re-teaching is required.
One of the most recent updates to the website was the addition of the “Scorecard” where teachers can select a range of dates to view all the scores for each question scanned during that specified time period. This report can be exported and saved as a record of student learning.
There are many ways Plickers can be used as a classroom response system. I have used it for surveys, formative assessments, quizzes, and exit questions. This system is affordable, simple to use, and valuable in terms of providing real-time feedback for teachers. Not only have my students performed significantly better on follow-up tests after a Plickers review session, they often enter the class begging to “play” Plickers. Students asking for a pop quiz? Clearly, this is a tool that works.