Last night I had the opportunity to be a guest lecturer for students in the credential program at UC Riverside. As I was planning my presentation, I knew I wanted to engage the group attending my lecture. As much as I like the chat and basic polling features in video conferencing platforms, like Zoom and Google Meet, I wanted something more dynamic. The chat window can be hard to manage while also presenting.
I decided to use Mentimeter to encourage audience participation throughout my presentation. Mentimeter is an interactive online presentation software that has a variety of question types to increase engagement during a presentation (in person or online). Presenters can choose from the following question types:
- Word cloud
- Multiple choice
- Image choice
The audience can use any device to access Mentimeter. Particpants enter a six-digit code that takes them directly to your presentation. They only see the slide that you have projected. As soon as you move to the next slide, their view also changes. Mentimeter updates the responses on the slides in real-time as participants respond to the questions. I also share my screen, so their responses are projected via the video conferencing platform we are using.
I began our session by asking participants to tell me the first three words that came to mind when they heard the phrase “blended learning.” The larger words in the cloud have been entered by multiple participants. This word association activity creates clarity about what the group is thinking about a particular issue or topic.
I also used Mentimeter to ask open-ended questions. Instead of asking participants to enter their responses into the chat window on Zoom, they submitted their answers via Mentimeter. This made the responses easier to see and discuss. I also found that their responses were more thoughtful and developed compared to the typical chat responses I see in video conference sessions.
The scales question feature allows participants to toggle between two different extremes. I shared the TRACE acronym for the tenets of school culture, which Jason Green talked about in our conversation on my podcast, The Balance. Then I asked the students to think about how clear each tenet at the schools where they were doing their student teaching. They were able to drag the dots to the location between “not a clear value/priority” and “a crystal clear value/priority” that reflected their perception of that tenet at their school. It quickly identified “risk-taking” as the aspect of school culture that was the least visible. However, as we discussed, “risk-taking” is a critical aspect of experimenting and innovating on a school campus.
I also used the multiple-choice question feature to quickly gather data about what the participants thought about a few of the issues we discussed. Their responses helped me to customize the presentation to their specific needs and concerns. I was able to emphasize specific points that I thought would resonate with them while skimming over aspects of the topic where they seemed more confident.
Finally, I ended our session by inviting participants to ask questions using the Mentimeter question slide. The questions would pop up, we would discuss them, and I would “mark as answered.”
This strategy worked so well that I have begun using it for all of my virtual conferencing sessions to increase engagement. I even used it this morning when presenting a webinar on online learning for a large group of educators in Africa. It changed the whole dynamic of the webinar. Instead of talking for 45 minutes to a group that is passively listening, I built a different type of question into each section of the presentation to keep them thinking and sharing. It worked beautifully!
If you have struggled to keep kids engaged in video conferencing sessions or felt overwhelmed managing student responses in the chat window, I would suggest trying Mentimeter. The free version allows you to create two slides with different question types and a Q&A slide. I always have my content for the virtual session on a Google Slide or Keynote presentation. Then I use Mentimeter to complement that content.
Up until recently, I have found the free version more than adequate. However, now that all of my presentations and training sessions are happening online, I decided to pay for the basic education version ($6/mo). It has unlimited slides per presentation and additional functionality that is useful for distance learning (e.g., quiz features).