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Can you point the way to a DIY audience response system? Answered

Audience response systems are invaluable tools in classrooms but I can't afford the $1.2K that companies want me to spend for a pack of 24 units! I've got 35+ students in my class!

Background: Electronic audience response systems allows admins to poll a large number of users on a large amount of questions.

My students (G9-12), in general, do have (newish) cell phones. (New cell phones, like new tennis shoes, are a status symbol and among even the poorest students I've seen them with new expensive cell phones). Most students do not have wireless enabled laptops/handheld computers/ accessible in the classroom. What's worse is that many school network admins flat deny student access to school's wireless for fear of security/porn/ inappropriate material etc.

The open answer/polling time would need to be able to handle responses from a variety of inputs at different times i.e. little Johnny takes a little longer than Janey to answer the question so we can't have to wait for one student to enter their response before the next student. This time delay in fact would nearly defeat the purpose of gathering responses efficiently.

I'm very interested in seeing if a blue tooth receiver/software package could handle the polling of 30+ cell phone connections at the same time.

Your help in this matter has enormous potential to achieve a Johnny Lee wiiboard like effect on classrooms worldwide.

paper polling
As noted below, paper polling doesn't scale very well. If I'm performing secretarial duties of sorting paper then I'm not doing my job as a manager of a classroom and education. I feel that any teacher that is still pushing worksheets/quizzes/ etc. on paper then that teacher is working too hard and not working smart.

IR remotes
I've looked at trying to use off the shelf IR devices that could be used as a polling device. I believe the problem is in the IR receiver being able to identify each individual IR device. How to mod an IR so that it only has a unique signature connected to each signal?


Im about to work on this. For $20 (UK £15) you can buy a USB Infrared remote called Intrared USB Toy from seeed studio. Software WINLIRC, and Eventghost (both open source) looks like a good starting point. Hopefully programming a number of cheap "programmable" IR remotes wil be possible with this software. Like you say, having each remote have its own ID might be the tough part.
After that, some scripting of powerpoint or similar should be good enough to give a front-end quiz to the audience.
Lot of work but possible to save quite some cash here. If you want a response that is more detailed than just "choose A B C or D" then I think the only option is the expensive educational packages.

I use BeyondQuestion (http://www.erskine.edu/bq/demo_peer_instruction.html). I am fortunate to have 10 laptops and with a handful of students with smartphones, I can do polling usually with two students per device. I run the software on my own computer and on a local network (an old wireless access point and not connected to the outside world). While it is not a full CRS, it allows the anonymous response ability.

IR remotes ? Not too difficult to imagine a transmitter with a key pre-programmed in it by the teacher. You couldn't use standard remotes, but a custom transmitter would only be a mod of something like TV-B-gone. The problem I see is that of simultaneous signals having to be deconvolved at the receiver. My favourite method there would be to poll the response of every transmitter in the room, so the kids press their buttons, and the base station asks each button in turn for their answer - it could happen in a fraction of a second per unit, and invisibly to the users. What about auditing ? How do you prove that the wrong button was pressed when the child swears they pressed the right one ? THAT's why you can't beat paper.....

You've a point about auditing accuracy but these would not be used in high stake audit/tests/polls. Asking the students to do something in order is difficult even in a highly disciplined environment, unfortunately. The polling would need to be asynchronous(?) I think. Thanks for your ideas.

Paper votes? Balls in boxes?


Well... that's fine but it doesn't scale easily and requires a lot of administration overhead which, as a teacher, I can't afford. If I'm doing secretarial work like pushing paper around then I'm not managing the classroom. Students of course could do some of that but they lack my subject matter expertise. I'm hoping to process 100s maybe 1000s of votes/ tests/quizzes per hour. Paper doesn't scale up very well unless I've an Automated Turk, which I don't.

(bit stuck here) If I can think of anything that has the advantages of technology without the expense I'll let you know.


I agree with Lemonie for value for money. But it WOULD make a good project.

Thank you. Yes, it is a good project. Please keep an eye/ear open for a workaround to this problem.