The decision to allow or not allow cell phones in church seems to me to be a losing battle. Young or old, people do bring their phones into the sanctuary and into the classroom. Hopefully, they can behave appropriately while they have them and not disturb worship or teaching with ringtones and text message alerts. If you're trying to enforce a cell phone ban, read no further. If you're interested in a way to involve cell phones in a class or even a service, keep reading.
In my congregation, we have the tradition of a confirmation retreat each fall. Much of this is devoted to giving the class members time to get to know one another and some of it is set aside for teaching. Since it's a one-night lock-in, I knew I'd be trying to teach late in the evening after a full day of school. So I wanted to come up with some ways to encourage interactivity beyond the normal conversations and tossing of candy into the room.
I stumbled upon Poll Everywhere as a great tool and, unless you have more than 40 people in a class, a free tool. Using Poll Everywhere you can create multiple choice or open answer polls and have people respond to them via SMS Text Message, Twitter, or a customized web page. While people are sending their answers, a webpage or a slide in either Powerpoint or Keynote can be automagically updated with their responses. To demonstrate this, I'll walk through the process of creating a poll asking which synoptic gospel is the favorite.
- Create a free account at www.polleverywhere.com.
- Click on My Polls and click the Create a Poll button.
- Type the question into the box, with the multiple choice answers. I could also just type the question and add the answers later. Or I could create more than one poll at a time. The user interface is very powerful and lets you use it in a variety of different ways. I'll type: What's your favorite synoptic gospel? and then hit RETURN so I can enter the possible Multiple Choice answers.
- Select the Multiple Choice option and you can enter the choices. I'll enter Matthew, Mark, and Luke as the three options.
- Click the Create button and you'll be taken to the poll screen. Click the Edit link on the right side to see some more options including how many times and individual can respond, what ways they can respond (Twitter, website, private link, or text messages), and the start/stop times of your poll.
- After you click the Save Poll button, you'll be taken to the live version of the poll. From this screen, you can adjust many of the visual appearance options of the poll. Move your mouse over the poll and click on the settings gear icon and mess around to see what you can do. There's much to see and do here, but I want to move forward and show you how to download this into a Powerpoint slide.
- On the right, click on Download as Slide and then click the link for the version of Powerpoint that you have to download a slide containing the live version of your poll. Once you have that file, open it up in Powerpoint.
- Scroll through the slides of instructions to the last slide that should contain your live slide. I've found that it's best to click on that slide and just copy the object, not the whole slide. Then paste that into the slideshow that you want to use it in. You can re-size the object and it will re-format to look pretty in whatever size window you give it.
- You can also access the Visual Settings from within Powerpoint, but you can't do that from the editing screen. You have to display the show and then move your mouse over the poll object to get the icons to show up. There is also an icon to show the instructions and to make just the poll full screen. Both of these also work while displaying the live poll in Powerpoint.
There are tons of things that you can do to customize and experiment, which I'm not going to go into here. Once you create some interesting polls, share them publicly in the comments below. Feel free to send question you might discover that you have.
I've embedded the poll in this post so you can see what it looks like and, at least the first forty of you, can take the poll yourself!