I remember the day I was asked to choose between Covaccine and Covishield at the billing desk before vaccination. I could not decide instantly and replied if I am asked whether I want vanilla or strawberry ice cream, I can tell them as I have tasted both. On certain occasions we have to make informed choices, at other times we have to make a quick choice, there will also be occasions that demand timely, informed choice or timely, random choice. Teachers also have to face such situations during classroom activities like seminars, team presentations, or quiz when they have to decide whether to make these group activities or keep them individual, what lessons to allot which team or, which team should be asked to present on which day. If the allotted team or student is not prepared, how to get the next team to present because obviously it not being their turn this team too will have come unprepared. Another problem with such activities is that the students who have finished their turn may not pay attention to other presentations. Those whose turn is last may relax in the beginning and hurry up and give you an ill-prepared presentation at the end. When we had such problems in the physical classroom, they were addressed by drawing lots or using alphabetical or roll number order. Though these were not proper solutions, we managed.
But after transitioning to online classes during lockdown, owing to other bigger problems related to data consumption, absenteeism and pedagogy, the problems that I mentioned above did not hold any significance for many. But it was a significant problem for me. While discussing this problem with my gen z daughter, she suggested that I use a website called pickerwheel.com. She had used it with her friends during games and quiz. I checked the website and found it to be worth experimenting with. I divided my students into 13 teams of four members each based on alphabetical order. I allotted topics as per the order in the syllabus to the teams. But to decide which team made their presentation when, I used the picker wheel. I entered the names of the topics in the picker wheel, which after being spun would stop at a topic and the team whose topic it was made the presentation. This meant that all 13 teams had to be prepared for their presentation on all days because the picker wheel made a random choice of the topic. On the first day, the entire class was hooked to see how the picker wheel works. This game of random choice excited them. With the picker wheel, seminar presentations have gained momentum and have transformed the class into an energetic one, which earlier was dull and unexciting. The picker wheel has the feature to hide a completed topic and add more topics in case of changes or additions. What you enter into the picker wheel is entirely up to you. It needn’t always be names of topics, you can also have names of students, or team numbers or names. Since the teacher is not making the choice here, there is also a sense of transparency.
The author is Assistant Professor, Department of English, SDNB Vaishnav College for Women, Chrompet, Chennai. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.