Cold calling via Stick Pick

Cold calling is central to my nearly 3-hour long freshman composition class, and the Stick Pick app is central to my cold calling.

Stick pick imitates popsicles being pulled out of a can, complete with sound effects. My students always get a kick out of it. The algorithm ensures everyone is called on the same number of times, and I think they like that, too. No favorites, and no possibility of favorites, even.

True story: several years ago, I had a student I found frightening. He was well over 6 feet tall, and he used to glare at me for pretty much the entire 3 hours of class. It was impossible to tell whether he was angry at me in particular or at the world in general.

Stick Pick didn’t care.

My “scary” student had as many opportunities to speak as anyone else in the class, and his answers were generally sound. I did watch to see whether he needed to be questioned less than other students. I never use cold calling as a gotcha. It’s a means of distributing participation and keeping everyone awake, and that’s all.

That experience had a surprise ending.

That December, I had private conferences with each student to discuss the exit exam, which was to be graded anonymously by the department, not by me. When I met with my angry student–this was a bit unnerving since we were in a modular completely isolated from the rest of the campus–I told him three things he needed to do to pass the exam.

He listened without glaring, but also without making eye contact. When I stopped talking, he gave me a soft, shy smile and said he would do all three. And he did. He passed.

That smile!

Was he severely shy? Shy, not angry?

I’ll never know, but I still remember his smile.

Impact of Cold-Calling on Student Voluntary Participation

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