Promethean ActiVotes in the Music Classroom

by | ActiVotes, Assessment, Technology

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There are few products that I have in my classroom that I can’t imagine teaching without.  One of them is a set of Promethean ActiVotes (or clickers).  While there are many options available for clickers, I have found the ActiVotes to be easy for me to use and easy for students to use.  I know a lot of people are proponents of using one of the phone or tablet based products, but right now my kids aren’t bringing devices to the classroom.

I am guessing that if you are reading this blog, you probably are already pretty tech savvy and know many of what I am about to cover….but just in case, here are some highlights from the trainings I have given teachers in my county.  This covers some of the simple background knowledge you need in order to implement the ActiVotes.

Hardware vs. Software

As part of my graduate work, I completed a needs assessment on hardware and software needs and realized that many people don’t understand the difference.

Think of hardware as something you can touch – the computer screen, the mouse, the keyboard, etc. Software is the programs that run on the hardware. For example Microsoft Word, ActivInspire, iPhone Apps.

Interactive Whiteboards (IWB) or Interactive Projectors (IP)

IWB and IP are simply hardware that allow you to use your hands or magic pen to function as a computer mouse.

Some examples of IWB/IP hardware include:

  • Smart Board – uses a special board and special pen to interact.
  • Promethean Board – uses a special board and special pen to interact.
  • Epson Brightlinks – projector that reads a special pen on a regular white board.
  • Mimio Boards – bar that read a special pen attached to a regular white board.  requires a separate projector.
  • Basic Projector – use a regular mouse.

IWB/IP software is designed to function with interactive white boards.  Some features of each program are only available for a particular hardware, but in many cases, they are interchangeable.

Some examples of IWB/IP software:

  • Promethean ActivInspire
  • Smart Notebook
  • Mimio Studio

What I use:

  • Epson Brightlink plus Promethean ActivInspire.

My ActiVotes give me a license to use the ActivInspire software.  Otherwise I would need to pay a $225 license fee to use Inspire.  The native program for the Epson Brightlink does not have all the features I want.


If you are brand new to Inspire, then think of it as a “fancy PowerPoint.”  It has the power of PowerPoint plus additional features to make it more interactive with students.  You can see a full guide to Inspire here.  If you would like to test out Inspire, you can download the personal edition here.  It doesn’t have all the features, but will give you an idea of how it works.

ActiVotes, ActivExpressions, and ActivEngage

These items are called “clickers” or “SRS: Student Response Systems.”  This is a way for students to respond individually to questions with nothing or very little for you to grade.  If you visit my store on Teachers Pay Teachers you can find a useful tool –   FREE guide to using ActiVotes in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

There are two other SRS items created by Promethean:

  • ActivExpressions – they work very much like Votes, with the additions of entering free text and kids can work on their own pace. They look like little cell phones.  Classroom teachers like them because you can ask deeper DOK questions using the Expressions.  For the music classroom, I felt these were more than I really needed for the purpose I use the Votes for in the time allowed.
  • ActivEngage – Ipads and other handheld devices work like ActivExpressions.  It requires addition licenses and software beyond what is required for the Expressions and Votes.

How I use my data

In the past, I tired grading 700 papers – it didn’t work.  They sat on my desk or on a table at home until I just gave up.  I am sad to admit that, but I just can’t handle that kind of work.  I had a grasp mentally of what my student know but nothing to really “prove” it.

With the ActiVotes, in 5-10 minutes I have a printout of how I am tracking progress in my classroom.  It tells me who will need additional support next time I cover a topic and allows me to create differentiated groups based on ability.

In addition, it pinpoints the students who need just a little extra help. I pull these students during dismissal and usually after a quick 5 minute one-on-one tutoring, they are able to grasp the concept.  On the flip-side, it shows me who is getting a “perfect” score each time and needs more challenging materials (i.e. students who take private piano lessons and never told me!).

I use the ActiVotes for things such as identifying rhythms, identifying notes, identifying forms, giving opinions, identifying genres.  Pretty much anything that could be traced “on paper.”  Obviously we do MANY activities in my room that cannot be traced with the ActiVotes (singing, performing on instruments, dances, etc.).  However, my administration has been significantly more understanding about how I assess those standards now that I have a way of truly tracking the standards that can be measured using the ActiVotes.

I hope you get a set!  Comment and let me know how you are using them!

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I'm busy mom of three and music educator in Atlanta, GA. My passion is helping busy music teachers deliver time saving, engaging lessons so you have more time to enjoy your life! Click my photo to learn more! Teach music. Love life.

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  1. Stacie Bates

    Very cool. My school uses Activinspire, but I don’t think any of us have the “clickers” that go along with it. I’m curious, how often do you use this type of assessment? #fermatafridays

    • Shelley with Pitch Publications

      So I am incredibly late with the reply as I missed a notice of comments for about 3 months apparently (yikes!) Better late than never – I use this as pre/mid/and post assessment data. this is HUGE in our county, even in music. For my own uses, I use it to group students for centers. I loosely divide them into NS -Needs Support, A – Average, and HF – High Flyers and then differentiate centers based on this.

  2. Elizabeth Caldwell

    I got training in my last district on the clickers associated with SmartNotebook and thought they were awesome! I never really got a chance to use the in the classroom before I moved to my current job. I hadn’t heard of ActiveVotes before- good to know other companies have equivalent products (although I guess I should have assumed that they would)! Thanks for sharing 🙂 #fermatafridays

    • Shelley with Pitch Publications

      I know most music teaches I have come across use SMART technology but my county chose to go with Promethean. So that seems be what I know best – one day I want to tackle Smart!

  3. Mark Parker

    We have a set of smart board “clickers” somewhere on our campus- (I think) I tried to do some experimenting with them but the batteries were all run down. Boo! Love it when technology brings in new stuff that doesn’t work.

    • Shelley with Pitch Publications

      You must go track them down and use them – they are fabulous! 🙂


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