Clickers (also known as student, classroom, or personal response systems) allow instructors to poll students immediately and electronically during class. Used effectively, clickers can help students actively engage with course content while they are in the classroom. For more information about clickers and how to use them in the classroom, read the article below, reprinted from the February 2007 Statements, or visit the following website: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/cft/resources/teaching_resources/technology/crs.htm
In order to get clickers, instructors should first select the system that best fits their needs. There are a variety of systems to choose from and each has unique features. In order to simplify the process, lower costs for students, and better support instructors, CELT in partnership with Library and Information Technology Services (LITS) recommends the iClicker system (www.iclicker.com). This choice was made after visits by three different clicker vendors during the Spring 2007 semester. The other two systems reviewed were TurningPoint (http://www.turningtechnologies.com/) and Interwrite (http://www.einstruction.com/products?redirect_src=/products/assessment/prs/index.html). The iClicker system is being recommended due to its ease of use and ability to work with ANGEL.
After selecting the system, the next step is to place an order with the bookstore for the remote control devices that students will need to purchase. There is great variation in the cost of these remotes ($10-50) but some companies make up for the low cost of their remote through charging students to register online. If you choose iClicker, contact CELT Director Christopher Price at x5025 or firstname.lastname@example.org to figure out how to acquire the base receiver (the device that records the responses), needed software, and training on how to use the system and sync your course roster. If you choose a system other than iClicker, contact the sales representative for that vendor for the base, software and training as well as Classroom Technologies (x2660) so that they can make sure your system will work in your assigned classroom.
If you want to try clickers out or use them for only one or two classes, CELT and Classroom Technologies have a set of up to 100 available for loan. If you would like to borrow this set, contact CELT at x5088 or email@example.com.
The following is reprinted with permission from the February 2007 issue of Statements.
Personal Response Systems (Clickers) Help Increase Student Engagement
For many, the high-tech classroom refers to the availability of a computer and a projector. While these devices give the instructor many teaching tools at his or her disposal, most have used this technology to project notes that they formerly would present on overhead transparencies or write on the chalkboard. Unfortunately, this practice has led to the perception that the so-called “smart classrooms” did very little to change the nature of college teaching.
Now, a small handheld device has the potential to transform the learning experience for both teachers and students. Personal response systems, popularly known as “clickers”, are remote control devices that allow students to respond to questions posed by the instructor during class. The answers are then immediately summarized in graph form and displayed for the whole class to see. The instructor also has the option to associate this data with individual students and save it as a computer file. These devices are especially useful in large courses where it is difficult to get students to participate and interact. With clickers, all students have the opportunity to answer a question or express an opinion at any time of the instructor’s choosing.
Clickers should prove to have staying power as they make good educational sense. Researchers have known for a long time that students learn best through actively engaging with course material. The problem is that the size of many college classes makes such engagement difficult and lecturing to passive students all too easy. Imagine the logistical difficulties one would face in getting 150 students to work in groups of 4-6 at the same time! The other problem of the large lecture class is that it is easy for students to “tune-out” no matter how dynamic and skilled the instructor.
Clickers help increase student engagement in several ways. They provide an easy way for the instructor to take attendance at the beginning of class thus eliminating stacks of sign-in sheets or time consuming roll-calls. Clickers also allow the instructor to get immediate feedback about student comprehension. If most students are able to answer a series of questions at the end of a lecture, it is time to move on to the next topic; if not, the instructor needs to spend more time on the subject. Most importantly, clickers help all students to become active participants rather than passive spectators. For opinion questions, students can see how they compare to their peers. The instructor could also use the data collected by the clickers as discussion topics for students in pairs and groups or for the class as a whole. These are just a few examples of the way clickers can be used in the classroom. Many other applications are being developed as more faculty members adopt this technology.
The only downside to the use of clickers is the cost incurred by the student and the time needed for the instructor to learn how to use them properly. Just as students are reluctant to spend the $25-50 for a clicker on top of what they spend on books, instructors are hesitant to spend the time needed to incorporate new technology into their teaching. At Brockport, a group of faculty and staff have organized to discuss how to overcome these obstacles. The first task for this group is to select one type of clicker to recommend for use by all faculty members. Standardization will help reduce the likelihood of technological glitches and make it more likely that students will use the same clicker in several classes. The clicker group has met with several vendors and plans to make a decision before the end of the spring 2007 semester.
If you are interested in being part of that group or if you would like to discuss clickers further, contact the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching Director Christopher Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or x5025.