clicker technology

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I use them and do research on their impact in my discipline (political science)--I do not know of any way to interface them with cell phones, but some of the brands are not at all expensive and the classroom tech generally only consists of a base station that cost under $100/room. If you want more detail, PM me....


One complaint is that students have to buy them and then the classroom (or the prof) has to be equipped with an appropriate receiver.

The cost is a major issue for me.  As it was for the commuter schools I've taught at.  Students don't need those extra costs.  Institutions don't need those extra costs.  I don't need the extra hassle of a useless, easily misplaced gadget. 

Besides, instead of alternative technology (e.g. cell phones), I find I get most of the benefit of clickers without the costs just using 4 x 6 index cards for in-class exercises.  And with the cards - unlike clickers - students can respond to short paragraph questions (for instance, "Briefly describe the Wisconsin Card Sorting task you saw in the video last class session.  What capabilities does this task assess?") 

My in-class exercises are not graded individually, instead they're used primarily to track credit for class participation, keep tabs on attendance and obtain feedback on student understanding of topics covered.  I have in-class exercises 1-2 times a week and spend about 5-10 minutes per class afterwards going through the cards for that day.  It's a little more time (15 min) if I use them for surveys - but I only use them for 1-2 question surveys; for longer surveys there's SurveyMonkey.

I've used the cards in classes with 100+ students. 

I love technology.  But only when it's actually useful and cost-effective. 

I was required to use the clickers for a large intro class one year (about 400 students per section). The idea was that we would use these to track attendance, and the chance to vote would make the students pay more attention.

I actually didn't like them very much -- the software took forever to tabulate the votes -- and there always seemed to be some kind of glitch with somebody's clicker. It just slowed down the pace a lot.

We also had some trouble with acadmic dishonesty (students were bringing ten of their friends' clickers to class). I would rather go without, but other people swear by them.

Most of the newer clickers use radio frequency (RF) technology.

It actually doesn't seem to interfere with cell phones (unless its IR technology), but must be on an alternate wireless channel than the wireless laptop computer system is on.

Think of them more like specialized wireless router boxes in each classroom. It knows which router box to connect to based on registering the device, just like you can register/restrict the wireless devices that connect to a given router.

In fact, some of the "clicker" systems are just the software for PCs and Macs that allows students to use their laptops as clickers.

I'm a higher ed doc student and have been to a presentation or two about clickers.  It seems to me that we shouldn't introduce a technology just for its own sake, that there should be sound instructional reasons for its use.  Besides all the questions about how they work and if they work, perhaps a more fundamental one is what value do they add, if any, and what things can you do with them that you can't otherwise? 

There are very many classroom assessment techniques (4-1-1, minute paper, think-pair-share, etc.) that can be used to equal or greater effect, and cost virtually nothing.  If you want to know how your students are reacting to material, perhaps you can actually ask them.


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