Clicker – gadget producing results in college classrooms

I had not heard of this but it seems like a pretty good idea and a large number of college educators are adopting the technology. Technically called a Classroom Response System, the Clicker provides a means for professors to engage a large class and to take attendance at the same time. (story here)

Freshman Sarah Speicher stared down at her syllabus in the bookstore at Temple University, considering her next purchase. “Clicker?” she asked out loud. “What’s a clicker?”A clicker, she soon discovered, is a “personal response device,” a small electronic gadget the size of a slim calculator that she and her 399 classmates in Law and American Society would be toting to class.

The trendy, high-tech learning tool, used to take attendance, poll student opinion, and administer quizzes, is taking hold on campuses across the country, with an estimated two million college students now using them, transforming teaching – and learning.

“I think they are the greatest educational innovation since chalk,” said Neil Sheflin, an associate professor of economics at Rutgers University.

The use of clickers, which can cost $35 to $45 apiece, is shifting education away from the age-old practice of putting a professor at the front of a room to lecture to a passive audience. Instead, it forces participation from all students and encourages peer learning. It is, as one pair of professors titled a journal article, like “waking the dead.”

Michelle Benton, a junior at Gwynedd-Mercy College, said the format has let her know if she understood the material. “And you get to see where you stand in comparison to your classmates.”

According to the professors interviewed for the article, the device stimulates participation and discussion in large classes where many students are reluctant out of fear of being wrong. It is also a valuable tool for the instructor to understand how well the students are grasping a particular concept.

At Ursinus College, all students taking this year’s general chemistry class are using clickers for the first time, after the physics faculty persuaded the chemistry professors to try them out, said Eric Williamsen, an associate professor of chemistry.

One key to using the technology is to encourage student discussion. After a clicked answer produces mixed results, students are told to work out the problem with their neighbors for a few minutes, and then are asked the question again.

So far, research shows that the sequence works. Students do better the second time around.

Douglas Duncan, an astronomy professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder and author of Clickers in the Classroom, predicts clickers on campus will eventually be as common as cell phones.

“Clickers will be here forever,” he said, because they eliminate embarrassment, provoke interaction, and ultimately improve learning.

“There is a big cadre of students who say, ‘Do I like them? No, but I know they’re good for me.’ Sort of like broccoli,” Duncan said.

Innovation in education – Bravo…


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