Clickers In The Classroom

from the learning-like-a-gameshow dept

Last year we had an article about the rising popularity of gameshow-like multiple choice wireless devices being used in the classroom. The idea was that professors could regularly ask questions of students and have them all input their answers – and get an immediate feel for whether or not the students were understanding the lesson. Now, the NY Times has picked up on the technology and has a similar article saying that many students and professors using the technology say it’s been great in improving the classroom experience. Professors say that the class is more engaged (and less likely to be surfing the web or IMing during class) and focused on the material. It also means that the professor can more rapidly adjust the lesson in real-time if people aren’t understanding. It certainly works better than the former proxy method where a single student would be asked (or would ask) a question, which the professor would use to determine whether or not the lesson was getting across. As with many technologies, it sounds like there are unintended benefits as well – incorporating the technology results directly into classroom lessons – such as using it to demonstrate statistics techniques on the fly, or using results as part of a sociological point. It also allows students who normally don’t like to raise their hand to make their confusion known, without singling themselves out. Finally, students say that it just makes the class more fun, as it seems more like a gameshow (an analogy used in last year’s article as well). There’s one quote at the end from someone who is skeptical about the technology – but doesn’t give much of a reason why, except that similar technology 30 years ago was a failure. Of course, that was 30 years ago, and I imagine the technology is a bit different these days. He also makes the point that the professor still needs to be a good teacher. I don’t think anyone is saying otherwise. It’s just that this technology can be used to enhance a good professor’s lesson.

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Comments on “Clickers In The Classroom”

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thecaptain says:

No Subject Given

The problem here is that multiple choice, unless the questions and answers are tricky or very cleverly thought out, or there are MANY options (like 6 or more) aren’t really a good yardstick for testing knowledge, because there’s always the possibility of guessing a correct answer.

(As a kid, I used to love the true or false tests…50/50 if I didn’t know the answer!)

Of course, statistically, maybe its more accurate spread over a large class since not everyone is going to guess…just the numnuts goffing off at the back.

Ann says:

Especially good for some cultures

I taught at an Asian University that was working on this 7 or 8 years ago. In their culture, it was too confrontational to ask questions in class, so I would get a line of a dozen or more students afterwards, all waiting to ask the same thing. What I eventually learned was that they were doing this for me as well as for themselves – if they asked a question that I couldn’t answer, it would be a huge loss of face for me. To their way of thinking, public questions/discussions are a no-win situation.
This system didn’t totally solve the problem, but it was a good way to get them involved. They were usually paying attention but hated the thought of having to say anything in class. The remotes got the students more involved and gave the professor some feedback (even if some were guessing) on whether they were following the material. It’s a good idea.

Frozen Chrome says:

30 years ago

“Class, please pay attention to the 4 answers on the blackboard”, notes the teacher as she points to written multiple choice list on the well used board.
“Those of you who think the answer is A, please raise your hand.”
“Those of you who think the answer is B, please raise your hand.”
“Those of you who think the answer is C, please raise your hand.”

Add some color and flavor to the mix, and voila, no need to use already limited school resources for additional short lived technological solutions. The results are the same. So much for technology ….

a professor says:

Re: 30 years ago

I haven’t used these clickers, but one additional advantage involves requiring every student to commit to a choice. With hand-raising, it’s often clear that many students either don’t vote at all or wait until they see how their peers vote before joining the crowd. The clicker doesn’t require a well-thought-out choice, but it is likely to lead more students to be involved because they have to make a decision, instead of waiting for the outspoken students or the professor to provide the answer.

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