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Clickers

How can clickers help students learn?
Imagine a simple tool that allows you to find out what students are thinking at any moment. You ask a question and all students respond. Their responses can instantly be projected to the screen in the form of a bar graph. Quick surveys done this way can transform a lecture into an active conversation among students and instructor. No longer does the instructor have to hope that students are "getting it"—she knows if they are!! More mundane uses include quizzing and taking attendance, but the real power of clickers is the instructor's ability to stage increasingly complex and difficult questions in a sequence, based on what students have already demonstrated they understand. In this way the intellectual challenge of a course can be increased.

What are clickers?
Which clicker should I use?
Where can I go to see how a system works and to practice using it?
If I know I want to use clickers in an upcoming semester, how do I start?
What about classroom support for the clickers?
I see some clickers bundled with textbooks. Should I just order the system that the publisher has chosen?

 

 

 

What are clickers?
Clickers are handheld wireless devices (purchased in the bookstore) that enable students to answer questions posed by their instructor. They can be used by an instructor in class to obtain real-time feedback from students. Responses are anonymous to the class, but not to the instructor.

System components and characteristics

Which clicker should I use?
At UAlbany several systems are in use, but based on our recent research (summer 2007), we are piloting iClicker for the 2007-2008 Academic year. This system has proven superior under the criteria of functionality, reliability and ease of use.
Individual faculty members have had success with other clicker systems, including E-instruction, Turning Point, H-ITT and Interwrite, but we hope to eventually adopt a standard system for the convenience of students and faculty. If you would like information on the clicker systems we examined and tested please contact Sue Barnes sbarnes@uamail.albany.edu.

Where can I go to see how a system works and to practice using it?
To see what clickers are all about, you can come to the Institute for Teaching, Learning & Academic Leadership (Social Science 251) to familiarize yourself with a demo system. We recommend that you contact us by phone (442-5521) or e-mail (teachingandlearning@albany.edu) to schedule an appointment in advance so we can ensure that someone will be available to show you the system and answer your questions.

If I know I want to use clickers in an upcoming semester, how do I start?

  1. Schedule a meeting with an ITLAL staff member. In this meeting we will discuss your project and your specific goals for using this technology. We can then anticipate challenges in course design and in managing the classroom when clickers are in use.
  2. ITLAL will show you the current system under promotion, and help you through the ordering process for the new equipment and software.
  3. Order clickers through the bookstore using ISBN for the iClickers
  4. Rewrite your syllabus to include procedures and policies for students to follow
  5. Schedule time in the ITLAL testing area to learn and practice using the software
  6. ITLAL will put you in contact with a current faculty user who can consult with you

What about classroom support for the clickers?
Currently ITS is not equipped to provide immediate classroom support if you have a problem with the clicker system in the middle of class. Users should consider this when adopting a clicker system. Eventually the goal is to provide classroom support, but this will be developed following the current pilot phase.

I see some clickers bundled with textbooks. Should I just order the system that the publisher has chosen?
Some publishers have partnered with clicker companies to include a clicker bundled with a textbook and sold as a single unit. This may seem very convenient, but it is not necessarily the best approach to take if you plan to adopt clickers. The functionality and reliability of clicker systems vary greatly, and you will want to maintain control over the selection of the technology. ITLAL and ITS's research into clicker systems has revealed some preferred brands. While it is up to an individual instructor to make his/her own choice of clicker system, we invite you to come by and talk with Sue Barnes at ITLAL, to see the advantages and disadvantages of the various systems.