Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Teaching and Learning with Clickers: Are Clickers Good for Students?

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Teaching and Learning with Clickers: Are Clickers Good for Students?

Article excerpt

Introduction

Technologies have been coming in and out of our culture, and today one of the most groundbreaking advancements in education is interactive technology. The Clicker system is used in hundreds of college classes around the United States. Clickers, also known as Personal Response Systems (PRS), Student Response Systems (SRS), and Automated Response Systems (ARS), represent some of the powerful interactive technologies in the classroom that can be used to promote active learning. A clicker is a little device that lets an instructor take a real-time poll of the class. Each clicker has a number of buttons (e.g., labeled A through E) corresponding to answer choices to a question posed by the instructor. A real-time histogram is created showing the class responses. This enables the instructor to get a snapshot of whether the class is following his or her lecture content, both by seeing the histogram and by hearing conversations that students have with each other.

The price for the clicker system varies depending on the type purchased. The cost of a clicker device sold in the United States ranges between $20-60 on average. Students also need to pay an activation fee each semester they use it in class ($15-25). In addition, the institution has to buy software from a distributing company. The clicker system that we used in our study is SMART Response PE model. Classroom packages range between $1,000 for a set of 12 to $3,000 for a set of 48 clickers. This is a one-time cost of clicker devices, receiver, and the SMART Response software. For this clicker model students do not have to pay an activation fee once the SMART Response software has been purchased by the institution or the instructor. The clickers can be used in multiple courses. They are not assigned to only one student but all students with or without their unique identification number can use each device.

If students do not feel involved in the learning process, they are less likely to work hard to make sense of the presented material and, therefore, less likely to perform well on assessments measuring their learning. Research in educational technology shows that the use of clickers improves classroom interactive atmosphere (see for example Draper, Cargill, & Cutts, 2002; Laurillard, 1993). When used correctly, this technology can result in a remarkable transformation of a classroom, leading to better learning outcomes and enjoyment in a given course through increased interaction and engagement of students with their instructor and peers. With clickers, students have an input device that lets them express their views and understanding of the content. Each clicker device can be numbered or coded by the instructor for tracking student responses and recordkeeping after each class session. This enables the instructor to gauge student understanding and respond accordingly. In a lecture environment students may be unwilling to volunteer information regarding their level of understanding of the covered material. A student who is unsure of the correct answer may be unwilling to take the risk of being incorrect. As a result only one or two students have the opportunity to answer a question. Even if the answer to the question is correct, the instructor has no way to gauge if all other students knew the correct answer. Clickers can be used as a means of anonymously testing students' understanding of the subject matter. During the question-and-answer session, the instructor allows the students to discuss their responses with their peers before showing them the correct answer. This process provides an opportunity for collaboration, active learning, peer instruction, and interaction. It also allows students to understand which answers they got wrong or right and why. In short, clickers help the instructor to obtain instant feedback on how well students are following the material presented in class, potentially promoting not just student engagement but also performance. …

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