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Personal Response Systems (Clickers)
Personal Response Systems (clickers) can help enhance teaching and learning in the classroom. The Educational Technology office administers clicker technology. Below you will find more information about using clickers in your classroom.
Personal response system technology consists of infrared transmitters (response cards) that are issued to the students, a portable or permanently installed classroom receiver(s), and presentation software (usually a PowerPoint or other Office software plug-in). The instructor poses a question to the students via PowerPoint and the students respond using the transmitters. The responses are collected and assimilated instantly into graphical data, such as a pie or bar chart, which can be displayed back to the students.
The quick compilation of data provides two immediate benefits--efficiency and assessment. The benefits to the instructor are obvious. Electronic responses eliminate paper waste, reduce the time required to grade quizzes and provide a mechanism for taking attendance all in a matter of seconds. The data provides the instructor and student with a powerful learning/teaching assessment tool. By providing answers to questions, the instructor and student can quickly identify critical insights to individual student learning and knowledge retention.
Response system technology gives the instructor a powerful assessment tool as well as a tool that positively impacts student attention and retention of the course material.
View some short instructional videos on "Clickers in the Science Classroom," including how to write good clicker questions for science courses, and research on student learning with interactive devices, produced by the Science Education Initiative at the University of Colorado and the University of British Columbia.
Faculty have used clickers to:
- Save time by substituting for a paper test or quiz.
- Save time when taking attendance.
- Polling the class to check understanding of last night's homework with a question(s) over the key concepts.
- Asking "muddiest point" questions.
- Gain instant feedback on student understanding of presented material during lectures thus allowing the instructor to make adjustments to the material to be presented.
- Have students grade peer presentations.
- Facilitate debate sessions by providing group opinions or consensus data.
View some short instructional videos on "Clickers in the Science Classroom" produced by the Science Education Initiative at the University of Colorado and the University of British Columbia.
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Deciding to use clickers within the classroom environment should be made only after thoughtful consideration of the learning goals you want to achieve.
Personal response systems are very effective if your goals are to:
- Increase student attention and interactivity during a lecture.
- Allow students to check their comprehension of the lecture objectives and discipline-specific concepts or to check understanding of assigned homework.
- Make adjustments to lecture material based on the outcomes of polling tests (reinforces a pattern of inquiry, learning, and assessment).
- Reinforce student preparation for class (reading and homework assignments).
- Track attendance (particularly useful in large class sections).
Best practices involve:
- Measurements of students' conceptual knowledge before and after content delivery.
- Helping students confront misconceptions.
- Adjustment of the quantity of instructors' daily lecture content based on student responses.
- Providing explanations of the right answers or why a certain answer was wrong directly after a polling test.
- Concept questions or questions that require methodical thinking (NOT regurgitation of definitions or simple memory tests).
- Allowance for peer teaching and assessment of the impact.
Recommended reading/viewing for effective pedagogies:
- Clickers in the Classroom by Douglas Duncan (Pearson Higher Education)
- Peer Instruction by Eric Mazur (Amazon.com) Also available on loan from the CERTI office
- Optimizing the Use of Personal Response Devices (Clickers)
in Large-Enrollment Introductory Courses by Klaus Woelk
- Clickers in the Science Classroom -- short videos produced by the Science Education Initiative
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The decision to use student response systems should be made at least one semester before classroom implementation. This will give you time for training, content revision, content preparation, trial runs, policy development, syllabus preparation, software installation, s:drive configuration, product orders, and classroom equipment preparation.
Missouri S&T has standardized on Turning Technologies SRS product and has developed a campus process to help minimize the multitude of details.
First step: Contact the Educational Technology office. Ed Tech personnel will arrange a consultation time to review your course goals and to discover how the SRS can help you meet those goals. A timeline will be set to meet the objectives necessary for smooth implementation.
The bookstore and the IT department also play a major role in the student response system process. Ed Tech will help to coordinate all parties’ involvement.
2 months prior to beginning of semester:
Contact Ed Tech Office and let them know which courses will be using clickers. Go to the clicker registration page to register your intent to use clickers: https://itweb.mst.edu/auth-cgi-bin/cgiwrap/clickers/request_clickers.pl
1 - 2 months prior to beginning of semester:
Develop the course material for your clicker-enabled course.
1 - 2 weeks prior to beginning of semester:
Upload course content onto Blackboard servers.
Immediately prior to beginning of semester:
Download participant lists for your courses and double-check them against your class rosters in Joe'SS. Report any inconsistencies to EdTech/Bookstore/Registrar prior to first day of class, if possible.
The choice to grade students’ responses is truly up to the instructor. You can use clickers without assigning grades, especially if you are more interested in class opinions, majority votes, or using clickers for a midterm teaching assessment. However, if it’s mandatory that students purchase clickers for your classroom, then it might be appropriate to maximize the technology in ways that justify the student’s investment.
Consider your current grading policy. Is a certain percentage allocated for class participation? If so, then it’s an easy transition to include students’ responses as that participation grade. Do you assign homework? Consider assigning homework but instead of collecting it for a grade, present a clicker question or two that would reflect completion of the homework. If the student has completed their homework, then the answers should be easy. The benefits of this strategy are obvious; you get instant feedback on their understanding and the students know their grades immediately.
Consider another popular strategy. Instructor A assigns nightly reading that will help prepare her students for the next lecture. Students are required to read the assignment and answer a few questions that assess their understanding of the material. When students arrive at class they are presented with clicker questions from the homework. The instructor knows immediately what concepts her class has understood, thereby enabling her to shorten the time on lesser topics and concentrate more on the difficult issues.
Most instructors choose to assign points for student responses. Some assign a higher point value to correct answers and a lower point value for incorrect answers. Some only assign bonus points. Regardless of the amount of points assigned, students obsess over grades...even clicker grades!! When determining point values, allow for technology failures, battery failures, absences, and lost or stolen clickers. One idea is to offer the student the opportunity to earn 125 points over the semester with a maximum of 100 applying to their grade. This helps to lower student apprehension.
Failing Equipment & Grading Policies
In developing grading policies for clickers, you want to build in a certain percentage of points that could be missed due to absences, failing clickers, lost clickers, etc. Or, you can choose to implement “spare clickers” assigned to a student for a single class period in cases when their clicker doesn’t work or is left at home. This option will require you to transfer the points, after class, back to his/her grade record. Having a policy in place will reduce student apprehension for circumstances that could be out of their control.
Note in your syllabus that you will be using clickers in the classroom. Instruct the students to pick up their clickers at the Missouri S&T Bookstore. Clickers are registered through Blackboard. If they don’t register through Blackboard, your participant list(s) will not be accurate.
Sample Intro Paragraph
This course utilizes audience/student/personal response systems, otherwise known as “clickers.” Clickers are small hand-held devices, similar to a TV remote control, which allows students to respond electronically to a power point quiz question and receive immediate, electronic feedback on the accuracy of their response. Not only do students get instant feedback but the instructor will be better informed about how students are learning.
Your Responsibilities: Obtain your clicker at the S&T Bookstore. Your clicker must be registered in Blackboard each semester. You are responsible for bringing the clicker to class daily. If you lose or break your clicker, you will have to obtain and register a new one. Batteries can be obtained at the Bookstore.
For a malfunctioning clicker, go to the walk-in center at the Library to see if you need a firmware update.
Instructions on registering clickers in Blackboard can be found at:
It’s also helpful to include your policy on cheating and borrowing clickers. For instance consider including this sample verbiage in your syllabus.
Sample Cheating Paragraph
Your clicker is registered to you. You cannot use another student’s clicker. It is considered cheating if you “fill-in” for an absent student by answering clicker questions on their behalf. Using someone else’s clicker is grounds for failure of the assignment or test. I will randomly pose questions throughout the semester that will tell me if someone is “clicking in” for a friend.