Clickers and student response systems (SRS) have been around for many years. Similar to the type of feedback systems made popular through game shows that ask the audience to “weigh in,” clickers allow students to answer questions and give feedback anonymously. Data from students’ responses is gathered and aggregated, allowing the instructor to gauge how much learning impact their instruction has made. If the majority of the students in a class are unable to answer correctly, the topic may need to be covered again, more thoroughly, or by using another instructional approach.
“Often referred to as ‘clickers,’ SRSs come in a variety of forms, but all consist of a remote control keypad or handset students use to respond electronically to questions from the instructor. An SRS requires students to focus and actively participate, and it gives faculty the opportunity to analyze and discuss each question as students respond“ (ECAR Research Bulletin 9, 2011).
How to Use Clickers
The following are some of the ways this teaching approach is used to engage students:
- Checking for prior knowledge
- Class-wide discussion giving every student a voice in the conversation
- Critical thinking considering what if scenarios or case based questions
- Exam review; going over each question and showing the correct answer and discussing why it is the best answer
- Formative assessment to determine whether the majority of the class comprehends the material covered
- Instructional improvement covering material in a different way when the formative assessment shows the information was not understood
- Student written questions
Impact on Learning
Using clickers or student response systems in instruction can impact learning through:
- Having student participate anonymously, making it easy for everyone to participate without the risk of public failure
- Creating a gaming atmosphere that students find more engaging than traditional class discussion or lecture
- Engaging students in active learning throughout the class period
- Gauging their level of understanding of the material being presented
- Providing opportunity for prompt feedback to student questions
Clickers can be used for formative assessment to determine where students are in terms of learning the course content. Since clickers make questioning and feedback quick and easy to do, it can be used frequently, giving great insight into students’ progress without investing a lot of time or effort. With the information gained, instructors can adjust to students’ learning needs in real time, based on responses.
By using clickers in large-enrollment courses, instructors can foster a sense of students’ belonging to a learning community in the classroom. By engaging students through formative assessment using clickers, often there is an increase in student retention and success because they are actively participating in the learning process.
Additionally, by using clickers as part of a systemic approach to course improvement, faculty can adjust their instructional approach while collecting teaching data that may be useful for promotion and tenure (Crews, 2011).
Canvas and Clickers
When using Canvas with certain clicker systems, you can poll students in your classroom then export/upload the polling data into the Canvas gradebook.
To learn more about using Canvas with iclickers at Penn State go to http://clickers.psu.edu/canvas-and-iclicker.
Software: Polling software and apps for phones can often be downloaded for free and used in the classroom with technology owned by the student such as a laptop, tablet, or cell phone. For example, Poll Everywhere is free and can be used with PowerPoint or any other type of presentation.
GoSoapBox is a student response app for use in the classroom. Using web-enabled devices, instructors conduct formative assessment and gain real-time insight into student comprehension.
Social networking: Students can submit their observations and answers in real time using Twitter, Yammer, and similar social networking services.
- Twitter: Give students a prompt prior to starting the video clip and then have them live-tweet their responses during the video with a hashtag and your class number. For more ideas on using Twitter in the classroom, see Inside Higher Ed: Teaching with Twitter. Two similar websites that provide more privacy than Twitter include Socrative and Poll Everywhere. Both can be used to collect students’ responses via computers, tablets, or text messages.
- Yammer: Includes the option for polling students with specific questions as well as allowing for free flow of threaded discussion, linking of additional resources, and uploading related files.
Hardware: Most commercial systems that use hardware require the student to make a onetime purchase of their transmitter and additional fees may be required. According to Pedagogy in Action (Jun 17, 2015), The SERC portal for Educators at http://serc.carleton.edu/sp/library/classresponse/manufacturers.html, there are currently five major companies that make response systems.
- eInstruction Personal Response System
- eInstruction Classroom Performance System
- Turning Technologies
Things to Consider
For successful implementation of using clickers or student response systems, you should consider the following recommendations (Robertson, 2000):
- Keep questions short
- Have no more than five answer choices
- Keep questions relatively simple and not overly complex
- Keep voting straightforward
- Allow time for discussion when planning your instruction
- Use clickers sparingly to highlight specific points and do not overuse the system
Albright, Amanda and JoAnn Gonzalez-Major. “Tools for Engaging Students: Clickers.” Dartmouth College Library Research Guides. Last modified July 13, 2015. http://researchguides.dartmouth.edu/c.php?g=59726&p=382839M.
Briggs, Charlotte L. and Deborah Keyek-Franssen. “Clickers and CATs: Using Learner Response Systems for Formative Assessment in the Classroom.” EducauseReview. Last modified December 15, 2010. http://er.educause.edu/articles/2010/12/clickers-and-cats-using-learner-response-systems-for-formative-assessments-in-the-classroom.
Bruff, Derek. “Classroom Response Systems (“Clickers”). Vanderbilt University, Center
for Teaching. http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guidessubpages/clickers/.
“Clickers at Penn State.” Penn State. http://clickers.psu.edu/.
Crews, Tena B., Lara Ducate, Jeanna Marie Rathel, Karen Heid, and Stephen T. Bishoff. “Clickers in the Classroom: Transforming Students into Active Learners.” Educase Center for Applied Research (2011). http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERB1109.pdf.
“Major Manufacturers.” Pedagogy in Action, Carleton College, SERC portal for Educators. http://serc.carleton.edu/sp/library/classresponse/manufacturers.html.
Robertson Lorraine J. “Twelve tips for using a computerised interactive audience response system.” Medical Teacher 22, no. 3 (2000). http://www4.uwm.edu/ltc/srs/faculty/docs/twelvetips.pdf.