January 7, 2008
Biology professors use “clickers” in class
Augusta, Ga. – One person hogging the remote is never a problem in Richard Griner’s classroom, since all the students have the remote devices known as clickers or classroom response systems. The handheld wireless devices that resemble television remote controls are increasingly being used on college campuses, and five professors in Augusta State University’s Department of Biology used the clickers this past semester, after beginning to use them in fall 2006.
Students use the handheld transmitters to answer multiple-choice questions that have been displayed on a PowerPoint screen. The clicker beams a signal to a receiver in the instructor’s computer. Software on the computer collects the students’ responses, and when all the answers are in, the students and professor get instant feedback.
Dr. Griner says the distribution of answers displayed after the last question is answered helps him know the class’s strengths and weaknesses. He can modify his instruction accordingly. If clicker data shows that the students understand, then Dr. Griner moves on to the next topic. If not, he can spend more time on the topic.
“I get to see the distribution, so I know whether everyone understands the material and if we need to move on,” he says.
There are other advantages to using the clickers. They alter classroom dynamics by easing fears that some students may have in speaking out publicly or of giving incorrect answers or stating unpopular views. One use of the clicker is to give students a preview of an exam, giving students time to think about the question and record their answers, which allows them to use the personalized information so they know which areas they may need to spend additional time studying.
“My hope was that with this scenario, it will make students realize ‘Hey, I really didn’t know that, so I better go back and study,’” Dr. Griner says. “Hopefully it’s allowing them to see exactly where they need to study.”
The clickers also register class attendance by asking students to respond to the simple question, “Are you here?” at the beginning of the session.
Students purchase the $50 clickers at the bookstore at the beginning of the semester. The devices are then programmed with each student’s identification number, allowing the receiver to collect and organize the data correctly.
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