Classroom Clickers

Friday, September 30, 2011 - 9:10am

A new system at one college is giving the professor instant feedback from students.

In an age when technology can be distracting educators are using it to bring students closer together.

"Everyone gets to confer about the question and then you get to see what the rest of the class thought," said student Jonathan Goodman.

Students enrolled in Professor Paul Heiney's Physics class at the University Of Pennsylvania are connecting to the material and each other with this little remote.

The clickers, as the students call them, allow heiney to quiz his class - making the lecture more interactive.

"Sometimes you explain something and you think it was crystal clear, and it turns out that 80 percent of the class gets the wrong answer, and you realize, oops, I better go back and redo that one," said Professor Heiney.

"Sometime I may think I have something, but a friend may find a whole in my logic, and we discuss it through," said student Ben Wang.

"It does add some excitement and makes the material more interesting," added student Jonathan Goodman.

While there's nothing new about this technology, it's similar to your remote control, students say it's how it's being used that makes it special.

"Discussing it with your friends makes it such that you can see the holes in your argument, you can see the problems in your logic, and often times, even if you don't know the answer then you'll just put a random guess down. But the way to improve yourself from that position is to talk to the people that might help spur those thoughts in the right direction," said student Vinayyak Kaumar.

"They're entirely educational in nature and yet they add a level of interaction and interactivity that students really appreciate in class," said Vanderbilt University’s Derek Bruff.

Dr. Derek Bruff literally wrote the book on the use of clickers in the classroom.

He says it helps the students and teachers focus on what's important.

"I call that agile teaching where you are actually responding to the data as it comes in - it can be a challenge but it's also a real opportunity to be much more effective in the classroom," said Bruff.

And the technology transcends the subject matter says Elizabeth Shyder, who oversees Instructional Technology at University of Pennsylvania.

"Some lecture classes use them to gauge student opinion. An ethics class uses them to gauge student views on ethics. We also had a sociology class use them to compare the student demographics, to the demographics of the people that took the survey," said Shyder.

Adding a more human and personal element to age old discussions.

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