Using clickers in the Classroom
A classroom response system (“clickers") is a set of hardware and software that facilitates instructional activities. Clickers allow instructors to ask questions and gather students' responses during a lecture. (Clicker systems are also commonly called Classroom Response Systems, Student Response Systems, or Audience Response Systems.)
In clicker systems, each student uses a device (a "clicker") that looks like a TV remote to answer questions posed by the instructor in a specially-designed PowerPoint presentation. Summaries of student responses can be shown in real time to both instructors and students. Answers are also stored electronically for later viewing.
- A teacher introduces multiple-choice or true/false question to students through a PowerPoint presentation.
- Each student submits their answer to the question using a handheld transmitter pad (often called a “clicker”) that beams an infrared or radio-frequency signal to a receiver attached to the teacher’s computer.
- Software on the teacher’s computer called Turning Point, collects the students’ answers and produces a chart showing how many students chose each of the answer choices.
A teacher can use clickers to...
- Maintain students’ attention during a lecture. Inserting a few clickers-facilitated activities every so often during a lecture can help maintain students’ attention.
- Promote active student engagement during a lecture. Introduction of well-chosen questions to students during lecture and expecting answers from each student can cause students to reflect on and understand learning objectives.
- Promote discussion and collaboration among students with group exercises that require students to discuss and come to an agreement.
- Encourage participation from every student in a class. A clickers-facilitated activity can involve not one, but all of the students in the class.
- Create a safe space for shy and unsure students to participate in class. Clickers give students a chance to respond to a teacher’s question silently and privately, enabling student who might not typically speak up in class to express their thoughts and opinions. Clickers also enable students to respond anonymously to sensitive ethical, legal, and moral questions.
- Check for student understanding during class. By asking clickers-facilitated questions, teachers can determine if students understand important points discussed in class. They do not have to wait until homework is turned in or exams are completed to do so. Instead they can receive feedback on a lecture during that same lecture.
- Take attendance and to rapidly grade in-class quizzes, provided that each transmitter is assigned to a unique student over the period of a course. Note that different clickers systems provide different levels of support.
- Add a little drama to class. There is often a sense of expectation as wait for the histogram to appear showing how their classmates answered a given question.
- Collect homework: Some clickers allow students to record their answers to multiple-choice or free response homework questions outside of class and submit their answers via the clickers at the start of class.