iClickers

What is a Clicker?

A clicker, also called a personal response device, allows each student to “vote” with an answer to a multiple choice question posed during class.  Clicker systems also allow the instructor to quickly summarize and react to student votes, and most allow points to be assigned based on either participation or correct answers.   Electronic clicker response systems have been in Michigan Tech classes as a pedagogical tool for more than ten years.   A majority of 1st and 2nd year students own an “iClicker” as they are used in many large introductory lectures.   Most University classrooms have a base used by the instructor to receive votes that can be attached either to a laptop or the instructor PC.   A recent integration allows students to “register” their clickers in Canvas and clicker grades to be uploaded to the Canvas gradebook.

More recently, some instructors have experimented with “low-tech” paper clickers, where students respond to questions by revealing one of four colored letters.  This usually provides more interaction and less risk for students, but does not allow tracking/grading responses.    Other instructors are working with the CTL to pilot higher-tech systems including cell-phone and tablet apps that can gather text, numerical, and other responses.

Pedagogical Suggestions

But, HOW any response system is used in class is very important!  Research on clickers indicates that just “quizzing” students or taking attendance by clicker can actually diminish learning.  The key to using response systems successfully is to focus on two things:

  • Systems should be used to promote interactions between students as they discuss and defend their responses. Richer student responses may mean LESS discussion. There’s debate about whether higher-tech response systems take student attention and time away from “mainstream” class activities, and whether student “multitasking” results in better learning.
  • The instructor should use responses to direct and inform class activities in real time. Based on student feedback, instructors can add or eliminate examples, speed up or slow down, or address common misconceptions.

Clickers can be effectively used to gauge student opinions, review recently covered material, check prior knowledge, predict the outcome of a demonstration, or monitor progress.

Downloads and Tutorials

Questions

The CTL continues to test and explore a variety of classroom response systems as they rapidly evolve.  We welcome input on these new tools!  In the meantime, if you would like to discuss how a response system might be used in your classroom, see the tutorial resources above or consider signing up for one of CTL’s periodically offered clicker workshops. You are also welcome to contact the CTL at ctl@mtu.edu or 487-2046 for an individual consultation!