Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a way to beam students thoughts straight to a machine that would interpret just how well understood a particular lesson was? Oh hang on! There is. Kinda…
The iClicker and other student response systems have been familiar aids in classrooms and lecture theatres for a good while now. But as the hype settles and they become part of the furniture, are they helping our students engage or are they yet another distraction to actual learning?
Is It Worth The Effort?
There are a number of great technologies that are revolutionizing education, but it is important to ensure we are using technology for the benefit of learning. We can’t just use the hot new product because it is advertised to funky music, dancing and a cool colored backdrop. The iClicker certainly has brought some fun, interaction and data-driven curriculum to the classroom, but what are some of the frustrations teachers face when conducting classes with student response systems:
- Administrative burden of set up and installation
- Enforcing policies, responsibility and the return of iClicker hardware
- Time and energy devoted to class participation in order to use technology effectively
- Stopping the lesson for voting takes away from class time
So there are some hurdles in getting lessons set up, and the administration overheads can be a hassle, but do the benefits pay off? According to iClicker themselves, they certainly do:
iClicker Study and Research
In an independent study, “A Meeting of Minds” Using Clickers for Critical Thinking and Discussion in Large Sociology Classes, published by the University Of Colorado the research concluded:
“Effective use of clickers moves students away from feeling like ‘‘just one mind,’’ isolated in a sea of strangers. Combined with effective pedagogy, clickers can be used to ‘‘transform everyday [experiences and] consciousness into sociological self-consciousness’’ in a manner that is powerfully effective for the teaching and learning of sociology.”
An important feature of the study highlighted the integration of iClicker participation into certain course material and lesson structure:
“If an instructor is already using a form of slideshow technology, clicker questions can be integrated into existing course formats with relative ease. Although some instructors may not consider all of the learning goals we identified to be important for their courses, whenever a pedagogical framework consisting of closed-ended clicker questions is appropriate, instructors can use this flexible tool to address any learning goal they choose.”
Much like all teaching aids there are pros and cons, where appropriate use dictates the benefits students can gain from the technology. When it comes to the iClicker and other student response systems it seems the best approach is to use the technology as a compliment to the content, rather than creating content to compliment the technology.
Where do you stand, and what are your thoughts and experience using iClickers and other student response systems in the classroom?
Image courtesy of Flickr, alumroot