Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Just Another Click Away From Paradise

Clickers, keypads, classroom response systems, personal response systems, whatever you call them, they have caught the attention of college faculty. I was one of a wave of a half dozen lead steers to use clickers at my university, back in the spring of 2004. The outcome? Every one of us abandoned the clickers next semester. You've probably read the glowing reviews of clickers put out by textbook publishers. Why did we choose to just say no to the clickers after our initial experiences?

I can only speak for myself, but at my university classes are large. There is nothing like the sight of 300 desperate students trying to click an answer at the same time. Receiving units, which record students' answers couldn't easily deal with a flood of simultaneous clicks. Thus, it would sometimes take 5 minutes of valuable class time to get everyone's answer into the gradebook. Multiply that wasted time by six questions per class period. Then of course there were the students who never purchased a clicker, those who forgot their clickers, the clickers with dead batteries, and the clickers that broke. Then there was the extra work I had to do to reconcile the clicker gradebook with my exam gradebook. Was Robert Jones the fellow who registered his clicker as Bob Jones? Was Susie Smith, id#123 the same person as Susan Smith, id#456?

The link will take you to a PowerPoint file showing the results of a survey of student reactions to clickers. In contrast to those results, my survey results were extremely neutral.


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