Clickers in the Classroom:
Western Oregon University
The purpose of this paper is to define the term “classroom response system”, otherwise referred to as clickers. It will begin with the attributes of a classroom response system, the inspiration for it, and suppositions that evoke controversial discussion. This paper will then display supporting and opposing arguments about the actual use of this newly introduced educational trend. The intent is to exhibit background knowledge of clickers while also conveying their new status in educational learning. The goal is to incite questions that will potentially bring about conversation and the more frequent facilitation of classroom response systems in schools.
Clickers in the Classroom:
An alarming 85% of students are afraid to raise their hand or speak up in the classroom, according to a study recently conducted by Chris Murman. The increasing popularity of clickers has led to an improvement in classroom performance and is capable of involving disengaged students in everyday classroom activities. Not only do classroom response systems drastically increase student participation, they provide an easier and more effective way for teachers to keep their students involved and interested. In order to form an opinion on the use of clickers, there are many things that must be explained and understood: defining classroom response systems, the inspirations and theories behind it, and opinions and arguments coming from all sides of the spectrum.
Defining Classroom Response Systems
Classroom response systems -clickers- are instructional and interactive technologies that enable teachers to collect and analyze information immediately in the classroom. This newly found and very effective technology completely transforms the way class time is utilized. Instructors can incorporate a variety of classroom activities to dramatically change the dynamic in the classroom. Taking attendance, administering in-class quizzes, homework collection, and warm-up questions are just a few of the straightforward uses of this technology. Other very effective uses include contingent teaching, peer instruction, and question-driven instruction.
An active learning approach
“Contingent teaching”, sometimes referred to as “agile teaching”, is a resourceful method used to argue what students do and do not understand during class. Instructors can use the results of the clicker questions to change the course of their lessons “on the fly”. For instance, if the results show that most of the students understand a concept, then the instructor can move on. However, if the results indicate that many students answered ae confused, then the teacher can spend more time on that topic, whether it be via lecture, class discussion, or even implement another clicker question (Beatty, Grace, Lenard and Dufrense 2006).
In “Peer Instruction”, a strategy popularized by Harvard University Physics Professor Eric Mazer (1997), the teacher poses a question, students answer it individually, and a chart showing their responses is displayed. If a significant number of students chose the wrong answer, they are asked to discuss the question with those sitting nearby. After a few minutes of discussing, the students resubmit their answers. Often, but not always, students converge on the correct answer as a result of peer instruction.
What is driving it?
Clickers promote active participation, engagement, and discussion among all students –even those who might not participate in typical classroom discussions. Clickers are assessment tools that can provide motivational feedback to students about their own learning. Its theorized that individuality in the classroom will spark self-confidence and motivation in the students. Many schools and professors support the classroom response system because it creates a safe space for shy and unsure students to participate in class. Another benefit of clickers over traditional active learning methods is that they can follow the principles of game based learning. Since students of the 21st century have grown up using computer games for learning and entertainment, they may respond better to class activities and take in more information because they aren’t bored in class.
The Pros & Supporting Arguments
According to Derek Bruff, author of “Teaching with Classroom Response Systems”, clickers promote active student engagement and collaboration during class. Clickers enable a safe space for students to provide input without fear of public humiliation, and the anonymity of responding with a clicker guarantees near or total participation.
Margaret A Martyn is also a firm supporter of classroom response systems. She claims that, “Clickers help instructors actively engage during the class period, gauge the students’ level of understanding of the material, and provide prompt feedback to student questions”. In her education based blog, she describes the benefits of active learning and ways that teachers can engage their students with clickers. Martyn also collected research and survey data that showed students perceive the value in the use of clickers and would recommend their use in future classes.
The Cons & Opposing Arguments
Contrary to expectations, learning outcomes of students using clickers did not improve more than the traditional approach of class discussion. While the newly found methods of classroom response systems are effective, they aren’t any more effective test score wise than other recent methods. Getting started with clickers may take some time, and writing effective multiple choice questions might be a struggle to teachers. Technical problems can always arise, so non-technical activities should always be planned in the event of a difficulty. One of the main problems with classroom response systems is the fact that knowing students have misconceptions does not necessarily reveal what those misconceptions are. Another concern with the clicker method, just like anything else, is cheating. A student may try to give his clicker to a fellow classmate in order to skip class or cheat on assessments. At the beginning of the term, the teacher will have to go over a strict no-cheating policy and possibly even have students sign behavior contracts, and if misbehaving occurs it should result in consequences.
The viewpoint I hold on clickers is a positive one. I believe that, if carried out correctly, classroom response systems are an active and inclusive way to get students to participate in class. From my perspective, more students will actually want to be engaged in class and the majority of them will retain the information better if they also participated in class activities, instead of watching from the back of the classroom. I feel that a good combination of lecture based teaching, clicker questions, and game based learning will lead to success in the classroom.
Since I am a student of the 21st century and I’ve witnessed younger children in the classroom setting, I have strong faith in game and electronic based learning. Technology is almost like a sixth sense to most students these days, and if the information is relatable as well as interesting, they will learn a lot more using clickers as opposed to listening to a teacher talk the entire class period. I also strongly agree with the methods of Peer Instruction. Students are not only more likely to listen to the opinions of fellow classmates, but they learn more and think critically about questions and information if they know it will be discussed aloud with others. Peer Instruction also provides a sometimes needed break from a lecturing teacher, and lets children take the opportunity to build quality skills such as communication of their thoughts, forming their own opinions, and working with others towards a particular goal or answer.
While Classroom Response Systems may seem to have a few minor flaws, it’s almost obvious that the benefits outweigh the oppositions. New technology is constantly being integrated in the classroom setting, and this new active learning approach promotes student engagement, participation, and collaboration. It is an efficient way for the instructor to quickly find out what students are lacking to understand, and what is getting across to them. With the right use of this technology, and student participation, classroom response system bring added value to learning as well and teaching. Clickers have the capability to change aspects of education altogether.
(Derek Bruff, 2015). Classroom Response Systems (“Clickers”). https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/clickers/
(Derek Bruff, 2015). Clickers and Classroom Dynamics http://www.nea.org/home/34690.htm
(Iowa State University, 2015). Clickers for Learning and Teaching http://www.celt.iastate.edu/technology/clickers/
Margaret A. Martyn.(2007, January, 1). Clickers in the Classroom: An Active Learning Approach