Wednesday, January 30, 2008


This article about the use of "clickers" in the classroom appeared in the NY Times. From the article:

"The clickers are part of an increasingly popular technology known as an audience response system, which has been used for everything from surveying game show audiences to polling registered voters. That technology is now spreading to public and private schools across the country.

The Los Angeles school district has spent about $503,000 to buy clickers for more than two dozen middle schools since 2005, district officials said. Smaller districts in the Dallas and Atlanta suburbs have also invested in them, according to school officials and companies that manufacture the devices. In New York City, a dozen schools across the five boroughs have experimented with the devices. And in St. Paul, the clickers are routinely used to train teachers and administrators and to get reaction from parents at community meetings."

(Reaction from parents at community meetings? Heresay!)

I had heard about these years ago from people in the Computer Science and Engineering Department at UW where they prototyped them. From the article:

"In a typical system, the clickers record data from individuals, and transmit that information, through wireless technology, to a computer program. The program can instantly display the results, tally them and present them in elaborate spreadsheets and eye-catching graphics like spaceships or “Jeopardy!”-style boards. It can track the percentage of correct answers received for each question as well as the participation rate among all users."

I had read survey results from UW about the usage and students liked them because everyone got to give input (not just the bright and the eager beavers), it could be done anonymously (so no one has to be embarrassed about being wrong) and the professors could see, instantly, where thinking might be going astray and course correct their teaching.

It might be a better investment than Smart boards which teachers don't always use anyway and the light bulbs for them cost $400.


Anonymous said...

There are 2 kinds that I saw.

One kind only allows for multiple choice. For the kids who are not doing well in math, the last thing they need is multiple choice - they just copy each other.

The other kind allows students to enter numerical / alphabetic answers.

Using either requires a lot of time fiddling with your curriculum.

Is anyone going to factor that time into using this tool and pay for that time, or, are we going to get McKinsey style hand waving with great powerpoints?

Melissa Westbrook said...

What is McKinsey style hand waving?

This is just an article, not something the district is considering.

Anonymous said...

response to Melissa -

There is next to no useful information in the article, for this math teacher.

There is a hint of the unfunded time nightmare to come:

"But he has since discovered that incorporating the technology into lessons can be time-consuming, and that the software is not easy to use. He held off introducing them in this year’s A.P. physics class until the midterm review, but he said he planned to use them more often for everyday teaching.

Mr. Sckalor started Thursday’s class by handing out the red-and-silver clickers to every student. But after two students found a low-battery message on their devices, he had to spend several minutes replacing the batteries. The class was too busy pointing and clicking to notice. Soon, they were so enthralled by the games that they clapped and cheered and yelled as if they were at a football game."

As someone who has attempted to teach hundreds of high school kids with barely functional 5th or 6th grade arithmetic skills, ANY idea which is NOT paid for = more consultant speak.

Consultant speak, from my 1/2 decade in software plus years in other careers, is barely better than this article with respect to containing useful information. There is all kinds of high level ... stuff, no links or citations to the nitty gritty detail which determines if the stuff is more than blather.

In math departments blather is called 'hand waving'.

Maritza said...

I am a Math teacher that uses the technology that's featured in the NY Times, Qwizdom. It is not as time consuming as you might think considering that everything the students enter is recorded and graded for me. I even have the students buzz in the answers to their homework at the start of class so that I can gauge their level of understanding before I start teaching rather than when I get around to finding the time to grade 35 homework papers. I also use their curriculum which provides me with hundreds of math problems to choose from.

As for multiple choice, I hardly ever ask multiple choice questions because the clickers allow the students to answer with complete numeric (even fractions, decimals and negatives). What I enjoy most about this system is that I know immediately how each student is doing on a test or even a lesson. Plus its nice to see my students get excited about learning again.

Anonymous said...

The old-fashioned version of "raising your hand" and (it's technical name) called Active Student Responding is a sure way to measure high volleys of student-teacher interactions. Teachers can ask True/False or yes/no questions or "which one is an example of this concept of cell division - this or that" with all sorts of low tech tools. A red or green paper can be held up, the thumbs up, thumbs down method is fine. Good teaching requires active student moments.

Irene W. Chesley said...

The concept of the clicker is looking so interesting and the USA is one the good country which is doing to advance their schools. The reason is that technology going to increase but is the best option and school should be an advance. This is need of the hour.