Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Clickers in the Classroom

A new gimmick has entered the classroom: clickers. Students use handheld remote devices and respond to questions that flash on a screen. The technology automatically records their responses.

A physics teacher from Great Neck, New York, praised the device in a story that ran in The New York Times this past Monday. The article notes that the Great Neck school district invested in the clickers to enliven the traditional classroom setting and to make learning more interactive for students. Students clicking away at a screen when practice quiz questions pop up or to input data on Excel spreadsheets. The device accommodates the student with excellent hand-eye coordination, but what about the one who needs extra time to process information and respond? A poll of students in the physics class revealed all but one favored the technology. The Great Neck schools expanded the use of the clickers to several other schools in the district after piloting the devices in high school classes.
The clickers are part of new wave of technology tools known as audience response systems, which are making inroads in school settings. The Times reports that Los Angeles schools have spent more than half a million dollars to bring clickers to school classrooms. Dallas, Atlanta, and New York City schools have followed suit. In St. Paul, participants at administrative, teacher, an parent meetings use the device to give their responses.

One of the companies manufacturing the device, Qwizdom, claims it has sold more than 750,000 clickers to schools. Users hold the wireless device and input a response, which is sent to a computer program. The program displays the results and keeps records of what is inputted. Teachers like the device because they can check on the progress of every student, “not just those who raise their hands,” according to one teacher interviewed for the Times.

What is your response to introducing this kind of technology in the classroom? How do you feel about placing remote control technology into the hands of students in the school setting? Here is the URL for the Qwizdom website to learn more one company's version of the product.

Picture from the New York Times article, photographer Joyce Dopkeen, and information taken from the article written by Winnie Hu, “Students Click, and Quiz Becomes a Game,” January 28, 2008, accessible:,%202008&st=nyt&scp=1


Lisa T. said...

I love the fact that companies who are creating new technology are always trying to make learning and education fun and interactive, but I can't help thinking about the kids who would have a hard time with this kind of activity. A kid who may need a minute to think of the answer or who may not have the quick hand-eye coordination, but then again, in this fast paced culture of video gaming maybe that's not a problem!
It all seems a little too 'game show' to me!

Sharon said...

I like the idea of assessing every student. It is true that sometimes we do "ignore" the students who do not raise their hands. I try and involve all my students when I'm asking for answers, but most of the time there are only so many questions you can ask and you aren't able to get to everyone. This device would eliminate that problem. I agree with Lisa that it would cause a problem for those students with limited hand-eye coordination. Also, we would be spending a lot of money for a technology that will only be around for a few years. Everything evolves so quickly and schools can't financially keep up with "fun" technology when they are still struggling to have enough money for the needed technolgy (like sufficient computers for all the schools students). We are coming to an age where technolgy overload is occuring and we need to pick our battles to chose what is important for our students education.

Alicia H said...

Although I am not yet teaching in a classroom, I think with all the 'toys' of technology young people have at their disposal, this would not be too foreign for students in the classroom.
I do agree that some students may have difficulty with hand-eye coordination, or may be more auditory learners then trying to read and answer a question. However, I think in this situation there could be classroom rules set down when using a clicker: students can have twebty or thirty seconds to answer so there is time for internal processing of the material. Also, perhaps students could be reminded that they do not blurt the answers out loud, and if they do, they have, say, three strikes and then they no longer play. Another added benefit is the silent recording of students' answers so no one else knows who gets it wright or wrong.
I do agree that this is a bit 'game-showy' and that the technology will soon be outdated--so for the brief number of times you would use this in the classroom, is the cost and use of it worthwhile with for students?

Aaron Brown said...

In my classroom, sometimes, not often, I use yes/no and A B C or D cards. I ask a question and the students hold up yes or no if they agree, or choose a,b,c or d. This allows me to quickly assess who gets it and who doesn't. This sounds like it is just a high tech version of my cheap index cards. I don't see any big problems with it, and an added benefit of it is you might be able to do some data analysis with it (more work for us of course). On the flip side though, I do sometimes struggle with the notion of trying to entertain the students and use technology like they use everyday in their out of school life. Interaction and talking isn't such a bad thing either. Should we intergrate technology that reduces interaction? I guess I don't know exactly where I stand on this one. It has strengths and weaknesses.

Tony Ruiz said...

I like all of the different viewspoints presented on this story. I have seen this used in a middle school classroom only once and the teacher cut it short. Why? Someone figured out how to "beat the computer" by pressing on the clicker long enough to alter the stats. The teacher became irate and stopped the game. If you asked me, I think it's a lot of money invested just for a using it one time. I guess the district will say, "not another device to consider."

I'm not knocking the device, but I believe the teacher needs to interact with the student a lot more. Soft skills need to be developed and we shouldn't expect our students to click their way in life. Aaron's method seems to take time, but it's cheap and achieves the same results, right? For those taciturn students, the clicker is an escape. Students need to be more expressive and develop their thoughts without using a clicker.

Tony Ruiz

Debbie Tager said...

I agree with you, Tony. While this technology is interesting and gets students engaged, teachers do need to interact with their students. Though we live in an interconnected world, our lives are never point-and-click.

The more studnets interact with each other through technology, the less they are learning necessary social skills and it seems their social/emotional development - especially at the middle level - is suffering.

I too am seeing some "technology overload" here. Students spend enough time clicking through the internet and videogames, they need to learn how to interact with each other responsibly. Without those skills, it does not matter if they are able to navigate this tech-savvy world.

Sherri said...

In my opinion, the education industry is becoming very commercialized. According to the article, the clickers "are a part of new wave technology tools know as audience response systems." We have seen them used on TV on game shows like "Who wants to be a millionaire."

While this maybe a useful tool to get immediate feedback; how does it benefit the student and is it worth the investment. These questions should be answered by the teacher. It may work in some classrooms and not in others. Besides, in the real world we don't walk around with a clicker.

Barbara Jarosz said...

I agree with Aaran- I find it hard to use technology with the sole purpose of entertaining our students- and that's what I think these clickers ultimately do. Although they have a tracking device which allows teachers to track students' progress, I feel that these devices serve as a way to mimick video games that so many adolescents spent countless hours playing. We are in the business of teaching students, not entertaining them. It's important to engage all students with rich lessons and technology, but students need to experience education that does not resemble playing a video game for the sole purpose of engaging them.

I also feel that students would be very overwhelmed with the novelty of these devices that they would quickly respond to each question without truly thinking about their answers. Their initial reflex would be to answer quickly, just like a video game, in order to beat the game. It would take time and practice to encourage students to think slowly and answer thoughtfully. I have to admit, I don't think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for this particular piece of technology.

NicoleG said...

We actually had these at the University of New Hampshire. I just graduated last may and about my sophomore year they started to introduce them in some classes, mainly the larger ones. And then by the end of the year I had them in most all of my classes. I enjoyed it at times and other times not so much. In the large classes it was used as attendence so it became very useful for some student to get out of class and just give their clicker to a friend. Also quizzes that the clickers were used for were very easily able to be tampered with so that one person could be doing multiple tests, and you can see everyone pushing the buttons!! However, I did like using it for review sessions and polls. I do think that it is a little over the top and may not account for those kids with poor visual skills and hand and eye coordination. But to tell you the truth in my three years I never heard or saw anyone having a problem with the little clickers.

Joseph Abbott said...

Classroom clickers allow every student to interact with the teacher. This system is excellent for students who feel hesitated speaking in front of all. This allow them give their opinion, as well and moreover teacher will also get to know if every student is participating in the event actively or not.