Clicker technology in workshops

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Using clickers (CCSs) during lectures
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See also Information technology topics | Social media in undergraduate medical education | Teaching library users

Clicker systems (also classroom communication systems (CCSs)) are handheld remote devices, receivers and software that allow students to send their responses (typically multiple-choice) to questions that are monitored on a computer by an instructor. The premise of clicker systems is to engage audience members in a form of two-way interaction or discussion of sorts. The results are collected and tabulated in real-time. Responses are transmitted wirelessly to a receiver attached to a computer and tabulated by its software. CCSs also include shared display of results.

How are they used in classrooms?

The main benefit of clicker technology in classroom is the potential to increase interactivity with the students. Those students who are more engaged during class have been found to be even better students due to clicker systems. For those students who are reluctant to speak in class, recent research shows that increasing the peer-to-peer and student-teacher interaction improves their learning and course effectiveness (Hake, Mazur, etc.). Some specific applications or strategies using clickers include:

  • question and answer formats
  • unit reviewing
  • collaborative work (pairs, groups)
  • debating points or issues
  • voting and peer evaluation
  • data collection (survey, statistical analyses)
  • customized instruction (based on understanding)
  • informal assessment

Should librarians use them?

UBC continues to investigate clicker technology and its classroom applications; so too academic librarians. CCSs and the relationship between publishers and providers is in transition. Librarians should know that they can achieve some real benefits of classroom interaction without the use of CCSs; proceed with caution and/or consult your colleagues before making any investment in clickers. Further evaluation is clearly needed.

  • Cost - publishers provide clickers bundled with textbooks; one of the driving forces behind clicker adoption. Cost of the remote is passed on to the students, while cost of base hardware and software for instructors varies
  • Technology - some manufacturers are moving to RF (radio frequency) remotes; infrared clickers may be obsolete shortly. One should consider this point especially if an up-front investment is required by either instructor or students
  • Support - there are a number of competing systems and UBC has not standardized a clicker system; it is not possible to provide full central support for these systems. Publishers will provide some training and support, but this varies from company to company.
  • Teaching & learning - this technology may be useful in increasing interactivity, especially in large classrooms but it must be applied thoughtfully.

CCSs should be used to address specific learning needs and “contingent teaching” where learning is adjusted ‘on the fly’ (Draper). Some techniques will increase interactivity and engagement without the use of the technologies so individuals must determine whether this technology is really necessary to meet the learning needs of participants. The use of clickers for formal assessment is not recommended in the literature due to the limited functionality of the response systems (e.g., no confirmation of answer or receipt).

Should clicker tech be used in classrooms?

  • A computer is not a tool or prosthesis that helps us to accomplish something; rather, it is the medium in which we work. (Oliver Grau, MediaArtHistories, 2007)
  • Text is any form of information by which we communicate an idea, feeling, or concept. (Mats Dahlstrom, “When Is a Text Text?,” 2002)
  • The medium affects the message. (Marshall McLuhan, The Medium Is the Massage, 1967)
  • Digital media are material texts. (N. Katherine Hayles, Writing Machines, 2002)
  • The artifact of new media is just as important as the process it took to produce it. (Jan Van Looy & Jan Baetens, Close Reading New Media, 2003)
  • Making is not separate from thinking. (Stephano Vannotti, “Let Us Do What We Do Best: But How Can We Produce Knowledge by Designing Interfaces?,” 2008)
  • The design of information is a conversation about ideas––not about persuading people to do things. (Robert Jacobson, “Information Design,” 2000)
  • Criticism of digital media should be specific to digital media and relies on the sensory modalities of the body for that critique rather than abstract ideas or theories. (N. Katherine Hayles, Writing Machines, 2002)
  • Digital media involves an interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary study of art, science, and technology (Edward Shanken, Telematic Embrace, 2003) & the Humanities
  • The hallmark of a digital scholarship is “collegiality,” “openness,” and “collaboration” (Tom Scheinfeldt, “Why Digital Humanities Is Nice,” 2012)



See also Clicker technology in health and medicine

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