Faculty Opinions

Carl Braunlich, Hotel Management

  • i>clicker
  • Summer 2008

Why are you using clickers?

I pilot tested clickers during a summer session course and now use them for four classes with a total of some 350 students. I first was introduced to clicker in a TLC session and thought they were a brilliant idea.

Have clickers improved learning for your students?

Definitely improved learning through providing a feedback loop for me with regard to effectiveness of teaching - I can check for understanding with all students in a matter of seconds. In addition, peer instruction using the clickers gets my students more involved in the material and keeps the class moving and interactive.

Have you used clickers for testing?

I use the clickers for class participation only - no exams.

Can you tell us a little about how you use the clickers in a typical class period?

I integrate five clicker questions in each 75-minute lecture. Each question is worth 10 points and the results are uploaded directly into WebCampus in a matter of minutes after each lecture. One of the five questions for each lecture involves a peer instruction exercise.

What suggestions would you give to faculty for implementation?

First determine if they fit into your presentation style and your mission and purpose as an instructor. They are not for everyone. Then commit to using them throughout the entire semester if you choose to use them.

Tell us a bit about i>clicker.

iclicker support is first class. Lots of documentation on iclicker.com for the instructor, user friendly and free registration of clickers for the students, and reliable software. WebEx training courses available throughout the week and good phone support. Cannot beat it.

Anything you'd like to add?

There are two kinds of clickers - complex/clunky and simple/elegant. i>clicker is the later.


Eric Batson, Communication Studies

  • Einstruction CPS
  • Using Clickers since fall 2007

How long have you been using clickers and what led you to start using them?

The department required that we use them.

Has clickers improved learning for your students?

No, they have not improved the learning of the students.

Have you used clickers for testing?

I've used the clickers for chapter quizzes that together are worth 15% of the total class grade. This can be an easy way to collect student responses in a large lecture class. I did it this way because the technology allows for ease in delivery and collecting student responses. Almost every quiz session there has been a technical issue with at least one student. I have had to have those students take the quizzes by hand after class.

Can you tell us a little about how you use the clickers in a typical class period?

I use the clickers for role and quizzes. I have used them to poll the students, but now I just have them do a "show of hands" in class polls because it's easier.

What suggestions would you give to faculty for implementation?

Don't use them.


Michael Stitt, English

  • PRS Interwrite
  • Using Clickers since 2006

Why are you using clickers?

I use them in English 231, World Literature, because it is a General Education Core Requirement across the university (so about 60 sections of Eng 231 and 232 — its sister course — are offered each semester) and budgetary issues forced the department to experiment with large lecture sections. Faced with having to give up any dialog with students about the texts, I started using clickers as a way of maintaining some kind of two-way communication between me and one hundred or so students.

Have clickers improved learning for your students?

I can't say that using clickers has improved students' learning, but I have been happy to find that by using clickers students learn as effectively in a lecture environment as in a discussion environment, even though I had originally viewed the former as a generally less desirable context.

Have you used clickers for testing?

I do not use clickers for high-stakes testing. Aside from the valid psychological issues — students worry that the technology might fail — students in an English class need to write, so clickers just aren't practical.

Can you tell us a little about how you use the clickers in a typical class period?

On days that I am not giving a quiz, I have an "Attendance Screen" projecting before class starts so that as students enter the lecture hall they can use their clickers to sign in. When class starts I use the projection screen in conjunction with my lecture, but students know that the Rf receiver remains active for the first ten minutes of class. Alternatively, I start class with a five-question multiple-choice quiz. For each question, they immediately see the correct answer and a bar graph of student responses — which inevitably results in either cheers or groans. From my point of view, these uses of the clickers are trivial — primarily a convenience for me.

Their real use comes in during the lectures. I construct a series of survey questions with a five point Likert scale response — "Strongly Agree," "Somewhat Agree," "Neutral," "Somewhat Disagree," "Strongly Disagree." For the most part I build these surveys around issues that I know from experience would elicit debate in a discussion environment — things that students feel strongly about and want to express their opinion. The clickers give them a sense of involvement in the lecture environment. For example, in the Babylonian epic Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh has a close companion, Enkidu. The poet repeatedly tells us that Gilgamesh loves Enkidu "like a wife." So one of my survey statements is "The relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu is sexual." Students are fascinated to discover that inevitably the class will be about evenly divided between "Strongly Agree" and "Strongly Disagree," but unless there are a large number of Asian students in the class, for whom the epic is often difficult to grasp, very few will fall in the middle ground. This sort of survey question keeps up student involvement.

I sometimes use surveys in another way. I have found that there are certain passages in the texts that, from semester to semester, classes tend to read and interpret very differently. By taking a survey before I discuss these passages, I can gauge students' readings and better know how to present my lecture. Still, for all of my enthusiasm, there will be a couple of days every semester when everything falls flat and students are completely disengaged. Since I can never predict when that will happen, I conclude that it has more to do with the alignment of the planets or some such than with the material or the technology.

What suggestions would you give to faculty for implementation?

...to think of them as communication devices, not data collection devices. They are convenient for the latter, but I'm not sure they can be justified in terms of the investment of faculty time and student expense. On the other hand, to a certain extent clickers can substitute for a conversation. If you could have a series of individual tutorials with each of your students instead of a lecture, what kinds of questions and feedback would you want? Once you answer that question, you can start to find ways to get at least some of that information by way of clickers.

Tell us a bit about PRS Interwrite.

I chose the PRS Interwrite for a variety of reasons, from financial to practical to pedagogical. The single most important factor, though, was that it led the industry in having an LCD display that confirmed data transmission for the student. Several students who have used multiple clickers have since told me how much they like that feature, and in general student anxiety about the technology is a factor. By and large the PRS software is easy to use and the hardware is reliable. I have found the gradebook to be somewhat awkward and difficult to export, but it is manageable. I have not had recourse to their customer support, either before or since EInstruction took over.


 

Suzanne Sevalstad, Accounting

  • PRS Interwrite
  • Using clickers since 2005

Why are you using clickers?

I began teaching large sections of elementary Financial Accounting. It seemed like a way to keep the students involved in the classroom. It would make the classroom interactive.

Have clickers improved learning for your students?

Definitely. They get immediate feedback as to their understanding of topics in the lecture. If the feedback indicates a lack of understanding I can then do things to try and clarify the misunderstandings.

At the end of each learning module we have quizzes and the student gets immediate feedback. This allows them to understand at a crucial point their understanding or lack thereof of the topics covered.

When students and I have conversations concerning their progress, I have a record of how many classes the student has attended and we can visit the importance of the student attending class. I do not use this feature as a way to lower the grade in anyway.

Have you used clickers for testing?

I have not used the clickers for high stakes testing but if the University adopted a clicker I wanted it to have that capability. As the product improves this would be helpful in large classes.

Can you tell us a little about how you use the clickers in a typical class period?

In the typical class, we begin with a question that relates to the topic being studied as a roll question. This is used primarily for me in discussion with students about their attendance. If one misses no classes they get 10 extra credit points.

During lecture imbedded into my power points I have questions that relate to the topics being covered. Students are asked to answer theses questions and, based on the immediate feedback, I determine if we revisit that topic or move on to the next one. About every other class period I have a short quiz that tests the knowledge the students have on the previous class discussion and their reading. They of course get immediate feedback as they answer each question.

What suggestions would you give to faculty for implementation?

Get some instruction from someone who has used the clickers. Start out slowly and add things as you become more comfortable with the system.

Tell us a bit about PRS Interwrite.

I chose PRS with the help of the publisher of the book that I was using at the time. PRS support has been wonderful and continues to be even though they are merged with Einstruction. At this point one would not know that they are a new company as far as the product hardware and software support has been.


John Farley, Physics

  • i>clicker
  • Using Clickers since 2001

Why are you using clickers?

I first heard about them from Eric Mazur, physics professor at Harvard and well-known innovator in physics education.

Have clickers improved learning for your students?

Students like the clickers because they can answer questions anonymously. Otherwise they are reluctant to participate. If the students can answer the questions in class correctly, they feel good because it confirms that they really understand the material. If they answer the question incorrectly, it is a wake-up call that they are not understanding the material and should pay attention.

In short, clickers make the classroom experience more interactive. Students are not just passively listening to lectures.

Have you used clickers for testing?

I don't use them for high-stakes tests because there is a possibility of "spoofing" the system. For example, one student can be using another student's clickers. And unlike handwritten tests, there is no way to detect whether cheating occurred.

Can you tell us a little about how you use the clickers in a typical class period?

I use clickers in two ways: at the beginning of each class, I give a one-question quiz that tests whether or not the students have done the assigned reading before class. This counts towards the grade. During each class, I give several conceptual tests, which are qualitative tests of whether or not they understand the material. This does not count for a grade, but the students get participation points for answering.

What suggestions would you give to faculty for implementation?

Break up the lecture into 10-15 minutes blocks, and give a clicker question after each block. It resets the clock on the student attention span.

Tell us a bit about i>clicker.

It seems like the easiest one for the faculty member to use. I'd tried the old PRS system and it was a problem.

What do you students think of the clickers?

They like them.