Clickers on campus

More college professors are using clickers to monitor attendance, quiz students and get feedback from students, reports the New York Times.

If any of the 70 undergraduates in Prof. Bill White’s “Organizational Behavior” course here at Northwestern University are late for class, or not paying attention, he will know without having to scan the lecture hall.

Every student in Mr. White’s class has been assigned a palm-size, wireless device that looks like a TV remote but has a far less entertaining purpose. With their clickers in hand, the students in Mr. White’s class automatically clock in as “present” as they walk into class.

They then use the numbered buttons on the devices to answer multiple-choice quizzes that count for nearly 20 percent of their grade, and that always begin precisely one minute into class. Later, with a click, they can signal to their teacher without raising a hand that they are confused by the day’s lesson.

Studies at Harvard and Ohio State suggest that the use of clickers increases students’ understanding, the Times reports.

The clickers are also gaining wide use in middle and high schools, as well as at corporate gatherings. Whatever the setting, audience responses are received on a computer at the front of the room and instantly translated into colorful bar graphs displayed on a giant monitor.

Turning Technologies, which sells clickers to Northwestern, expects to ship over one million clickers this year. About half will go to colleges and universities.

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  1. Operant conditioning is a great way to train a dog. It seems like we would aspire to more for actual human students, but I guess that’s just wishful thinking.

  2. I was thinking how easy it would be to just send your clicker with a friend. “Check in for me, and take the quizzes…” 🙂

  3. The “clickers” in question are quite useful – the company that sells them allows has an app for the BlackBerry and the iPod/iPhone/iPad which allows all of those devices to be used as response devices. I’m using this in my pre-calculus class this semester for giving quizzes. Immediately after each question, the answers are displayed (along with how many students chose each answer, but no names). If most of the students got it right, then I can move on, but I can also stop and go over the question in cases where the student responses are all over the map. I’m looking forward to hearing what the students have to think about it at the end of the semester.