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Education Technology

Clickers Redefining Classrooms 228

Posted by Zonk
from the talking-without-talking dept.
markmcb writes "It seems that teachers may have a new way to boost classroom participation using a device called a clicker. A clicker is a small handheld device that allows its user to wirelessly respond to various prompts selected by a teacher. So when a teacher wants opinions on topics that people tend to shy away from like sex, religion, and politics, the question can be asked and the students can answer anonymously via the clicker. Everything from a simple poll to a graded quiz can be conducted using the device. In the age of cell phones and wireless computers such a technology is likely to be well-received by students, but one can't help but wonder if such a device will breed less assertive graduates who lack the will to stand up and voice their opinion on sensitive issues."
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Clickers Redefining Classrooms

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  • Works Great! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crumbz (41803) <<remove_spam>jus ... o spam>gmail.com> on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:18AM (#13256591) Homepage
    Yeah, we used those at Northwestern last summer in physics. IIRC about 20% of them actually properly recorded the student response. No thanks.

    • Re:Works Great! (Score:4, Informative)

      by moonka (889094) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:20AM (#13256600) Homepage
      Yea, we use them sometimes down here at University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). They rarely record the responses, are decently expensive, and while they say at the begining of the year the bookstores will take them back, they don't always, and then you're out the cash those damn things cost.
    • did any of them happen to say: "I think you're a hot prof!"
    • Re:Works Great! (Score:4, Informative)

      by WhiteBandit (185659) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:28AM (#13256626) Homepage
      Yup, we used them in our physics classes as well (SFSU). We also have to "rent" them for the semester and it costs us $15, that we never get back.

      These things take up valuable class time trying to get them to work in the first place, only work via line of sight... which you think wouldn't be a problem in a smallish classroom (if they are even working at all) and just are a huge distraction.

      In short, they suck balls.
      • Re:Works Great! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Robotech_Master (14247) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:52AM (#13256705) Homepage Journal
        RTFA.

        The article indeed goes over the problems that IR clickers have, but notes that they're being replaced by RF clickers which work much, much more reliably.

        Wish they'd had something like this back when I was in college.
        • Re:Works Great! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by EnderWigginsXenocide (852478) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @04:21AM (#13256937) Homepage
          Yup, college wouldn't have been an institute of learning. It would have become a perpetual "I want to use a lifeline, let's poll the audience" event. Why do I care what percentage of my classmates think is the right data set? I want to hear my professors tell me about the subjects at hand. One just log onto slashdot if they want to hear stupid thoughts on various subjects.
          • Re:Works Great! (Score:2, Insightful)

            by xenephon (572595)
            The point is not for you, the student, to have an idea of what your fellow classmates think. Rather, the point is for me, the professor, to have an idea of how well the students have understood what I am presenting.

            The "show of hands" approach doesn't work; the students quickly figure out who the smart kids in the class are, and wait to copy thier answers. Writing things down on paper doesn't work either, because it takes too long.

            Also, if you can easily understand everything your professor is telling

        • Re:Works Great! (Score:2, Interesting)

          by PlasticMonkey (863080)
          Eugh, have you seen the software for these things? I was asked to set up a "clicker" set from eInteractive(?) once while I was at a school talking about design concepts to some kids (don't ask how I got into that one) and it only allowed three questions, no voting and you *had* to select which was the *correct* answer. Good concept, but you gotta implement it correctly.
    • Re:Works Great! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, 2005 @03:25AM (#13256794)

      Georgia Tech uses this device for some intro Physics Classes and some CS Classes.

      The device we use iPRS [com.com] uses just a simple infrared signal. In a class with 300+ Students there are several readers mounted in different parts of the room since the device has a relatively short range.

      • No more than one person can submit an answer at any time (thus you have to keep trying to send it until it goes through, you see your name/number change color).
      • You have the possibility to change you answer a certain number of times.
      • The software is available in the lecture pc's and easily analyzable.
      • The device will send a short message that includes: ID # of the Reader & Answer specified

      The PRS response was required as part of the grade for the class (10%). A group of us (CS Majors) started thinking on ideas on how to around this. The first solution we implemented (Before we were able to translate the IR message into clear text) involved "recording" each of the answers from our group, thus one person sitting in the class could answer for all of us through his laptop. We later switched to an IR-Equipped Ipod [engadget.com].

      That was ok but the person answering did not always answer the correct question (answering correctly gave you extra points). We were later able to decode the messages from the IR signal. And that's where things got fun.

      We placed a laptop sitting nearby one of the "sensors" (end of white strip, on wall) and just analyze all the data coming live. We had about 30-60 seconds to answer thus we could analyze the data up to 25 - 55 seconds, estimate what the most "popular" answer was and then submit all of ours answers at the last second. That gave us almost 100% accuracy since whenever the class erred, the professor would step back, re-explain the problem and then see if the answer was right.

      We used iPods, laptops and a CS-classroom-issued-Ipaq. The ipaq would eventually analyze the data through it's own high speed IR port and then send out our "responses" through a mp3 file (that came out of the IR device [griffintechnology.com]).

      Also: the system is usecure, it is easy to skew the statistics by introducing new users to the system or to overwrite your ex gf's answer.

      Although there was very little benefit, beating the system felt good!

    • Ugh- textbooks cost enough without having "clickers" bundles in.
      Call me crazy, but if students aren't comfortable sharing their opinions in class or joining the discussion, then maybe the profs need to cultivate a better atmosphere for discussion. I personally wouldn't want a class to degrade into one of those bar remote control trivia games.
      Maybe the solution is smaller classes....
      • I manage the textbook department for a school that uses these devices in two courses. It's my opinion that the clickers are merely another way for the publishers to make money. The remote unit costs around $4.00. Registering the remote costs $30, unless you buy the textbook new (read as: publisher profits vs student or store profits), then a coupon for $20 off the registration is included. The difference in cost between the new textbook and the used textbook? $20.

        The reason why the remotes aren't bought bac
  • by dark404 (714846) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:18AM (#13256595)
    but one can't help but wonder if such a device will breed less assertive graduates who lack the will to stand up and voice their opinion on sensitive issues.

    Better than breeding graduates who draw dubious conclusions.

    • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:26AM (#13256617) Homepage Journal
      No, I'd expect the opposite. It will give voice the the normally less assertive. People who are already assertive aren't going to start shutting up because of a clicker.
      • by Sebby (238625)
        I agree. People are usually reluctant to answer because they fear their answer will be wrong and be ridiculed. If they answer anonymously and it isn't ridiculed, they'll have more confidence in their future answers, anonymous or not.

        • I'm going to go out on a limb and post something inflammatory, karma be damned.

          If someone doesn't have the balls to say what they believe, they don't belong in this world. Last I checked, you needed to be able to voice your opinion in the real world.

          If someone is afraid of being ridiculed, they don't belong in this world. Last I checked, in the real world, people were ridiculed for being wrong on a regular basis.

          It's a fact of life, and the sooner people learn to deal with it, the better. I have read some s
      • Oh, great idea. Then when they get out in the real world they'll use what to get their opinions across????

        Maybe school should teach the meek to find a voice ???

        • I assume that you're familiar with the concept of training wheels on a bike? You'll notice that once the child learns to ride the training wheels can be removed and they don't revert to being a non-cyclist. The idea here is similar. Once you teach someone to stop being a douchbag and to stand up for themselves, they shouldn't revert to being a douchbag.
        • Oh, great idea. Then when they get out in the real world they'll use what to get their opinions across????

          Voting. Secret ballot voting, to be exact.

          Maybe school should teach the meek to find a voice ???

          On the contrary, if everyone was self-confident and not afraid to speak their mind, the society would be torn apart as everyone was trying to pull it to whatever direction they consider correct.

          Society depends on the majority of people being meek and conformant. School exists to prepare people to

          • Totally do not agree. I think that the idea and the execution of this clicker thing is completely flawed. I seriously think instead of doing crap like "secret ballots", that if people had more "one on one" instruction, we'd be better off. And bullying in schools is not allowed. Where the heck are you coming from?

            Are you seriously going to say that you get more out of a huge lecture class of 100+ students and one teacher than a class of like 20?

            • Totally do not agree. I think that the idea and the execution of this clicker thing is completely flawed. I seriously think instead of doing crap like "secret ballots", that if people had more "one on one" instruction, we'd be better off.

              As was clearly stated in the sentence I had quoted, the secret ballot here referred to life after school. Voting is the accepted way of getting one's opinions heard in today's society, mainly because it gives an illusion of power to the masses without giving them any ac

          • In my experience, "finding my voice" was the whole point of college. Study was merely a tool to that end. (And, indeed, I went to a state-run college.)

            The people I know who didn't go find communication and focusing difficult. Even among my parents' generation, the people I know who didn't go to college are less likely to speak up and more likely to mouth off. This leads me to believe that more education means more individualism and initiative.

            In my experience, having more people with those traits
      • by tktk (540564)
        It will give voice the the normally less assertive.

        The only problem is that the normally less assertive will only be assertive with a clicker. The clicker can be a good start but it has to be viewed like a security blanket. There will be a time where it will have to be given up. There's going to be a point in their lives where they have to shed any anonymity and make a stand.

    • Hmmm.....

      OTOH I seen the normally shy and quiet friends of mine get introduced to the internet (this in the mid-90's) and really start to open up on discussion boards and all that, over time, they started asserting themselves more in real life.

      I won't assert that this was the sole influence of the net where they could anonymously post and not fear negative feedback - it could have been puberty too - but I'm talking about 17-19 y/o's and being introverted/extroverted is usually set by the time you are 14-16
    • When a student is willing to speak up and explain how they reached an incorrect or dubious conclusion, the professor can walk them through the logic and help find the error.

      This is one of the primary functions of a university level course - teaching students how to teach themselves. An authoritative conclusion isn't particularly valuable if the method of reaching that conclusion cannot be replicated by the students. So called 'clickers' do nothing to help students synthesize data and experience into valid c
  • by grahamsz (150076) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:18AM (#13256596) Homepage Journal
    Another way to lower the general standard of peoples' communication skills.

    I suppose /. doesn't do enough on its own.
    • ...or people who can only click to gain acceptance, will gain more mainstream acceptance from people other than their peers. People who are social hermits may find this is yet another way to connect with society in a way that doesn't leave them feeling exposed. And now everyone can be like Captain Pike in Star Trek, beeping from his wheelchair.
      • Why can't these people just learn to use some social skills? I think this is crap. Feel exposed. Its a good feeling. You can grow from it, learn from it, and get better from it.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I used a similar system, they are required for about half of the large lectures at my school. There are plenty of advantages to using them if they are used correctly. Since everyone directly responds, a professor can tell which questions and answers need to be addressed more clearly. If half of the class doesn't understand, the professor will know. This is more practical. In the traditional classroom setting mostly the confident would respond and mask the confusion among other students. Not all communicatio
  • by djkoolaide (729441) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:20AM (#13256598)
    One of the best parts about class for me is actually speaking my mind and not being afraid to do it. This would just make people more shy if you ask me. Not a very good way to prepare kids for the real world! There won't be clickers at the office.
    • Would be handy for simple votes. Teacher explains something and then asks everybody to click yes/no if they understood to see if they should go back and explain it better.
      Nobody likes to stick up their hand and say they didn't understand - but when you didn't you can be pretty sure a large number of other people didn't either.
    • Yeah, that would be like sites like /. allowing anonymous cowards to post messages...

      Actually many offices (including mine) do have methods for anonymous communication, with the goal to help get potential whistle-blowers to report something.

  • Wonderful !?!? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TinyManCan (580322) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:21AM (#13256602) Homepage
    This is just great. Lets teach our kids how to close their brains even more. Instead of using the wonderfully flexible english language, these kids are going to down to a couple of choices. A, B or C.

    Fantastic.
    • these kids are going to down to a couple of choices. A, B or C.


            which one is the breasts option?
    • Re:Wonderful !?!? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by krumms (613921)
      There's more fundamentally wrong with the education system than clickers or multi-choice questions dude.

      I mean, Bush graduated.
    • Re:Wonderful !?!? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by xcentrics (903559)
      > This is just great. Lets teach our kids how to close their brains even more.

      Yeah I think that's international tendence.It is great for politicians ,stupid people = absolute reign.

      > Instead of using the wonderfully flexible english language, these kids are going to down to a couple of choices. A, B or C.

      I tell you this..here in Poland we had old-good-education-system.But when we joined European Union (great,really!) we had to change _everything_ according to EU standarts.That's why our min
  • MIT - 8.02 teal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dogun (7502) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:21AM (#13256605) Homepage
    This is a terrible idea. I had to sit through a class at MIT rife with stupid ideas like this. Instead of a normal classroom/lecture setting, where you simply learn at your own pace outside of class or pay attention as suits you, you just sit there and *seethe* and this goddamned clicker thing. You don't really feel the need to concentrate or pay attention because no normal person can come up with 5 legitimate sounding answers for you to choose from.

    Maybe this is GREAT for some settings, but this robs students of real interaction with their teachers and replaces it with bullshit polls every 5 minutes. Not appropriate for high school or college, IMHO.

    If you want to do this kind of nonsense, the old show-of-hands technique, in my experience, works wonders, provided that instead of assaulting people who get it wrong, you work towards the right answer.

    And no, I didn't RTFA.
    • Instead of a normal classroom/lecture setting, where you simply learn at your own pace

      Sorry but I just couldn't resist an appropriate Terry Pratchett quote at this point:

      "Many things went on at Unseen University and, regrettably, teaching had to be one of them. The faculty had long ago confronted this fact and had perfected various devices for avoiding it. But this was perfectly all right because, to be fair, so had the students."

      Yeah ok, so I'm nuts ;)
      • On the contrary, you picked up something useful from a book. Would that folks behind the PRS (the POS model I was stuck with and one of the models shown in the article) had too...
    • only one class? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SuperBanana (662181) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @04:42AM (#13256976)
      I had to sit through a class at MIT rife with stupid ideas like this.

      Just one? Siiigh, here I go, likely to get modded flamebait, but what the hell. I've talked to numerous MIT students (ranging from current undergrads, to PhD's) in several different fields (mechanical engineering, electronics, etc). I also worked for MIT (see below).

      MIT is "rife", like many "top" schools, with professors who barely show up for the classes they supposedly "teach". TA's run the class, do the grading, and interact with the students. Meanwhile, the professors are busy doing the traditional MIT professor path: invent something, patent it, form a company, get rich off it. MIT has an entire office full of patent attorneys, called the Technology Licensing Office- where I worked for a bit. They measure revenue in hundreds of millions of dollars. MIT has turned into an R&D mill; the Media Lab is a perfect example. MIT's best and brightest from the Media Lab have turned out...a shag-rug-covered alarm clock that rolls off the table when you hit the snooze button. Slightly clever, very half-baked, and utterly lacking in anything even remotely approaching state of the art in -any- field. But it's from an MIT student, from the Media Lab no less, and their shit is gold and smells of rose blossoms- so it gets local, national, and international coverage, and nobody says "hey, this is just an alarm clock with two wheels and motors that turn on for a random bit of time". Ie, something a smart 8th grader could make.

      I went to a college where I was on a first name basis with my CS professors, their significant others...even knew their kids, and I'd bump into them on campus at concerts and stuff. I could, during their fairly wide office hours, walk into their office, plop down on the couch, and ask them questions about the current homework assignment or project. I knew most of the kids in my classes (the largest, an "intro" level class, was 25 people). You know what? I actually learned stuff, and not just what was in my textbook.

      Maybe if MIT professors actually taught their classes, class size would be smaller, students would feel more involved (and hence as questions more often during a lecture) and the quality of the lecture would be such that fewer questions would be necessary in the first place.

      Some will argue that MIT's professors, focusing on research, are its strength. Except to undergrads, they'll never get even close to this state-of-the-art research. The professors who come up with truly revolutionary stuff are usually the furthest removed from students. "Top" schools all sell the same lie the armed forced do- "join us, work on cutting edge stuff!" Well, funny thing that you join, and find yourself cleaning lab equipment. Hey, it's a step up from cleaning toilets in the Air Force general's jet, I guess.

      Want a perfect example of MIT's failure to educate its graduates with real-world, useful skills? The recent underwater vehicle competition where a bunch of barely-literate high school students from a poor texas immigrant community beat the MIT team.

      • Re:only one class? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by simscitizen (696184)
        I don't go to MIT, so I can't comment on it. But I go to another "top" school on the West Coast (whatever the hell that means, anyway...you really only get out what you put in, as the old saying goes), and professors teach almost all classes, and you can certainly get involved in research if you take the least bit of initiative. And while some of my friends at MIT are pretty miserable, a lot of them are doing just fine and love the place. I wouldn't judge a school from just a short term in its tech licensi
      • I was at MIT for 5 years (bachelor's and master's) and, while I would agree that some of your criticisms have truth, by and large it's an excellent institution.

        Some of the professors barely try to teach. But the majority I encountered (in the physics and electrical engineering departments) were good to excellent. In the physics department, especially, most of the recitation instructors are professors, not TAs. The TAs do grading, but professors lead the discussions and show up for office hours. If you b
      • MIT has an entire office full of patent attorneys, called the Technology Licensing Office- where I worked for a bit. They measure revenue in hundreds of millions of dollars.

        Every research school has an office like that. I go to UW Madison and we have WARF, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which handles all the patents the school owns. A friend of mine recently got a check from them for her work on something that the university patented.

        A lot of research going on is a good thing. It gives g
  • by thewldisntenuff (778302) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:22AM (#13256608) Homepage
    In a physics course I took at Univ of Arizona, we had these in class. They were supposed to be used as a daily quiz to see if we had actually read. Instead, the system was never properly setup, and there was a fight between the department (which, IMHO, has problems of its own) and the company who made the clickers. The damned things (which cost like $30, IIRC) didn't work til sometime around November, when the course was about to end anyway. And when they "worked", they never recorded student answers properly NOR did they actually record student input. A big waste of time and money - we may as well have used paper and pen. Besides - you run into issues with people bringing two or three clickers for friends.

    -thewldisntenuff
  • Luddites.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by euxneks (516538) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:22AM (#13256609)
    but one can't help but wonder if such a device will breed less assertive graduates who lack the will to stand up and voice their opinion on sensitive issues

    Sounds like a luddite to me...Who's to say these kids won't be more assertive? Usually they would not talk in class for fear of peer response. I think once they can express their ideas, and see that the response from their peers is not negative, they would probably be more assertive...

    It's silly to fear something for a _possible_ negative when it's completely new.
    • Re:Luddites.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ericdano (113424) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @03:21AM (#13256783) Homepage
      How is it going to make them more assertive? Why not, instead of spending the $30 per student on clickers, and then however much on the software and other crap for it, try to REDUCE the class size, and have a better student/teacher ratio?

      Gee, think about it. A class where you could like know everyone in it? Where the teacher could remember your name. Where you might even have daily social interactions?

      Did Socrates lecture to huge groups? No. He engaged people in small groups in CONVERSATION. This little clicker thing is not engaging people in conversation.

      Lower the number of students per class, and teach these non-assertive people to socialize and converse like normal people, and we'd have a better educational system and society.

    • Well, it's an empirical question whether these things make students more or less shy. it needs to be studied.

      It's silly to fear something for a _possible_ negative when it's completely new.

      Really? It seems to me that if you are trying to decide whether to introduce a new, untested tool into the classroom you should consider the potential negatives as well as the potential positives.
    • Re:Luddites.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frodo Crockett (861942) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @03:38AM (#13256828)
      These "clickers" sound like bullshit, and I'll tell you why. I think this will encourage students to pick someone else's ready-made answer instead of synthesizing their own. It's troubling to see our nation's fast food culture* worming its way into the education system. Life isn't a multiple-choice quiz, and education shouldn't be, either.

      * I'm not referring to the book Fast Food Nation, but to our tendency to pick the easiest, fastest, least-thought-required solution to problems.
      • The point isn't so much to always get the right answer or to be graded on your response. It's supposed to be a system that keeps the students involved in the class while also giving the teacher an idea on how well the class is picking up the material.

        Or at least, thats the approach taken for the Numina project [uncw.edu]. They use wireless handhelds for student interaction (that belong to the school, no cost to the student). Then they took advantage of having all of those handhelds and built in lab applications and su
      • Life isn't a multiple-choice quiz, and education shouldn't be, either.

        They work well at my medical school, where - like it or not - a main goal of our education is to ensure good performance on the multiple choice medical licensing board exams.

        One of the biochem professors like to put board-type questions up and have the students respond with the clickers. Then he shifts the focus of his lectures to address topics in which we need more instruction, and not waste our time going over stuff we've already mast
    • Re:Luddites.. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by drsquare (530038)
      No, a luddite is someone who doesn't like technology for no particular reason. In this instance, it's not liking a technology because it's completely worthless. I'd put it on the same level as a segway.
  • by simrook (548769) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:26AM (#13256616)
    I recently went through the transistion in my previous college to not having these clicker type devices to having them. We call them PRS. Don't remember what it stands for..

    But anyways, it takes all the fun out of college. At the beginning of class, the prof will require everyone in attendence to "click" into class. You have to point your unit at some sensors and then via wireless signals the computer records your attendance. Thus, every professor on campus is now taking attendence this way. No fun anymore, because you must attened every class, or your grade automaticaly drops.

    Of course, this has it's puropse, and is a great motovational tool. A few of my friends have even reverse eng'ed the deivce and when they're feeling mischivous enough, disrupt the signal enough for the PRS recieving unit to go haywire and throw an error on the screen - thus ending the attendence taking or the quiz taking or what ever. I suspect that these people have learned more from studying the device then any bullshit 2nd/3rd year comp sci course could teach them.

    Devices like these are a major form of social control. Awful for educational purposes, at least so says any student who's had to deal with the little bastards.

    But then again.. when it comes time for me to be the grad student teaching, I'm sure I'll use it. Damn maturity.

    My 0010 cents.
    • simrook said:
      Thus, every professor on campus is now taking attendence this way. No fun anymore, because you must attened every class, or your grade automaticaly drops.

      Call me a grammar/spelling Nazi if you like, but it seems to me that you might have benefited from attending more classes.

  • I'm not a fan (Score:3, Interesting)

    by theimplord (851477) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:28AM (#13256624)
    I actually got stuck in a sample class using these, and I'm not a big fan. What happens is the teacher will ask some multiple-choice question, then he has to stop talking for several minutes while he switches to the clicker server program. The whole class strains and points and tries to get the sensors in the room to pick up their answer. There isn't any indication if it was *your* clicker which was picked up by the sensor though, so everyone just keeps clicking. They have to constantly check the screen to make sure that their number was picked up - which doesn't always happen.
    Maybe it's just because they're new, but the teachers I had tried to avoid using the clickers for points. I'm sure the teachers got some decent feedback - knowing what people understood and didn't. Then again, they were in my physics classes, so it was easy to formulate questions and get responses in a "short" amount of time. I certainly appreciated that over homework questions. It did help once or twice to let me know I misunderstood something, but overall, they were very frustrating, and grew to be one of my pet peeves.
    • Don't mistake a bad implementation for a bad concept. I'd love to hear from a class that didn't have the bugs yours did, to get a true evaluation of the concept. The article mentions enhancements of integrating questions into a powerpoint presentation to prevent the in-class delays, and a red/green indication on individual devices to make sure the responses were received.
  • I used these in social science class in 1992 in Sweden, they weren't wireless though of course. I was 16 at the time ("Gymnasiet" in Sweden, not sure what it is called in other countries - secondary high?)

    Quite fun, we students got to write yes/no questions and passed them to the teacher, she selected the most interesting ones. I would have been interested to see the answer to the question "Do you consider yourself gay or bi", but I chickened out.
  • I've not used one, but some large lecture classes at Illinois require this type of device upon enrollment. Apparently some professors/locals got the University to try them out. There was an article on them last school year in the Daily Illini [dailyillini.com]

    From the stories I heard in customer service lines at the bookstore, they were not popular. One problem was that they hadn't standardized yet, and students had to buy multiple incompatible devices or, worse yet, the model they needed wasn't available.

    At least at

  • ... they're better than the Clappers we used when I went to school.

      Now, if we got to use the crapper, that'd be OK.
  • by DingerX (847589) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:40AM (#13256665) Journal
    A) Empty classrooms with mysteriously full attendance.
    B) "clicking tools" now loaded in the standard Auditor distro -- everyone in your frat mysteriously gets all the right answers to the quiz; complaints from the rich kids about their fancy Cross ClickBen getting "Clikjacked".
    C) Quiz designed to overcome high school shyness about sexual topics mysteriously reveals entire cheerleadng squad turns out for backdoor antics with donkeys.
    D) Awkward Teacher/Student and Student/STudent interaction replaced with Awkward User/Technology interaction.
  • I've had the experience of being in a class of around 200 people that used infrared eInstruction "clickers" (it's just a remote control with a unique ID). Probably the biggest problem is that they weren't reliable. Even when the software for the receivers worked, we needed more than four receivers in the room. Range was a problem, and also, I suspect that 200 people clicking like mad because they're being graded on attendence leads to interference. The infrared system just doesn't scale well, which is a
  • Installer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by saz2b (905604)
    I have installed many of the systems threw out a school system. I can tell you if your lessons are planned around it they can be an effective tool for elementry kids but for college i just do not see the use of them
  • by patio11 (857072) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:45AM (#13256678)
    Memo to college professors: if you have 400 students in your physics class, you can't really do much to increase student participation. There, I said it. What, do you think having a database tabulate responses to your questions like some maniacal Nielsen-for-classroom-instruction is going to make this room feel like it has fifteen students in it? Survey says: no (+/- 80% due to equipment malfunction).

    I majored in Japanese and CS in college (at a university with very small average class sizes compared to large state schools like the ones in the article). The difference between a 12-man discussion section and a 90-man lecture is like night and day. When there are 12 you can tailor your lessons to the room and if Billy is skipping class or obviously not getting the material despite trying you will know, instantly. When there are 90, you probably get to know those 5 kids who are really too good to be in this class and those 10 who use every trick in the book to avoid getting out of doing assignments, and for the 75 students in the middle you're lucky if you even know their names. (My best CS professor, ever, had academic standards about as sharp as a butter knife and lecturers which did not succeed in imparting much material but he knew *every* kid in the class and worked the labs like it was his job to the point where he knew some of the 15 team's project status better than the lazier team members did -- nothing says "I care" like "Hey, Bob, how's it going? Did you guys get that regexp engine working right for the poetry project yet? Time's a wasting, remember there are other ways to skin the cat. Anyhow, if you need to chat about it come see me after class or on Thursday. Hey Suzy! I loved the design on the last project but this is AI, not the perl obfuscation contest. More comments on the magic bits next time, OK? Hey Joe! I haven't seen you in three weeks?. Should I be concerned or is this just 'This is not a class I care for?' in which case I can just give you a B- and write you off?")

    • Which is an EXCELLENT reason to use the money to HIRE ANOTHER TEACHER than buy these clickers. Geeze, I wonder how much money all these "systems" are wasting. Software, hardware, support, contracts. Wouldn't just be easier to have another teacher there to actually engage students?

      The educational system is sad here. Very sad. Turning into a text mess./IM/Clicking society.....with more money spent on prisons than education. Oh, unless it's on some great new doodad that clicks or is techie.

    • It's the dedicated professors who are most susceptible to these things, but hopefully they'll also be the first to see how useless the devices are in practice.

      I had a very dedicated, very accessible, not very good at imparting knowledge professor at my Uni who bought into the clicker idea. The result was a degradation of the lectures into click fests. Of course he could still be reached during office hours, or pretty much any time he wasn't actively lecturing. And I'm sure that many students learned a lot

  • by SuperKendall (25149) * on Saturday August 06, 2005 @02:48AM (#13256694)
    I can just see it now:

    CEO: "Bob, what do you think of my highly controverisal proposial for the realignment of the company?"

    Bob: Click!

    CEO: "What the hell does that mean?"

    Bob: Click!

    CEO: "I see. Well it seems Bob here isn't afraid to speak up like the rest of you spineless SOB's . You're all fired; Bob - you're my new Number 2"

    Bob: Click!

    Ok, perhaps they face a brighter future than I imagined. Where can I get this clicker retraining, and is there a clicker conference soon?
  • I think that most people who do not speak up in class do so most often out of the fear of proving themselves stupid infront of their peers.

    People who are afraid to voice unpopular opinions will probably not be made more bold in any event.

    I recall watching a tv special about the use of this sort of device. One trend was that when used in a "Do you understand" type of question, the teacher can get a much better idea about how well the lesson is being understood, and can go over it again.

    END COMMUNICATION
  • We have some things similar to those at my high school, and while we rarely use them(maybe three or four times a year), I think they're atleast fairly useful. We've used them a few times for reviewing for state assessments/finals. It makes sure that people don't just sit around and jack off for an hour(the ones we have show what #'s have answered). They aren't perfect as far as reception, but they're not too bad. I think ours are infared or something of that nature. They let the teachers know what ques
  • Two of my law school profs used these (although it was before I arrived). They co-wrote a paper on it called "Taking Back the Law School Classroom: Using Technology to Foster Active Student Learning".

    Their experience was part of a NY Times story in early 2004 [uc.edu]. (Story text from law school to avoid registration.)

    If anyone wants more information on Prof. Caron and Dr. Gely's experience with these you can read the aforementioned paper [ssrn.com].

    - Neil Wehneman
  • So when a teacher wants opinions on topics that people tend to shy away from like sex, religion, and politics, the question can be asked and the students can answer anonymously via the clicker.

    Just think how useful, informative, and accurate they'll be ...

    ... just like the slashdot polls!
  • Seems like most of the comments are complaints about lousy implementations. Perhaps a better way to do this sort of thing would be to hardwire the clickers into the room itself (into the armrests/desks) and use wires under the floor instead of wireless. That would solve the "wireless communication is unreliable" problem, the "students have to spend $50 on gadgets for every class" problem, and the "clever guy brought three clickers into class for his absentee friends" problem.

    It might add a "bored students

    • Unfortunately it would also introduces the "we have to rewire this room" problem, the "we have to modify all the desks/seats" problem, and the "it all costs 100x more than the crappy IR version and it's *still* buggy" problem (come on, you know it's going to happen). If you're using them for more than anonymous answers you're going to need to let students authenticate too, since they're no longer physically carrying their own device.

      No, let's just fire whoever decided IR was a good idea in a huge packed le
  • On the contrary. The anonymity will end up, at least for some, to break out of their shell, so-to-speak. It will allow some students to speak their mind without fear, but additionally, will end up giving them more courage when they see that there was nothing to fear in the first place.
  • do they support the CowboyNeal option?
  • In School...

    Teacher: "Who thinks they have the answer?"
    Me: *click*
    Teacher: "Okay, d474, what do you think it is?"
    Me: *click* *click*, *clickity* *click*
    Teacher: "No, that's wrong d474."
    Me: *cli* *click* *CLICK*!
    Teacher: "Excuse me young man, what did you just say!? You better go to the principles office, NOW!"
    Me: *click* *click* - *cLiCk*
    (students laugh as I leave the room)
  • This might work up until grade 4 or 5. After that the smart-alecks will make a big joke of it. The whole class can get "in" on it. They will click the answer that is either the most outrageous, the one potentially the most humorous, or the one diametrically opposed to what they truly think. Come on! It's a great idea, don't get me wrong, but human nature being what it is I don't think anyone can realistically expect students to take it seriously. Haven't you ever seen Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? T
    • Well it kinda was 'E' - i don't see anyone else on that list who overthrew the German government, executed several million people, took over half of Europe, started a world war, and influenced a conflict with America and Japan which ended in the first ever use of nuclear weapons.

      But then you could probably make a case for all of those people.

      Yeah I know that was only an example, i will shut up now.
      • Well it kinda was 'E' - i don't see anyone else on that list who overthrew the German government, executed several million people, took over half of Europe, started a world war, and influenced a conflict with America and Japan which ended in the first ever use of nuclear weapons.

        But then you could probably make a case for all of those people.

        Actually, it is 'E', and I can't see any alternative around it.

        A. Pope John Paul II - while it is true that he was an influencial leader of the Catholic Church, his i

  • We trie these at a large Australian university. The reason we rejected them was simply because people don't interact like this in the 'real world'. Imagine presenting a new idea to a client and having your intern or assistant interact with the client with one of these things.

    Students can participate or not, just like the real world. Occasionally, there are negative consequences to that participation. Part of the learning and maturing process is to work out how, why and when to participate. That's life!
  • I have used these for a couple of years in some of my intro geology courses. The companies want you to use them for quizzing/testing, but I haven't found that to be feasible in my large (120-150 student) courses. In my smaller courses I don't see a real benefit to them, because I have enough direct responses in the small-group setting. In order to use them for quizzing, you have to either:
    1) Hand them out once at the beginning of the course, record who has which one, hope they bring them daily, hope they
  • Students == dogs? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by erlando (88533) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @05:45AM (#13257106) Homepage
    Isn't a clicker [wikipedia.org] something that is used when training dogs..? ;-)
  • but one can't help but wonder if such a device will breed less assertive graduates who lack the will to stand up and voice their opinion on sensitive issues

    Fine by me. America could use a few less vocal people on sensitive issues. Plus, it means my (very vocal) opinions count more!
  • So when a teacher wants opinions on topics that people tend to shy away from like sex, religion, and politics, the question can be asked and the students can answer anonymously via the clicker. Everything from a simple poll to a graded quiz can be conducted using the device.

    what's the point of grading a quiz that was submitted by anonymous students? or is there a way to switch the anonymous function on and off. if there is, would you really feel that anonymous when you use that clicker?
  • by tourvil (103765)
    Finally, a proven [wikipedia.org] method for training students. Hopefully this will replace the current method of professors using choke chains when a student answers a question wrong.
  • From summary:

    So when a teacher wants opinions on topics that people tend to shy away from like sex, religion, and politics, the question can be asked and the students can answer anonymously via the clicker.

    Yes, because a student is certainly going to trust that a device supplied by the teacher is going to protect his anonymity, instead of reporting him as a dangerous terrorist commie pervert.

    • Yes, because a student is certainly going to trust that a device supplied by the teacher is going to protect his anonymity, instead of reporting him as a dangerous terrorist commie pervert.

      You must not have gone to college. In most college classrooms, being labeled as a commie is a GOOD thing.

  • So when a teacher wants opinions on topics that people tend to shy away from like sex, religion, and politics, the question can be asked and the students can answer anonymously via the clicker.

    Yeah, just what we need -- more sex, religion and politics in the classroom.

    These are all topics that require maturity before they can be understood. If kids are too embarrased to answer questions about such topics, then they're not ready to be learning about them. And I don't see how personal questions like the ex
  • Kids these days.

    In my day, we had to raise our hands... until we lost circulation.

    In the rain and snow too!

    bah... kida today. /graduated highschool in 02
  • A clicker is a small handheld device that allows its user to wirelessly respond to various prompts selected by a teacher.

    And they say morse code will die if the FCC doesn't require hams to know code on HF...

  • Using special receivers connected to their laptops, instructors were able to instantly gather responses to personal yes-or-no questions

    As if American culture isn't shallow enough already, we are going to condition students to think everything has a "yes" or "no" answer that can be tallied by a clicker?

    And at the university level?

    I can remember when examinations had multiple choice or matching questions. Some, horror of horrors, even required essays stating a position and defending it.
  • A device that can be used as a testing device can't be trusted by the student as an anonymous "poll taking device". Without this trust, any data obtained is invalid. Good randomized response techniques, used by statisticians, use a method that the the responder can trust and validate with his own knowledge so that the responder can really feel anonymous. An example of this is letting the person answer one of two questions, one non-sensitive and the other not. The person chooses which to answer based by th
  • but one can't help but wonder if such a device will breed less assertive graduates who lack the will to stand up and voice their opinion on sensitive issues.

    The government sure hopes so. :-)

  • Obviously not everyone has a computer in all classes, but if it's a course being taught in a lab, or if your school gives students laptops (as mine does), then it's not so far-fetched.

    Rather than using something that sounds like it's full of bugs, why not write a 2-line CGI app and do 'polls'? You don't have to keep clicking and pointing. You can do more than A/B/C/D, even.

    I'm still not sure that technology is what's going to 'fix' education. But I do think that, if we're going to use technology, we could a
  • "but one can't help but wonder if such a device will breed less assertive graduates who lack the will to stand up and voice their opinion on sensitive issues."

    I don't think this device can do anything worse than what forced, mandatory public schooling has done. Think about this from the point of view of government as a general concept. At home, a child is familiar with one form of government: dictatorship--do what you're told, or else. At school, what form of government do we have? Dictatorship as well, but
  • I have to say there are a lot of people who clearly have no idea how to use them or why they might be valuable.

    Speaking as an academic tech guy, anyone wanting to do graded quizzes with these is insane. (Although we run faculty meeting votes with them and see *none* of the problems everyone seems to have- we get votes for ~80 people in about 20 seconds, with clear "your vote is counted" feedback for every user. Replace the batteries every now and then and make sure you have enough receivers.) There's j

  • I took this psych course last term and the prof, Dr. Tim Pychyl, used a set of IR clickers to ask about 6-7 questions per class. He had used them in previous classes, and IIRC he actually paid for the system out of his own pocket.

    His approach was to close a chapter or topic by asking some fundamental questions about what we had just covered, just to make sure we at least had the basics firmly ingrained. Polling the class was done in one minute as he distributed about 30 clickers to groups of 2-3 students,
  • We use this at my university (University of Texas at Austin). It's been around for a few years, and it is most definitely not anonymous. Some professors (physics) use it for attendance, and that's about it. Students do NOT take to this, 99.9 students out of 100 hate it.

"Life, loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it." -- Marvin the paranoid android

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