Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New York Times article offers several great suggestions for using "clickers" to better engage students

Although I've heard several teachers talk about using "Clickers" to conduct impromptu quizzes, this article from today's New York Times suggests many more ways to use them - from automatically taking attendance to providing gentle reminders to pay attention - that keep all students engaged in the material and thwart distractions.  

Every student in [Northwestern Professor] 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.
But the greatest impact of such devices — which more than a half-million students are using this fall on several thousand college campuses — may be cultural: they have altered, perhaps irrevocably, the nap schedules of anyone who might have hoped to catch a few winks in the back row, and made it harder for them to respond to text messages, e-mail and other distractions.

Washburn's Professor Michael Hunter Schwartz was able to boil down for me the best reason for using Clickers in the law school classroom which is that the devices are able to transform the Socratic questioning of a single student (which is supposed to be a vicarious learning experience for the rest of the class but too often isn't) into a a truly engaging experience for everyone else.

You can read more from the New York Times about creative uses of "Clickers" in the undergraduate classroom here.  And  here's  a feature from the NYT's explaining how Clickers work.



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