Student Response System (K-12): Part 2 Clickers

This is the second post in a three part series on Using a Student Response System in the classroom

  1. Last time, we looked at using twitter in the classroom
  2. Today, we’re looking at using clickers as a Student Response System (S), and
  3. Next time, we’ll look at Poll Everywhere as an online way to get responses from your students in real time.
  4. This 3 part series was written using Dragon NaturallySpeaking with a 98% word recognition accuracy.

Student Response System: Clickers in the classroom

I really like the idea of using clickers in the classroom. (This article is based on using a class set of eInstruction clickers.)

  • Clickers are little tiny devices that look like cell phones. Very cool for K-8 classes where cell phones are often not allowed at school / in the classroom.
  • They let students vote in their responses – you can set up multiple-choice questions or short answer questions and quickly look at the results in real time.
  • There is also a setting to enable anonymous mode which means that student responses are not tracked – in case you want more honest answers for sensitive questions. Normally, you know which students are using which clickers, which means that you can collect assessment data from your clickers.

Even though I have access to a class set of clickers, I find I rarely use them. (Maybe, I really need to start using them more again.)

  • Part of the problem is the set up. Sometimes the proprietary software lags or the Bluetooth dongle hangs and doesn’t detect the clickers or work as fast as I would’ve would like it to.
  • Another problem with the clickers is maintenance. Two of the 30 clickers aren’t working and I simply haven’t found the time to unscrew the case and change the batteries to see if that fixes the problem. (I think one of the clickers is actually broken, so I need to call the manufacturer.)
  • Now that I think about it, the final problem for me is creating the assessment from any location that I want to. The world is becoming cloud-based, and I’m getting used to the idea of being able to access my files from anywhere – school, home, on the go. The clickers that we have used proprietary software and the software works best when you’re student files are saved on your computer’s hard drive (as opposed to the network drive.) Even though I can use dropbox to sync these clicker files between my different computers, sometimes I find it still a hassle because I’m pretty sure the dropbox syncing is slowing down the clickers software.

Some grade 7 and grade 8 students have a surprisingly difficult time texting in paragraph answers using the clickers. Even though we often think of this generation as a texting, tech savvy generation, not all students have a cell phone and so texting in short answers on the clickers may be a steep learning curve for some.

Having said all of that, the clickers are great.

  • Each student is assigned a clicker, so I know exactly how they are responding for assessment purposes. There’s no guesswork (and I don’t have to ask my students to be honest and tell me who they are, like I do with Poll Everywhere)
  • I like how I can display pretty graphs right away for the students on the data projector. I can look at review questions, instantly see which questions that students don’t understand, and revisit those concepts in class right away.
  • I like how the clickers have a teacher paced mode and a student paced mode.  Teacher paced mode lets you lead students question by question. Student paced mode lets you give students the question page and they can work their way through the assessment on their own – entering one answer will automatically move the student to the next question.
  • I like how each student has their own clicker. Clickers are cheaper than netbooks or laptops and I don’t have to depend on students bringing in their own technology (i.e. cell phones) like I do with Poll Everywhere. Unlike netbooks which can take forever to connect to the wireless network, clickers are good to go in about 10 seconds.

Stay tuned. Next time, we’ll look at Poll Everywhere which is marketing itself as a free Student Response System (because you don’t have to use clickers to vote in your answer. You use your own technology (i.e. your cell phone or laptop) to text or vote in your response online.

This 3 part series on Using a Student Response System in the Classroom was written using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5 Premium Wireless with a 98.1% word recognition accuracy rate. What is Dragon NaturallySpeaking?

10 thoughts on “Student Response System (K-12): Part 2 Clickers”

  1. I use clickers in my classroom. I find them to add sometimes more work in the area of preparation but I think they are very helpful in getting immediate feedback. Students like the hands-on activity. I have used them to see how knows and who doesn’t. This feedback is helpful for me. I have also used them for the Multiple Choice section of a test. In this area, the questions do not need to be added into the software, just the questions. A great positive about using them for a test is the system grades them for you right away, saves some time.

    1. Hi Katie,

      I’m with you. Clickers give that immediate feedback and high student engagement piece with more student talk… But at the price of spending more time setting up. I suppose once you have the prep done, it’d be easier next year, but I find I’m constantly tweaking my program and it changes year to year.

      Out of curiosity… Which brand of clickers do you have and what grade do you teach?

  2. I absolutely love my set of clickers. I use them every single day to acomplish 4 things.
    1. Bell work. Every day I have a 5 question quiz that I start the second the bell rings. I give one minute for each question.
    2. Attendance. If a student misses the first question, I know they were tardy. If they missed all 5 I know they were absent (our school policy is a student is considered absent if they aren’t in class within 5 minutes of the bell).
    3. Daily Grade. nuff said.
    4. Student involvement. Kids love a routine. This is a fun one and it sets the pace for the rest of class.

    In addition to how I incorporate them daily I also use them for most quizes and some grades. This has cut down on the amount of grading I have to do tremoundously. I still have to grade labs and written responses but in comparison to what I used to be doing this is fairly minimal.

    After using these I can’t imagine not using them. I’m not a fan of cell phones in the classroom because of the ability for student’s to go off task with them. That’s a battle I don’t want to fight.

  3. Hi Jacks,

    Neat way to use the clickers for bell work. I’ve been toying with that idea, but couldn’t think of a good way to move between questions – I thought about having them come in, do the clicker question on the board, and put away the clicker and get ready for class…

    but your way of timing it for a minute is neat because of the attendance tracking and it gives you a good way to figure out who is late.

    Out of curiosity, do you have a good way to communicate daily marks to parents? I’ve set up google docs folders with my partners that I can click and drag documents to share, but would love it if Markbook or some other grade keeping software could come up with a more elegant solution.

    Do you find it a hassle to set up 5 questions a day, or are you simply pulling it from a resource? How do you differentiate for students who need extended time accomodations?

  4. Our gradebook program (infinite campus) allows parents to check grades online. I’m not a huge fan of the program we use, but it works well enough.

    I have the program auto advance each question after the minute. The kids know they have to get their answer in within the minute, and there’s a timer running on the screen so they know how much time they have left.

    I have seating charts set up for all of my classes, clickers are assigned to the seats. I’ve made a little baggie thing that hangs off the desk that holds the clickers, calculators and writing utincils of some sort. I haven’t had any problems with the clickers or calculators walking off… pencils and pens… that’s another story. Regardless if a kids not in his seat, they’re not going to get their clicker. If they don’t have their clicker they don’t get their daily points and they run the real chance of being counted absent. To this point I haven’t run into any problems.

    As to the 5 questions a day. It’s not as bad as you’d think. If you were to take an average of the types of questions I ask it would probably come out to about a 50/50 split with half of them being review questions of previous material and half being are you breathing sorts of questions (What’s the color of the shirt I’m wearing today?). I can set up a 5 question quiz in less than 2 minutes.

    The extended time modifications… I don’t follow them for this. These aren’t necessarily challenging questions but more to help them pick up from where we left off the previous day, i.e.
    Yesterday we discussed
    a. the periodic table
    b. Force = Mass X Acceleration
    c. Fusion reactions on the sun
    d. Balloon animals.
    Even those kids on IEP’s shouldn’t need extended time for that sort of question. I’m also hitting one of the big IEP points by doing this because it allows me to read the questions out loud.

    1. Hey Mr. Jacks,

      Thanks for the reply. Auto-advance is a good way to do it. Keeps it consistent and frees you up. We have 2 class sets of clickers in our school but they get signed out by teachers as needed. A clicker set dedicated to a single classroom would probably get more usage. Having the clickers at the desks eliminates the needs for students to walk around and return the clickers to a central location… kinda cool that you haven’t had any problems with theft. Have you had any practical jokers switch clickers between desks?

      Last question for you: How long does it take you to enter in your class marks into your gradebook program? Does your clicker software allow you to export data and upload into your gradebook program, or do you enter it in manually. Cheers, Kisu

  5. New clickers are expensive however I bought my own set of clickers off of ebay. They weren’t nearly as expensive as you’d think. I picked up one of the older generation sets (8 button) with 32 clickers for under $200. There are several sets like this that are available for a BIN price of $300, but if you wait for an auction to run you can pick them up for less. They’ve more than paid for themselves.

    Clickers don’t walk off or trade spots with othe clickers. When a kid comes in to class and pulls their clicker out, they know what number is supposed to be at their desk. If their clicker isn’t at their desk they tell me. Which means the person who used it in the class before them didn’t put it back where it was supposed to go. I can take care of that student the next day.

    There is an ability to export data to a csv file and then import the csv file into the gradebook, but I don’t use it. When my father started giving away his things one of the things I inherited was an old Epson dot matrix printer and about 10 boxes of continuous feed paper. Every hour I send that classes results to that printer. At the end of the day (or as time permits) I use that printout to enter in the grades into the gradebook. The printout is set up so that the kids are in the same order as they are in the gradebook. Entering in grades goes quickly. I spend maybe 10 minutes a day entering in grades from 130+ students. Usually I enter in the grades and do the attendance for the previous class while the current class is taking their 5 question Bell Work.

    I coach 3 sports so it’s rare when I get a chance to stay after school to take care of things like grading. Anything I can do to take care of business during the school day is a godsend.

    1. Brilliant. It sounds like a very sweet workflow and I’m impressed that you’ve streamlined it to get 130+ students into your gradebook in 10 minutes. I was resisting buying my own set of clickers since the ones we have at school cost around $100 per unit and a class set of 32 clickers would cost closer to $3200. I’d easily buy a class set of older clickers for a couple of hundred bucks. Thanks for sharing your system. Cheers, Kisu

      1. Out of curiosity, how do you handle changes in your seating plan? I usually change my seating plan every other month (or sooner as behavioural problems develop.) Since your system has the clickers assigned to the desk, I imagine when you move a student to a new spot, they get a new clicker number (which you then update accordingly in your gradebook.) I really like your system because there’s less movement once students have settled down (i.e. they don’t need to get up to return / retrieve clickers from a common storage area) – but on the other hand, I’d like to have students keep the same number throughout their time with me. I assign students an “alpha number” based on their order on the class list. That way, when students do assignments, they record their alpha number on the page (or in the Google Docs filename) and I can quickly sort the pages for data entry / or for scanning, etc. I can see confusion brewing if students have an alpha number that never changes, but a clicker number that might change. I’ll have to play around.

  6. I tend not to change seating charts. I used to have the same rotation you do, but I found a seating arrangement that works really well for me in regards to behavioral issues.

    On the first day of school I assign the kids seats, they don’t get to pick. I’ve got a pretty good eye for spotting those 2 or 3 in every class who are going to be issues.

    My classroom seating arangement is set up in an H pattern with an additional 4 seats in the open space in the top part of the H. This allows me the entire bottom open half of the H to roam around. The two seats at the bottom of the legs of the H serve to isolate those special students so they’re only sitting by one other student, and also tend to be near where I’m usually teaching from.

    I do have the occasional knucklehead who can’t figure out how to behave in class. The discipline plan I use works well for that. It resets every day. Every kid gets a warning, then a lunch detention, then 3 lunch detentions, then a call home, then a referal. I’m super lucky in the fact that my grade level principal strikes fear in the hearts of my students. I haven’t written a referal in over a year.

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