Classroom Technology: Classroom Clickers (SMART Technologies’ Student Response System)

Classroom clickers are a piece of educational technology that allows you to get your students more involved. You put up a question on your computer and students use the classroom clickers to vote in their answers.

SMART technologies has a SMART Response student response system (formerly called Senteo) that has caught my attention.

I’ve heard people talking about clickers before, but it wasn’t until I visited Brian Aspinall’s website after he left a comment that I did some more research. Essentially you can post a question and have students click in their response using individual remote controls. You can set up questions using the SMART software (or Powerpoint, I believe.)

Questions seem to be multiple choice type questions. The SMART website does say it allows numeric responses, but I’m not sure whether than means you’re choosing answer 1, 2, 3 or 4, or whether you can enter in open ended numeric responses to a math question (i.e. 1, 234 dollars.) Judging by the pie-graph type response shown in their picture, it’s probably limited to accepting multiple-choice answers.

Students can log into the system or use the clicker anonymously. Gradebook software is provided and you can create class reports.

Having said that I’m not sure the SMART Student Response system is worth the money.

A media release from SMART technologies’ website for 2007 lists the suggested (educational) retail price of the 32 unit pack at $1,999 USD (approx $62 per unit) and the 24 unit pack at $1599 (approx $66 per unit). They also sell the SMART Response system in packs of 5 clickers.

Are we just paying two thousand dollars for a digital way to get students to raise their hands? Maybe, maybe not.

  • You could use the anonymous mode so that students are more open to given their response. But,you could also have students write their responses on a slip of paper and hand that into the front.
  • You could use the notebook software to keep track of student responses and marks. But, you could also just give a paper-and-pencil quiz.
  • Is this classroom technology for technology’s sake, or does it actually improve the pedagogy and instructional practice?

Ultimately it comes down to whether you want classroom technology to allow you to move at the speed of thought. If you already teach with a data projector and powerpoint on a regular basis, is it that far removed to have students vote with a remote control console instead of a slip of paper? Will this be the technology edge that helps to engage the struggling boys in your class? 

Sure, we could record our marks in a binder, but you can also use Excel or gradekeeping software to do that. Given that our students are growing up in a digital age, SMART Response clickers seem to be a natural evolution. Except for the price.

There are three things that keep us from rushing out and investing the money on this classroom technology:

  1. Price: $2000 for a class set of clickers is a lot of money. For that kind of money, you could get several LCD Data projectors to use in the classroom.
  2. Time. Brian points out that “you cannot move onto the next question until everyone is done with the previous question.” That means you have to spend time waiting for everyone to answer before you move on.
  3. Response options. You can only enter multiple-choice responses; you can’t type in a different response or answer. Although that might be good for EQAO style questions, it doesn’t encourage open-ended responses. 

What would the ideal interactive student response system be for you?

We’re dreaming of a class-set of student laptops wired to the internet. Here’s what we’re currently thinking:  

  1. Students could type in responses instead of being limited to multiple choice responses because of the SMART technology. 
  2. You could use twitter to get a live feed of student responses to display using the classroom data projector. (Individual students would see the replies in their twitter accounts. The downside is that it’s harder to moderate / remove inappropriate comments.)
  3. You could use the comment system on a blog to get a live feed. (Sharon at the cluttered desk posted a comment on Brian’s blog about her views on unmoderated student comments. Instead of comments requiring teacher moderation, she allows the comments to go live right away – but monitors them to remove any inappropriate content. Set up a private WordPress blog that only your students can comment on (or even see) and you could have a live feed in your class.)
  4. Use a wiki as the collaboration tool to allow digital classroom interactivity. (The only down side is that wikispace’s technology to merge simultaneous edits on the same post is a little finicky. In theory it’s supposed to allow simultaneous edits by consolidating changes from different sections. In practice, we haven’t found it to merge the different edits, but rather simply adopt the last person’s edits.)

Sure a class set of laptops is considerably more expensive than a class set of clickers, but you can do a heck of a lot more.

Do you use clickers in the classroom? Do you consider them to be a worthwhile investment?

21 thoughts on “Classroom Technology: Classroom Clickers (SMART Technologies’ Student Response System)”

  1. A few details and opinions (and fixes):

    1. Questions can be T or F, Y or N, ABCD, 1234 as well as a numeric answer (you can also choose questions to be opinion based – so the results are not necessarily right or wrong).

    2. You CAN move onto another question before all students have answered, they are just shown as “skipped” in the results. I wasn’t clear enough before.

    3. I argue the clickers are useful for knowledge-based questions and not open response or critical thinking, like you have mentioned. Having said that I wouldn’t feel comfortable using them for true assessment – just diagnostic. There is some pressure when your name is on the SMARTBoard showing you have yet to answer a question, along with a counting timer. Some students will pressure others to answer so we can move on as a group. Your stronger students will answer quickly and be board.

    4. Our board owns a few sets which i believe can be signed out by school. Our school just happen to win a set at a PD workshop.

    5. They are most useful (I find) during those teachable moments when you expect split results. It offers an on the fly debate.

    6. I would choose clickers over a slip of paper for the simple fact that results are immediate. We are practicing EQAO and I observed a fellow teacher using them. She showed her students the practice results and asked them which questions they felt needed improvement. For her students to identify strands that are weaker, the clickers are valuable, especially when they quickly learn to read bar and pie charts in grade 3.

    Not only can you show results per question, but per student. So, for EQAO, we research weak questions across the classes, as well as specific questions to each student.

    Where in Ontario are you located?

    I hope this helps!
    Brian
    -www.mraspinall.com

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post on the classroom clickers. This year is my 3rd year of teaching, so a great deal of this technology is new to me. In college, we had Smart Boards in our classrooms, so I have had some exposure to interactive white boards.

    I currently have a Promethean Board in my classroom. It was just installed a few weeks ago for a free trial. This blog post is interesting to me because with my free trial came a set of classroom clickers, called ActivExpression.

    I’m sure they are extremely expensive, but unlike the clickers you are talking about, these have full texting capability, so the students can text in their answers and they immediately show up once the teacher has ended the question. This is a great tool because you can ask questions other than multiple choice and true/false.

    My students are always so excited to use them (I teach 6th grade). They are not allowed to use cell phones at school, so they love the technology that allows them to “text” in school. At first, some students were a little slower using them, but they soon got the hang of it.

    I love being able to test their understanding of the lesson during and after the lesson. That way I can tell if I can move along or if I need to review the concept again. I think in the long run, it provides for more effective teaching and the students are very engaged because they want to be able to answer on their clickers.

    It may be worth checking out this new technology. I am sad I only have a 60 day trial for the board, it does many more amazing things. It seems they have improved a great deal from the Smart Boards that I used in college.

  3. Hi Kara,

    Thanks for the tip. A 60 day trial for an interactive whiteboard seems like a great way for a company to get technology into the classroom. (I can only imagine how tough it’s going to be for you and the students to give it up at the end of two months, which I guess is the point.)

  4. Hello Mr. Kuroneko,

    I think it will be very hard to give up! Hopefully our school will be able to purchase the board if funding becomes available. I noticed you are from Canada. Are interactive boards popular in your schools?

  5. In my class we use NEO2s by Renaissance Place. They are keyboards that have several applets for students to use. The responder is the first one and the only disadvantage is that it is only anonymous. The advantage is that they allow students to respond to multiple choice, short answer, true or false, 123, and pulses for yes or no. I am able to stop accepting answers and show a graph of student responses. If you do not click stop then students may change their responses. The neat thing is I can make any responder the Teacher Responder and can operate the 2Know Toolbar! from anywhere in the room. My students still enjoy watching the % bar move across the toolbar as they respond to the posed question. The second applet is Keyboard skills 2.0 which allows the student to set up a username and password to log into a practice skills session to learn typing skills. I am able to pull up a report to monitor their progress. The third applet is Alphaword Plus which is a word processor with 8 files for students to complete work in. The information in these files can be beamed to me wirelessly, to another student’s keyboard or once plugged back into the cart saved on my computer. NEO Share and AlphaSmart Manager software allow me to manage student work. NEO Share software captures student work and enables me to share it on the whiteboard via an projector/elmo set up. I use a Mimio which makes my whiteboard interactive and I am able to use student work to share a focus lesson and write on them if I choose (better yet allow students to write on them). Students can also take assessments presented in different ways using Accel Test which captures students assessment and saves their grade into the software’s gradebook (which you have to set up). Accelerated Reader is also a software applet on the keyboard where students may log in using their same username and password to take RP or AR quizzes using the quiz number. Then there is also a math applet which I believe is called Fast Math or Destination Math. I have never had the students to use this as of yet (I am still in my first full year of using them). The last applet is Beamer – which of course enable the students to beam their work to me, to each other, and to a printer through the wireless Renaissance Receiver which is hooked up to my laptop via USB. They can log into the Google docs also but we have not tried this as of yet either. The keyboards come in a cart which can be locked with a key. It is not big like the laptop cart. There are 30 keyboards which are housed by twos and must be individually hooked up mass download and upload assignments from and to them if you choose not to have students pickup and drop off using NEO Share. You can quickly delete files from all the NEOs at once when they are hooked into the cart. Be sure to turn the switch off in the cart as they are operated by 4 AA batteries each which last a long time. They also automatically shut off after a period of inactivity. The cart does not maintain the life of the batteries. I found this out the hard way and to the. Finally, the price is in the area of $5 to 6000 which includes everything. My principal purchased 2 more carts and I have modeled some lessons for visiting classes to with my students demonstrating and assisting other students with how to use this awesome technology.

  6. Great post, thanks for the info
    I would also suggest to take a look into http://www.socrative.com

    Socrative provides a free student response service for everyone using mobile devices as clickers, with no restrictions as part of an alpha product launch.

    At the moment the service is running free of charge, I warmly recommend you to check it out.

  7. With SMART Response PE and CE, students can type in text. Soon the students will be able to use any device such as a phone, iPad or computer to answer because VE will be available.
    If the students log in with an ID, you can save the marks of your assessments and track progress over time. You can also export the results in CSV or Exel format so that you can import into another mark book program.
    If you give the students the SMART Response on paper, the students can answer using the response clickers and then respond in their own speed or NON speed. It does NOT have to be a lock step approach.

    1. We’ll have to check out VE if students can use an iPhone to click in their work. eInstruction clickers allow students to work at their own speed as well – but I’m not sure whether they have an iPad app. Thanks for the info.

  8. Response to questions: Do you use clickers in the classroom? Do you consider them to be a worthwhile investment?

    I am fortunate enough to have a set of clickers to use in my classroom. My school purchased one set for the entire school, so I actually have to sign them out. We are getting another set now that more and more teachers are feeling comfortable using the system. I feel that this is a terrific investment.

    I find that the clickers are a valuable tool for a quick assessment. Paper/pencil methods for pre/post testing are very time-consuming, whereas the clickers allow me to compile performance information in the blink of an eye.

    I use clickers mostly in my math practice lessons. My students get into cooperative groups to solve various math problems. I require each student to work out the problem independently with a dry-erase board/marker. They talk as a team on how they solved the problem. If anyone in the group comes up with a different answer, they have to discuss how they found it. They are required as a group to help each other to come to one answer. I love listening to how the students “teach” each other. It is amazing what I have learned from my students!

    Each group is given a clicker and they have to submit their answers. I then have the students volunteer to model how they solved the problem on my Mobi device, which projects the problem on the ceiling-mounted projector screen for the entire class to view. After we work the problem out together on the Mobi, I display the statistics of each group. I display this with different graphs. They love this because they always want to work for 100% correct answers.

    This is so engaging because not once have I had one student not paying attention. So, this answers your question about reaching the boys or any disengaged student for that matter. They are always trying to self-evaluate in these lessons. I love that the program displays all the answers submitted, but with anonymity. This technology allows the students to see that their answer submitted was either a correct or an incorrect submission, so they can now take some ownership in their learning. Whereas before, I remember my teachers handing back a quiz/test with answers marked wrong, but I got no feedback. I love that the students can actually work out the “bugs” with their teammates.

    To do things differently, I use Clickers to get feedback from the students on an individual basis as well. This is a better way for me to view each student’s performance. This is a great evaluation tool so I know if it is time to move onto another concept or to reteach.

    In the past, we had to give pop quizzes or pre/post tests in order to get feedback on how the students are performing. This is such a time-consuming task to grade each student’s work. I love that the students are instantly graded, and I can spend more time on teaching rather than grading.

    1. Wow Julia, thanks for the lengthy reply.

      I’d be curious to hear how much use your clickers get – especially your second set. I love the clickers. We actually have two sets of clickers that can be signed out by teachers. Having said that, I find that the clickers only get used by a handful of teachers. Although a lot of teachers have expressed interest in the clickers, but overall, I find aside from the few early-adopters, few teachers are willing to invest the time to play with the tech and get comfortable enough to use it in the classroom. Having said that, I know one of our teachers took home the clickers to play with over the summer. He’s thinking about moving all of his stuff over to the clicker software.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. I haven’t gotten our Mobi to work yet so that’s my summer project. Out of curiosity, what grade do you teach?

  9. Hello, Mr Kuroneko.

    I teach fourth grade. I actually began using the clickers at the end of the school year last year, so I am looking forward to using them more often. I would love to know how easy/difficult it is to move everything over to the clickers. It will be very difficult to do that in my situation until I have my own set. My principal is talking about working on a grant in the near future for us to have our own set. I would love to at least begin using them for my math assessments.

    Julia

  10. I received a set of CPS clickers last year and have had a wonderful experience with them. My students get immediate results regarding where they stand on content skills. I have used the teacher led option in which you are not able to move to the next question until each student is ready. I find the student paced option a great way to give students much needed “think time”. The various report options that are at my fingertips have cut my data crunching time out. I can very easily level differentiate lessons to meet the needs of individual students. I would like to know how easy it is to move items over to CPS also.

    1. Hey Joanie, thanks for the reply. We have two class sets of Clickers that we can sign out, but they don’t get used as much as I’d like to see them used. I agree with you – they’re a great way to get immediate feedback about your classes. I just wish there was a way to combine response data for the same set of questions administered to a few different classes. We’ve had to export the data into excel and manipulate the info there… Too bad you couldn’t do it in the software itself to use the graphing features.

      Out of curiosity,what are you trying to bring into CPS?

  11. I have not tried to bring anything thus far. I saw the question from the previous post and it just got me thinking.

    Each of the four Communication Arts teachers in my middle school have a set of clickers. Then we have a couple sets for everyone to share. Those also do not get used very often. I know the teachers in my building are uninterested in spending more time playing with something new. We already have to much on our plates.

    Thinking of your problem…what about creating one account and have all of the classes you want to see data on added to this same account. Would it be possible to then compare classes to one another without exporting to excel?

    1. My first thought was that if you were fortunate enough to have multiple sets of Clickers, then if you assigned a different clicker number to each student, you should be able to combine the data because the clicker IDs were all unique. Now, I’m thinking it wouldn’t matter because you’d have two separate data entries because you ran the activity at two separate times (I.e. Once in the morning with your first class, and then later in the afternoon with the second class…) I’m pretty sure the eInstruction software only allows you to look at one data set at a time. I’m not in front of my laptop now so I can’t play with the software… I seem to recall an option to merge data but maybe my problem was that I used the same clicker set between two classes which couldn’t be merged.

      If you have multiple class sets of Clickers, then I wonder if you have enough Clickers to do an activity during an assembly. Now, that would be student engagement!

  12. Hello, Mr. Kuroneko!

    I am a 5th-grade teacher, and have been using the SMART Response Remotes for over 3 years. I feel, without a doubt, that the remotes are one of the best things to happen to my classroom. While your concerns are absolutely valid, I feel the positives outweigh the negatives ten-fold.

    SMART Response has allowed me to create a class list and tag each student (ELL, Reading Level, Gender, etc.). Not only can I immediately see student results and trends, I can identify the students who I must reach in different ways. For instance, if I look at my results and I see that my ELL students struggled with the assessment or review, I can self-evaluate and see what I can do better to help them understand the content. Perhaps I need more pictures, or I need to spend more time with their prior knowledge. The data that is given by the program, whether the assessment was done months in advance or on the fly, is a selling point for me. I can easily create charts and graphs with data to show parents and students at conference time, and I can keep the trend data throughout the school year to see growth.

    In regards to the comment about students having to wait, I can understand the concern, as I had the same concern. However, depending on how it is done, this can be avoided. Through creating a new assessment in advance (make sure there is a cover page), the teacher can allow the students to work at their own pace. On the remotes, the students will see all numbers for the assessment, as well as the type of question it is (multiple choice, T/F, Yes/No, Number). I then hand out laminated tests that I have made that the students can use dry-erase markers on. Students then transfer their answers to the SMART Response Remote. Answers are not final until they click on submit twice. Until that point, they are free to go back and check their work, just as they would with paper and pencil.

    Students are much more engaged in learning when they know I can view answers immediately. I can also use each slide (if I choose to work it that way) as a teachable moment and show the students the class results for that question, literally a second after all students answer. If I see students are struggling, I can easily have them turn and talk, and I can modify the file on the fly and do enrichment to follow. While yes, laptops or iPads for each student would be fantastic, until we all get the funding (especially in our district), SMART Response Remotes have added a dimension to learning and teaching that would be completely unheard of in a classroom that has not yet experienced using them.

    1. Hi Kyle,

      Thanks for the detailed response on this post. It’s interesting for me to read my thoughts from two years ago in this post (2009) to see how my attitudes have changed (2012). I agree with a lot of your comments – I like how you’re using data to identify areas of need and how the data helps you identify patterns of need based on language, gender, etc. I also like how the feedback is immediate.

      I’m still scratching my head about the closed nature of the questions (i.e. multiple choice, true false, number) – our newer model of clickers that we have at school allow for short answer text messages, but I find while some students are very good at texting responses, other students are technophobic to the point that the clicker hinders their ability to answer.

      Recently our school acquired a scantron machine which is very good at scoring multiple choice bubble sheet response cards… Like clickers, but students get the responses the next day. I like the idea of clickers and scantrons, but it means you have to restrict your questions to those that can be answered in a multiple choice format. Good for some things, but not necessarily everything.

      Then again, as much as I love laptops and iPads and the ability to ask open-ended questions, in some ways clickers are better. Sure, you can use something like PollEverywhere on your laptop / iPad, but the problem with using the internet is that students can also google the answer. That’s the problem I faced this year.

      I guess ultimately it comes down to finding the right tool for the right situation. Thanks for sharing your two-cents. Out of curiosity, do you have your own class set of clickers, or is it a school set that you have to sign out and borrow?

      Cheers, Kisu.

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