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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Students could type in responses instead of being limited to multiple choice responses because of the SMART technology.
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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?