“Clickers” are the way to go – If you click it, they will learn

18 05 2007

By Paul Mayne

If there was ever a thought the ‘classroom clickers’ that invaded Western lecture halls two years ago were simply a fad – think again.

With 35 instructors in about two dozen first- and second-year courses, the advent of Tom Haffie’s ‘many to one’ type of communication has had a dramatic impact on classroom dynamics across campus.

Well over 7,000 clickers are now in use in Biology, Economics, Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science, Physics, Astronomy, Computer Science, Health Science, Kinesiology and Engineering.

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Speaking to faculty members at the Teaching Support Centre’s (TSC) Spring Perspective on May 3, the lecturer in Biology and TSC Faculty Associate who pioneered clicker use at Western continued to tout their benefits in enhancing the learning experience.

“It’s a way of presenting material that provokes questions and discussions, as opposed to simply teaching or lecturing,” says Haffie. “More questions lead to more critical thinking and community building. A single question can tailor what I’m going to say for the next 15 minutes.”

Technology of the clickers has also been improved, with the university replacing its current technology, supplied by eInstruction, with new technology provided by InterWrite.

Officially referred to as PRESSWestern Project (Personal Response Support System), Haffie says clickers tend to create “teachable moments” when the class is engaged with the material, curious about the diversity of responses, perhaps willing to discuss issues with peers and ripe for their understanding to be refined.

“I like to refer to it as broadcollecting as opposed to broadcasting,” says Haffie. “It raises the quality of thinking in the classroom on the fly. It creates a great opportunity for interaction with peers, not just instructors.”

This past fall, in his Biology 022 class, Haffie posed a few questions to the hundreds of students in his class seeking feedback on the clickers. An overwhelming 87 per cent said clickers facilitate learning while 65 per cent said they influence how they prepare for class and for the mid-term (62 per cent).

Some detractors say the five per cent of the final grade that students receive for clicker participation wouldn’t assure honest participation. Still, Haffie found that 95 per cent of his students are trying to answer correctly.

Plus, clicker records for all students are emailed to them in order to address any concerns with their lack of understanding in certain aspects of the course.

“It’s a fundamental change in the way you approach teaching,” says Haffie. “The students are drawn in and become invested in the lesson.”

via [western news]

For more information on Interactive Response Systems visit http://www.smarttech.com

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