Clickers and Pedagogy

We’ve written about clickers before, and last week I mentioned Turning Technologies‘ TurningPoint software that integrates with PowerPoint to incorporate interactive survey-type questions into a presentation, so that students can interact with a lecture. So, what exactly can you do with this technology in a classroom, and does it offer real learning benefits? I think it can. Here are some of my thoughts:

Let’s consider first a purely factual review of lecture information. Either at multiple points during a lecture or at the end of one accompanied by a PowerPoint, students are presented a slide with multiple choice or yes/no questions about the lecture material. Using their response pads (clickers), they choose and submit their answers, which may or may not be graded, but nevertheless are calculated and presented in graph form. The instructor and the students get immediate feedback on the level of understanding, and the remaining class time can be used to answer questions about the material, if necessary. In addition, students have a better idea of what they need to emphasize in their studying. Immediate feedback is the number one benefit cited by students about online courses, and this in-class situation would be an even quicker example of such feedback.

But if you’re thinking that such quizzes are too simplistic, then consider questions about more complex issues on which students can express a stand, albeit with a simple response. Here’s an example of a question that could come up in a philosophy class:

Choose the definition about existence that best represents your views:

  • Existence comes before essence, meaning we create our own nature.
  • Essence comes before existence, meaning that we have “a given nature that determines what we are and what our ultimate purpose or value is.”
  • Only two questions, but wouldn’t the results, whether heavily to one side or evenly divided, be eye-opening to students about their classmates, and wouldn’t it make for some good discussion as students tried to elaborate their stances? This is the sort of use to which clickers can be put.

    I’ll bet you are thinking of some ways that it could promote learning in your classes. Let’s hear from you.

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    Categories: technology

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