My school recently purchased two class sets of clickers which have already started seeing use in the classroom, mostly with teachers who were part of the trial last year. My thought? They will probably change how I teach as the amount of authentic feedback I can get back from students can be greatly increased, especially as I find ways of making the questions I ask through clickers more effective.

Here’s a presentation I just found which describes what clickers are, and then gives some potential uses.

I’ve noticed some issues with using clickers that I should point out.

  1. Students need to learn how to use them. This doesn’t take too long, but expect some occasional gaming of the system and inappropriate responses if you allow for text responses.
  2. You need to take more time to prepare your lessons with the use of the clickers in mind. You have to establish questions ahead of time as the on-the-fly questions really can be difficult to ask in advance. One way to counteract this is to have a stock question you can go back to which is blank and you fill in the question itself on the spot, either orally or by writing it on the board.
  3. It takes students more time to answer the questions you pose via a clicker than when you ask them to raise their hands. Given that you get more honest answers and a greater level of participation, this delay is probably worth it, but you will notice it in your lesson plans.
  4. It is tempting to just keep going with the clickers in a lesson and lose some of the valuable inquiry time in lessons, but remember that they are a shallow form of participation and interactivity. Use them sparingly and when you want to find student misconceptions, rather than a way to facilitate pure lecture style teaching.

If you want to read some of the research on clickers, check out this study. There are I’m sure lots of studies out there that discuss the use of clickers, this one was just convenient to find. If you have other research you’d like to share, please do so in the comment section and we can all look at it.