There’s a new clicker on the quad this fall. Clicker is the popular term for the devices used for in-class voting systems. The Homewood campus is now using the i>Clicker Classroom Response System; students can use the same clicker device in multiple courses. One of the benefits of the i>Clicker system is that it is integrated with the Blackboard course management system.
Faculty need a computer, either their own laptop or the podium computer in a smart classroom, to use clickers during class. Students simply purchase and register an i>Clicker voting unit. For the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering, the Center for Educational Resources (CER) will provide the i>Clicker software and an RF receiver if needed. Interested faculty can borrow a loaner i>Clicker system to try out in a class up to 50 students. For other JHU schools, contact your divisional instructional support center for information.
In-class voting technologies were first piloted in classes on the Homewood campus in spring 2003. Since then in-class voting has become ubiquitous in large enrollment classes at Homewood; over 2500 students per semester use the system. Clickers are used in courses such as biology, chemistry, civil engineering, earth and planetary sciences, history of science and technology, materials science, physics, and psychological and brain sciences.
Clickers allow faculty to engage students quickly and easily. They enable faculty to:
- Give and grade objective pop quizzes on readings or other assignments
- Conduct in-class polls in real time
- Stimulate class discussion by posing subjective questions, using either ad-hoc or previously developed questions
- Manage, record and run reports on all aspects of students’ performance using the system
- Take attendance
In a typical example, an instructor poses a question, often multiple-choice, to the class. Then students think about the question and submit their responses using their handheld wireless transmitters (clickers). Responses are beamed to a receiver plugged into the instructor’s computer. Software on the computer processes the information quickly and displays a bar chart showing the distribution of student responses. Instructors can then use these responses to decide how to proceed in the class.
Opinions vary on whether or not to use clickers for grading class attendance. Some instructors simply use clicker votes to count as participation points, just as they might grade students in discussions. For instructors who would like to monitor attendance over time, clickers can record attendance.
Instructors have found that using clickers has dramatically increased attendance in class, enhanced just-in-time teaching capabilities, increased classroom participation and simplified the deployment and grading of quizzes and exams. Data collected over several years in several courses show a direct correlation between clicker participation and final grades. Clickers are generally considered to be one of the foundations of an active learning classroom.
Faculty who are interested in learning more about the in-class voting system should
contact Brian Cole (firstname.lastname@example.org, 410-516-5418) or drop in to the Center for Educational Resources on Q Level in the Milton S.Eisenhower Library.
- The Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia (CWSEI) http://www.cwsei.ubc.ca/resources/clickers.htm includes an instructor’s guide and videos that show the benefits of, and offer practical tips on, using clickers in the classroom: http://www.cwsei.ubc.ca/resources/SEI_video.html.
- Derek Bruff (2009) Teaching with Classroom Response Systems, Jossey-Bass.
Richard Shingles, Lecturer, Department of Biology
Direcctor of the TA Training Institute, Center for Educational Resources
Image source: Photograph © Brian Cole