‘Clicker’ used in large classes

Jillian Ballard

There is a new method of teaching that will help students overcome shyness and gain more confidence in class. “Clicking” is a way for students to answer questions in class without having to raise their hands in the traditional manner.

This new system involves a clicker (which is smaller than a normal-sized remote) to answer questions on a test, or in class and for attendance. When prompted by the professor, students will click their answers. Professors get the device for free from the manufacturers, though students have to buy clickers from the Matador Bookstore for about $40-$50.

The system collects and displays the data in real time and presents the final results in graph format. The professor will then display the answers on a pie chart or bar graph.

The clicker will help students who are afraid to participate in class due to shyness or nervousness.

This technology will also help professors in larger classes that have students of 100 or more.

The purpose of the clickers is to engage students in learning; also, the device increases the student’s connection to the material. Professors can set up their classroom in a game show setting such as “Jeopardy.”

Another main purpose of the clickers is to reduce inhibitions and anxiety for students who are shy. Clicking in answers makes it anonymous for students, which is especially helpful if they have the wrong answer and don’t want to be humiliated.

“I use the clickers on quizzes to see if students read the material,” said sociology professor Ellis Godard. “I also use them for attendance.”

Godard was one of the first professors to use the clicker system in his department.

Clickers and are operated by a lithium battery that comes with the clicker.

Even though the bookstore charges students for the clickers, professors get them for free.

“The bookstore might have a 50 percent up-charge on the clickers,” Godard said during a demonstration and seminar of the clicker.

There is no off switch for the clicker, which makes the battery run down quickly. Lithium batteries, which last longer than regular batteries, can be purchased at stores such as Target or K-Mart.

“The student must have the battery and we can unlock the back,” Godard said. There is a special tool needed to unlock the back. Godard and sociology professor Harvey Rich have that tool to help students. Clickers can be reused each semester.

There are variations in the clickers. Some are infrared and require receivers that are mounted on the wall or ceiling. The signal bounces off the receivers.

The system is linked into Microsoft PowerPoint, so professors can have it on their laptop while doing their presentations.

“Students leave them home regularly,” said Rich, who has been using the clicker system since last year. “There is a penalty if students leave them at home or lose them. They have to sign up and I will let them use another one.”

Professors interested in using the clickers have to be diligent about lists and numbers, and be comfortable with using PowerPoint and Excel.

“Student complaints about the batteries dying is one of the main problems that we deal with,” Godard said. “Technical support is lacking, since Harvey (Rich) and I are the most familiar with using the clickers.”

“Students love (the clickers). I love these things,” Godard added. “They feel connected and I attribute it to the clickers.”

Rich was the first to use the clicker system for a sociology course. Along with a common text, the clicker system was used for more than 200 students.

“It was never intended for smaller classes, but it can be used in smaller-sized classes,” Rich said.

In the beginning, students were hesitant to purchase the clickers and use them because it was different, Godard said. But at the end of each semester he gives a poll asking students how they enjoyed using the clickers and 90 percent of the students have liked the process.

“It’s a lot easier to use the clickers because there is no paperwork,” Godard said.

He takes roll with his quizzes and extends them to the length of the class in case students try to sneak out early.

“(Godard) is on the cusp of what could be a next wave of technology in the classroom,” said Kiren Dosanjh Zucker, assistant professor in the business law department.