What can clickers do?
This question is better posed as “What can clickers potentially do?”, or “What do I want clickers to do”? Here’s why:
Clickers are tools, not methods. They do not automatically bring about learning. However, they do possess more enabling features than alternative feedback tools such as raising hands. For example, they collect and tally answers much faster and more accurately with less possibility for conformity (students selecting an answer chosen by the majority). They encourage every student to participate because of the double benefit of anonymity and accountability they provide – a student’s remote is identifiable to the teacher but not to other students.
All the above are affordances of the technology which can only serve learning when used with solid instructional methods. For example, you can have all students participate in answering a question, but it does not necessarily mean they will seriously think about the question before answering or really engage with the course material. Similarly, if the instructor does not adjust his or her teaching based on the immediate feedback collected with clickers, the great benefit of formative assessment will be lost. So the advantages of using clickers lie in the fact that they support the implementation of sound, interactive instructional techniques.
When used effectively, here are just a few of the things you can do with clickers in the classroom (Duncan, 2006):
- Measure what students know before you start to teach them (pre-assessment)
- Measure student attitudes
- Find out if students have done their assigned reading(s)
- Get students to confront common misconceptions
- Transform the way you do any demonstrations
- Increase students’ retention
- Test student understanding (formative assessment)
- Make some kinds of grading and assessment easier
- Facilitate testing of conceptual understanding
- Facilitate discussion and Peer Instruction
- Increase class attendance