Using Clickers in the Classroom

Our school is fortunate enough to have access to interactive whiteboards (SMARTboards), SMART airliner tablets, and a class set of clickers. If we were going to invest our own personal money into our classroom technology, we would definetely get a class set of clickers over the airliner tablet or interactive whiteboard. No contest. Here’s why.

What are clickers?

Clickers look like little tiny remote controls. Each student gets one and you can use them to add interactivity to a lesson and to cut down on the paperwork. You know those game shows where the audience votes in? Now put that technology into the classroom. They’re easy to use, they provide quick feedback, and they engage students. Having said that, clickers will never replace a teacher’s professional judgment. Nor will teachers abandon all of their various assessment and evaluation practices that we already use. However, clickers can provide another great tool to your in our classroom.

Examples of places using clickers

Some universities are starting to use clickers. For example, UNC has students buy clickers at the campus bookstore. After you’ve bought the clicker, you pay a per-semester course registration clicker fee. (Clickers are registered to your name so when you vote an answer, it’s linked to your name.) Some school boards are also starting to use clickers. For example, Colorado’s Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) launched a one-year pilot in August 2004. Derek Bruff writes about and blogs about clickers. He blogged that good clicker pedagogy at the college level probably translated well to high school settings, if not all K to 12 settings.

Five ways to engage students using clickers in the classroom

1. Peer marking. Students do an activity or performance. Clickers provide an easy way to collect peer assessment marks from the class (instead of having students write down their marks and then you going through and copying the marks onto a class list.) 2. Assessment guiding teacher instruction. Want to see how well your students understand the lesson? Ask a multiple choice question and you can instantly see how well your students are dong. This allows you to focus on the most popular incorrect answers. 3. Assessment as student feedback. Give students a multiple choice practice quiz. Hand out questions on paper and then set up the clickers so students can go through the test at their own pace. You can also set up some clickers to provide immediate feedback on whether they got the question right or wrong. 4. Opinion polls. Voting for something in your class (i.e. class representative)? Clickers can be set up to record the student’s name with their vote, or to keep it anonymous. Show the results in a bar graph. 5. Game show style lessons. It’s just like a TV game show when the audience members vote in a response.

How to use clickers in your classroom

(This example is taken from a handout we prepared for our staff using eInstruction’s CPS clickers.) Here’s some information to give you an idea of what’s involved, but you’ll really want to watch the video tutorials which can be found here:  http://www.einstruction.com/support_downloads/training/CPS6/K12.html PART A) Things to do BEFORE your lesson with the students 1. Install the software. You should be able to install the program on your computer just by using the CD which is underneath the clickers in the clicker bag. (You might need to connect your computer physically into the school network.) Plug in the USB receiver into your computer. 2. Set up your classes and assign a clicker to every person. You’ll need to create a database with your classes. You can either type in the information manually, or you can import a CSV file to speed up the process. Note: The clickers work faster if your database file is saved on your computer’s local drive. You can save the file on your school network or on a USB key, but we found the program lags and the students will complain about how slow it is. (They’ll make comments about lagging.) You can password protect your database since they contain names and marks. If you want to change the password, click on SETTINGS > PASSWORDS. 3. Create a question. Click the PREPARE link at the top left. Click Lessons & Assessments. Click the Green NEW button > Lesson and type the name of your lesson (i.e. Geography). Click on the lesson you just made and click on the Green NEW button > New Question. You can set up whether the question is multiple choice, true / false, etc. You can also identify which question is the correct answer and the program can mark your students’ responses. 4. Test to make sure the clickers are working. You’ll want to make sure everything is working before you have a hoarde of impatient students in front of you. PART B) Things to do during your lesson with the students 5. Assign clickers to the students. The clickers are numbered so each student must use their assigned clickers. Student can turn the clickers on by holding down the power button. They can turn the clickers off by holding down the power button as well. 6. Use your lesson from Step 3 with your students. Click the ENGAGE link at the top left of the screen. Click on the lesson you want to use. Select the class you are teaching and then select the assessment setup: teacher led, student-paced, or student-practice. Click on engage to get the program ready to receive answers from the students. Click START to allow students to send in answers. When you have finished receiving answers from students, click the END link on the screen to end this question period. 7. Show Reports. Click the REPORTS link at the top left of the screen. It will show all of the lessons you’ve done with the students including which class and the date / time. Pick the lesson you want to see and then choose the report type.

How do you use clickers in the classroom?

{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Jennifer Michelli November 15, 2011, 7:47 PM

    I was trying to get to the video about the clickers and I was unable to axcess. Any help? Thanks

    Reply
  • classroomtechnology November 26, 2011, 12:28 AM

    Hi Jennifer – sorry about that. It looks like they moved the page. Here’s an updated link:

    http://legacy.einstruction.com/support_downloads/training/CPS6/K12.html

    Reply
  • Amber April 9, 2012, 11:08 AM

    I love the idea of giving them the questions on paper so that they can go at their own pace, but how does that actually work? How do you know what question they are answering with the clicker if you do it that way?

    Reply
    • classroomtechnology April 11, 2012, 8:26 PM

      Hey Amber, I think it depends on your clicker system. We have CPS Pulse clickers from eInstruction and there’s a “student-paced” mode. Let’s say you have 10 questions in your set. Instead of going one-by-one in a teacher-paced lesson with each question upon your projector, instead you turn off your projector, give your students the 10 questions on paper, and then on your computer, you can see a class list and their response for each question as they answer it, as well as their current score so far, and the average score for each question. That way, you can see which students are struggling right away, and you can see which questions students had the most difficulty with (i.e. Assessment for learning to steer your lesson.)

      Reply
  • Kelsey Gravalin April 9, 2012, 10:37 PM

    What is the easiest way to print reports for a parent/teacher conference or meeting?

    Reply
    • classroomtechnology April 11, 2012, 8:54 PM

      Hey Kelsey, I’ve never actually pulled out my clicker assessments in a parent / teacher interview. Usually, I print out a copy of their marks (using markbook grade keeping software) and then have a couple of work samples. The CPS eInstruction software that we use has a bunch of reporting options. I can print off a summary of their answers, but I find it’s just easier to print out a copy of the questions and point out the ones they got wrong.

      Have you used clickers in your classroom?

      Reply
  • Brandy Geloff July 16, 2012, 3:08 PM

    I like the idea of the students having assigned clickers, especially in elementary grades. I am planning on using clickers as a pretest for my first graders to start our ‘plant’ unit. Do you think this would be a good ideas?

    Reply
    • classroomtechnology July 20, 2012, 3:38 PM

      Hey Brandy, I replied more in a different comment below. The other thing to think about, if your school hasn’t purchased clickers already, is that there are different types of clickers out there. I’m pretty sure some of the suppliers have clickers designed for younger students (i.e. easier to use, bigger buttons, etc.)

      Good luck!

      Reply
  • Dayna July 16, 2012, 6:22 PM

    I appreciate all your comments. I love the self-paced testing. Do you know if this is possible with ActivExpressions? Or how I could find that out. I have used them for pre-made tests that are teacher-paced. I can only imagine the stress that would leave the studens if they knew they could go at their own pace. Thanks for this blog!

    Reply
    • classroomtechnology July 20, 2012, 3:37 PM

      Hi Dayna,

      I think using clickers at your own pace is a big deal, especially for assessment. Sometimes, I like using clickers as a whole class activity because it gives me a chance to make sure students are comfortable with the technology, plus, it gives us an opportunity to guide the conversations as we go along.

      On the other hand, I find the self-paced testing allows me to differentiate for my identified students who need more time to process during a test. I’ve never used ActivExpressions, but I did a quick google search for “ActivExpressions self paced mode” – looks like ActivExpressions2 and ActivEngage both have a “self paced” mode which is what you’re looking for: http://www.prometheanworld.com/en-us/education/products/learner-response-systems – You’d have to check out the user manual for more specifics about how to use that feature.

      Out of curiosity, how do you like ActivExpressions? It looks like a little BlackBerry with a QWERTY keyboard. I’ve used CPS Pulse which allows for students to “text” in answers, but there are always students who don’t have a cell phone and aren’t comfortable with txting in longer responses.

      Reply
  • Kristi Meyer, Roosevelt Elementary July 17, 2012, 4:22 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing so many wonderful ideas of using clickers in the classroom. I appreciate how you have step by step information of how to use clickers in classroom as well as activities in which clickers would enhance. This is a blog that I will return back to when i introduce clickers into my classroom.

    Reply
    • classroomtechnology July 20, 2012, 3:40 PM

      Hi Kristi – thanks so much for the feedback and good luck with your clickers. I’d love to hear about which type of clickers you eventually get a hold of and how things go. Have a great summer!

      Reply
  • classroomtechnology July 20, 2012, 3:27 PM

    Hey Brandy, I teach middle school so I have nothing but respect for teachers who work with really young children. It’s a different world in primary.

    I really like clickers – there’s the wow factor of using something like a cell phone which might appeal to younger students. Plus, there’s instant feedback in terms of seeing student responses in a graph. Clickers can be great for diagnostic and formative assessment (and possibly summative evaluation if you’re not in anonymous mode.)

    Having said that, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about these two issues:

    1. I imagine you would have to spend a lot more time training primary students to use clickers than older students. Most grade 7 and 8 students that I work with have a lot of prior knowledge troubleshooting and using technology – after all, it’s just like their cell phones – so I find after about 10-20 minutes of exploration, we’re using the clickers for learning (as opposed to technology for technology’s sake.) I know a few grade one teachers and I know time is pretty valuable since there’s so much pressure to get students reading. I wonder how long it would take a grade one class to move beyond the wow factor.

    2. There’s something to be said about kinesthetic hands-on learning. I wonder how comprehension and understanding differs at the primary level between using manipulatives, smarties charts, and pictographs to chart things, compared to seeing instant bar graphs and numbers on the data projector from clicker software. I wonder whether the results from the clickers would be too abstract without a lot of teacher interpretation.

    What do you think?

    Reply

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