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As part of our research, we are constantly gathering best practices for using i>clicker in the classroom. In this section you will find tips we have gathered from the original i>clicker inventors, innovative clients, and general SRS case studies.
Derek Bruff's blog
This comprehensive guide was prepared by the staff of the University of Colorado-Boulder Science Education Initiative and the University of British Columbia Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative.
Written by Doug Duncan of the University of Colorado-Boulder after many years of clicker use at CU-Boulder, where over 17,000 clickers are in use today
A great resource for teaching math with clickers.
A video created by the University of Colorado, Boulder Science Education Initiative
i>clicker’s dedication to user driven innovation applies to not only our SRS solution, but how our valued clients use it. Below we have complied valuable tips from our clients for using i>clicker and grouped them by topic. For the names, discipline and academic affiliation of our contributing clients please see the Contributors List at end of this page.
Select one of the following tips from i>clicker users:
Explain to students that using i>clicker enables everyone in the class to have a voice, that their ideas are registered where other class members can see them. - J. Broida
Only use i>clicker in one course the first semester. The ease of use of the i>clicker system may lead you to believe that it would be relatively simple to convert all of your courses over in one semester; however, although the system is easy to use, the pedagogical issues are more complex. You need to do one trial run of a course to discover how best to implement the new tool into your own personal approach. - J. T. Milliron
Although the i>clicker products make it a breeze to start using clicker questions in your class, the biggest learning gains come from allowing the clicker questions to become a teaching strategy that transforms your classroom from an instructor-centered forum into a place where students are the central participants and must become a cooperative group of learners. This requires a more significant commitment to spend class time using clicker questions, to spend preparation time thinking about how the concepts in your course can be addressed by clicker questions, and to spend more than one semester experimenting and learning how clicker questions can be made to work best for you and your students. Once that commitment is made, however, the multiple and significant benefits will become abundantly clear. - L. Gibson
Using i>clicker pedagogy is very different from using i>clicker technology—it requires a real investment in time and a change in teaching culture. It also places student learning as the centerpiece of the course and makes the teacher more valuable than any lecture ever could. - M. Simon
Test [the technology] in the classroom you will be using. A student came up to me after the first class of a new semester and thanked me for knowing how to use the system. It seems that an instructor in another course had basically experimented on the class, learning the system on the fly. The students were not impressed. Mastering the technology will enable you to focus on what's important—the pedagogical value. - M. Preis
Plan to spend a little time before the course begins becoming intimately familiar with the i>clicker software and hardware. i>clicker provides excellent tutelage in the use of its system, and I would encourage every faculty member planning to use i>clicker to take advantage of this. - R. Freedman
Bring a Sharpie to the first two classes and have all students mark their i>clickers with their initials. It is almost unavoidable that at some point during the semester, at least one student will accidentally switch i>clickers with a classmate (or roommate). This is difficult to fix, particularly if it is unknown when the swap took place. - J. T. Milliron
Don't rely on clickers to single-handedly hold attention and maintain student interest. Although [the] i>clicker [system] is an effective tool, it should be used in tandem with other engaging classroom activities. - M. Preis
At the end of the semester, accept donated i>clickers. Although our bookstore buys used clickers, I encourage those who don't like money to donate their used devices to the department. Later, I make them available for a semester-long loan to students having financial difficulties or as a permanent replacement for someone whose i>clicker has broken (a rare occurrence). - J. T. Milliron
Don't overuse the clickers. Like any technology introduced in the classroom, audience response systems can become a distraction. The quickest way for this to occur is to have too many questions during a single class session. - J. T. Milliron
Be mindful of the time factor. Presenting and discussing clicker questions often takes longer than presenting slides, yet it engages students with the material in a way that copying a slide or listening to the instructor talk does not. Of course, the change in timing might require a few classroom adjustments. For instance, I had my TA do many of the problems I had previously used as class examples in the recitation sections. In addition, I had him do some of the activities that were better suited to smaller groups. - J. Kaplan
The i>clicker system can be used at the beginning of class to encourage promptness and to establish a baseline of background information and/or conceptual understanding (this is especially valuable if you intend to build on previous understanding). Clickers can also be used during class to establish how well a point has been made. Additionally, the system can be used at the end of class to pull things together, emphasize the most important ideas one more time, and assess student learning. I tend to use the system towards the end of class to assess my teaching strategy, hold students accountable for their learning, and offer a reward structure for the class. Knowing that I was going to ask a question at the end of class to determine how well a concept was internalized by students kept me more focused and intent on presenting the concept not only carefully but multiple times and in multiple ways. - M. Simon
Once answers to a clicker question have been submitted, ask someone to elaborate on his/her thinking. Even when students choose the correct response, they often need help articulating all that is involved in knowing why it is the correct response. i>clicker opens up these conversations to create a more comprehensive understanding of course material. I also point out faulty logic that would lead students to select a wrong answer. If sufficient time has been invested in crafting wrong answers, this can be very helpful. - M. Simon
Don't use the countdown timer. Although this feature might seem helpful to students, as they will know exactly how much time they have to answer each question, I've found that it greatly increases their frustration level. I can see the number of votes as they come in, so I simply wait for the flow to stop. After a short pause, I ask if anyone needs more time. Using this process, most questions are answered in 30 to 40 seconds. - J. T. Milliron
Simply requiring students to buy i>clicker and tossing out clicker questions during class is not a guarantee of success. It takes time to create and revise concept-based questions that challenge students' intuitions in a profitable way, and it takes some experience to know how to respond to the results of clicker questions. - L. Gibson
Quiz students on their reading or other homework to reinforce keeping up with assignments. - J. Broida
Every now and then, throw in a fun trivia question. I typically use these types of questions as a class opener, particularly in the first few weeks of the semester. This gets students comfortable with the technology and associates its use with pleasure rather than pain. - J. T. Milliron
Use i>clicker in a way that fits your particular teaching style. Clickers are not limited to use during lectures and PowerPoint presentations; they can be used while watching a film clip, using statistics software, or holding discussions. As the results will display for the instructor on the base, you don't even have to have the projector on. Be creative and fit clickers into what you are already doing. - L. Gibson
Don't be afraid to ad-lib. One of the more brilliant features of the i>clicker system is the instructor's remote. This remote gives you control of your slides and the polling. Without going near the computer, you can poll students at any time. I just ask a question and tell them to vote A for yes and B for no, or perhaps A for feel very strong for and E for feel very strong against, with C being neutral. Because the instructor's remote is so easy to use, I have surprised myself by how often I spontaneously use this feature, particularly in my larger courses. - L. Gibson
Bear in mind that although we desire increased student participation, it can lead to a bit more discussion than instructors expect. It may open the floodgates, as it were. Present clicker questions that elucidate diversity of opinion and encourage comparison of responses. - J. Broida
Use i>clicker to spark discussions, not replace them. Except for quizzes, I encourage students to dialogue with each other during a vote, particularly if it involves an opinion. This usually ends up being a loud period in class, but it is short-lived (30–45 seconds) and almost guaranteed to provoke some interesting questions and comments once the results are revealed. - J. T. Milliron
Call on students at random to explain their answers. This seems to help those listening and those explaining to better understand why a particular answer is correct. - D. Anderson
Use i>clicker to measure student understanding quickly and easily, then adjust lectures according to need. If many students miss a quiz question, you know to review the issues; if almost everyone gets it right, you can move on. - J. de Vries
Present some questions for students to answer and explain based entirely on their current knowledge of the topic at hand. I have students first answer a question with no discussion allowed, then I allot time for discussion between students, and, finally, I pose the same question and poll students' answers. There is frequently a noticeable shift toward the correct response. This process helps students to understand the value of their previous knowledge of mathematics, and the questions often connect that knowledge with their real-world experience. - L. Gibson
[For courses addressing sensitive topics]. Make the most of the clicker questions anonymous poll taking. Students can contribute personal information without fear, and you can gain an accurate assessment of current belief systems and practices. - C. Schawel
Construct your discussion questions delicately so that some go against students' natural intuition. When we consider problems that challenge our intuition, we have an opportunity to perceive the limits of our understanding. If we act to push our understanding beyond its current limits, we will solve problems that arise from more diverse and sophisticated scenarios. - L. Gibson
Use i>clickers to help students identify and correct their misconceptions based on class responses to strategically written connected questions. Sometimes it is only after seeing separate but connected questions that they grasp an idea, despite the fact that it was just addressed in class. - J. Carmichael
Create not only correct answers to questions but well thought-out incorrect answers designed to elucidate misconceptions among students. Once students commit to a response, it is easier to engage them in a discussion regarding the concept associated with that response—especially if they are wrong. Students want to know why they are wrong, what is correct, and why it is correct. This makes an excellent setting for learning. - M. Simon
Bring back the reading quizzes (if it suits your pedagogical approach). With i>clicker, the administrative burden is all but eliminated, the feedback is instant, and the grades can be exported to classroom management systems. Use each quiz as a learning experience instead of simply an evaluative one—you can discuss each question after it is answered and correct any faulty reasoning on the spot. - J. T. Milliron
Giving clicker quizzes is a great way to assess students' understanding of key concepts from a given week's lectures and readings. I select the most important concepts, ideas, or facts and turn them into multiple-choice questions. Once they complete all of the questions, I return to the beginning and work through the correct answers for each, spending extra time reviewing material when a question is missed by more than a quarter of the class. Pedagogy research demonstrates that repetition in multiple forms helps aid student learning. By using i>clicker to give weekly quizzes [in addition to recording attendance with a clicker opinion question each day and generating discussion on controversial issues through non-graded clicker polls], I ensured that students were exposed to course material through reading, lecture, discussion, and application. - M. Brown
Limit the high-stakes use of i>clicker. If the devices are generally used during stressful moments, students will have strong negative associations with the technology. Make use of the participation-points feature of the i>grader software to reduce anxiety. Also, if you use i>clickers for quizzes, build in drops to get students started. - J. T. Milliron
Choose a suitable weight of the course grade for clicker usage—enough credit to get students' attention, but not so much that it diminishes the importance of examinations, projects, and other methods of demonstrating learning. - M. Preis
The key to using i>clicker is to make them mandatory, to use them often in class, and to associate points with every response. If I asked a question that had a correct answer, a correct answer was worth 1 point, and a wrong answer merited .25 points for participation. The experience and opinion polling questions did not have right answers, so they were each worth .25 points for participation. - J. de Vries
Students are required to bring their i>clickers to every class to participate. I don't hand out loaners, nor do I accept responses on scraps of paper. With i>clicker every student is accountable for every question—not just a few on whom I decided. This accountability genuinely inspires a greater effort by students, which in turn creates more enlightened interaction in the class. - M. Simon
Some students might be tempted to have another student click in for them (especially when credit is awarded for class attendance). A solution to this potential problem is to warn students during the first class that this is plagiarism. Alerting students that those who do this may be held accountable for a violation of standards seems to have all but eliminated this issue. - J. Broida
If you use i>clickers for quizzes, build in "drops" to help minimize the temptation for students to cheat. - J. T. Milliron
Compare daily i>clicker usage with the number of students in class. If the student count is lower, a student might be using multiple i>clickers on behalf of another student(s). When that occurs, you can ask the students to sign a sheet at the end of class and use the signatures to verify attendance. - Michael, Martine & Susan Gould
Because it's easy for students to cheat on quizzes if they wish, you can allow students to discuss their answers in pairs, small groups, or as a class—their choice. I've been very pleased with the quality of discussion that has ensued and the increased class cohesiveness that comes with working together. - S. Frantz
Don't be too concerned about the potential "cheating" that occurs during clicker quizzes—the point of quizzes is to review important material with students and to identify areas needing more attention. - M. Brown
Listen to students' concerns about the i>clicker questions and class activities. Be willing to make adjustments in the process that will reinforce a positive experience. - Michael, Martine & Susan Gould
Be sure to look for special-needs students and be ready to accommodate them. In my courses, I have encountered 2 populations who had difficulty with audience response systems: the visually impaired and the non-native speakers. In consideration of both groups, I read each question to the class. Although this might seem strange at first, it quickly becomes part of the routine. For extreme cases, it might be necessary to offer an alternative means of evaluation. - J. Milliron
John Broida, Psychology, University of Southern Maine J. Trevor Milliron, Psychology, Lee University Lee R. Gibson, Mathematics, University of Louisville Marllin L Simon, Physics, Auburn University Michael Preis, Business Administration, University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign Roger Freedman, Astronomy, University of California—Santa Barbara Jennifer J. Kaplan, Statistics, Michigan State University David Anderson, Chemistry, University of Colorado—Colorado Springs Joyce de Vries, Art, Auburn University Cary Schawel, Languages, Humanities & the Arts, Oakton Community College Jeff Carmichael, Biology, University of North Dakota Mitchell Brown, Political Science, Auburn University Michael Gould, Martine Gould, Management, and Susan Martin Gould, Nutrition, Colorado State University Sue Frantz, Psychology, Highline Community College