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Clickers: New technologies, new opportunities

New signTeaching and Learning Technologies (TLT) is piloting clicker systems, or classroom response systems, during the 2012-2013 academic year. Clickers? Aren’t clickers old news? While clickers have been around for years at Elon, there have been recent advances in the technology that require a new look. While the pedagogical case for clickers is strong, some faculty are hesitant to implement them because of complex software and unavailable hardware. Now, clickers are easier to use and student-owned mobile devices are common in the classroom. This post will focus on the clicker technology used in our pilot and the differences between traditional clickers and newer web-based clickers.

The goal of the pilot is to recommend a campus-wide clicker. The TLT clicker pilot includes two traditional hardware-based clicker system and one new web-based clicker system. The main difference between hardware and web clickers is the device students use to respond to participate. Hardware clickers use a device that works exclusively as a clicker and web clickers use a student-owned smartphone, laptop or mobile device. They each have advantages, but share some features. 

All clickers include these basic features:

  • Basic polling: ask a multiple choice question and students respond and immediately see a summary of the results
  • Basic reports: export Excel documents with student responses
  • Anonymous: option to record student responses anonymously

Hardware clickers

A hardware clicker is where the students use a single-function clicker device to respond to a prompt. When you think of a clicker, this is likely what you think of.

Hardware clickers are recommended for instructors who:

  • Do not want students to use mobile devices in class
  • Have students without access to mobile devices
  • Teach in a space without Wi-Fi
  • Want to use clickers to take attendance
  • Need advanced reporting features
  • Need integration with Moodle’s gradebook

Hardware clicker vendors

Two of the most popular vendors for hardware-based clickers in higher education are iClicker and TurningPoint. They include robust features, are easy-to-use and work with any presentation software (PowerPoint, Prezi, Keynote, PDFs, websites, videos, images, etc).  The advantage of the two hardware-based clickers in the TLT pilot is they both include a web-based clicker option. A web-based clicker means the students can participate using their own Wi-Fi enabled device. The two systems in the pilot can receive responses from both the student-owned devices and from the hardware devices in the same class.

iClicker: Hardware-based clicker known for its drop-dead simple software and hardware. iClicker is used at Carnegie Mellon University, Clemson University, Penn State University, Michigan State University, Ball State University, Auburn University, San Diego State University, and others.
TurningPoint by Turning Technologies: A feature-rich and popular hardware-based clicker system used at Ohio State University, University of Alabama, University of Iowa, Arizona State University, Northwestern University, University of Maryland, and others.
iClicker remote
TurningPoint Clickers

Next time, we’ll discuss GoSoapBox, a web-based clicker that leverages student-owned mobile devices. Stay tuned.

Interested in trying clickers?

If you are an Elon University instructor and are interested in testing out clickers during the Fall 2012 semester, let us know. We can get you set up with either hardware or web-based clickers and provide assistance with ways to incorporate them into your instruction.

Image by Flickr user sam.dCreative Commons licensed BY-NC-SA 2.0

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