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Clickers Redefining Classrooms

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the talking-without-talking dept.

Education 228

markmcb writes "It seems that teachers may have a new way to boost classroom participation using a device called a clicker. A clicker is a small handheld device that allows its user to wirelessly respond to various prompts selected by a teacher. So when a teacher wants opinions on topics that people tend to shy away from like sex, religion, and politics, the question can be asked and the students can answer anonymously via the clicker. Everything from a simple poll to a graded quiz can be conducted using the device. In the age of cell phones and wireless computers such a technology is likely to be well-received by students, but one can't help but wonder if such a device will breed less assertive graduates who lack the will to stand up and voice their opinion on sensitive issues."

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Heh (1)

alex323 (901730) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256577)

And what happens when you have 20 clickers in the same room and they screw each other up? :| (I can just see a student breaking into the wireless network.)

Re:Heh (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256785)

You have military airplanes flying overhead with the new military radios setting off all the clickers. That would definitely be the click of death for clickers in the classroom. :P

Re:Heh (2)

utnow (808790) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256940)

My university uses these for various purposes... mostly class-participation and attendance related. In terms of having 20 in a class messing each other up, the 'clickers' are all registered and have unique encrypted ids. Thus each student is associated with an ID and the clicker can be used in any class that subscribes to the database of students/ids. The biggest class I've ever used it with was a 600 person intro chem class and there were no problems at all.

Works Great! (4, Interesting)

crumbz (41803) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256591)

Yeah, we used those at Northwestern last summer in physics. IIRC about 20% of them actually properly recorded the student response. No thanks.

Re:Works Great! (4, Informative)

moonka (889094) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256600)

Yea, we use them sometimes down here at University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). They rarely record the responses, are decently expensive, and while they say at the begining of the year the bookstores will take them back, they don't always, and then you're out the cash those damn things cost.

Re:Works Great! (3, Informative)

WhiteBandit (185659) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256626)

Yup, we used them in our physics classes as well (SFSU). We also have to "rent" them for the semester and it costs us $15, that we never get back.

These things take up valuable class time trying to get them to work in the first place, only work via line of sight... which you think wouldn't be a problem in a smallish classroom (if they are even working at all) and just are a huge distraction.

In short, they suck balls.

Re:Works Great! (4, Informative)

Robotech_Master (14247) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256705)


The article indeed goes over the problems that IR clickers have, but notes that they're being replaced by RF clickers which work much, much more reliably.

Wish they'd had something like this back when I was in college.

Re:Works Great! (3, Insightful)

EnderWigginsXenocide (852478) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256937)

Yup, college wouldn't have been an institute of learning. It would have become a perpetual "I want to use a lifeline, let's poll the audience" event. Why do I care what percentage of my classmates think is the right data set? I want to hear my professors tell me about the subjects at hand. One just log onto slashdot if they want to hear stupid thoughts on various subjects.

Re:Works Great! (1)

mahonri5 (708013) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256668)

Used them for physics here at BYU. Depending if you got the newer rooms or not you're either out $45 ($10 return possible, picture two from TFA) or $15 ($0 back).

The receivers could only handle one input at a time, so you'd either sit in the back, or aim for one that is hard to hit. Maybe the new wifi ones are better, but I doubt my school will switch any time soon. At least we had fun seeing who could get their max 5 attempts sent first.

Re:Works Great! (0, Troll)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256754)

You have to admit, this is a great solution for women. We're always hearing about how it's so unfair because girls get left behind in classes since boys are energetic and raise their hands eagerly to answer questions and girls feel so intimidated that they can't open their damned mouths and participate (funny, because after about 16 years that's ALL they do for the REST of YOUR life!).

And then they'll have to start putting clickers in the board room and every office across the country, so that women can participate in business meetings and discussions and brainstorming sessions without having to feel intimidated by the boys.

Clickers will save the world and equalize the sexes!

Re:Works Great! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256794)

Georgia Tech uses this device for some intro Physics Classes and some CS Classes.

The device we use iPRS [com.com] uses just a simple infrared signal. In a class with 300+ Students there are several readers mounted in different parts of the room since the device has a relatively short range.

  • No more than one person can submit an answer at any time (thus you have to keep trying to send it until it goes through, you see your name/number change color).
  • You have the possibility to change you answer a certain number of times.
  • The software is available in the lecture pc's and easily analyzable.
  • The device will send a short message that includes: ID # of the Reader & Answer specified

The PRS response was required as part of the grade for the class (10%). A group of us (CS Majors) started thinking on ideas on how to around this. The first solution we implemented (Before we were able to translate the IR message into clear text) involved "recording" each of the answers from our group, thus one person sitting in the class could answer for all of us through his laptop. We later switched to an IR-Equipped Ipod [engadget.com] .

That was ok but the person answering did not always answer the correct question (answering correctly gave you extra points). We were later able to decode the messages from the IR signal. And that's where things got fun.

We placed a laptop sitting nearby one of the "sensors" (end of white strip, on wall) and just analyze all the data coming live. We had about 30-60 seconds to answer thus we could analyze the data up to 25 - 55 seconds, estimate what the most "popular" answer was and then submit all of ours answers at the last second. That gave us almost 100% accuracy since whenever the class erred, the professor would step back, re-explain the problem and then see if the answer was right.

We used iPods, laptops and a CS-classroom-issued-Ipaq. The ipaq would eventually analyze the data through it's own high speed IR port and then send out our "responses" through a mp3 file (that came out of the IR device [griffintechnology.com] ).

Also: the system is usecure, it is easy to skew the statistics by introducing new users to the system or to overwrite your ex gf's answer.

Although there was very little benefit, beating the system felt good!

IR-based "clickers" sux0rs. (1)

gaspar0069 (470312) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256838)

At Arizona State we used PRS [wikipedia.org] devices in a biology class of about 200 students. Only one third of the class was allowed to respond at one time in order to avoid overloading the IR receivers mounted on the walls.

For a student, biggest problem was figuring out whether or not the system recorded your answer. Upon a successful transmission, the system displayed a personal confirmation code on the classroom projector. Alas, it could only display around 30 codes before the oldest one was overwritten. With 70 other students in each group frantically submitting and resubmitting their answer, finding your confirmation code on the screen before it got overwritten was a matter of looking at the right place at the right time.

Repeat this two more times for a class of ~200 and the whole thing took 5-10 minutes... for a single question! The teacher eventually decided that the system was too unreliable and slow and used it only for a few bonus-point quizzes so that it wouldn't hurt our grade.

Re:Works Great! (2, Insightful)

Alex P Keaton in da (882660) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256941)

Ugh- textbooks cost enough without having "clickers" bundles in.
Call me crazy, but if students aren't comfortable sharing their opinions in class or joining the discussion, then maybe the profs need to cultivate a better atmosphere for discussion. I personally wouldn't want a class to degrade into one of those bar remote control trivia games.
Maybe the solution is smaller classes....

GNAA Announces Immediate Release of OSX_x86_YHBT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256592)

GNAA Announces Immediate Release of OSX_x86_YHBT norple
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"We here at Apple Computerth [sic] have decided on a slightly different path for the upcoming version of the MacOS X," Jobs states before bursting out into high pitched giggles. "We have replaced our overpriced and bloated software with an efficient and easy-to-use interface. I would like to take this opportunity to announce a merger larger than a Zimbabwe nigger cock: GNAA and Apple Computer."

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About Apple:

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| ______________________________________._a,____ | Press contact:
| _______a_._______a_______aj#0s_____aWY!400.___ | Gary Niger
| __ad#7!!*P____a.d#0a____#!-_#0i___.#!__W#0#___ | gary_niger@gnaa.us [mailto]
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| _________#1__________?________________________ |
| _________j1___________________________________ | All other inquiries:
| ____a,___jk_GAY_NIGGER_ASSOCIATION_OF_AMERICA_ | Enid Al-Punjabi
| ____!4yaa#l___________________________________ | enid_al_punjabi@gnaa.us [mailto]
| ______-"!^____________________________________ | GNAA World Headquarters
` _______________________________________________' 160-0023 Japan Tokyo-to Shinjuku-ku Nishi-Shinjuku 3-20-2

Copyright (c) 2003-2005 Gay Nigger Association of America [www.gnaa.us]


Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256599)

#buttes announces that #GNAA continues to fail it and will eventually fade into irrelevancy like all trolling orgainzations pasts

I'm really good at the Internet (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256612)

And I see GNAA all over the place.

Buttes on other hand, I've never heard of.

Based on this, I'd say GNAA wins quite handily.


Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256662)


on the other hand... (4, Funny)

dark404 (714846) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256595)

but one can't help but wonder if such a device will breed less assertive graduates who lack the will to stand up and voice their opinion on sensitive issues.

Better than breeding graduates who draw dubious conclusions.

Re:on the other hand... (4, Insightful)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256617)

No, I'd expect the opposite. It will give voice the the normally less assertive. People who are already assertive aren't going to start shutting up because of a clicker.

Re:on the other hand... (2, Insightful)

Sebby (238625) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256757)

I agree. People are usually reluctant to answer because they fear their answer will be wrong and be ridiculed. If they answer anonymously and it isn't ridiculed, they'll have more confidence in their future answers, anonymous or not.

Re:on the other hand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256831)

You don't change people with a few click sessions when they are ridiculed and bullied during lunch break.

Re:on the other hand... (2)

ericdano (113424) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256762)

Oh, great idea. Then when they get out in the real world they'll use what to get their opinions across????

Maybe school should teach the meek to find a voice ???

Re:on the other hand... (2, Insightful)

tktk (540564) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256895)

It will give voice the the normally less assertive.

The only problem is that the normally less assertive will only be assertive with a clicker. The clicker can be a good start but it has to be viewed like a security blanket. There will be a time where it will have to be given up. There's going to be a point in their lives where they have to shed any anonymity and make a stand.

Just what we need... (3, Funny)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256596)

Another way to lower the general standard of peoples' communication skills.

I suppose /. doesn't do enough on its own.

Re:Just what we need... (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256647)

...or people who can only click to gain acceptance, will gain more mainstream acceptance from people other than their peers. People who are social hermits may find this is yet another way to connect with society in a way that doesn't leave them feeling exposed. And now everyone can be like Captain Pike in Star Trek, beeping from his wheelchair.

Re:Just what we need... (1)

ericdano (113424) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256767)

Why can't these people just learn to use some social skills? I think this is crap. Feel exposed. Its a good feeling. You can grow from it, learn from it, and get better from it.

Re:Just what we need... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256684)

I used a similar system, they are required for about half of the large lectures at my school. There are plenty of advantages to using them if they are used correctly. Since everyone directly responds, a professor can tell which questions and answers need to be addressed more clearly. If half of the class doesn't understand, the professor will know. This is more practical. In the traditional classroom setting mostly the confident would respond and mask the confusion among other students. Not all communication is verbal. The clickers can provide more communication if used properly.

Traditional verbal responses can still be incorporated with the clickers, some of the better professors would ask us to defend our answers. Overall I'd say the clickers can be an enhancement, not a replacement for traditional teaching meathods and communication within the classroom.

I hope this doesn't come to my school (4, Insightful)

djkoolaide (729441) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256598)

One of the best parts about class for me is actually speaking my mind and not being afraid to do it. This would just make people more shy if you ask me. Not a very good way to prepare kids for the real world! There won't be clickers at the office.

Re:I hope this doesn't come to my school (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256732)

As someone else already mentioned, it can help those people who are too shy to speak up normally.

In co-ed settings this might be women, or just anyone who is afraid of being publicly embarrassed.

I think it could be a good idea - who gives a damn if it might adversely affect the extraverts? Screw 'em :)
Bring on equality teaching methods for the introverts, I say!

Re:I hope this doesn't come to my school (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256745)

Then you're fortunate you're in a place where you can speak your mind, and your thoughts are either compatible enough with those who like causing kids harm, or you're one of the big bastards who nobody wants to beat the shit out of.

I made a few anti-drug comments in class, ones that weren't compatible with the thinking of the stoners. I was in hospital by the evening for doing so and didn't get out until two weeks later.

I used to not be afraid to speak my mind too, but you know groupthink in schools, it's strong.

Re:I hope this doesn't come to my school (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256801)

They have these where I go to school, the University of Florida. They use them for intro classes in big lecture halls where most people don't speak and it's hard to get everyone's answers anyway. (They also use them for attendance purposes, but what ends up happening is that one person will end up taking several people's remotes to class, and the group rotates who goes to class what day.)

I too would be shy, if all I thought about was... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256863)

goatse, or netcraft, or soviets

At least in Soviet United States, polls click you! I could also see the utility of posting inline ascii Goatse for all those privacy-invasive poll questions.

What's that Mr. Nambla? What do I think about a Tijuana house painted pink and green? I have one answer for you, and that is GOATSE.

What's that Mrs. Fent, you want to know the effect of masturbation on the immune system? Netcraft confirms, my immune system is dying after every session of ejaculation down the shower drain!

To confirm you're not a script,
please type the word in this image: poontang

Wonderful !?!? (3, Insightful)

TinyManCan (580322) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256602)

This is just great. Lets teach our kids how to close their brains even more. Instead of using the wonderfully flexible english language, these kids are going to down to a couple of choices. A, B or C.


Re:Wonderful !?!? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256649)

these kids are going to down to a couple of choices. A, B or C.

      which one is the breasts option?

Re:Wonderful !?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256721)

these kids are going to down to a couple of choices. A, B or C.

            which one is the breasts option?

The B option, of course. This is like a /. poll:
A) All of the below
B) Breasts
C) Cowboy Neal

Just a thought... (1)

nephrita (905345) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256779)

What would you think about a device so that students could submit written answers anonymously?

e.g. "I disagree with idea X because it would negatively impact Y's ability to..."

or even "X is so not cool."

We can already do this with paper, but handwriting differences interfere with anonymity, and it can be difficult to engage in discussion this way rather than just giving single answers.

Re:Wonderful !?!? (2, Insightful)

krumms (613921) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256799)

There's more fundamentally wrong with the education system than clickers or multi-choice questions dude.

I mean, Bush graduated.

Re:Wonderful !?!? (2, Interesting)

xcentrics (903559) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256805)

> This is just great. Lets teach our kids how to close their brains even more.

Yeah I think that's international tendence.It is great for politicians ,stupid people = absolute reign.

> Instead of using the wonderfully flexible english language, these kids are going to down to a couple of choices. A, B or C.

I tell you this..here in Poland we had old-good-education-system.But when we joined European Union (great,really!) we had to change _everything_ according to EU standarts.That's why our minister changed education system.
Few years ago student had to pass really tough ,but also interesting "mature exam".You had to write very long essay, you had to be smart,you had to use use flexible language...morover to pass exam you needed to gain 50% + 1 points.
Nowadays student can only choice answer /a/b/c/d or write few words...and to pass you need only 30%!

That's idiotic!

Spineless Graduates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256603)

Contrary to what is suggested, I think that it may make graduates more assertive. It would be a good way to get an open discussion going rather than a nerving one. Any poll presented would be seen as an icebreaker for more in-depth and open discussion rather than simply making people less assertive. If anything, this icebreaker would serve to make them more assertive and ready to defend their opinion knowing that other people may share it.

Re:Spineless Graduates (2, Insightful)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256974)

But a poll isn't a discussion. It's a poor substitute for it. Knowing that 17% of the class thinks that ferrets are cuter than ponies says nothing about why. To explain their reasons, they still need to speak up and risk being identified and given a wedgie at breaktime by any ferretophobes. in the vicinity.

MIT - 8.02 teal (4, Interesting)

Dogun (7502) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256605)

This is a terrible idea. I had to sit through a class at MIT rife with stupid ideas like this. Instead of a normal classroom/lecture setting, where you simply learn at your own pace outside of class or pay attention as suits you, you just sit there and *seethe* and this goddamned clicker thing. You don't really feel the need to concentrate or pay attention because no normal person can come up with 5 legitimate sounding answers for you to choose from.

Maybe this is GREAT for some settings, but this robs students of real interaction with their teachers and replaces it with bullshit polls every 5 minutes. Not appropriate for high school or college, IMHO.

If you want to do this kind of nonsense, the old show-of-hands technique, in my experience, works wonders, provided that instead of assaulting people who get it wrong, you work towards the right answer.

And no, I didn't RTFA.

Re:MIT - 8.02 teal (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256635)

Instead of a normal classroom/lecture setting, where you simply learn at your own pace

Sorry but I just couldn't resist an appropriate Terry Pratchett quote at this point:

"Many things went on at Unseen University and, regrettably, teaching had to be one of them. The faculty had long ago confronted this fact and had perfected various devices for avoiding it. But this was perfectly all right because, to be fair, so had the students."

      Yeah ok, so I'm nuts ;)

Re:MIT - 8.02 teal (1)

Dogun (7502) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256823)

On the contrary, you picked up something useful from a book. Would that folks behind the PRS (the POS model I was stuck with and one of the models shown in the article) had too...

only one class? (4, Interesting)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256976)

I had to sit through a class at MIT rife with stupid ideas like this.

Just one? Siiigh, here I go, likely to get modded flamebait, but what the hell. I've talked to numerous MIT students (ranging from current undergrads, to PhD's) in several different fields (mechanical engineering, electronics, etc). I also worked for MIT (see below).

MIT is "rife", like many "top" schools, with professors who barely show up for the classes they supposedly "teach". TA's run the class, do the grading, and interact with the students. Meanwhile, the professors are busy doing the traditional MIT professor path: invent something, patent it, form a company, get rich off it. MIT has an entire office full of patent attorneys, called the Technology Licensing Office- where I worked for a bit. They measure revenue in hundreds of millions of dollars. MIT has turned into an R&D mill; the Media Lab is a perfect example. MIT's best and brightest from the Media Lab have turned out...a shag-rug-covered alarm clock that rolls off the table when you hit the snooze button. Slightly clever, very half-baked, and utterly lacking in anything even remotely approaching state of the art in -any- field. But it's from an MIT student, from the Media Lab no less, and their shit is gold and smells of rose blossoms- so it gets local, national, and international coverage, and nobody says "hey, this is just an alarm clock with two wheels and motors that turn on for a random bit of time". Ie, something a smart 8th grader could make.

I went to a college where I was on a first name basis with my CS professors, their significant others...even knew their kids, and I'd bump into them on campus at concerts and stuff. I could, during their fairly wide office hours, walk into their office, plop down on the couch, and ask them questions about the current homework assignment or project. I knew most of the kids in my classes (the largest, an "intro" level class, was 25 people). You know what? I actually learned stuff, and not just what was in my textbook.

Maybe if MIT professors actually taught their classes, class size would be smaller, students would feel more involved (and hence as questions more often during a lecture) and the quality of the lecture would be such that fewer questions would be necessary in the first place.

Some will argue that MIT's professors, focusing on research, are its strength. Except to undergrads, they'll never get even close to this state-of-the-art research. The professors who come up with truly revolutionary stuff are usually the furthest removed from students. "Top" schools all sell the same lie the armed forced do- "join us, work on cutting edge stuff!" Well, funny thing that you join, and find yourself cleaning lab equipment. Hey, it's a step up from cleaning toilets in the Air Force general's jet, I guess.

Want a perfect example of MIT's failure to educate its graduates with real-world, useful skills? The recent underwater vehicle competition where a bunch of barely-literate high school students from a poor texas immigrant community beat the MIT team.

Yeah, these will work real well.... (4, Insightful)

thewldisntenuff (778302) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256608)

In a physics course I took at Univ of Arizona, we had these in class. They were supposed to be used as a daily quiz to see if we had actually read. Instead, the system was never properly setup, and there was a fight between the department (which, IMHO, has problems of its own) and the company who made the clickers. The damned things (which cost like $30, IIRC) didn't work til sometime around November, when the course was about to end anyway. And when they "worked", they never recorded student answers properly NOR did they actually record student input. A big waste of time and money - we may as well have used paper and pen. Besides - you run into issues with people bringing two or three clickers for friends.


Luddites.. (2, Insightful)

euxneks (516538) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256609)

but one can't help but wonder if such a device will breed less assertive graduates who lack the will to stand up and voice their opinion on sensitive issues

Sounds like a luddite to me...Who's to say these kids won't be more assertive? Usually they would not talk in class for fear of peer response. I think once they can express their ideas, and see that the response from their peers is not negative, they would probably be more assertive...

It's silly to fear something for a _possible_ negative when it's completely new.

Re:Luddites.. (4, Insightful)

ericdano (113424) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256783)

How is it going to make them more assertive? Why not, instead of spending the $30 per student on clickers, and then however much on the software and other crap for it, try to REDUCE the class size, and have a better student/teacher ratio?

Gee, think about it. A class where you could like know everyone in it? Where the teacher could remember your name. Where you might even have daily social interactions?

Did Socrates lecture to huge groups? No. He engaged people in small groups in CONVERSATION. This little clicker thing is not engaging people in conversation.

Lower the number of students per class, and teach these non-assertive people to socialize and converse like normal people, and we'd have a better educational system and society.

Re:Luddites.. (1)

venicebeach (702856) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256821)

Well, it's an empirical question whether these things make students more or less shy. it needs to be studied.

It's silly to fear something for a _possible_ negative when it's completely new.

Really? It seems to me that if you are trying to decide whether to introduce a new, untested tool into the classroom you should consider the potential negatives as well as the potential positives.

Re:Luddites.. (4, Insightful)

Frodo Crockett (861942) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256828)

These "clickers" sound like bullshit, and I'll tell you why. I think this will encourage students to pick someone else's ready-made answer instead of synthesizing their own. It's troubling to see our nation's fast food culture* worming its way into the education system. Life isn't a multiple-choice quiz, and education shouldn't be, either.

* I'm not referring to the book Fast Food Nation, but to our tendency to pick the easiest, fastest, least-thought-required solution to problems.

Re:Luddites.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256987)

the path of least resistance leads to the garbage heap upstairs.

College is no fun anymore.. (3, Interesting)

simrook (548769) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256616)

I recently went through the transistion in my previous college to not having these clicker type devices to having them. We call them PRS. Don't remember what it stands for..

But anyways, it takes all the fun out of college. At the beginning of class, the prof will require everyone in attendence to "click" into class. You have to point your unit at some sensors and then via wireless signals the computer records your attendance. Thus, every professor on campus is now taking attendence this way. No fun anymore, because you must attened every class, or your grade automaticaly drops.

Of course, this has it's puropse, and is a great motovational tool. A few of my friends have even reverse eng'ed the deivce and when they're feeling mischivous enough, disrupt the signal enough for the PRS recieving unit to go haywire and throw an error on the screen - thus ending the attendence taking or the quiz taking or what ever. I suspect that these people have learned more from studying the device then any bullshit 2nd/3rd year comp sci course could teach them.

Devices like these are a major form of social control. Awful for educational purposes, at least so says any student who's had to deal with the little bastards.

But then again.. when it comes time for me to be the grad student teaching, I'm sure I'll use it. Damn maturity.

My 0010 cents.

Re:College is no fun anymore.. (1)

DrJimbo (594231) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256929)

simrook said:
Thus, every professor on campus is now taking attendence this way. No fun anymore, because you must attened every class, or your grade automaticaly drops.

Call me a grammar/spelling Nazi if you like, but it seems to me that you might have benefited from attending more classes.

We used them in Engineering Physics... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256618)

We used the 'clickers' the engineering physics classes at U.C. Riverside. The clickers boosted class participation somewhat, but there were just people there (like myself) who would take clickers for about 1 to 5 people at times who didn't want to go.

Clickers made sure I learned the material, and made me do well in class. However, it didn't really affect the class participation and attendance. Those who didn't want to go still didn't go - clickers still don't change that. Those who don't care will still do poorly.

The clickers are easily hackable as well I AM SURE, as they are only registered on the system when they fire their serial number to the receiver - and the serial number appears on the large screen telling you that an answer has been registered.

As for the clickers not registering, I don't know what company they were using, but the HITT clickers we used registered 100% of the time.

I'm not a fan (3, Interesting)

theimplord (851477) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256624)

I actually got stuck in a sample class using these, and I'm not a big fan. What happens is the teacher will ask some multiple-choice question, then he has to stop talking for several minutes while he switches to the clicker server program. The whole class strains and points and tries to get the sensors in the room to pick up their answer. There isn't any indication if it was *your* clicker which was picked up by the sensor though, so everyone just keeps clicking. They have to constantly check the screen to make sure that their number was picked up - which doesn't always happen.
Maybe it's just because they're new, but the teachers I had tried to avoid using the clickers for points. I'm sure the teachers got some decent feedback - knowing what people understood and didn't. Then again, they were in my physics classes, so it was easy to formulate questions and get responses in a "short" amount of time. I certainly appreciated that over homework questions. It did help once or twice to let me know I misunderstood something, but overall, they were very frustrating, and grew to be one of my pet peeves.

Class Participation (1)

gravteck (787609) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256629)

I had to use these 3 years ago at Vanderbilt for the first semester of physics. Our teacher had a couple prompts throughout the day that we were graded on. The funny thing is that the professor would put in his answer with his clicker and would put his back to the class while doing so; therefore, he allowed us to pretty much see the answer every time. We were actually graded on correct answers, but other sections were merely graded on participation. Nobody wanted to go to the worthless 8:10am lecture, so groups were formed with clicker duty. It was rather amusing seeing someone try to get 5 or 6 clickers to register before the quiz timed out. Basically I think my university used/uses it as a method to make kids go to class... bah

New?? (1)

LarsWestergren (9033) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256631)

I used these in social science class in 1992 in Sweden, they weren't wireless though of course. I was 16 at the time ("Gymnasiet" in Sweden, not sure what it is called in other countries - secondary high?)

Quite fun, we students got to write yes/no questions and passed them to the teacher, she selected the most interesting ones. I would have been interested to see the answer to the question "Do you consider yourself gay or bi", but I chickened out.

I never understood clickers (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256633)

Cliquers either, don't understand them much too.

I was never one to shy away from answering questions in class, and I'd answer my classmate's questions too if they wanted help and the teacher was busy. One time a classmate asked in social studies, "What's pre-contact?" in reference to the pre-Columbian period in North America. I looked at her with a straight face, and said, "foreplay".

If you get something wrong, it isn't the end of the world, you aren't controlling the shuttle, you're in grade 10 math class. Ask questions, it helps me stay awake in class too.

My vote: overrated (1)

nuntius (92696) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256634)

I've not used one, but some large lecture classes at Illinois require this type of device upon enrollment. Apparently some professors/locals got the University to try them out. There was an article on them last school year in the Daily Illini [dailyillini.com]

From the stories I heard in customer service lines at the bookstore, they were not popular. One problem was that they hadn't standardized yet, and students had to buy multiple incompatible devices or, worse yet, the model they needed wasn't available.

At least at the University level, people seem to think "kinda cool, but mostly overrated". The only real purpose I've heard is to require attendance/primitive participation.

These might be popular in elementary/middle school though. We had a couple "quiz show" systems when I went to school. Used sparingly, I remember enjoying them (when they worked). Used daily, they'd probably become boring fast.

Another article (don't remember the source) discussed using cell phone messaging for similar purposes. That almost seems reasonable, excepting that not everyone can afford one.

It's you not me... (1)

Statecraftsman (718862) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256646)

This makes a ton of sense. Not!

Isn't this just saying it's the student's fault for not participating?

The problems in education tend to be a lack of challenge, engagement, and teaching how to solve problems. The way I see it, this could help with the engagement issue but only if clicking correctly contributes to your grade. Otherwise, teachers should pose interesting challenges and work on problem solving...then we'll have an educational experience we can be proud of.

From the Post: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256648)

"...such a device will breed less assertive graduates who lack the will to stand up and voice their opinion on sensitive issues."

I see every major corporation in America backing these things!

I don't care how bad they are... (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256651)

... they're better than the Clappers we used when I went to school.

  Now, if we got to use the crapper, that'd be OK.

Or Better Yet....Zaappp (1)

aaron_ds (711489) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256655)

It seems that teachers may have a new way to boost classroom participation using a device called a STUN GUN.

'Nuff said.

We used these... (1)

sirfuzz (233361) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256663)

We used these in my Physics (university Calc-based) class... They didn't work very well. We had a lot of issues with them, usually just that some of the clicks wouldn't register on the professor's computer.

They did have cool automatic graphs, though.

So what happens when someone hacks these things? (3, Funny)

DingerX (847589) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256665)

A) Empty classrooms with mysteriously full attendance.
B) "clicking tools" now loaded in the standard Auditor distro -- everyone in your frat mysteriously gets all the right answers to the quiz; complaints from the rich kids about their fancy Cross ClickBen getting "Clikjacked".
C) Quiz designed to overcome high school shyness about sexual topics mysteriously reveals entire cheerleadng squad turns out for backdoor antics with donkeys.
D) Awkward Teacher/Student and Student/STudent interaction replaced with Awkward User/Technology interaction.

A few problems (1)

BillyBlaze (746775) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256669)

I've had the experience of being in a class of around 200 people that used infrared eInstruction "clickers" (it's just a remote control with a unique ID). Probably the biggest problem is that they weren't reliable. Even when the software for the receivers worked, we needed more than four receivers in the room. Range was a problem, and also, I suspect that 200 people clicking like mad because they're being graded on attendence leads to interference. The infrared system just doesn't scale well, which is a fatal flaw because there's no need for remotes in a class small enough for them to work. I'm told that in the next semester, they switched to an even more expensive radio version.

In our CS173 class, the remotes' main use was simply taking attendance, which was for a grade. So, for two minutes, everyone would frantically click their (and their absentee buddy's) remotes, and a queue would form by the teacher's desk for the people whose remote didn't work. The feedback that your press was registered was poor because not all students are shown on the screen at the same time. If they just wanted to take attendance (something I disagree with, but anyway...), it would be more efficient and more secure against cheating to just swipe our student IDs at the door. (The other attendence scheme the CS department subjected us to was passing around WiFi-enabled palmtop computers and having us log on to a website. Whatever happened to K.I.S.S.?)

When the remotes are actually used during instruction, they're not any more useful than a show of hands. Granted, there's nothing too discrete about discrete math answers, but in my highschool sex ed class, we didn't have a problem with just writing embarrasing questions ("can you live without your penis?") on notecards, and we could have voted that way if we were so inclined. The feature our teacher was most fond of was the ability to pick on a student at random - again, something that can easily be done without the remotes.

In my opinion, the remotes were just more trouble than they were worth.

Installer (2, Interesting)

saz2b (905604) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256672)

I have installed many of the systems threw out a school system. I can tell you if your lessons are planned around it they can be an effective tool for elementry kids but for college i just do not see the use of them

An Easy Workaround (1)

Turismo86 (753224) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256677)

For me in my USC Physics class we just gave 10 of our clickers to one person and rotated who went to class when. I gladly took the vacation from class in exchange for 90 minutes pressing buttons on nearly a dozen devices once every two weeks. A good idea but as with all technology in the classroom it can be exploited quite easily.

A symptom of a larger disease... (2, Insightful)

patio11 (857072) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256678)

Memo to college professors: if you have 400 students in your physics class, you can't really do much to increase student participation. There, I said it. What, do you think having a database tabulate responses to your questions like some maniacal Nielsen-for-classroom-instruction is going to make this room feel like it has fifteen students in it? Survey says: no (+/- 80% due to equipment malfunction).

I majored in Japanese and CS in college (at a university with very small average class sizes compared to large state schools like the ones in the article). The difference between a 12-man discussion section and a 90-man lecture is like night and day. When there are 12 you can tailor your lessons to the room and if Billy is skipping class or obviously not getting the material despite trying you will know, instantly. When there are 90, you probably get to know those 5 kids who are really too good to be in this class and those 10 who use every trick in the book to avoid getting out of doing assignments, and for the 75 students in the middle you're lucky if you even know their names. (My best CS professor, ever, had academic standards about as sharp as a butter knife and lecturers which did not succeed in imparting much material but he knew *every* kid in the class and worked the labs like it was his job to the point where he knew some of the 15 team's project status better than the lazier team members did -- nothing says "I care" like "Hey, Bob, how's it going? Did you guys get that regexp engine working right for the poetry project yet? Time's a wasting, remember there are other ways to skin the cat. Anyhow, if you need to chat about it come see me after class or on Thursday. Hey Suzy! I loved the design on the last project but this is AI, not the perl obfuscation contest. More comments on the magic bits next time, OK? Hey Joe! I haven't seen you in three weeks?. Should I be concerned or is this just 'This is not a class I care for?' in which case I can just give you a B- and write you off?")

Re:A symptom of a larger disease... (1)

ericdano (113424) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256806)

Which is an EXCELLENT reason to use the money to HIRE ANOTHER TEACHER than buy these clickers. Geeze, I wonder how much money all these "systems" are wasting. Software, hardware, support, contracts. Wouldn't just be easier to have another teacher there to actually engage students?

The educational system is sad here. Very sad. Turning into a text mess./IM/Clicking society.....with more money spent on prisons than education. Oh, unless it's on some great new doodad that clicks or is techie.

Re:A symptom of a larger disease... (1)

Solra Bizna (716281) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256912)

> and those 10 who use every trick in the book to avoid getting
> out of doing assignments

School addicts? O.O


Ahh, a generation of Harpo Marxes (2, Funny)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256694)

I can just see it now:

CEO: "Bob, what do you think of my highly controverisal proposial for the realignment of the company?"

Bob: Click!

CEO: "What the hell does that mean?"

Bob: Click!

CEO: "I see. Well it seems Bob here isn't afraid to speak up like the rest of you spineless SOB's . You're all fired; Bob - you're my new Number 2"

Bob: Click!

Ok, perhaps they face a brighter future than I imagined. Where can I get this clicker retraining, and is there a clicker conference soon?

Re:Ahh, a generation of Harpo Marxes (1)

Volvogga (867092) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256740)

Ok, perhaps they face a brighter future than I imagined. Where can I get this clicker retraining, and is there a clicker conference soon?


Sorry, couldn't resist.

I dont think it will lead to timid graduates.. (1)

LordZardoz (155141) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256706)

I think that most people who do not speak up in class do so most often out of the fear of proving themselves stupid infront of their peers.

People who are afraid to voice unpopular opinions will probably not be made more bold in any event.

I recall watching a tv special about the use of this sort of device. One trend was that when used in a "Do you understand" type of question, the teacher can get a much better idea about how well the lesson is being understood, and can go over it again.


Student's and Instructor's POV (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256723)

As a student who sometimes is forced to purchase one of these devices for some introductory physics and economics classes, they are more trouble than they are worth. First, they usually cost $30 (unless you can buy it from someone who just took the class for a discount,) and are primarily used for attendance (a.k.a. participation grade.) Second, the questions asked during class weren't helpful if you answered incorrectly because there would not be any useful feedback afterwards (i.e. the misconception that led you to the wrong answer.) Lastly, it would be a miracle if the professor or the TA could get the quizzes working at all.

As a course assistant for a introductory computer science course, however, I know how painfully difficult it is to get feedback from the class in terms of how well the professor or I am teaching the material and how well the students are learning it. No one ever wants to be "that kid" who admits in front of 450 other students that he or she just doesn't get what's on the board. No matter how much you tell them that their feedback is crucial to our effectiveness as instructors, their knowledge that we determine their final grade inhibits them from being honest. The only way to secure honest feedback from them is during the end-of-term evals, but by then it's too late to do anything constructive with the feedback.

For instructors, this system would be great in terms of getting real-time feedback about how the current lecture is going (i.e. something simple as a green/yellow/red feedback system would work.) It doesn't help me to see blank faces stare at me when I ask them if there are any questions about the material I just presented; it tells me nothing if they understand, are completely confused, or just plained bored (usually, it's a mixture of all three dispersed throughout the class.) However, if they could anonymously indicate that they are not following me, I can rapidly change my approach to adapt my teaching to better suit their needs. It might not be perfect, but if it can help me reach out to students that I wasn't able to reach out to before, it's worth me giving it a shot.

Re:Student's and Instructor's POV (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256873)

Having seen an amazing lecturer or two and countless bad ones in my time, I can say that people who don't try to do something about those blank faced stares aren't trying. Comments like - "You guys all getting this? This is important stuff." And then actually getting people to be comfortable with interrupting a lecture with a question. Or - "So, that's all grand and whatnot, but I don't expect you guys to derive this on the fly. Here are 7 little critters I stick in the circuits I'm desiging to take care of stuff and here are the laws that govern them. It's important you understand how it works, but this is a practical class."

Steven Leeb. Fucking awesome professor. I didn't do well in his class, (because I didn't know the math behind the signals processing yet), but I enjoyed his class and can actually build systems with microcontrollers, stepper motors and stuff without any real effort now.

I know it sounds hard to get people to say they don't get it, but after a couple lectures of doggedly confronting people out people - in a way that makes it clear you're the one on trial, not them - and saying, you look like you're paying attention and confused - can I clarify that somehow? This CAN work: I've seen it work. Maybe it's a thing about personality, but if anyone has ever had a teacher who has an in-class personality and an out-of-class personality, you should recognize that teaching is an acting job and if you need to act like Steven Leeb, then goddamn it you should do it. Your students will love you for it and you can go to be knowing that you're not robbing them of precious time.

I don't think they're that bad.. (1)

imemyself (757318) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256724)

We have some things similar to those at my high school, and while we rarely use them(maybe three or four times a year), I think they're atleast fairly useful. We've used them a few times for reviewing for state assessments/finals. It makes sure that people don't just sit around and jack off for an hour(the ones we have show what #'s have answered). They aren't perfect as far as reception, but they're not too bad. I think ours are infared or something of that nature. They let the teachers know what questions/topics people are having trouble on as well as the students. And most of us like using them, its more fun then filling in bubbles on a sheet.

No good (1)

scolby (838499) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256749)

Ok, so they give you an instantaneous view of the makeup of the class. Wonderful. They still don't give you the reasons for that makeup, or why the students might feel its important or not. Seems like a waste of money which might otherwise be spent to further educate the educators.

Two of My Law School's Profs Used These (1)

Landaras (159892) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256766)

Two of my law school profs used these (although it was before I arrived). They co-wrote a paper on it called "Taking Back the Law School Classroom: Using Technology to Foster Active Student Learning".

Their experience was part of a NY Times story in early 2004 [uc.edu] . (Story text from law school to avoid registration.)

If anyone wants more information on Prof. Caron and Dr. Gely's experience with these you can read the aforementioned paper [ssrn.com] .

- Neil Wehneman

less assertive?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256771)

> less assertive graduates who lack the will to stand up and voice their opinion on sensitive issues.

I think they already exist. I believe they are called Democrats. Others call themselves journalists.

Kinda sad that these days the most accurate and brave reporting is done by The Daily Show on a comedy cable channel.

easy A (1)

deiol (741017) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256777)

I had these clickers in my Physics class last year at Northeastern University. It took a month just for the professor to figure out how to use the reciever with his Power Point. Then the recievers in class often failed, so only half the class could get their answers in. At the end of the semester we would just take turns who was going to class for the day and that person would take all the clickers and respond for us. At the end of the semester, the credit for the clicker answers was just erased, and we all got full credit. Totally worth the $30 we had to pay for the remote... not.

excellent! (1)

Mad_Rain (674268) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256781)

So when a teacher wants opinions on topics that people tend to shy away from like sex, religion, and politics, the question can be asked and the students can answer anonymously via the clicker.

Just think how useful, informative, and accurate they'll be ...

... just like the slashdot polls!

Bad implementations (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256816)

Seems like most of the comments are complaints about lousy implementations. Perhaps a better way to do this sort of thing would be to hardwire the clickers into the room itself (into the armrests/desks) and use wires under the floor instead of wireless. That would solve the "wireless communication is unreliable" problem, the "students have to spend $50 on gadgets for every class" problem, and the "clever guy brought three clickers into class for his absentee friends" problem.

It might add a "bored students spend lecture period trying to break their desk-clicker" problem... but that could be addressed by making the input hardware near-indestructible (or by publicly drawing and quartering the first vandal of the year, as an example to the others)

Clickers (1)

ntl (905610) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256818)

I think in some instances they might be alright.. Maybe they can introduce them into the Houses of parliament we might get somewhere then!

My opinion... (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256825)

On the contrary. The anonymity will end up, at least for some, to break out of their shell, so-to-speak. It will allow some students to speak their mind without fear, but additionally, will end up giving them more courage when they see that there was nothing to fear in the first place.

I can vouch for anonymity. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256898)

Teacher, I'm a simple man with a simple request. When you bend over to pick stuff off the ground or plug in a electrical device, I feel like dry-humping the crease of your manifold mane.

Teacher, I'm a simple man with a simple request. When you are fiddling the tip of your pen in your mouth, after finishing grading the classwork, I imagine that pen is my penis.

Teacher, I'm a simple man with a simple request. I want to roughly fuck you in the ass when we ride an unbroken horse together in a rodeo.

Teacher, I'm a simple man with a simple request. You are a worthless bitch that ignores that I've payed you to fill my mind with all this bullshit; the only thing you have going for you is the fact you are self-lubricating and that there are statutes that compel my attending school. Until you acknowledge the conspiracy, then you will receive no confort from me for trying to monopolize and build further "job security" at the expense of innocent children.

To confirm you're not a script,
please type the word in this image: lacerate

There're sort of useful for one thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256837)

We got these in one of my grad school classes last semester. Yes, the recievers are crap and it is hard to see if you logged in correctly.

BUT: for one particular situation they actually worked surprisingly well: seeing how well the lecture was getting through to non-native english speakers.

This environmental health class was a requirement for everyone at the school of public health and as such you had all the foreign people from the health ministry of ghana and mongolia from the international health department or the chinese aids workers from the epidimeology dept. Who really only had to read technical english during the day and whose conversational english was somewhat lacking.

Basically the class met once a week for a few hours and every 90 mimutes or so the professor would structure a break with 2 or 3 review questions that were really just to see if you understood what she was saying, no higher level thought at all. You could totally tell when people didn't get it and you knew from the way the question was asked that the only way people would get the answer wrong was:

A) They were being jerks and thought it would be funny to pick the Cowboyneal option


B) They had sat through a lecture on cancer clusters on Cape Cod and didn't what/where Cape Cod was.

Conclusions: These things are a terrible way to grade people, take attendance, or foster debate. They are a GOOD way to see if your audience understood any of the previous 90 minutes.

Having used these (1)

IKnwThePiecesFt (693955) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256850)

for graded chemistry tests in highschool, I must say they are actually not very good. They seemed to work reliably enough, but it was frustrating to not be able to see if it actually recorded your answer correctly. I personally had no issues with the system, but 95% of the class hated it.

Ehhhhh... (1)

uvsc_wolverine (692513) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256871)

We used these in my Physics class at Utah Valley State College and I found that they were put to good use. My prof would start each class period with a simple quiz to see if people had read the assigned pages from the textbook as well as to take attendance. We didn't have to buy our rent the clickers - the department bought forty of them and they stayed as part of the room and were used by several classes each day. We were assigned our clickers at the beginning of the semester (they had numbers on them) and those were ours for the rest of the class. The only problem we ever had with them was when the teacher's laptop died and we had to take the quiz on paper (gasp!) for a week. I found that they worked quite well the way my prof was using them. Although, had I been required to purchase one to use only to take a daily quiz...I might have been a little pissed off. As it was there was no extra cost involved in using them.

Great Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256886)

I'm the most withdrawn and ineffectual person in my class and this device will really empower me to make my opinions matter.

Ahem. (1)

earthbound kid (859282) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256932)





Oh yeah, what the classroom really needs is anonymous comments from students.

Chocolate Fish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13256942)

Best way I found of boosting classroom participation was chocolate fish. Ask a question, whoever answered it correctly got a chocolate fish.

I even started giving them out for reasonable attempts at the answer, to encourage people to put their hand up and try. So long as they had a reasonable explanation for the answer they gave, they were rewarded.

Eh! (1)

rwaliany (798184) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256956)

Eh, I hate these devices. I'm a student at UC Berkeley right now, they actually give extra-credit to those who participate. It's really unfair, I received an A in my CS class but not an A+ because I neglected to use the PRS device... He only gave students A+'s who used PRS device (which he felt participated more).

P.R.S. @ Georgia Tech (1)

DelawareGT (905614) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256959)

The "P.O.S." devices used in mainly physics courses are expensive and over rated. $30+ for an infrared 'clicker' we'll use in one or two classes. Professors used to take attendance via these devices until the system was abused. Judging from my glorious passing grade I'd say the prof did something right. I'm just not sure that it was the 'clicker' and his poorly worded questionnaires.

I can just see it.... (1)

d474 (695126) | more than 8 years ago | (#13256988)

In School...

Teacher: "Who thinks they have the answer?"
Me: *click*
Teacher: "Okay, d474, what do you think it is?"
Me: *click* *click*, *clickity* *click*
Teacher: "No, that's wrong d474."
Me: *cli* *click* *CLICK*!
Teacher: "Excuse me young man, what did you just say!? You better go to the principles office, NOW!"
Me: *click* *click* - *cLiCk*
(students laugh as I leave the room)
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