Posted by: Gregory Linton | 02/03/2009

Implementing Clickers in the Classroom

In the fall of 2003, I started using a student response system in my classes. The first system I used was from eInstruction. In the last three years, I have used the i>Clicker system. The eInstruction remotes used infrared light, which required line of sight between the remote and the receiver. We found that fluorescent lights could interfere with it, and the receiver was sometimes touchy about the angle at which a remote was aimed. The i>Clicker system operates wirelessly, so it avoids these problems.

In this post, I will describe how this system works technologically. Then in the next post I will suggest ways to implement it pedagogically.

The i>Clicker system contains three components: (1) remotes or clickers that the students use; (2) a base unit or receiver; and (3) software. Let me begin by describing the remotes.

The college bookstore purchases the remotes and then sells them to the students along with their textbooks. The clicker has a row of six buttons: On-Off and five buttons labeled from A to E. When the student turns on the remote, a blue light comes on to let the student know that it is operating. When the student presses a button to transmit a response, a green light lets the student know that it has been received by the system. A flashing red light lets the student know that it was not received and that the student needs to try again.

For the clickers to work in a classroom, a base unit or receiver must be attached to a computer. When we implemented this on our campus, we would receive a free base unit for every 100 remotes that were purchased. To date, we have accumulated six base units in this way. To purchase a base unit costs around $300 the last time I checked. Cost information is very difficult to obtain from these vendors, so I am not sure what the current price is. The base unit plugs into a USB port. An LED display indicates that the unit is working.

The third component of the system is the software, which is provided for free. The professor can download it from the website. A copy of the software should be made for each class (or section of a class). The software does not have to be installed on the classroom computer. It can be kept on a flash drive so that the professor can keep it at all times. I have placed my software on the H drive, which I can access from any campus computer.

There are two main elements to the software. One is the iclicker.exe, which runs the software in the classroom. Various settings and preferences can be changed in this part of the software. Clicking on this file and selecting “Start Session” will cause a floating toolbar to be placed in the upper left corner of the screen. Most people use the system in conjunction with PowerPoint, so this toolbar appears unobtrusively in the upper left margin.

Questions to which students respond are entered into the PowerPoint file before class. When the instructor is ready for the students to respond, he or she clicks on “Start” on the toolbar. “Go” appears in large letters to let students know they can start logging in. I have an option set so that the serial numbers of clickers are displayed in order to assure students that their responses were registered.

When enough time has been allowed, the instructor clicks on “Stop” and then no more responses can be entered. Then the instructor can click on “Display” to show a bar graph that tabulates the number of responses to each option. To designate one of the responses as correct, the instructor clicks on that bar with the cursor, and it changes color. The software will record that as the correct response.

The other element of the software is igrader.exe. Opening this allows one to see individual student scores for each class session. Various reports can be assembled from this part of the software. It also enables uploading records to a course management system such as Blackboard.

Setting up the system in the classroom is fairly simple. Learning to change options and settings in the software is a little more tricky, but the company provides lots of helpful manuals to guide the instructor.

The really difficult part of implementing the system is knowing how to make the best pedagogical use of it. This requires planning and creativity. In the next post, I will provide some ideas about how to incorporate it into one’s teaching.

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Responses

  1. I loved using the clicker in Acts class at GLCC.


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