Faculty Spotlight: My Adventures with Clickers

In this Faculty Spotlight, Dr. Faye Allard shares her experiences with using clickers to better engage students in large classrooms.

My interest in clickers came out of trying to improve a large 100+ student class I co-teach.  Monitoring attendance was a difficult feat, but even more of a challenge was keeping students engaged and making them feel a part of the learning process.  I had heard a little bit about clickers at a conference, so I decided to ask faculty members for their advice.  I was pleasantly surprised by the response to my email– there were actually lots of faculty already using clicker technology and I received great advice.  Faculty responses also helped me know what clicker manufacturer was most commonly used so that I could increase the likelihood of students being able to reuse their clickers for another course.  This is important, as clicker units are not especially cheap, so for my co-taught class we decided to only ask students to purchase the clicker unit and not a textbook.  Instead, we uploaded a selection of readings and assigned some documentaries to watch.  We gave a lot of advanced warning to students that they would need a clicker so they would have a choice of purchasing units from the bookstore, directly from the manufacturer or from other students.  

So far I am delighted to report that my clicker adventures have been amazing!  The software is very easy to install and navigate, and thanks to my fellow clicker-using-faculty’s advice, it didn’t take long to figure out the many different ways to utilize this technology. I still grin from ear to ear seeing my student’s eyes light up and their enthusiasm as a question comes up in their lecture.  But there are more benefits than just the novelty factor; attendance is now consistently above 90%; we are able to assess instantly if students are understanding the concepts we are teaching and have instant graphical feedback; we are able to poll the class about sensitive issues with students safe in the knowledge their answers are anonymous, and of course, we can ask questions to keep students engaged in the material where we can instantly reveal and then reward the top scorers of the session.  I cannot wait to adopt this technology into my other large classes – it really is revolutionary.