Friday, May 18, 2007

Click and learn

Better than whiteboards
‘Clickers’ get students to respond to questions by the teacher/lecturer/trainer. The results are shown via a laptop and projector. They’re not new but cheap, easy to set-up and easy to use. I rate these above whiteboards in a classroom. Attention is the BIG problem in large classes. Clickers keep students on their mental toes. Not only do teachers make their lessons more question-led, encouraging critical thinking, the students are also made to think and respond through regular formative feedback. This directly addresses the ‘attention-deficit’ issue in large classes.

There are dozens of example of clicker-use in schools and higher education. "It's a way of presenting material that provokes questions and discussions, as opposed to simply teaching or lecturing," says Tom Haffie from the University of Western Ontario. "More questions lead to more critical thinking and community building. A single question can tailor what I'm going to say for the next 15 minutes."

Teachable moments
Haffie says clickers tend to create "teachable moments" when the class is engaged with the material, curious about the diversity of responses, perhaps willing to discuss issues with peers and ripe for their understanding to be refined.

Broadcollecting, not broadcasting
"I like to refer to it as broadcollecting as opposed to broadcasting," says Haffie. "It raises the quality of thinking in the classroom on the fly. It creates a great opportunity for interaction with peers, not just instructors."

Students think it improves learning
An overwhelming 87 per cent said clickers facilitate learning while 65 per cent said they influence how they prepare for class and for the mid-term tests (62 per cent).