Wednesday, August 30, 2006


An Introduction to Clickers

This morning we spent three hours administering the Think Link test. The rest of the day's schedule was unusual; we skipped two classes and the others met for about 30 minutes each, except for the classes that meet during lunch time. Not a great day for introducing important material...the kids were brain dead after three hours of testing, and so was I! However, it was the perfect day to introduce my clickers!

My students were fascinated.
"What is this?"
"Does it text-message?"
"Can these get on myspace?"
"It's not doing anything!"
"Is it a calculator?"

I explained that these were part of a Personal Response System that I am going to begin using in class on a regular basis. I bought them this year with my National Board money, and today was the first time I tried them out with a classroom full of students. If you are not familiar with this new technology, it is a lot like polling the audience on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? I can ask my students short answer, multiple choice, or true-false questions. They enter their answer into the clicker, and it transmits to my computer. At the end of each question a chart appears showing how many answered correctly. This can be used to quickly assess student understanding at any time during a lesson or for quizzes and tests.

The hardest part for me is getting the class started. You must push several buttons on the clicker to "join the class." If this is not done correctly, there is much confusion! Seventh graders are not known for their ability to listen and follow directions, especially when holding an object covered with buttons waiting to be pushed! It took a good 15-20 minutes in each class to get almost everyone to the point that they were able to transmit answers. In one class I had time to have them turn them off and start all over again. Everything went a little smoother the second time they tried it.

Using technology in the classroom always involves making trade-offs with time. For me to be able to use this great tool that I spent about $2000 to buy, I am going to have to spend quite a bit of class time training the students how to use it. They were so excited by it that I think it will take a while for the new to wear off enough that they can concentrate on the math questions I am asking them to answer.

I asked very easy questions today just to practice using the clickers. In case you are interested, here is what I asked:
  1. 2 + 2 = ?
  2. 10.2 + 8.1 = ?
  3. True or False: Math is the best subject.
  4. Which is your favorite middle school?
a. Brookhaven
b. Oak Park
c. Cedar Ridge
d. None of the above

5. Who has the best football team?
1. Alabama
2. Auburn
3. Tennessee
4. Florida
5. Other

The students became so excited when they saw the results! They thought it was hilarious that most people said number 3 was false! Several students entered wrong answers on purpose to see what would happen (I have noticed my son making mistakes on purpose when he plays video games. I believe that this is one way this generation learns.).

I can't wait to fully integrate this powerful tool into my teaching. I have read about studies that show this type of technology increases student engagement and attention. How can it not!

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