In Kovera’s class, students are awarded a point for answering a question, and another point if they get it right. Several schools recommend teachers not use clickers for just attendance. Students resent the implication that clickers would be used “to track them like Big Brother, and force them to come to class,” according to a “Tips for Clicker Success” pamphlet given to University of Colorado faculty. Instead, it suggests using them to quiz students on tricky concepts to see how well they’ve understood the material, or just giving points to anyone who clicks in, to encourage classroom participation.

So far, results are promising. A 2008 National Science Foundation study conducted at Ohio State found that engineering students who were given the devices to answer multiple-choice questions during physics lectures earned final-exam scores about 10 percent higher—the equivalent of a full letter grade—than students who didn’t.

Columbia staff and faculty have even begun using clickers outside of the classroom, as part of voting procedures in staff meetings. “It’s nice not to visibly have to raise your hand,” Bellerjeau says, wondering if clickers could possibly be used for voting during the tenure process.


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He was pleased to see spontaneous clicker use by students during orientation week in the fall. Members of the orientation staff learned how to integrate clickers into their sessions, asking questions like “Where should we go drinking tonight?” or “Who is the cutest?”

While the basic model’s keypad restricts students to only multiple-choice or yes/no answers, more advanced models with keyboards can accept free-form answers for questions that are more subjective and have no real “right” answer, says Rooks. Turning Technologies recently released an application that transforms a student’s iPhone or BlackBerry into a clicker. The app also allows the student to be elsewhere, such as in a distance-learning situation, and the instructor can collect responses from both remote and on-site students at once, says Rooks.

There will always be holdouts among professors, but the general perception is that for a generation of students who grew up with TV remotes in hand, anything that engages students is a win. “If it’s used to enhance discussions, it’s a lot of fun,” says Bruff.

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