Wednesday, September 5, 2007

iClick, youClick: Clickers for learning

Last January, three of us on staff (myself, Justin & Koren) got a grant proposal together to buy and test the use of Classroom Response Systems (CRS) in our high school. We were quickly supported by our building principal and the folks in our tech. department, but alas, the wheels of progress were slow. We didn't get word of our grant approval until April (it was a district level grant, and I'd hoped for a quick response), and until the items were ordered and shipped, school was out.

Fast forward to the start of this school year, and we have the systems and are already plotting out various uses for them. Here's what can be reported so far:

We went with a company called iClicker. Started by a group of college professors, they worked under the premise that the technology shouldn't become intrusive; instead, it should just be a natural add-on, almost working in the background without being seen. Let me tell you, am I glad we went with this company.

The learning curve is quick. You can literally start the software and start using it right away with anything. Yes, ANYTHING. You can have a PowerPoint running and pop in a multiple choice question to check the kids understanding of a concept. You can have questions in a word processing document and scroll through the questions as you poll the kids. Heck, you can even handwrite a question on your interactive white board and use that as a polling question! The key to this product is that a screen shot is taken at the conclusion of each polling session, so the results of the question are linked directly to the question. Easy to add new questions on the fly.

Answers are collected by the RF (radio frequency) base station, and the instructor can see the results right away. On the projection screen, a timer runs (either up or down) while the count of respondents counts up. The instructor then has the choice to show the class the polling results or to keep them private. And although I haven't tried it yet, there's the potential to transfer grades to our grade book program.

They'll definitely be follow-ups to this post as we explore uses for the iClicker. I'm hoping to invite Justin & Koren to guest blog on their experiences as well.

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