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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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‘Clicker’ changes large lecture dynamics

The boring days of sitting in lecture day-dreaming of the weekend may be coming to an end as colleges across the country, including the University of Wisconsin, are changing the way students learn with a new personal response system known as a “clicker.”

The clicker is similar to a small television remote with about 12 different response buttons. Students can use the infrared device to select answers to questions posted on PowerPoint projections created by professors.

The results are then formatted into graphics and shared immediately on a PowerPoint presentation, which allows instructors to receive quick feedback from students in classes.

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The device has been said to help evaluate students’ understanding of topics and actively engage learners in traditionally passive lectures. It also helps instructors recognize what topics might need further review in the future or a better explanation.

“I use the clicker in various ways. I use multiple-choice questions to review topics or use it as a way to engage students’ curiosity at the start of a lecture,” UW psychology instructional staff member Jeffrey Henriques said. “Students say they are more engaged, thinking more critically and say it’s fun.”

The use of the clicker has been a point of discussion among many departments in the past few years, but UW entomology professor Robert Jeanne said he has been using the device for two years and finds it useful.

“I’ve had to change my curriculum a little bit because I can’t cover quite as much material, but I think it’s important because it increases students interest on the material,” Jeanne said.

However, the cost of the device is a concern to students. Many clickers are purchased for approximately $35 alongside textbooks used only for that specific course.

The entomology department purchased clickers and allows students to rent them for $5 and sell them back for $4 at the end of a semester. Henriques and Jeanne said students get their money’s worth through this process and the device is used at least once during each class period.

Henriques noted there’s an “anonymity” students enjoy with the clicker during lectures.

“When you ask for a show of hands in a lecture hall, many students won’t raise them,” Henriques said. “[The clicker] allows everybody to get involved without making yourself conspicuous by committing to the wrong answer.”

The upcoming Teaching and Learning Symposium at UW, scheduled for May 23-25, will feature presentations on using the new technology for assessment and engagement within the classroom.

Henriques said he hopes the presentation will help increase the use of the clicker in other departments and excite professors about its potential widespread use at UW.

However, Jeanne said while the device would benefit both students and faculty departments for larger courses, the clicker may only have limited benefits for upper-level classes due to smaller class sizes.

“Upper-level classes … are smaller and more interactive already, but the clicker is definitely great for large, introductory lectures,” he said.

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