"Thumbs up - Thumbs down" is a widely used way to informally check whether or not your students understand what you’ve taught them. But who actually counts kids' thumbs? And aren't most student responses held suspect because they are so worried about feeling judged by their peers? They look around to see who has their thumb up or down before they respond... Now, imagine if your students could send you their responses privately, with the click of a button. What if their responses could be tallied and displayed immediately in a bar graph or pie chart on an interactive whiteboard or projection screen. Wouldn't that be much more accurate? Wouldn't that be cool? Let me assure you: it is.
What are they?
Most people call them "Clickers." They look like little TV remote control units, and they work in sort of the same way. Generally speaking, they all do roughly the same thing: provide a direct wireless connection between a teacher and his or her students. Student response systems include a radio frequency (RF) remote for each student in a given class, a central receiver, software, and some form of assessment software, which tallies student responses, records attendance, posts test results and provides individual feedback.
Enhances Interactive Teaching and Learning
The brand of student response system I've been testing for the last few months is the Senteo interactive response system. Like all student responders, they're designed to enhance interactive teaching and learning. It starts when the teacher either displays or speaks a prepared or ad hoc question. Students can then anonymously key in answers with their remote. Responses are tallied and displayed on a projection screen or interactive whiteboard instantaneously.
Variety of Question Types
To assess student understanding, you can use a variety of question types, including true or false, multiple choice, numeric response and more-than-one-right-answer. Decimals, fractions and negative numbers can also be incorporated into questions and answers.
Student response systems provide immediate feedback to students, teachers, and even parents. Once a student completes a test, his or her score is revealed directly on their own responder. This eliminates the typical wait-time a student normally endures after a test. It used to take me an hour to grade a math test and sometimes it took me a few days before I even sat down to grade it. Now, I can spend that time designing lessons to remediate the ones who performed poorly. Furthermore, students are afforded time, right then and there, to analyze their own results: noting which problems they missed and correcting their own mistakes.
Export to Spreadsheet
From a record-keeping stand point, nothing beats the "export to spreadsheet" feature. These scores can be easily imported into your existing electronic gradebook system (if it supports the "import" feature) or printed out and integrated into a paper-based system. There is even an option to send an e-mail to each student's parents the moment the test is over. (When I told my students I intend to enable this feature in the coming weeks, they looked as if they'd just walked out of a horror movie).
All in all, student responders are effective tools that should be in every teacher's tool box. But as with all technology, the price tag can be prohibitive. The Senteo Response System 32 Pack goes for about $2K. But if integrating technology is a priority for your district, then it's an investment that can lead to an enhanced learning and teaching experience for everyone involved. To read more about the topic of Clickers, check out "7 things you should know about clickers."