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“Clickers” or “Virtual Clickers”? 8 January, 2009

Posted by paralleldivergence in Brad & Phil, education, ICT in Education, technology, windows.
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For a few years now, Personal Response Systems (PRS) and Student Response Systems (SRS) have been making major inroads into classrooms and lecture halls, particularly in Universities and Colleges.  These “clicker” systems literally put engagement, motivation, participation and instant feedback into the palm of each student’s hand.


In most classrooms today, the teacher asks a question and usually one person will reply with the answer. If it’s right, the answer is accepted and the lesson continues – regardless of whether the rest of the class agrees with or understands why the given answer was correct.  In a “clicker” classroom, the teacher displays the question she would like to ask and offers four multiple choice answers.  EVERY student then offers their answer by pressing a button on their clicker and seconds later, a bar chart appears on the screen with the results of everyone’s personal understanding.

Was the correct answer the most selected by the whole class? If not, it’s clear that the teacher has some more explaining to do. Even if it was the most selected, did any students answer incorrectly?  Instantly we have the opportunity to question further and reinforce the subject matter in all students. The power of participation with instant feedback cannot be underestimated. There are so many educational advantages when using audience response systems. Just take a look here.

Many K-12 teachers and schools are seriously contemplating spending many hundreds or even thousands of dollars on hand-held “clicker” devices from one of the thirty or so different companies that are producing them. While features like battery life, robustness and ease of use are important, the best aspect of most clicker solutions is the software and how it deals with the responses and reports back the results to the teacher or presenter. With so many players in the game, it’s not going to be easy to determine which way to head.

Then when you think you are ready, you jump in and buy a kit of 30 or so clickers to “share” between classes. Then you realize that when these devices are shared, they need to be registered for each user, each session!  This takes up valuable lesson time and makes using the clickers a lot more cumbersome than they really should be. Why do you think it is that most colleges and universities that use clickers force the students to buy their own? While that’s reasonable for a college student, it’s not really for a K-12 student and it certainly isn’t for ICT Training participants.

Then one of the biggest problems is that taking on a student response solution often requires some changes in teaching practice. It can be an expensive choice buying a hand-held clicker solution only to find it’s not getting used as effectively or as often as one would hope. We’ve all seen that happen to ICT purchases in the past.

There is no question that clickers can be valuable and effective teaching and learning resource. Unfortunately though, as already mentioned, their up-front cost  puts them out of reach of most K-12 schools that already spend most of their ICT budgets on computers, networking and ongoing maintenance of their existing computer facilities.  But many schools are fortunate enough to have a computer lab and some even have one-to-one laptop programs. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to use the existing computers in front of each student to get them to operate like a clicker does?

That’s exactly what Student Response Network is. A quick, reliable and effective clicker solution that anyone can operate. No IT specialists required. Up and running in seconds. Integrating ICT into teaching and learning the easy way.  For almost no cost, your school or training centre can get all the advantages of a traditional clicker solution to test, to evaluate, to train your staff. There’s little or no risk and Student Response Network can still be a stepping stone to the more expensive hand-held solutions when your staff are really ready for it.

Don’t risk making a dud purchase. Try Student Response Network and see if this type of technology is right for you.  Oh. By the way… Did I mention I developed it?  🙂



1. Ian Gay - 11 January, 2009

Yay, another post.

I really enjoy your posts and this one lives up to my expectations (including Brad & Phil).

What a great idea, I hadn’t really caught up much with the Clickers thing and it sounds great but the virtual clicker sounds even better.

A great new project for the last 2 weeks of the holidays.

Thanks, Ian

2. paralleldivergence - 11 January, 2009

Thanks for that Ian. And you may be pleased to know that an OSX version of the Student Response Network Client is well on the way.

3. tobeme - 15 January, 2009

This is great technology! Hats off to you for finding a way to use existing resources and be just as effective as buying the off the shelf version.

4. paralleldivergence - 15 January, 2009

Thanks tobeme. We need the change to happen in the classroom with the teachers. To make that happen, teachers need tools that (a) they can understand and (b) they can operate themselves. That was the aim in developing Student Response Network and Stu’s Double Jeopardy! Fortunately, that aim seems to be working 🙂

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