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My Friend Clicker: Response Systems Teacher View

ClickerWhen talking response systems and voting/polling software for classrooms, it’s easy to lose the reason why clicker devices can be a teacher’s friend, rather than just another technology device. Look at them from a teacher’s viewpoint.

Here’s a simple fact, at the end of a marking term, teachers still need to come up with grades for each student, base on classwork and participation, homework, tests and quizzes. A substantial amount of data has to be collected and weighed to make an accurate assessment of a student’s abilities, as well as his/her weaknesses. Relying on only quizzes and tests for mid and end of term data, as well as for parent conferences makes knowing a student on paper less accurate as knowing a student in class each day. Response systems, tied into student grading software and student information systems are invaluable. They make it possible to capture classroom moments, where students really get something, and shine, as well as those things that need more work. If you’re a teacher, clickers take a snapshot of classroom assessment for each student each day. It’s what teachers have always seen, but difficult to annotate. They really make it easier to accurately score a student, and report those findings. And, response systems do what the name implies—gives you more individual student responses. Guessing at grades can’t happen.

If that’s not enough, as a teacher, you need to know if what you’re teaching isn’t sinking in before you’ve spent too much time thinking it has. No one wants to get to the end of the week, after teaching your heart out, to discover most of the class bombed the quiz or test. Teachers know the familiar lament, “I can’t understand why they did so poorly on the test. I did everything but flips to get them to know it!” Most of the time that speech is given in the faculty room, where others commiserate, because they’ve been there, too. Well, with response systems, there is no reason to get there, because immediate feedback on how your lesson is doing is a simple question and response away. If a teacher knows the direction he/she is headed, guiding students to a better path gets a lot easier. And, if you say that student hands to do the same—well, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn I’ll sell you.

There are plenty of reasons students like them, too. Most of those have to do with fun, as well as having confidence in answering questions in a crowd. No one gets embarrassed for not knowing, or answering differently. That increases the odds of a student taking a chance. Response Systems are certainly the best cure for student tears and red, burning ears. Tell me you’ve never been there! As one student, Margo, said to me recently, when I asked her about a Vote system she was using in class, “Everyone makes mistakes, and that’s OK, but mostly I get things right now.”

Maybe it’s time to investigate response systems to discover Your Friend Clicker.

Companies in the Response market; listed in random order (apologies if I've missed one):

iRespond

eInstruction

Dukane

Promethean

Dymo/Mimio

Qwizdom

Qomo HiteVision

Turning Technologies

SMART Technologies

Renaissance Learning

H-ITT

Poll Everywhere

i>clicker

Marzano: Whiteboards, Responders, 1:1, and PD

Marzano I had an interesting conversation with education researcher and author, Dr. Robert Marzano. He’s written about education strategies, and decision-making based on research for years. His Marzano Research Laboratory is interested in researching and discovering ways to make teaching and education leadership better. We talked about his 3rd party interactive whiteboard research, which was funded by Promethean, as well as his thoughts for the short term—3–5 year future of technology in the classroom. I enjoyed his fair and honest assessment of his own research, as well as what we should take away from it.

“After playing around with different study designs we used a meta-analysis approach—over different subject areas. In our 2-year, 4, 913-student, 123-teacher, and 36-district study, we found, that in general, the average effect was that we had a 16-percentile improvement in student achievement in the interactive whiteboard classrooms,” says Marzano.”

Marzano finds one part of his findings doesn’t get as much attention as it should, and that has to do with the importance of good teaching. “But let’s qualify this, an average effect that people don’t focus on enough is that 24% of the time teachers did better without the technology. So the 2nd part of the study is what explains the differences, and because we used video, we can say here’s why,” says Marzano.

More research needs to be done—so what’s next? “We need to rewrite the book on teaching strategies… the ones that many of us have written about for years, just won’t work anymore. For instance, classroom brainstorming used to be done on paper… but you couldn’t do anything with it. It was difficult to move those thoughts around, and debate efficacies—like you can with interactive technologies,” says Marzano.

Administrators struggling with budgets don’t necessarily have the funds it takes to make technology happen in their districts. “Sometimes I get asked whether interactive whiteboards are worth it from a financial standpoint—I don’t come from that perspective, but my heart goes out to administrators having to make those decisions. I know that they are not small ticket items. If money weren’t the issue it’s pretty much of a no brainer—three technologies—interactive whiteboards, responders, and 1:1 computing get good results for teachers,” says Marzano.

Professional development is an important finding. “Don’t forget, these technologies have to be used in the right way. What to do and what not to do with them. In my research, a huge piece for an administrator to understand is that their needs to be training to get the best out of classroom technology. Envision it as a another leg on the stool,” Marzano concludes.

Find out more at Marzano Reasearch, or more at the Promethean site.

Hands Down: Student Response Systems

ConveyAClick_CaseFull I’m not certain whether raising hands in class is completely out, and student clickers completely in, but the number of companies providing a student polling option is overwhelming. Let's take a look at clickers.

In a time when there’s software from companies like Turning Technologes, and online polling solutions like Poll Everywhere that can make any device from cell phones to laptops a student polling device, what is the magic in these little gadgets that makes most teachers want them for their students?

There are a few key factors, in my opinion, for the responder craze. First of all, they make a nice addition to traditional hand raising. Even clickers that are only voting-style devices, give all kids an opportunity to participate, without embarrassment, or need to be "on stage". If the clickers offer text responses, rather than just true/false, Yes/No, or letter options, quiet students gain a class voice. Right now, fingers and thumbs make the choices, which seems to be a natural for digital kids. (Voice and sound software should be considered for some students with visual or tactile difficulties.) So, responders are another puzzle piece in building an interactive classroom.

With teacher options that create immediate charts/graphs of successes, or clues to missed learning, the responders can do—on the fly, and while teaching—what had to be done during a prep, or over a day or more on teacher time. And best of all, if these babies are hooked into a grading, and then student information system (SIS), results can be reported immediately there, too.

It’s true, that at the very least, classes using responders would need a projector attached to a teacher’s computer, and at best, some sort of whiteboard solution for classroom interactivity, but the fact is that these response devices are teacher and kid friendly. Easy software recognition makes pushing buttons the only requirement beyond questions and answers.

Recently, I interviewed Jim Locascio, president of Dukane, long known as a technology system integrator company. “We went from carrying overheads into schools, to bringing in data projectors, and now our Convey response solution. It’s the first time we’ve built our own system.”

Take a look at these companies for Student Response Options (random order), and raise your hand if you have further questions!

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in The Royal Treatment are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.