Is it time for me to move away from clickers? Can I use an online system that will do the job, and make use of devices that students already own (and can use for other purposes, unlike clickers)?
In most of my larger classes, I’ve found clickers (classroom response systems) very helpful in providing feedback to both students and me, encouraging discussion … and waking up students in 8:30 classes! Classroom response systems, as educational technologies, can be helpful tools but also have potential pitfalls; how they are used makes a huge difference in terms of outcomes. (Want to know more about clickers? Here’s a plug for an essay I wrote back in 2008 – and the references within).
[Note – I find clickers useful in LARGE classes. In my dream-teaching-world, I’d have class sizes that would allow me to do a lot more interaction with all my students that wouldn’t require technology!]
As tools, they may not be the only (nor the best) option available. I didn’t expect clickers to actually be around all that long – I’d figured technology would emerge that allowed students to use their own devices to do the same thing (and, hopefully, more). Indeed, we now have both free (e.g., Four Good Alternatives to Clicker Systems) and commercial systems that provide this functionality (e.g., LectureTools, Learning Catalytics, Top Hat). Until recently, some things discouraged me from using these alternatives – technical barriers, and financial concerns – so I’ve continued to use clickers.