Learner-Shaped Technology

August 2, 2008

Way to go iClicker!

Filed under: clickers,general,sustainability,technology — Mike W @ 9:51 am

In an earlier posting I discussed some less than optimal packaging with a recent order of iClickers. We’re very happy with the clickers themselves, btw (which is also in the earlier posting). A glitch with my blog comment notifications caused a great response from the Director of iClicker to sit in moderation for quite a while. My apologies for that. It’s since been fixed.

I wanted to highlight Renee’s response here. Since the posting, I was also contacted by one of the iClicker creators about an idea I’d posted on a list serve about making analyzing data gathered via iClickers easier. We had a great conversation, and they are exploring adding some additional features to make analysis more seamless.

Thanks for being so responsive and committed to sustainability! I’m impressed.

January 19, 2008

Sustainable Packaging?

Filed under: clickers,general,sustainability,technology — Mike W @ 9:40 am

I know it’s been a long time, but I’m hoping to get back in the blogging groove. I have a list of blog topics in a google doc that I’m hoping will sustain a more regular blog presence. I’ve moved my site over to a new host.  I’m redirecting automatically for now, but please update your bookmarks.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that we’ve been exploring clicker technology in class to promote class discussion (especially around controversial topics), predicting the results of a demo, etc. . We recently received a shipment of 60 clickers, and I was distraught over the packaging. Check it out. Each clicker was individually wrapped in the kind of packaging that leaves one’s fingers bruised and bloodied, and the amount of waste is pretty striking. Below is a pic of the packaging vs. what was inside.


We’re in conversations now with the vendor now to check into alternatives. They may be under the assumption that we’re like many schools where clickers are sold in the bookstore. Instead, we’ve purchased several departmental sets for sharing. The six teacher clickers came with a more reasonable amount of packaging, so it has to be possible to scale back on the waste. We’ve been very pleased with the iClicker brand, but if you decide to go this route, please join in and ask about alternative packaging before they ship.

Some things the iClickers don’t do that we’re trying to find solutions for:

1. Data Formatting – We have a couple of professors interested in analyzing data gathered in class with statistical packages like SPSS. The session data is stored in spreadsheets, but there’s a lot of manual cleanup needed before the stats are run. It shouldn’t be too hard to automate the clean-up process.

2. Limited Choices – A-E works fine for many questions, but if you’re asking students about presidential candidates, important political issues, etc.., 5 choices can be very limiting. We knew that going in, but it would be great if there were a simple alternative. I asked the tech guy at iClicker if they’ve explored hooking into devices with more buttons or allowing a double click to expand choices (like AA, BB, etc.). They haven’t done anything with this yet, but the code is open source, so I’m going to poke around and see what it would take to add this expanded choice mode.

3. Mapping Choices – The flexibility of the software is great. You can pose questions / scenarios in presentation software, ChemDraw, Google Earth, etc.. Because the question is captured as an image, you have to go back and map choice A to Obama, B to Clinton, C to Edwards, etc.. It’s okay if you’re just using the questions as a discussion starter but makes looking at trends in student opinions more difficult.

January 22, 2007

Upstate Schools Consortium Presentation and Clickers

Filed under: clickers,collaborate,education,general,technology — Mike W @ 10:28 am

On Friday I presented at a meeting of the Upstate Schools Consortium which met at Furman University. I got to meet with a great group of talented and enthusiastic K-12 educators from across the upstate. It was a lot of fun!


I talked about our recent and early investigation into clicker technology. We’re piloting these in a handful of classrooms to determine if they’re a good fit and developing best practices. I’ve reviewed a good bit of the research, and it seems like clickers are most effective when they are used to support a constructivist learning environment which makes good sense. A great bibliography of the research is available from Vanderbilt University. If the technology is only going to be used to deliver fairly low-level content questions and not going to be used to modify instruction or engage the student, then I’m guessing we’ll find it’s not worth the investment. I’ve used them in several sessions and feel my initial skepticism waning.

Here’s a link to the question report that was generated from our discussion. Just click on the session summary to see the responses. Each session is actually split in two, so session 1 and 2 are the interaction with the first group and so on. For some reason, the second half of the session with the last group wasn’t recorded.

I split the sessions because there seems to be a bug in iClicker (at least on my machine) where if you add to an existing session, rather than starting a new one, the screen capture breaks.

* The question about Saddam Hussein was to start a very mini discussion about potential advantages of the anonymity that the clickers provide. I wish we had more time to discuss.

* The question about the gorilla required some intro explanation not on the slide. I described the Harvard study in which folks were asked to count the number of basketball passes between two individuals. During the video a woman with an umbrella or a person in a gorilla suit walks through the middle of the scene. 54% of participants reported never seeing the gorilla, so I asked if this intense focus would be a plus or minus in a life or death survival situation. In sessions where there was time, they discussed and recast their votes (Mazur-type of model with clickers).

* The Google Earth Question revolved around the spread of avian flu and asked participants to predict where the early outbreaks occurred (answer C: Southern Asia). The circled regions aren’t visible in the iClicker report, but were visible to participants.

* Oh yeah, the answer to the state insect question is A (Carolina Mantid). This was pretty obscure, but most folks knew it! I sure didn’t. I was hoping to demonstrate that simple content questions weren’t as fun or interactive as the gorilla / discussion type, but this generated a good bit of buzz as well (pun intended ;-)).

I’ll be updating the blog with our iClicker pilot experience. Here’s a link to the session handout. Please comment with your clicker experiences and thoughts in the comments here. We didn’t have enough time to talk, so it would be fun to continue the discussion here.

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