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iClicker paying off, say professors, students

By | February 08, 2010 | News

Photos By Matt Weir / The Collegian

A year and a half after the inception of the iClicker on campus, it has proven to be a durable and interactive learning tool.

The iClicker, a hand-held device that is typically used in large classes, allows students to answer questions electronically. Answers can then be instantly posted on a projector screen. In some classes, this has replaced roll call and paper based quizzes and tests.

Philosophy department chair Andrew Fiala is using the iClicker for the first time this semester and says the device is pretty fun.

“I like having an interactive class, and the iclicker allows me to ask interesting questions and get immediate answers to them from all 150 of my students,” Fiala said.

The results of iClicker survey questions are posted up on the screen as a bar graph, showing how many students chose certain answers.

“Upon getting this feedback, I can gauge where the students heads are at and also ask them why they answered the question the way they did to generate discussion,” Fiala said. “It also tells me how much they’re learning.”

Fiala added that the iClicker makes the logistical part of his job more efficient as well.

“Grading 150 handwritten quizzes can be time-consuming, so the electronic data I get makes it much easier for me,” Fiala said.

According to the Institutional Research Assessment and Planning’s (IRAP) 2008-09 progress report of the strategic plan, the iClicker contributed to the rise in students reading their textbooks in Chemistry 1A. In-class quizzes using the device helped bring the percentage to 85 percent, 35 points higher than previous semesters.

History professor Brad Jones, who has used the iClicker for two years now, teaches a class of more than 200 students this semester and says the iClicker facilitates an interactive environment that would be impossible otherwise in a class this large.

“The iClicker has completely changed the dynamics of what was previously a lecture oriented class,” Jones said. “I can now involve students and use their responses to clicker questions to improve the contents of my lectures.”

The iClicker is most commonly used in large classrooms. However, the devices are limited to one of five multiple-choice answers. So, they may not lend themselves to smaller classrooms, Fiala said.

“Fresno State used to have smaller classes, which is something I prefer. These large classes that the iClickers are suited for, well, we’d still be losing something,” Fiala said. “Also, in a philosophy class that tends to demand less concrete answers as opposed to a math or history class, smaller classes are ideal.”

Other than the iClicker’s added cost to students, which cost about $32, the iClicker has proven to be an easy to use classroom tool.

Ron Durham, director of the Kennel Bookstore, said there have not been defective iClickers returned by faculty or students since its introduction.

Cheyenne Rael, a student-employee at the Kennel Bookstore, said that the iClicker never malfunctioned when she used it in her math class last spring.

“It was easy to register and easy to use,” Rael said. “I would have no problem taking another class that required the iClicker. And it is cool that I wouldn’t have to buy another one.”

Susan Bartel, who works at the bookstore, offers advice for students planning on using it for multiple semesters:
“Students should put some tape over the serial number, because their fingers tend to wear them off and you need that number to re-register the device.”

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