What are Clickers?

Clickers are handheld wireless devices (purchased in the bookstore) that enable students to answer questions posed by their instructor. They can be used by an instructor in class to obtain real-time feedback from students. Responses are anonymous to the class, but not to the instructor.The clicker system includes three key components: (1) a small portable RF (radio frequency) receiver that the instructors brings to class to collect the responses (2) battery-powered clickers (handheld devices) that students use to respond to questions, and (3) software to capture and store the data, which can be displayed graphically.

How can clickers help students learn?

Clickers give you the power to transform a lecture from a one-way communication to an active conversation among students and instructor. Here’s how they work: you ask a question, all students “click in” to indicate their response, and you can immediately see the distribution of answers across the room. No longer do you have to hope that students are “getting it”—you know if they are! And most importantly, because clickers make students’ thinking visible, you can begin to question and probe, finding out why they responded to questions in the way they did so that you can offer immediate feedback. Because responses and feedback happen immediately and in real time, you can stage increasingly complex and difficult questions in a sequence, based on what students have already demonstrated they understand. In this way, the intellectual challenge of a course can be increased. To learn more about best practices for teaching with clickers, see Notes from ITLAL Underground.

Which clicker system should I use?

While there is not a standard University clicker system, we recommend that interested instructors adopt the iClicker system. Our research and experience have shown this system to be superior in terms of affordability, functionality, reliability, and ease of use. We also have local expertise in ITLAL and ITS to provide on-the-ground support and troubleshooting with the system.If you would like information on other clicker systems we examined and tested please contact Billie Franchini at bfranchini@albany.edu.

I see some clickers bundled with textbooks. Should I just order the system that the publisher has chosen?

Some publishers have partnered with clicker companies to include a clicker bundled with a textbook and sold as a single unit. This may seem very convenient, but it is not necessarily the best approach to take if you plan to adopt clickers. The functionality and reliability of clicker systems vary greatly, and you will want to maintain control over the selection of the technology. ITLAL and ITS’s research into clicker systems has revealed some preferred brands. While it is up to an individual instructor to make his/her own choice of clicker system, we invite you to come by and talk with Sue Barnes at ITLAL to see the advantages and disadvantages of the various systems.

If I know I want to use clickers in an upcoming semester, how do I start?

  1. Schedule a meeting with an ITLAL staff member. In this meeting, we will (a) discuss your project and your specific goals for using this technology and (b) show you the iClicker system, provide you with the necessary equipment and software, and help you with ordering student clickers through the bookstore.
  2. Develop language to include in your syllabus that will outline procedures and policies for students to follow. ITLAL can help you with this, including providing some boilerplate language for creating and communicating policies.
  3. Schedule time in the ITLAL testing area to learn and practice using the software.
  4. Visit your actual classroom and practice using the technology. You can schedule an appointment for an ITLAL staff member to go with you so that you are familiar with the set-up procedures. You don’t want to be surprised on the first day of class by a set-up that looks slightly different from what you are accustomed to!

Where can I go to see how a system works and practice using it?

To see what clickers are all about, you can come to the Institute for Teaching, Learning & Academic Leadership (Library 69) to familiarize yourself with a demo system. We recommend that you contact us by phone (442-5521) or e-mail (teachingandlearning@albany.edu) to schedule an appointment in advance so we can ensure that someone will be available to show you the system and answer your questions.