Limits of the i>Clicker

This post is from an idea that Karen Reid has posed to me for potential research…

i>Clickers have been around for a few years.  I’ve never had to buy or use one in any of my classes, but it seems like more and more courses are starting to find it useful.

So what is this i>Clicker thing?

An i>Clicker is a handheld wireless device that essentially brings the “ask the audience” portion from Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, into the classroom.

So, each student buys his or her own personal i>Clicker, and registers it for any classes that require it.  During one of those classes, the instructor could throw up a slide that quizzes the students on what was just taught.  Students key in their responses on the i>Clicker, and the results are then displayed up on the screen.

From what I can tell, the idea is that the i>Clicker should encourage more class participation because:

  1. Students answer simultaneously – so instead of instructors choosing a raised hand from the class, the entire class gets polled
  2. Results displayed to the class can be anonymous.  So, instead of remaining silent among your peers out of fear of being publicly wrong, all students can submit an answer, and get feedback that helps them learn

The i>Clicker can also be used to poll students and give the instructor feedback. For example, an instructor could put up a slide that says “How was my lecture today?” and get some anonymous feedback there.

Well, not exactly anonymous.  See, the instructor has the ability to see who submitted what, and when…so if you repeatedly answer quiz questions incorrectly, the instructor can probably detect that you’re misunderstanding, guessing, or just don’t care.

Anyhow, that’s the basic idea behind the i>Clicker.  It’s used in a few classes here at UofT, and I know people who’ve had to purchase ($35+) and use them.

Click here to visit the i>Clicker website

The Limits of the i>Clicker

The amount of data that students can provide through the i>Clicker is pretty limited.  Here’s a photo of a the device:

The iClicker.

Ta da.

Students have a maximum of 5 choices that they can make while being polled.  Instructors are restricted to multiple-choice questions.

Hm.  Can’t we do any better?

Turning Smartphones into an i>Clicking Device

Wifi-enabled “smartphones” are becoming part of everyday life.  It seems like I can’t walk half a block without seeing somebody whip out their iPhone and do something really freakin’ cool with it:

So it’s not really a far fetched idea to imagine that, some day, every student will possess one of these things.

Certainly, something like the iPhone could act as a multiple choice interface.  But is there a way of turning some of that cool touch/gesture/accelerometer stuff into useful polling feedback for students and instructors?

Some Ideas

  1. Instructor puts a graphic up on the board, and asks the students “what’s wrong with this picture?”.  Students look at the picture on their SmartPhone, and use their finger to indicate the portion of the picture that they’re interested in.  After a few seconds, the instructor displays the results – which is a semi-transparent overlay on the image, showing all of the areas that students indicated.  Areas that are of interest to more students are emphasized.I can see this being useful for code reading classes.  The instructor splats a piece of code up on the screen, and asks the students to indicate where the bug is.
  2. Students were asked to mock-up a paper prototype for an interface that they are designing.  The instructor asks all of the students to take a picture of their paper prototype, and submit it on their SmartPhone.  The instructor is then able to put all of the photos up on the screen for discussion.  This could nicely tie in with idea #1.
  3. Students are polled to see how many years they have been programming for.  Students simply type in the number of years, and submit it.  While the i>Clicker restricts the answer to such a question to 5 ranges, the SmartPhone submits the actual answer.  Once collected, the submissions could be displayed on a histogram to give students an accurate impression of the level of experience in the classroom.

Any other ideas?

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3 thoughts on “Limits of the i>Clicker

  1. Dave

    It is already available, I saw it at a conference. I think the company was Turnerpoint or Turningpoint or something like that.

    Also, most companies also don’t limit to 5 answer choices.

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