It’s just a tool

June 29, 2009

This past year I have conducted a research study using the student response system technology.  If you are unfamiliar, this is an easy to use technology that is basically like the ‘Poll the Audience’ life line on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” I have used this technology in the past a I really enjoy it.  It allows students to respond to questions in an anonymous fashion and also gives me feedback as to whether or not my students understood  concept that I was teaching.

This technology has really boomed and several major universities have dedicated to using the technology.  They have purchased the systems, installed them in the classrooms, and spent a large amount of money on the software, components, and training. This is great for those that enjoy to use the technology and use it well, however, it can be a source of pressure for those that do not wish to use this technology in their classroom.

When I presented my work at a couple of recent large conferences, I had many people praising me on my work and the design of my study.  I compared two of my own classrooms, one used the clicker system, the other did not.  I found no significant differences in course performance (exams and final grade) or student engagement (an admittedly poor questionnaire from a previous author).  These people were prasing me because I was taking the stance that it is the PEDAGOGY of the instructor, not the method of delivering it that might created differences in classroom.

The research that does suggest that using clickers increases course performance all have evidence that the pedagogy is somehow different from the comparison group.

So I feel vindicated in my stance and attitude toward the use of technology.  It is simply a tool.  However, it can be a tool that makes it easier or more quick to use the effective pedagogical techniques that have been hailed for years (immediate feedback, quick corrections of mistakes, active participation, etc).  I am currently trying to publish this work.

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