Applications of Clickers

There can be many uses of clickers for both educational and non-educational purposes as detailed below.

Educational uses

Clickers are designed to promote student participation in a classroom or a lecture theater. Its uses in the classroom would include:

To instantly assess students' understanding of an important concept for a large number of students

To instantly collect large number of students' views on a discussion topic

Since clickers are designed to capture responses from a large number of students simultaneously, it is most suitable for these purposes. Students using their own personalized clickers can respond to multiple-choices questions posted by teachers at the press of a button.

Clickers have been used in LTA to collect responses from over 400 students simultaneously. To accommodate such a large number of students, additional receivers were installed. To prevent students from overloading one receiver, they were asked to point their clickers to a pre-assigned receiver nearest to them.

There are two modes of operations when using clickers to collect data. One allows the instructors to capture the students' ID and the other does not. The latter called "anonymous mode" is best for collecting students' views on some controversial or sensitive topics.

To encourage students' participation in a classroom discussion

Because clickers allow students to participate in class "privately", even students who are shy will be willing to participate. The system can thus be used to "break the ice" in a classroom discussion. For example, an instructor can first post a controversial question for discussion. After getting students to respond using clickers, a whole-class discussion can follow.

To promote "peer instruction" in a classroom setting

Clickers also have the potential to encourage peer interaction in class. One way to do this is to allow students to respond to a question twice. They are first asked to work on their own to find an answer to the question. After making their first response, thus committing them to an answer, they are asked to convince their neighbors what the right answer should be. In the process, students will argue and defend their positions, thus testing their true understanding of the concepts involved in the question. They are then asked to respond to the question again. Very often, the correct answer will prevail in the second round. Prof Eric Mazur of the Harvard University has written a book on this topic, entitled "Peer instruction", which is available from the HKUST library.

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Non-educational uses

Clickers can also be used for electioneering or voting with immediate results and instant polling or surveying of opinions or preferences.

To conduct a training with immediate feedback and reinforcement

In training workshops, very often it is useful to collect some instant feedback from the learners. It could be about the effectiveness of the workshop in general, or a particular difficult concept. It can also be used to reinforce learning by asking learners to complete some tasks using concepts they have just learned in the workshop.

To convene a meeting to elect officers and want the results immediately

This is most useful for student organizations when they conduct their AGM or EGM to elect office bearers or vote on a motion.

To demonstrate a new product and want an on-the-spot measure of its impact

Clickers can also be used by sales and marketing teams to collect instant feedback from potential clients in a product presentation session.

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