A New Student Response System

As Jacques Steinberg of The NY Times reports, the days of slipping into a college classroom a few minutes late only to use the lecture time to attend to just about anything else, except the lecture itself, may soon be in the past.  As Steinberg explains, professors across the country have found a way to utilize technology to ensure student participation during class time.

University students may now find that, along with their class syllabus, they’ve been provided a  “clicker” or student response system, a hand-held device that allows students to provide feedback on a particular lesson’s difficulty and participate in quizzes, surveys, and other classroom activities.  The clicker also allows professors to track attendance and student participation.

According to USA Today, other universities have gone even further.  Students attending Texas’s Abilene Christian University receive an iPod touch or iPhone; select freshman attending Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland received Kindles instead of textbooks.  Many participating professors see the introduction of such technologies as a “new platform for learning.”

“A lot of this is us catching up with the students and what they’re bringing to us,” says Michael Reuter, director of technology operations at Central Michigan.

These new devices offer a degree of connectedness that is often lacking in many university classrooms.  Most university students are digital natives, and these new devices offer the best of both worlds: a new, technologically relevant way for students to participate in a class and a way for professors to engage even a large number of students. More importantly, the classroom clickers finally allow university professors to determine, in real time, which lessons are effective and which may need more explanation.  Rather than relying on the obligatory head-nods or blank stares, professors may now rely on quantifiable information and actionable data.

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