Clickers Rule!

from Technology & Learning

Rapid responders are the new classroom essential.

Walk the exhibit hall of any education technology conference today and you're sure to see more rapid response systems than you can count.

Promethean's Activote

Yes, "clickers" have caught fire in the education space as tools that truly enable interactive, personalized learning in both classroom and professional development settings.

Clickers are individual handheld transmitters that collect learner input and pair with a host software system that electronically collects and tabulates that data for instant display on a computer monitor. For large group viewing, an LCD projector can be hooked up to the computer.

The three basic categories of clickers are Wi-Fi wireless, radio frequency, and infrared (see sidebar "Clicker Basics," this page), with operating systems and feature options varying.

Educators tout clickers for their ability to engage whole classes of students via ongoing question and answer activities, collect data in real time to assess the effectiveness of instruction, facilitate self-paced testing, collect large amounts of data on student performance, and to generate reports in a range of viewing options.

Susan Bush is assistant editor of T&L.

Susan McLester is editor in chief of T&L.

Clicker Basics

IR—infrared systems require an unobstructed line of sight bet ween transmitter and receiver. The more receivers in use, the more potential for signal interference. Be sure to research the classroom infrastructure before purchase, as integrating IR hardware might face challenges. Receiver wiring is simpler in small rooms with existing conduit runs available.

RF—radio frequency systems are not dependent on line-of-sight transmission, and single receivers may now work with more than 500 transmitters. Infrastructure issues are normally not major, and portable receiver units may be used. Be sure to check out nearby rooms and continue to monitor them for possible mutual frequency interference.

Wi-Fi—wireless systems can include everything from student PDAs to laptops to tablets, with individual Web browsers interacting with the host hardware. Management software may reside on the instructor's computer or a network server. Wi-Fi is a good choice if you're looking for interoperability with Web-enabled cell phones down the line.

10 Clicker Options

The Q2 is Qwizdom's newest remote and uses revolutionary E-ink display technology and can be customized to a school's mascot or colors. Like the Q4, the Q2 uses standards-based radio-frequency communication. It features seven different answer choices: multiple choice, true/false, yes/no, numeric, multiple-mark multiple choice, rating scale, and sequencing. Students can input fractions, decimals, and negative numbers, and they receive instant right/wrong feedback on each device. Qwizdom provides a unique instructor remote that allows teachers to control the presentation, play/pause media, view graphs, call on students at random, and create on-the-fly questions from anywhere in the room. Q2 systems start at $950 and Q4 systems start at $1350.

Renaissance Learning New features of the AlphaSmart NEO 2 allow students to take Acclerated Reader quizzes right at their desks. NEO 2 costs a fraction of standard laptops, and its battery life will last up to 700 hours. Extra features include wireless printing, a large LCD screen, full-size keyboard, two-way communication, and instant on/off with built-in autosave. $219–$239 per unit.

Both the H-ITT IR and RF two-way remote units are fast. The RF system can record up to 1,000 responses in one second, and the IR system can record up to 100 responses in one second, and this rate can be increased by adding extra base units to the classroom. Publishers say the IR system is 10 times faster than conventional IR remotes and other IR audience response systems. Clickers come in fun neon colors: orange, yellow, and green. $795–$1,395 for K–12 class pack.

SMART Technologies
The Senteo interactive response system is fully integrated with SMART's Notebook collaborative learning software, linking teachers to numerous education resources. Teachers can incorporate any of 6,000 learning objects into their quizzes, or use them to animate corresponding lesson plans created with Notebook. $1,599–$1,999.

CPS IR combines durable hardware with the powerful CPS software to create an interactive learning environment in any classroom. The CPS RF offers rich feedback, and teachers can ask multiple choice and numeric questions in classes of up to 1,000 students. Each response pad has a three-line LCD screen that allows students to view the questions and the answers they have entered. The symbol button makes it easy to answer higher-level math and science questions. $1,095–$3,745.

The new Activexpression learner response system allows students to express themselves through words, phrases, symbols, and numbers—and instantly share with the entire class. The Activote is a wireless, handheld voting device designed to work with the company's Activboard. Promethean is the only company that produces interactive whiteboards with a built-in receiver for the student response system. A set of 32 Activotes is $1,895.00; pricing for Activexpression will be available in December.

Turning Technologies
The new TurningPoint 2008 is sophisticated in both capabilities and use. The new ResponseCard XR keypad features a multi-line LCD display, two-way response verification and alphanumeric entry. A unique feature is the inclusion of educational standards from academic services company Academic Benchmarks, enabling K-12 schools to poll students on key educational metrics for all U.S. states and certain other countries. It also includes plug-and-play hardware setup. $695–$4,183.

The Indigo Learning System is a powerful combination of student response system and handheld computer. Key features include 320x40 grayscale display, QWERTY alphanumeric keyboard, MP3 Audio capability, Wi-Fi, a 10-hour rechargeable battery, and 10,000 built-in assessment items aligned to state standards. $2,695–$4,295.

Interwrite Learning
The Interwrite Cricket is the newest Interwrite assessment tool. It is a powerful yet simple to use and affordable student response system that can be used in the smallest of classrooms or lecture halls with 2,000 students. It uses robust RF technology with a friendly look and feel. Cricket was designed to simplify assessment for both teacher and students. It provides a PowerPoint plug-in and offers a mode allowing any material that you display on your computer to become a Cricket compatible question. $1,129–$1,699.

Wireless eSystems, Inc.
The iRespond-Lite is a low-cost, radio frequency remote featuring Teacher's Dashboard software for real-time feedback and results. It has a two-line, eight-character display. The iRespond-Touch includes all features of the Lite, and a touch-screen graphics-capable display. A new Web-based version, called iRespond AnyPlace, offers the same powerful assessm ent tools as the other iRespond products, without the need for remotes. $1,223–$4,225.