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from Tech&Learning

Student response systems get smarter

You've heard the buzz: student response systems are one of the fastest growing technologies to secure popular classroom demand. Thanks to their ability to capture solid formative assessment data, SRSs are the hottest ticket since the doc cam boom. New SRS models come with features that expand their capabilities far beyond simple yes/no questions and instant feedback. Check out the latest products on the market below.

Check the Specs

A student response system needs a receiver connected to a computer. The two basic types of receivers are Radio Frequency (RF) and Infrared (IR). The IR receivers are similar to television remote controls; a clear line of sight between the clicker and the receiver is needed for the IR signal. RF systems, however, do not need line of sight, and so are better suited for a large room.

Each student uses a "personal response unit"—a remote control clicker‚ to transmit his or her responses to the receiver. Different systems use clickers of differing complexity.

Each system includes software, usually installed on the controlling computer. This software manages the stream of incoming data from the clickers. Software features can include immediate graphing of responses, spreadsheets consisting of response data, integration with presentation software such as PowerPoint or Keynote for instantaneous display of results in table or graph formats, as well as integration with classroom management systems such as BlackBoard or Moodle.



This RF system from Renaissance Learning includes large responder screens that display both questions and answers, and the ability to create "on-the-fly" quizzes, as well as to generate formal assessments using either your content, or over 8,000 ready-to-use items for math, reading, language arts, science, and social studies. Kay Mills, a math teacher in Ft. Worth, TX, likes the variety of response types (numeric, true/false, multiple choice) and features such as the calculator, and its ability to store homework; she would like to see report options or more ways to modify the reports. (2Know! Classroom Response System Package for 24 units, $2,199; 32 units, $2,831)


Their "Classroom Performance System" is available in either RF or IR versions; it generates detailed reports about how each student performs in class and contains an integrated gradebook; CPS users also have access to thousands of teacher-created lessons with graphics, display options, and other features to enhance instruction. Norma Scherer, Technology Staff Developer in Lynbrook, NY, likes the way individualized study sheets can be printed from the lesson—a real bonus, allowing the student to review missed questions and to see the correct answers while fresh in their minds. (32 pad IR $1995.00; 32 pad RF $2995.00)


The TurningPoint ResponseCard XR system has a multiline LCD display and alphanumeric entry. The system includes TurningPoint 2008 interactive PowerPoint software and QuestionPoint, a question bank of 30,000 assessment items aligned to state standards. Doni Beaupre, science teacher (Campbell County, KY), uses the system to administer pre-assessment tests to see what students have learned before she begins a unit of study. (24 Seat XR System $1,475; 32 Seat XR System $1,835)

Active Expression

The Activeexpression clicker can send complete sentences and numerical responses. It provides support for assessments such as multiple choice, true/false, yes/no, multiple response, put in order, gap fill words, and Likert scales. Heather Temske, Roswell, GA, likes the text and numeric entry feature, "a huge help in keeping students engaged and seeing where they are at a moment's notice." She would like to see it be fully integrated with the ACTIVstudio software, expected in January 2009. (Activexpression 32 handset $2,695; 25 handset $2,375—Academic Price )


Their "Beyond Question" interactive SRS includes grading, the ability to answer multiple choice, true-false, yesno and survey style questions, and an immediate graphing of results. Dr. Marilyn Rhea, director of Northwest Missouri State University's PRISM Project says, "the added feature of saving the student responses made it much easier for our teachers to accurately track student progress." She would like to see the system add the "capability for students to create short answers and submit them." (Beyond Question 20 base set $995 + $30 s/h; 30 standard set $1,295 + $40 s/h)


This RF system's software does not need to be installed; it is preloaded onto a flash drive that plugs directly into the receiver. It includes an "On the Fly" text box to easily add questions, as well as a gradebook that can be easily imported into other applications such as Excel, Blackboard, and Moodle. Sharon Meyer, Barnesville Elementary in Barnesville, OH, says she loves "that we can collect data with programs we already own, with any presentations we already have, or without another program running at all." (32 remote system for $1,500; 50 remote system for $2,500)


The three RF systems offered (UltraLite, Lite, and Touch) all integrate with PowerPoint, include standards-based reporting, and offer instant grading. LaMarr Broughton, a math teacher in Tulsa, OK, says the iRespond system motivates his class by giving them immediate feedback and a chance to improve on the next question. He would like to see more games developed for the system, and additional test banks available. (Ultralite 16 user $745, 24 user $905; Lite 16 user $1,223, 24 user $1,665; Touch 16 user $2,795, 24 user $3,704)


The Senteo comes with a gradebook to record each student's results on assignments; teachers can tag students with keywords that indicate attributes such as gender and language spoken. Senteo integrates directly with SMART Board interactive whiteboard's Notebook software so teachers can easily add Senteo quizzes to their Notebook lessons. Tiffany Markley, technology support specialist in Madison, GA, is impressed with its "ability to take a teacher's existing material and turn it into an interactive activity in minutes." (24 units, $1,599; 32 units, $1,999)


Qwizdom's RF remotes support multiple question types and displays instant feedback; the "help" feature allows students to privately ask for assistance. Advanced twoway radio frequency protocol will not interfere with Wi- Fi or Bluetooth networks. Adah Stock's (San Antonio, Texas) students love the immediate response; she sees a bar graph of how students did and quickly knows where re-teaching is needed. (Qwizdom Q4 16 users $1,350; 24 users $1,825; 32 users $2,295). Watch for information on the new Q7 Presenter Tablet in the November issue.