It’s the day before an exam in Calculus 2, and Clinical Assistant Professor Jennifer Blue is conducting a review. On screen, Blue displays a problem and a question: Is this an improper integral?
Yes or no,” she says. “A or B. Use your i-Clickers; 15 seconds.” Almost immediately, the students’ responses are depicted in two bar graphs on the screen. Of the 107 present, 104 or 97 percent have chosen B, the correct answer.
Throughout the 50-minute class, Blue displays 20 questions, and students respond via i-Clickers. Each question and answer is an opportunity to gauge students’ mastery of the material and, if necessary, to review key concepts.
This instant assessment is just one of the benefits of i-Clicker, a classroom response device that’s designed to provide a more engaging, interactive lecture setting. The professor asks a question, and each student responds by pressing a button on his or her i-Clicker, a handheld device that’s about the size of a small television remote.
The system uses a two-way radio frequency. Responses are transmitted from the i-Clickers to a receiver, which attaches to the professor’s laptop or personal computer via USB port. The receiver registers students’ responses within .01 seconds of transmission and makes the data available to the professor immediately.
“I think it allows the professor and students to judge if we’re getting the material, and it lets me know what I need to study,” said JP Trasatti, a freshman in Blue’s Calculus 2 class.
His classmate, Selena Willoughby, concurs. “It’s much more interesting than just sitting through a lecture,” she said. “It keeps you focused and let’s you see where you’re going wrong.”
The “clear winner” Classroom response devices are not new to Rensselaer. For several years, select professors have experimented with the devices, seeking ways to incorporate them into lectures. Among the stumbling blocks were the number of devices on the market and the lack of standardization. Rensselaer tackled those challenges by reviewing the options available and selecting several favorites for a pilot program in spring 2007. “That went very well, and i-Clicker was the clear winner,” said Bruce Laplante, associate director of the Anderson Center for Innovation in Undergraduate Education (CIUE). “The simplicity of it was very compelling. There’s no proprietary software, and professors can see students’ responses in real time. Plus, the amount of data that it gathers is impressive.”
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