Wednesday, May 1, 2013

SMART Response “Clickers”: Engaging and Expensive

Two years ago, through a local grant, my department was given the money to buy the “SMART Response PE Interactive Response System.”

These “clickers” allow students to respond to questions designed with the Smart Notebook software.  Students can input responses from 1-9, A-J, yes/no, and true/false.  When all students are done with the assessment, a quick click on the teacher computer reveals individual student scores and class percentages.

How I used them:
  • Formative assessments for bellwork.  As students walked in, they would grab a clicker, sign in, and take the printed quizzes on their desks.  The quizzes would review the material from the prior class, and as students received immediate feedback on their performance, they were able to self-assess on their mastery of the material.  This activity aided students in setting goals and gave me feedback. I did not include these "quizzes" in student grades.
  • Formative assessments as exit activities.  I would use these to help students choose appropriate homework assignments and to aid in planning specific activities for the next class.
  • Fun surveys in class.  To review classroom material, such as the imperfect, I would design surveys to ask student opinions about themselves.  We would go through each slide together as a class, then when we were done, we would review the percentages of class responses and have great discussions in the target language. I would often have students use these surveys to write their own for interactive activities the next class, or even as the building blocks for essays.   

What went well:
  • Engagement. Students were very engaged with the activities I designed; they were great for “bellwork,” exit activities, and for immediate engagement of students in the classroom.
  • Data.  The formative assessment data was student-specific, and the software kept a record of prior assessments, so I was able to compare performance across multiple assessments.  It also helped me to find “holes” in my teaching - if all students struggled with certain concepts, I was able to reinforce these ideas in future lessons.
  • Use of target language.  In the world language classroom, these clickers really aided in the use of the target language.  We had so much fun reviewing student responses and class trends.

What I disliked:
  • The cost. Without a grant, I am not sure we would have purchased these devices.  
  • Software boot-up and install.  In order to use these devices, I had to install the software, which can be difficult in a public school with often limited aid from the computer technicians. To use the individual sign-ins, I needed to create a spreadsheet with student names and logins and then add it to the software.  This was at times frustrating, especially with student turnover.

Food for thought:
  • Is the cost of this technology worth the immediate feedback and student engagement?
  • Is there a way to get the same information on student performance using student cell phones?

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