“Successful Clicker Implementation” webinar

I “attended” the recent webinar entitled “Strategies for Successful Clicker Implementation and Growth” given by Cindy Albert and Matt Evans from University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire. Hosted by Campus Technology magazine, the webinar provided a case study for implementing clickers across a campus. (It was sponsored by iClickers, and it felt, at times, that it devolved into a commercial for that product. Most of the time it was fine though.)

I thought the content of the webinar (apart from the fact that it was a commercial for iClicker) was, overall, very good. The presenters gave clear and actionable tips that were relevant for any campus to consider.

Here were my main takeaways from a staff/admin perspective (farther down I talk about pedagogical implications):

  1. Training: Peer training for faculty development on technology works best, because it gets more buy-in from faculty. Not surprisingly, faculty tend to trust other faculty more than they trust learning technologies staff, because they are on the “front lines” together. Cindy Albert, who is the instructional tech staff member  in this case, provided just-in-time support and yearly “nuts and bolts” training for faculty on clickers. However, Matt Evans, who is a  faculty member in the Physics department, was another resource for faculty with questions. He provided training for faculty on clicker-integrated pedagogy, again with the hope that a faculty to faculty relationship would encourage more buy-in. It was suggested that faculty often went to him, outside of formal trainings, to understand how he uses it, rather than going to the instructional tech staff. In our LT department, we should continue to develop relationships with faculty who have success with certain technologies with the hope that they can become what the presenters called “collegial consultants” for other faculty. In addition, we should develop a series of trainings as the presenters did, with a “nuts and bolts” training and a more advanced “clicker pedagogy” training.
  2. Standardization It is important to standardize clicker use across campus (we have already done this with Turning Point). At one point, UW-Eau-Claire had multiple clicker platforms running at once on campus, giving rise to the horrible situation where students had to purchase multiple clickers from the bookstore for different classes.
  3. Ease of learning and use Ease of use is paramount. Faculty want to be able to quickly learn and implement tech in their class. Learning the ins and outs of a complicated technology is not going to happen, and it will simply be ignored by faculty.
  4. Here are a few other short notes I wrote that are relevant to the staff/admin perspective:

Strategies for engaging faculty to use it:

  • Have peers (i.e., other faculty) talk about it
  • Have data from others’ uses of clickers, from other faculty
  • Make sure it works everywhere, every time (or at least be as close to perfect as possible)
  • Have a demo unit available and use it in meetings or faculty retreats to show the clickers in action
  • Use the clickers (as they do in UW Eau-Claire) for admin purposes, such as anonymous voting at committee/council meetings

Here are my main takeaways from an instructor/faculty member perspective:

  1. Student Engagement: Clickers provide a medium for engagement among students, faculty and the course content. What’s more, it isn’t a simple two way communication tool that makes student participation easier with shiny electronic toys. Rather, the kinds of engagement initiated by clickers is complex and multidirectional. Some of the examples given by Matt Evans showed that even strategically “poorly worded” questions could be effective for engagement by riling up students and having them explain why its a poorly worded question. In a similar vein, any given question can generate discussion not just about its answer, but about related content. Evans gave the example of a chemistry question: the students must identify which of the four molecules on the screen was ethanol. Rather than simply forcing rote memorization of one molecule’s shape, the question could be used to discuss all four molecules. In other words, and this is true for all technologies, it isn’t a simple instrument; it is a complex material/social construct that opens up a space of affordances and constraints. In this case, the questions posed by the instructor and the clickers in the students’ hands open up space for communication, discussion, debate and, ultimately, learning.
  2. Okay, so the first point above kind of talked about a lot. So, that was the main takeaway. If you watch the webinar, you’ll find that he gives lots of great examples for how to use clickers in the classroom.