Sunday, February 10, 2013

Using clickers in the math classroom

Last semester my school purchased a few sets of classroom clickers.  I wrote a proposal for a classroom set with colleague, and we now share a spanking new set of Turning Technologies clickers.

I'm going to be honest--I really don't have much experience with other clickers (not even SMART clickers), but I will say this--I have been incredibly pleased with these clickers.  The initial setup is just a matter of copying your rosters into the software; you then assign a clicker to number to each student; and voila, you're ready to go.  My students are now in the habit of just picking up their clicker as they come in to class, just like they pick up a calculator.  There is no on/off button on these clickers, and students don't have to log-in, so I lose essentially zero instructional time.

Also...these clickers aren't just programmed for multiple choice responses.  You can have students enter short answer and numeric responses, too.  Love.  This.

So, that's my plug for Turning Technologies.  Now, a few things I've used these marvelous clickers for:

Are you with me?
Since there's no set-up/login time, I can say, "Ok guys, click A if you're with me, B if you're not," and the responses instantaneously come up on my computer.  For a question like this, I don't show the percentage of students answering A or B, but it's a great way for them to anonymously tell me, "Hey, I'm not quite following you yet...could we do one more example?"  Or, conversely, "We're bored to death, Mrs. Peterson, please pick up the pace."

Warm Ups
This is was my original intent for the clickers, and I love it.  I usually start with a warm up or review question, and I have students poll in their responses.  Students are engaged because they want to see if they got the question right, and if they did get it right, how many others did, too.  For these questions, I usually display the bar graph that shows the distribution of responses.  I can say, "Look!  80% of you said the conic was a hyperbola, and you're right!  So-and-so can you tell us how you came to that conclusion?"

Daily Practice--Differentiating Instruction
After instructional time, I can give the kids a set of problems to work on.  For example, last week I gave them eight questions on condensing and simplifying logarithms.  Once they polled in their answers, I gave them an assignment from the book (ah!), but they only had to work a certain number of problems based on how many they originally answered correctly.  Since the clickers are numbered 1-35, I could tell the students how many they missed, without revealing to the others who missed what.  I just said, "These are the clickers that didn't miss any, and, hence, only have to work six problems from the book:.... " (And, boy, you could hear a pin drop in the classroom as everyone was waiting to hear his/her clicker number called.)  "These are the clickers that only missed 1; you only have to work 8 problems," etc.  Once the kids started to finish up the assignment, I asked them to go help their peers.  They seemed more willing to do this than ever before.  Perhaps because they have the confidence of "I didn't miss any!  I can explain this stuff."?

Assessment Time--My Favorite
There are two types of polling for my clickers--"Anywhere Polling" and "Self-Paced Polling."  Anywhere polling is what I use for warm ups, when I mostly just want to see how my class is doing as a whole.  Self-paced polling, on the other hand, allows you to pre-enter keys so that you can get a feel for how each student is doing individually.  This is the mode I use for daily practice and assessments (i.e., when I want to take a grade).  One of the great things about this mode is that you can make multiple versions.  I typically don't bother with this when we're just doing daily practice, but when the kids are testing, you can bet I have more than one version out there.  The clickers just ask which version of the test you're taking, and then you're good to go.  For my sweet kids, I walk around the room after they've started testing and I personally enter which version they have into each of their clickers (I don't even put it on the test anywhere, I just mark the versions in sneaky ways that only I am privy to).  So, the multiple-version thing is pretty awesome.

Another great thing about this is that I can allow students to correct their mistakes.  For example, I've allowed them to poll in their answers, and then come to my desk before submitting the test.  I then marked the questions they got wrong and they were able to change their answers in the clickers.  They corrected their own errors.

Of course, the best part of all of this is that I can spend much less time on grading and more time planning successful lessons.

If you have other ideas for clickers, I'd love to hear them in the comments, or you can contact me in the tab on the top there.  The more uses I can find for these, the better!

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