Using Technology To Engage Students

            Falling asleep in class, there’s the hooded sweatshirt pulled over the head, hide your eyes as you rest your head on your hand or the-I’m-just-going-to-hope-teacher-doesn’t-see-me approach, is something that just happens at times, despite actual effort or interest.

            However, teachers are wising up and using new ploys to catch and wake up students, ploys more effective than the if-you-sleep-or-daydream-I-will-catch-you ploy. Teachers, in attempts to keep students awake, paying attention and engaged in their classes, are now armed with technology.

            Professors and teachers are now giving their students small hand-held devices called “clickers” that resemble TV remotes to monitor their students’ attention spans and quiz them, according to an article in The New York Times.

            Each clicker has a series of numbered buttons on it, and every 15 minutes or so a professor will give short quizzes that correlate with the current lecture, requiring students to first be paying attention and second push one of the buttons to correctly answer the quiz question.

            Here’s how it works: John Jacobs Jr. is sitting in his 8 am Economics 101 class. Mr. Jacobs Jr. had a late night last night, staying up studying for other tests. Mr. Jacobs Jr. is growing increasingly more tired as Professor Dr. Preston Hulcuth is lecturing on supply and demand correlations and how they relate to the world of micro economics. Mr. Jacobs begins to nod off in the back row of class as Dr. Hulcuth periodically quizzes his students using the clickers. Dr. Hulcuth, stuck on supply and demand curves, announces a sudden quiz that will count toward each student’s grade.

            He asks, “True or false, generally speaking, price and demand are inversely related – meaning as one increases the other decreases and vice versa. Press the button labeled one for true and button two for false.” Then students who are awake and paying attention would press button number one, correctly answering the question as true. However, John Jacobs Jr., and other students who are not paying attention, will incorrectly answer the question or sleep through it, getting points off their final grades.

            Professors can also ask multiple choice questions with the clickers and take attendance. Students can push a button on their clickers to inform the professor that they are confused about something in the lecture or provide other information.

            Northwestern, Harvard, Ohio State and other universities have already implemented these clickers into classes, asking students to answer quiz questions and provide feedback every 15 minutes, keeping them paying attention and engaged in classes. Administrators also hope that these devices will keep students off their cell phones and other gadgets during classes.

            Early studies at Harvard and Ohio State suggested that using these devices or other gadgets (making iPads and BlackBerrys, etc into class-ready clickers) increases students’ learning of new material.

            Professors can then display students’ responses to questions and the feedback they give on overhead monitors at the front of classrooms.

            Some students feel that these products unnecessarily monitor students in a big-brother fashion; however, others enjoy the increased interactions with professors.