Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The clicker commandment I always violate

I generally agree with the Clicker Commandments, those hard-and-fast rules for success when using clickers (student response systems).  But sometimes, the temptation to break this one is irresistible:

Thou shalt not use more than a few clicker questions per class session.

Like any good commandment, this one often must be followed if we are to stay on the path of righteousness.  But, like any good commandment, there are in fact times when it's best to break the rules.

A good example of my straying from this clicker commandment was previously discussed in the article  Practicing . . . some more in my blog Lion Tamers Guide to Teaching.  The point of that article was the need to practice basic facts frequently in order to become deeply familiar with them.  And I used the example of how I use clickers to provide rapid reviews of basic human anatomy structures in my Anatomy & Physiology course.

I set these up like a game show.  Without the fabulous prizes. Each item has a timer animation and the buzzer sounds after 10 seconds, and reveals the correct identification.  So polling is open for only ten seconds and students who have studied their anatomy are forced to recall it quickly . . . or get "buzzed."  Hmm, maybe a GONG would be more appropriate, eh?  Nah . . . do any of my students have a clue as to what the Gong Show was?!

This works great for facts that need to be memorized . . . if you have the time in class to practice with your students.  The class I use this in is my A&P Supplement course, which is specifically for reviewing and advising.  It's not the "main content" course, but an optional supplement students can take to get extra help in what is a rigorous, fact-filled course.

In my regular courses, I do stick with the notion that a few clicker questions scattered here and there is the best approach.  But for those "quick review" sessions, nothing beats the occasional rule-breaking, fast-paced "practice round" of important facts.