Who are you and where do you teach?
Alice Luby, Lecturer in Accounting, College of Business, Dublin Institute of Technology, Aungier Street, Dublin 2. I am a lecturer in Accounting in the Dublin Institute of Technology. The majority my timetabled hours are lecturing in accounting to first year undergraduate students in the College of Business. I enjoy using technology in education to improve the student learning experience. I also have an interest in assisting students who are registered with the disability service to ensure that they have a variety of tools and approaches to facilitate their learning and build their confidence.
What technology do you use for teaching and learning?
I use a range of tools to facilitate the learning process, including clickers, Socrative, Articulate (engage, quiz and storyboard) along with other more conventional approaches. However, the technology that appears most favoured by students is the Clicker (Personal Response System). I use Turning Technologies ResponseCard NXT which allows alphanumeric text input facilitating numeric questions which along with the standard multiple choice questions are beneficial in teaching accounting.
What do you feel are the advantages of using this technology?
Students need to engage practically with accounting content to enable them to successfully work through the concepts presented during a lecture. Clickers are an ideal way of encouraging students to be active and at the same time allow the lecturer to judge if the material is understood adequately before progressing to more difficult concepts. This active learning approach encourages students to ‘think’ and ‘do’ during a lecture and converts them from the passive observer to an active participant.
How do you use this technology with students?
I use clickers in approximately 50% of lectures. I use them when presenting new topics and as a practical way of guiding students through examination style questions. For each new topic presented I build in appropriate clicker questions distributed throughout the standard PowerPoint presentation. At the start of a lecture that will use clickers, the clickers will be distributed to the students while the USB dongle is being connected to the laptop and the PowerPoint presentation is opened. The clickers allow for a class to register so their name is captured – while this is very useful I feel that too much of the lecture is taken up with registering or finding their own specific clicker that I use them anonymously.
After a couple of slides the students are presented with one or more clicker questions which have been generated prior to the class using the turning technology ribbon interface. The slide shows the number of students who have responded and after a suitable period the graphic showing what answers were selected and the percentage correct is displayed. Some lectures may commence with clickers questions to recap on core or prerequisite knowledge to ensure that students are equipped to deal with the lecture planned.
When clickers are used during the lecture they provide the student with an early opportunity to gauge their understanding and the lecturer has immediate awareness of what concepts the students have grasped and what areas they are struggling with.
I also use clickers to guide students through exam questions. When used in this way the main motive is for the lecturer to judge how the students can cope with exam standard questions but it can be problematic as students will need to work at different paces.
What do you think are the main benefits and the main drawbacks to using this technology?
An end of year quality survey provided me some unsolicited comments from students supporting the use of clickers indicating that they facilitated learning ‘Clickers allow students to understand each topic easier’ and improved class interactions ‘clickers were a good way to get the class to interact’ and simply made the class more enjoyable ‘the clickers were fun’. These views appear consistent with Hutchins (2001) who reported that students had heightened satisfaction, and more fulfilling experiences when technology was used in their courses among other factors.
The graphic below indicates some of the comments provided on a student survey on the use of clickers in the accounting module.
In addition informal feedback was provided by the learning support officer stating that a student indicated that the only lecture they could stay concentrating on and learn in was the accounting lecture where they used the clickers.
The figure below provides a brief evaluation of clickers from a lecturers perspective.
Attendance and engagement has improved significantly since I introduced the clickers. I also found that students are less likely to feel they are ‘the only ones who don’t get it’. Prior to using clickers, students tended to disengage because they felt they couldn’t grasp the subject and their confidence plummeted with them feeling they were the only ones struggling. The use of clickers allows them to see between 10 and 25% of their peers are also making mistakes they are no longer isolated.
What advice would you have for someone looking to use this technology with students?
From a pedagogy perspective I would advise lecturers not to overuse clickers and get caught up in the technology. The first year I used the numeric input clickers I tried to make them work in every lecture to justify the financial commitment along with my time. I found that students did not appear to perform as well in the end of term examination. This was because the clickers indicated that they knew the basic knowledge in class and supported them working through exam questions during lectures so they felt they knew it all and didn’t do enough self-directed study. After the first year I found a better balance in the use of clickers and adopted much of the initial approach and am now happy with both student engagement and the examination results.
From a practical perspective having to carry 65 clickers plus laptop is cumbersome, it made a big difference which I asked to be timetabled in rooms on the same floor avoiding the need to navigate five crowded floors to swap rooms every hour. I also found it useful to bring a supply of batteries and a screwdriver to those lectures where I had just enough clickers. In addition, it is wise to accept that a number of clickers will break or disappear over the years.