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When Cllickers beat low tech

June 28, 2011

Heather Whitney recently wrote an article for ProfHacker, Low-tech alternatives to clickers, in which she outlines three strategies that don’t require technology (I particularly like the idea of using cards with numbers, letters or colors). Whitney got major points from me when she started by saying that the teaching strategy – the end of getting student input – is more important than the means. She got even more points for citing books by Derek Bruff and Eric Mazur. I’m all for low tech strategies, and I’m pleased that ProfHacker provided these.

That being said, while I was reading the article it struck me that polling is a great example of big benefits for using technology. With many teaching/learning strategies, the advantages of incorporating technology are subtle and debatable. But the comparison of manual polling to electronic polling (via clicker or website) seems relatively clear-cut to me. The technology-based option is a strong candidate if you must have one or more of the following:

  1. Responses kept anonymous
  2. Answers evaluated quickly and accurately
  3. Results displayed right away
  4. Detailed records kept
There’s no question that the cost and support required for clickers can be deal-breakers, but if you can surmount those obstacles there are huge advantages for technology-based polling.
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