I decided to select an individual whose creation is prominently used at my institution and by myself in the classroom. It was my first real introduction to a form of ed-tech post-secondary classroom (besides using the internet for research and MS PowerPoint). I am speaking about Timothy Stelzer, a physics professor at the University of Illinois, and one of the four co-creators of the iclicker. Stelzer’s research revolves around using technology to improve student learning. Stelzer and his team have created various devices for in-class student interaction; however, the iclicker is the most famous of these tools. Stelzer wanted to develop a better method to keep the students in class engaged and saw an opportunity to create a wireless remote device to connect the classroom. He based the idea on witnessing students connect their Texas Instruments calculators in class to discuss course material.
The concept of iclickers comes from the idea of Concept Testing, a method of conceptual questions posed to students, where they are allowed to discuss possible answers with peers, which was first used at Harvard University (iClicker, n.d.).
In an interview with the University of Illinois newspaper, Stelzer stated that “we had traditional lectures with no interaction whatsoever and wanted to break them up with questions, but we didn’t have iClickers” (Jammu, 2019).
The iclicker was designed to engage students in more extensive, face-to-face lectures as a classroom response tool. Here, the instructor could quiz students, test their understanding of the material in realtime, and, based on the students’ input, ultimately alter the lecture’s direction or the entire course in general. I find this ability to be a very influential game-changer in the view of educational technology, by being able to apply learning analytics in the classroom, based on the responses or feedback you receive. According to an article in the Loyola University newspaper, “clickers have been in use in education for at least 15 years now, and there is a lot of research and data out there on how they increase learning in the classroom” (Callahan, 2016). I saw a difference in the grades and student comprehension when I used iclickers, compared to when I didn’t use them.
Looking back on the advent of the iclicker and other response devices for students, it seems to stem from the Peer Instruction pedagogy. The device, like other teaching innovations, should be disruptive in a class lecture, allowing for periods of discussions among students and force instructors to alter their courses in realtime (Kortemeyer, 2016). The hope with this disruption is to focus on critical learning and thinking capabilities in the student. Stelzer described his feelings on how classroom response systems (iclicker) can facilitate pedagogies that help teachers meet that challenge (Bruff, 2008).
Textbook publisher MacMillan Learning, in 2005, purchased the iclicker to add to its growing portfolio of educational tools. The publisher has gone on to create advancements in the device, including the elimination of the need to use the hardware itself and moving towards the cloud-based application that can be accessed on laptops, tablets and mobile phones; three pieces of technology most students have access to while learning (Macmillan Learning, 2020). Looking back at the device he co-created, Stelzer feels it still is the best tool for the job.” It’s like any tool; it can be used to enhance an experience or destroy an experience” (Schaefer, 2016). With most post-secondary instruction moving online due to COVID-19, the iclicker’s usefulness is still present and continues to grow across various institutions and courses outside of the STEM atmosphere.
Image courtesy of The Bottom Line
Bruff, D. (2008, November 16). Clicker Conference: Tim Stelzer Keynote – Agile Learning [Blog]. Agile Learning. https://derekbruff.org/?p=35
Callaghan, A. (2016, February 2). The rise of iclickers in the classroom. The Maroon. https://loyolamaroon.com/10007324/news/the-rise-of-iclickers-in-the-classroom/
Jammu, R. (2019, September 24). iClicker has revolutionized classes. The Daily Illini. https://dailyillini.com/features/2019/09/24/iclicker-revolutionized-classes/
Kortemeyer, G. The Psychometric Properties of Classroom Response System Data: A Case Study. J Sci Educ Technol 25, 561–574 (2016). https://doi-org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/10.1007/s10956-016-9613-9
Macmillan Learning’s iClicker Focus Helps Students Improve Performance in Class. (n.d) Macmillan Learning Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/macmillan-learnings-iclicker-focus-helps-students-improve-performance-in-class-301008986.html
Our Company History. (n.d.). IClicker. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.iclicker.com/company/
Schaefer, M. (2016, February 8). The i>clicker: A decade later. The Daily Illini. https://dailyillini.com/features/2016/02/07/the-iclicker-a-decade-later/