Learning a click away in Danville High School class

Learning a click away in Danville High School class

DANVILLE – Lately, some Danville High School students' favorite high-tech gadget isn't their cellphone, iPod or some other electronic device their teacher will confiscate if it's used in the classroom.

Their teacher even loves using this one as much as they do.

It's called a classroom response system, or "clicker" system. And business teacher Daniel Hile said this educational tool is changing the way he teaches and his students learn.

The wireless system includes computer software, a receiver that connects to Hile's computer, a projector and a tablet and stylus for the teacher and handheld response pads – which look like TV remote controls – for the students. It connects everyone in the class.

When Hile asks a multiple-choice or true/false question – either made in advance in a PowerPoint document or thought up spur of the moment and written on the tablet – students log in their answer anonymously. With the click of a button, everyone can see the entire class' response – instantaneously.

"It's immediate feedback," Hile said, so students know whether their answers are right, and teachers know which students need help and in what areas.

"The real key is the engagement," he continued. "If we're using the clickers, they're on their seat and ready to go."

Hile learned about the clickers from graduate school classmate and teacher Amos Lee, who uses them in his classroom at Jefferson Middle School in Champaign. Hile won a $3,000 Perkins grant through the Vermilion Vocational Education Delivery System to buy them, and introduced them in his business marketing and management classes this semester.

Hile uses the clickers to guide lectures and review previous material. He said it's great for prompting classroom discussion, which he illustrated during a lesson on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs on Thursday. Using his tablet, he introduced four of the five needs – physiological, security, social and esteem – and randomly called on students to define the terms. Then he threw out questions to see if they understood – and were paying attention.

"What level relates to the needs of the body?" Hile asked, as the projector image showed students logging in their answer, then another graphing the class' answers. "Almost all of you said D, physiological, and that is correct."

"What level best relates to the need to be accepted by others?" he continued. "The correct answer is C, social. Several people picked A. We're going to revisit this, so I want you all to think about the difference between esteem and social."

Hile also has used the system to take attendance, give quizzes and tests – which are graded automatically – and analyze that data by student, class, grade level, even by question. That allows Hile to adjust his instruction.

The system is easy to learn but wide-ranging in content. So, after 1½ months, he's still learning all of the features and classroom applications that are available. "I think the sky's the limit," he said.

Other teachers in the new GLOBAL House, to which Hile belongs, hope to have the opportunity to use the system.

"I like that you get immediate feedback," said French teacher Marcia Schofield, who sees using clickers for everything from word games to tests and quizzes. "You can gauge whether students are getting it or not."

Because she teaches juniors, English teacher Shauna Oakwood gives her students practice tests to help them prepare for their high-stakes standardized test in the spring. She tries to analyze the data in an Excel file.

"I want to have this data to see if there's improvement, but there's no time," she said. "With these clickers, I can have it immediately."

Oakwood also was impressed with Hile's class when using the system; they were serious, yet having fun at the same time. "It was an open forum. They could've easily been whispering. This is their level. They love it."

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