AN UNKNOWING VISITOR walking into a Suffolk Law classroom might do a double-take at the number of law students text-messaging during class. But rest easy: those devices the students are tapping away at are clickers, not cell phones. And they’re part of Suffolk Law’s Clickers in the Classroom program, in which students use clickers to answer lecture questions so professors can gauge their understanding of the material in real time. According to early adopter Professor Andrew Perlman, It’s the best new innovation in the classroom I’ve seen since I started teaching."
Director of Academic Technology Irene Good started the Clickers in the Classroom program in fall 2007. She first used clickers while teaching at Boston College Law School with Kathleen Elliott Vinson, currently the director of the Legal Practice Skills Program and professor of legal writing. When Good came to Suffolk Law last year, Vinson helped her introduce clickers into the law school classrooms.
In classrooms employing the technology, professors ask a question during a lecture, and students answer anonymously using the clickers. The results appear instantly in the professor’s PowerPoint presentation, giving immediate feedback to both the class and the professor. As Vinson puts it, Students don’t have to wonder, ‘Am I the only one not getting this?’"
While most professors have used the clickers anonymously, Perlman assigned clickers to his civil procedure class to track student progress through the semester. If a student is not doing well, this provides an opportunity to intervene," he says. After seeing a correlation between in-class understanding and exam performance, he now plans to work more closely with students who struggle with in-class questions.
Beyond providing feedback to professors, the clickers also make large classes more interactive. I’m always looking for new ways to engage students in class," says Perlman. Especially in the first year, it’s hard to make sure students are involved." Good agrees, noting the occasionally pas sive nature of a lecture class. The clickers encourage students to engage and think, especially when they know they’ll have to respond," she says.
So far, students have reacted positively to the new technology. In last year’s evaluations, when I asked what students liked best, almost everyone said the clickers," says Vinson. They felt like they were on the cutting edge and took pride that Suffolk Law is doing something not a lot of other schools are."
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