Making a difference

In order to convince other law professors to use the CPS (clickers) next year, I surveyed the students and received these reactions:

  •  The clickers help maintain student’s attention to class discussion by keeping them involved.
  •  It encourages participation where one might otherwise be too shy or hesitant to stick their neck out in front of the entire class.  By actually participating and committing to an answer I can see how well I actually know the material compared to how well I think I know it.  Plus, it’s a good gauge for me to see how well I understand the material compared to other people in the class.
  •  Since we started using them I really feel as though I’m learning a lot more. 

I then asked the professors who used them this semester if they thought that using the “clickers”made a difference.  Here’s what they said

  •   It bolstered interactive and varied teaching techniques
  • The clickers were useful to me to understand what the students were getting and what they weren’t getting. 
  •   I think that the in-class questions showed me that students weren’t learning things and allowed me to take remedial action.

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At the same time, I came across a very interesting article in the Educause Review for this month entitled: The Myth about No Significant Difference. “…The problem is that to receive a valid answer, one needs to ask a good question. To get an answer as to whether technology makes a difference, we need to ask: “Difference in what?” For example, asking whether technology makes a difference in student learning implies that learning is a high-tech or no-tech phenomenon. The issue is not that simple. Learning occurs as a result of motivation, opportunities, an active process, interaction with others, and the ability to transfer learning to a real-world situation.”

This really hit home!! In order to assess whether or not to use a particular technology such as the “clickers,” professors need to look at some other questions.  This article points out several:

  • Do we think of technology as a solution in itself or as a means to an end?
  • Do we assume that using technology is an either/or proposition?
  • Have we identified those processes and activities we want to improve and looked at how technology can facilitate those actions?
  • Are we doing the same things with technology, or are we taking advantage of the unique capabilities of technology and redesigning our activities?

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