April 20, 2017

AddICTive Tools for Evaluation: Clickers

Do red pens give you a headache? Does correcting formative tests for acquired knowledge make you dizzy? Are you looking for ways to save time…or trees? Do you want to be more efficient? Are you dreaming of pedagogically-viable strategies and techniques? Are you looking for change?

Evaluation plays a significant role in the teaching profession. Among the various facets of this important responsibility, feedback presents many challenges, and correction is sometimes considered an onerous burden or at least a less-than-inspiring task. Luckily, there is a whole array of digital methods and tools that can become your allies!

In this fifth part of our series of articles that accompany our In-depth Report on Evaluation and Digital Feedback, we present clickers and other instant response tools.


Note from the authors

This section is largely inspired by Huguette Dupont’s article L’ABC des télévoteurs (in French), Carnets pédagogiques, Cégep de Granby.


➤ Test classroom waters at strategic moments

➤ For the student, receive instant feedback

➤ Makes it easier to adjust course speed and flow, for the teacher and the student

➤ Foster participation and engagement

➤ Have a little fun…and motivate the students

➤ Encourage interaction in class

Clickers allow for interactivity between the presenter and the audience. In class, they can be used for question-answer communications between the teacher and students. There are 2 types of clickers (and some combinations models):

  • Classic: A set of electronic remotes control units connected to an emitter-receiver connected to the presenter’s workstation.
  • Clicker app: A tool (software program, app) that can be used on a variety of computer stations and mobile devices. The tool comes in 2 versions, one for the presenter and one for the participants.

Clickers offer lots of simple options for moderation and feedback. They are generally associated with large-group activities that offer access to results in real time. This kind of activity fosters student engagement and supports active learning strategies.

  • It is generally possible to access the data later for more in-depth observation of the results.
  • Some clickers can be used for computerized formative or summative knowledge tests, when they can be programmed to attribute a grade to an answer and match it with a student. This allows for group monitoring as well as individual monitoring.
  • Some tools can also be used to answer questions in independent mode, at the participant’s own pace, rather than as a group, one question at a time (this is the case for Promethean’s ActivExpression-ActivInspire duo, for example).

The types of questions that can be used depend on the tool chosen. True-False, multiple-choice and short-answer questions are the most common, but some tools allow for rating scale questions, ordering and sometimes even short answers.

The topic of clickers naturally leads to the idea of online quizzes, because some clicker tools offer more advanced functions that can be used to monitor students individually. There is a natural affinity between clickers and formative (and sometimes summative) evaluation. The References by topic section in our In-depth Report suggests some excellent additional resources on the topic.

Tools to consider

Advantages Disadvantages
Generally very easy to use Preparation or adaptation of quizzes (depending on tool chosen)
Allows you to assess the group’s understanding, return immediately to certain concepts and adjust the rest of the course Takes up class time
Facilitates diagnostic testing at the beginning of the session or when introducing a new theme The class should ideally have a projector
Makes it easier to verify the students’ perceptions of a concept Requires the use of technological equipment
Provides the students with instant results for self-evaluation and adjustment Be wary of overuse (loss of motivation – variety is the key!)
Allows students to maintain anonymity if desired (e.g., for delicate issues, to give an opinion freely or launch a debate) Free online versions are often limited
Encourages the participation of students who are shy, less engaged or afraid of making mistakes
Varies teaching techniques
Encourages interactivity
Adds a playful twist to the course and may be motivating
Makes collaborative problem-solving activities easier, may elicit team discussions or friendly competition among teams
Useful for reviewing for exams
Can be used for summative knowledge tests (if the tool has the capacity)

A few advantages and disadvantages for specific tools:

Comparative Table – Clickers
Voting devices Clicker apps (mobile devices)
Cost to purchase the voting devices No additional cost to the college (use devices that belong to the college or students)
Equipment logistics (handling and distribution of voting devices) Easily accessible for students using their own mobile devices
No distractions: voting devices have a single function Equipment logistics if you do not use the students’ devices
Some products offer more advanced functions, sometimes even integration with common tools such as PowerPoint Distractions are possible: the students may be doing something else on their devices
Online versions are often less developed than the programs designed for voting devices

We invite you to visit our other articles in the AddICTive Tools for Evaluation series:

Click on the link to to return to the landing page for our In-Depth Report on Correction, Feedback and Evaluation: Inspiring Practices and AddICTive Tools.

Are you inspired by these possibilities? Share your discoveries with your colleagues using the Share function! If you are already using technology to support your evaluation tasks, please share your experiences with other Profweb readers in the Comments section below.

About the author

Andréanne Turgeon

Andréanne Turgeon was an editor with Profweb from 2014 to 2019. Subsequently, she was the organization’s coordinator until it joined Collecto. Since 2021, she has been the director of Collecto’s Digital Pedagogy Services, to which Eductive is affiliated.

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