The students in Michael Dubson’s physics class at the University of Colorado fell silent as a multiple-choice question flashed on a screen, sending them scrambling for small white devices on their desks.
Within seconds, a monitor on Dubson’s desk told him that 92 percent of the class had correctly answered the question on kinetic energy, a sign that they grasped the concept.
Student response systems, or clickers—not unlike gadgets used on television game shows—first appeared in college classrooms over a decade ago and have since spread to just about every college and university in the country, thanks to cheaper and better technology.
But as clickers have become commonplace, a divide has emerged over just how sophisticated they should be.
Some professors, like Dubson, endorse simple, straightforward devices that stick to multiple-choice questions. Others embrace fancier models or newer applications for smart phones and laptops that allow students to query the professor by text or eMail during the lecture or conduct discussion with classmates—without the cost of purchasing a clicker.
Those preferring simplicity say pared-down remotes reduce distractions in a multitasking world, while others say fighting the march to smart phones and digital tablets is a losing battle…