Many find the crowded lecture hall to be an inevitable downside to attending a large research university such as Georgetown. In recent years, professors with an excess of 200 students — and 200 laptops — have been exploring new ways of holding attention. And while new education technology can be misapplied in distracting or in counterproductive ways, the iClicker has distinguished itself as a must-have in large classes.
A deceptively simple response system, the iClicker facilitates interactive learning in departments from economics to English. The device, which looks like a white TV remote, is most obviously used for mid-class pop quizzes. But in a government course, for example, the iClickers also allow instant response to opinion polls, making difficult policy questions relatable and even breaking down respondents by pertinent factors such as gender, political party affiliation or age. Professors who are particularly self-evaluative can even receive anonymous feedback on their teaching-style and material. Using aniClicker to gauge how well students understand a topic can be a valuable tool in directing a curriculum.
Of course, like any technology, the iClicker can be misused. Relying on the device for attendance-taking in large classroom settings opens the door for dishonesty, as students are easily able to click another device on behalf of classmates. Another concern is price; a new iClicker costs just under $40 and rents for $20 from the bookstore, but new smartphone response applications work to alleviate this. The investment in an iClicker is as worthwhile as an investment in many textbooks.
Effective teaching includes inclusive dialogue — a goal rendered difficult in large venues like the ICC auditorium. The iClicker, when employed correctly, has high potential to enrich these experiences.