The Pros and Cons of Using Cell
Phones as Clickers
Debora Herold
Dina David
Martin Vaughan
Michael Yard
Lilly Conference on College Teaching
November 16, 2012
Clickers in the Classroom
• Students report
• Clickers improve their understanding of material
• Lectures are more enjoyable and entertaining (Masikunis et al.,
2009; Shaffer & Collura, 2009)
• Faculty report
• Incorporating clickers makes their lectures more interactive
• Using clickers improves their teaching style (Masikunis et. al,
2009)
• Findings are mixed as to whether using clickers improves learning.
• Clickers improve performance (Morling, et al., 2008; Shaffer &
Collura, 2009; Shapiro, 2009)
• There is either no difference or even reduced performance
when clickers are employed (Butler et al., 2010).
Clickers in the Classroom
• Price
• Clickers can be expensive ($16-40)
• Faculty may hesitate to require them
• May want to use them only sporadically
• Cell phones as clickers
• www.PollEverywhere.com
• Gather live responses in the classroom using text, twitter, or
web browser
Previous Research
• Cell phones in the classroom
• 98.1% of students bring a cell phone to class
• 84.4% send text messages during class
• 81.9% of faculty are distracted by student cell use
• 60.7% of students are distracted by own cell use
• 59.8% of students are distracted by other’s cell use
• 28.1% of students believe their cell use is distracting
to others
How it works
Procedure
• Students enrolled in 5 gateway classes were
asked to use their cell phones as a personal
response system (PRS) to answer short
question given to them during their classroom
meetings.
• Questions were presented on PowerPoint
slides and responses collected by Poll
Everywhere, a web-based program that
collects texts, in real time, from the students’
cell phones.
Procedure
• The procedure was repeated at three separate
class meetings.
• A survey was administered at the end of the
third cell phone session.
• Participation was completely voluntary. No
compensation was offered.
• This study was approved by the Indiana
University IRB (study #1112007563).
Participants
• 543 students (mean age: 21.5) enrolled in four
different introductory courses (Psychology,
Anatomy, Biology, and Communications)
• 96% had cell phones with them
• 90% choose to use them
Student Perception
Percentage of students marking agree or strongly agree for
the following statements
Statement
Percentage
I enjoyed using cell phones in class.
83%
Using cell phones in class increased my interest in the material
being presented.
71%
Using cell phones in class increased my motivation to participate
in class.
71%
Using cell phones in class helped my understanding of the
material presented.
67%
Using cell phones would make me more likely to attend class
regularly.
40%
Using cell phones in class takes too long.
26%
Using cell phones in class is a waste of time.
19%
Using my cell phone in class distracted me from the material being 22%
presented.
Distractions
Percentage of students answering “yes” to the
following statements
Statement
Percentage
Did you encounter any problems or technological issues when
using your cell phone?
24%
Did you check the time?
76%
Did you check your email?
13%
Did you respond to an email?
4%
Did you check a text message?
65%
Did you respond to a text message?
51%
Did you start another app?
16%
Did you surf the web?
13%
Distractions
Texts and Emails sent
0 emails
0 texts
96.3
52%
1-3 texts
4-35 texts
39%
9%
Time spent on noncourse related activities
None
1-5 minutes
7-30 minutes
> 30 minutes
24%
53%
21%
2%
What do you think?
• Where does this leave you?
• Does this make you more or less
interested in using clickers/cell phones in
the classroom?
• How have you dealt with technology as a
distraction?
Summary and Conclusions
• Whether we like to admit it or not, the use of
cell phones and other technology in the college
classroom is common, and is not going away!
• The challenge for instructors is to make the
technology work to help improve the classroom
environment, rather than allow it to be an
obstacle to active learning, or to be a
distraction.
• Students expect instructors to be
technologically astute, and to foster an
interactive learning environment.
Summary and Conclusions
• Using cell phones as clickers is one way to
incorporate technology as a useful tool.
• Factors such as cost, classroom location (cell
reception), student attendance, subject matter,
and standardization should be addressed.
• It is important that the core Principles of
Undergraduate Learning (PULs) do not suffer
due to technology in the classroom.
Summary and Conclusions
• Critical Thinking has been identified as an area in
which our students must improve, and technology
can either serve as our Friend or as our Foe in this
regard.
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