Students Tweeting About Clickers

I find it hard to get worked up one way or the other over clickers (or “student response systems” or what-have-you) but something I definitely don’t hate is Derek Bruff’s weekly roundup of student clicker tweets.

For instance:

@jackiesayswhat I need to buy a clicker? seriously? during my last semester?

@hornylizard Man who got a clicker that they aint using this semester and wouldn’t mind letting me use?

@Thee_JadeE Oooohhhh I’m bout to drop this psych class! Something told me I was gunna have to buy a clicker!

You start to get a pretty strong sense of the student response to student response systems.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. It seems to me that the students’ distaste for clickers is more about the cost then their usefulness as an assessment tool (then again, what students talk about assessment in the first place).

    A friend of mine recently showed me this website where people can use their cell phones to text answers to an online poll. It seems to me that students already have the capacity to provide instant feedback and answer questions without having to buy any new specialized electronics.

    Then again, there’s no way for us to take advantage of the tools that students bring to school every day when we ban the technology from classrooms. It all seems a little funny to me.

  2. Z. Shiner is right; it looks like the complains are about cost. In fact, the comments are extremely petty, even for tweets. I mean, drop a class over a few dollars? What will these students do when a professor says, yes, you really need to buy (even read!) a textbook or course reader?

  3. @Silver, here’s a write-up on clickers.

    @Alex, you know as much as I do, but given the context (students purchasing textbooks and supplies for class) I’d wager yes.

    @blink, relative to the cost of a college education, it does seem strange to balk at the cost of a clicker. However, it is reasonable to complain about the requirement of a clicker when I’m carrying around a $200 smartphone with fifty times the capability and capacity.

  4. I had one undergrad physics class with clickers, but the clickers were locked up in the classroom and used by all the classes, so the school just had to make a one time investment and it was less wasteful since multiple classes could use the same clickers.

    I thought they were useful as a learning/teaching tool because of the instant feedback.

  5. That’s what I figured. It seems silly that one would be required for a college course. I’ve utilized them in my high school teaching and I think they’re great. The instant feedback, though not necessary, is helpful to present to the class (you scored 72% as a group on this concept…let’s see if we can raise that up to 80%). Instant remediation made simpler on a group basis. The reports that the software associated with the clickers can generate are impressive. Of course a set of the clickers and included software can cost upwards of $500.

    Chris Lehmann sums it up very well here, in my opinion:,-Reform-and-Technology-Infusion.html

  6. Thumbs up, Thumbs down, Thumbs to the side.

    This has worked well for me with my college classes, allowing me to get a quick feel for the group.

    I have looked into using Polleverywhere as a way to get feedback ( but, believe it or not, not everyone in these classes have unlimited texting, let alone a cell phone.

  7. when I’m carrying around a $200 smartphone with fifty times the capability and capacity.

    …which is one of the big headaches with trying to use them, given texting in class etc. That can’t be mediated with classroom management when the number of students in a room range from 50-500.

    Also tricky is expecting every student to have a phone. What I’d really like is a clicker system where a phone can substitute (an iPhone clicker-app that interfaces with an existing system, say) but students who don’t have a phone can use a regular clicker instead.

  8. I use them as @mary describes. There is a set for the class and I just pass them out.

    @dan – yes, a phone is more powerful and that would be cool. However, does EVERYONE in the class have a smart phone? No. Wow would they be ticked off if a smart phone were required instead of a clicker.

    That being said, why does these clickers cost so much?

  9. @Jason, I had an inservice from a SMART rep last week. He was showing us their latest “clicker”, the SMART Response XE. It allows text entry, and has rudimentary math symbol functionality.

    He also showed us SMART Response VE, which is a beta version of a system that allows students to respond from any web-based device. This system, in essence, turns any smart phone, netbook, or laptop into a clicker. The problem currently, though, is that it is one or the other. You can’t use VE in conjunction with any other SMART Response pad, although we were told that functionality is coming.

    The rep also told us that the SMART Response VE is going to remain free with the SMART Response software, but when I tweeted about it, I got some replies that indicated otherwise, so we will see. Regardless, if you already use SMART response, this is a neat feature to play around with.

    It’s here:

  10. A clicker system where a phone can substitute would be great.

    And on an earlier note, students can be amazingly petty about buying course materials.

  11. Some students sit as far to the back of a classroom as possible.
    Some students will never raise their hand or ask a question.
    Some students would prefer to never even attend class.
    Finally, some students are critical of clicker systems which require their participation in class. Are you really surprised?

  12. Our kids’ school got a technology grant and clickers is one of the things they bought (along with smart boards and elmos). The kids love them. In fact, just a few days ago my daughter came home and said that they’d taken a quiz using the clickers. At the end of the quiz you knew right away how many people had gotten each question right or wrong (though the info. on who clicked on what was hidden). Then not only were their scores already tabulated, but the teacher could discuss the questions on the quiz right after they’d taken it, so it was all still fresh in their minds.

  13. Thanks for the link to my post, Dan, and for all the comments from everyone else. A few thoughts…

    1) I think these tweets say more about how some students use Twitter (to complain) than they do about how students at large view clickers.

    2) At many colleges and universities, it’s the case that students have to purchase their clickers, either at the local bookstore or through an online vendor.

    3) Surveys of students on their thoughts about clickers are consistent: Students don’t like having to pay for a device that’s primarily used to monitor them Big Brother style (by taking attendance) or to make their professor’s life easier (by doing the grading for him or her). Students want to see the value to their learning in the use of clickers. If that’s not clear, they grumble.

    4) A classroom response system, like any educational technology, isn’t by itself good or bad or effective or ineffective. How teachers use clickers–that’s what determines the effectiveness.

    See my blog on teaching with clickers for some ideas for using clickers effectively!

  14. I sympathize with the students on this one. While it’s going on 20 years since I was a full-time student I distinctly remember my irritation with classes where I was told to buy required books which were never referenced.

    The clickers are pricey for what they are and the buyback price, at least at our institution, borders on offensive.

    I suspect the students are angered by the clickers not so much because of the price as a concrete number, but as a comparative value. This is a more tech-savvy generation than ever before and they’re well aware that the technology in a clicker is outdated and would result in a $5 product out in the consumer world.

  15. The complaints must be about the cost more than anything. I teach at the high school level and as the students enter my room one of the first questions they ask is, “Are we using the clickers today?”
    The students are excited to use them. And I like that EVERY student is involved. The only downfall of the clickers I have, is that I’m limited to multiple choice questions.

  16. I think in 5+ years clickers will be obsolete as everyone will have a smartphone, and the monitoring will be done in this way.

    It’s just a matter of time. This technological progress is a shift in the fundamental way we think about teaching. It’s a true revolution in the way we communicate and produce knowledge and develop skills.

  17. I am a recent college grad and I had to get a clicker for my freshman physics course. My first complaint, and this concerns the cost issue, is that I never again used the thing in any other class. Granted, I only took a couple of classes out of the physics department, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that university departments are disjointed and it does not surprise me that a technique wouldn’t be used across departments. And at the end of 4 years, I was stuck with a barely used four year old clicker with no market value.

    More importantly, the effectiveness of the clicker depends heavily on how they’re used. During the second semester of physics, the prof used them primarily to get a general idea of how the 300 person lecture was understanding what he was saying.
    However, the first semester was a disaster. The prof would ask questions that we would actually be graded on. It was impossible to tell if your response was actually received. Furthermore, different people learn differently, and it will never be fair to test something that you were just taught without the opportunity for it to sink in. The clickers simply became another stressor, especially for a freshman class.
    At the end of the semester, the prof used the clicker to essentially collect demographic data from the class and supplemented it with his own commentary…and that was just weird, uncomfortable, and borderline racist/sexist.

  18. In response to people who are frustrated that they have a global policy of no phones used in lessons I would be very concerned about a lesson where one could ‘use you phone if you have one’ and here is something else for the poor folks out there!

    Part of the reason I never use phones in lessons is that there are some ‘spoiled’ kids who have the latest phone (I have a friend who actually bought her son of 13 the IPhone 4 to replace his Iphone 3GS because he has to have a better phone than his friends) Others have a cheap one that is only to be used in an emergency and I would rather not draw attention to that.

    I don’t know how contacts and phone purchasing works in the USA but over here in England it can work out expensive? Sometimes policy isn’t about people not understanding technology but more about understanding kids.

  19. I received the clickers from Promethean instead of the clickers from the SMART company. I like them better because the students are not limited to only multiple choice questions but can also answer numerical short answer, text short answer, true-false questions. The quick responses and ability to assess the students’ understanding is invaluable for my math class. I recommend the Promethean product over the SMART product to anyone.