Last month, I told OOTJ readers that I was going to use clickers (student-response devices) in my Advanced Legal Research class, and that I was worried lest they become distractions rather than enhancements. I wanted to report back on the results of the experiment so far.
For the first class, I had prepared a twenty-question diagnostic quiz that I hoped would bring out some of the themes of the course. Unfortunately, due to a software glitch of my own making, I was unable to get the polling feature to work and I ended up showing the slides as a PowerPoint show and asking students to raise their hands for every question. Many of them were reluctant to answer the questions even though I assured them that their answers would not play a part in their grade for the course. After this mini-debacle, I pulled out the instruction manual and figured out what I had done wrong.
Since then, I have created a short exercise (between five and ten questions) for each class that we do at the beginning of the class. The questions are meant to review and reinforce what students learned at the prior class, and to provide a jumping-off point for discussion. I always used to go over the prior class at the beginning of each class session, but there was no participation at all on the students' part unless they had questions.
Writing questions takes a little bit of time because I have to think about the information I want to emphasize. However, I am finding that the more questions I write, the easier it gets. The students are unanimously in favor of using the clickers, and are very animated during the exercise. In fact, using the clickers at the beginning of the class serves as an ice breaker and makes them more involved in the rest of the class. These are just my impressions, but the response is positive enough that I am happy to continue the experiment for at least the rest of the semester.