Glendon Campus
York University
2275 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M4N 3M6
Glendon at the Leading Edge for Classroom Technology

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VOLT, TFO’s newsmagazine for francophone and francophile teenagers (and their parents) will be airing a program in prime time (6:30 to 7:00 p.m.) in the next few weeks about a new technology being piloted in Glendon classrooms: the so-called ‘clicker’ or personal response system (PRS).

How does it work? Each student has a personal gadget – a clicker - much like your television remote control, with numbered buttons. Actually, the clicker is an infrared wireless transmitter which communicates with a central computer. Students can answer questions and record their responses with the simple click of a button and the results are instantly charted and displayed for real-time student feedback. The software program on the computer will even take attendance, record grades and produce individual or whole-class reports, taking some of the administrative drudgery out of the professors’ work.

Professor Evelyne Corcos of Glendon’s psychology department is running the pilot project at Glendon, in tandem with a similar project at York’s Osgoode Hall. “While it takes more preparation to set up a lesson or a test using this technology, the payoffs are very real”, says Corcos. “You have to pre-program every piece of the lecture, from background information to questions and answers. But it leaves more time for creative activities in class and I have an on-the-spot evaluation of whether certain individuals, or the whole class, are able to follow the information and answer the questions. It is also an effective tool for some students with certain disabilities”. The instant feedback enables the professor to focus on areas requiring more explanation and identifies students who need help.

3rd –year psychology majors Emilie Lavoie and Renée Gauthier both really like the system. “It helps with preparing for lessons and exams, because you know how much you know, or don’t know, every day”, says Lavoie. “The immediate feedback and the detailed information available within the program make it easier to study,” adds Gauthier. “I would choose this system [if it were regularly available], because I know that it helps me in my work”, she adds. As most of their generation, Lavoie and Gauthier are comfortable with using computer technology and are quick to understand how the clicker works and what it can do.

Mario Therrien, director if Information Technology Services (ITS) at Glendon and at Osgoode, considers Glendon an ideal testing site for the PRS. “With Glendon’s small classes, it’s much easier for a professor to engage the students, monitor results and evaluate the effectiveness of the tool“, says Therrien. “Right now, during the pilot project, Glendon receives the equipment free of charge. But if the clicker is as effective as we expect, it will not be a very expensive system to install”, he adds.

Is it just a gadget? Certainly, “it’s simple and it’s fun, but it also does the job”, says Corcos. Other universities are using or testing the PRS, among them McGill, Queen’s, Ryerson and U.B.C. “I am convinced that it makes a difference”, says Corcos. Her findings show that test results are significantly better when students use the clicker. It enables ready access to information, records everything that is said in class for easy review, and allows several students or a group to participate at the same time.

“But this is only one of several classroom tools which can enhance course delivery. There are others such as Quickplace or PowerPoint “, adds Corcos. “And we must remember that no mechanical teaching aid ever replaces the professor or the immediacy of being in a classroom with other students.”

This article was submitted to Y File by Glendon’s communications officer Marika Kemeny.

Published on November 4, 2005