The Diffusion and Adoption of Clickers - For the Right Reasons

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Beginning this fall, the Penn State University Park campus information technology services (ITS) will provide support for instructor adoption of a clicker student response system in all classrooms across campus. The decision to support this service was based on a successful clicker pilot at Penn State, documented by Brian Young in his meaningful blog titled "Teaching with Clickers".

 

Having studied the theories of diffusions of innovations, I find it exciting that there is an opportunity to follow the diffusion and adoption of an innovation - the i>clicker system - at Penn State over this next year. It will be most interesting to watch the practices of Penn State instructors and the reasons they give to adopt or reject the clicker system. According to Everett Rogers's seminal work Diffusions of Innovations, diffusions follow a five step process:

1. Knowledge - awareness of the innovation and how it works;

2. Persuasion - attitudes (both positive and negative) towards the innovation;

3. Decision - engagement with the innovation leading to adoption or rejection;

4. Implementation - innovation is added to practice;

5. Confirmation - evaluation of innovation confirms decision regarding practice.

(Rogers, 1995, p. 162).

 

At this point in time, I think we are at the knowledge and persuasion stages of this diffusion. ITS has provided resources about the clickers and how to adopt the system (http://clc.its.psu.edu/classrooms/resources/clickers) and is asking for instructors to contact them for more information. Reasons for using the clicker system are provided from an ITS perspective: 

"The i>clicker system allows an instructor to pose a multiple choice question to the class, to which students respond by pressing A, B, C, D, or E on their response device. Responses are then compiled by the clicker software. Instructors can choose whether and when to reveal the results to students. They can also use the clicker remote control to advance PowerPoint slides projected in class. Pedagogical uses of clickers include gauging student knowledge on a topic, providing instant feedback, improving class interaction and participation, and promoting more thoughtful discussion."

 

This is a great way to start the discussion on clickers. However, it cannot stop here. Without adequate examples and pedagogical reasons from a learning theory perspective, instructors will fail to use clickers as more than a replacement of raising hands (see my blog titled Clicking our Way through Race and Ethnic Relations). What we need are examples of using clickers from innovators of teaching practice. The following list provides a brief set of resources that will help the diffusion and adoption of clickers based on sound learning theory - diffusion and adoption for the RIGHT reasons.

 

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