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You Must Click It

“It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and THEN do your best.”  W. Edwards Demming

We had the first group presentations of learning strategies in class tonight.  The first was my group on using concept mapping as an adaptive teaching strategy.  The second was on using student response systems (or clickers) in instruction.

In my K-12 years, adaptive teaching was accommodating students with special needs.  This is what Corno in “On Teaching Adaptively” describes as macro-adaptive teaching.  He suggests that in the new theory of adaptive teaching, teachers are continually responding to learners as they work by assessing their learning and adjusting their level of support as needed.  This support however, is not individual but group oriented and focused toward a symbolic area in the center to capitalize on skills across the class.

Concept mapping is an excellent strategy for teaching adaptively because knowledge is shared and developed from the level of each individual’s learning within the context of the group.  It allows students to synthesize and integrate information and ideas from that symbolic area in the center and build on them for greater understanding.  It also taps student creativity and ‘makes thinking visible’ for assessment and evaluation.

Student response systems could also be considered a strategy for teaching adaptively as Corno describes it.  Like concept maps, clickers ‘make thinking visible,’ but in a very different way.  In discussing the answers – particularly those that are not in the majority, teachers can get feedback from the student’s perspective of their thought process in choosing an answer. This allows the instructor to apply contingent teaching practices – continually responding to learners within the lesson based on student responses.  The idea that the response system connects to a database is very valuable for the teacher.  Having student data to reflect upon allows instruction to become less linear and more dynamic.

The use of ‘clicker’ technology in the classroom is very intriguing to me.  I think it has much more value as a teaching tool than a learning tool.  Students MAY take the opportunity to really think about the data as it is displayed and discussed, but I’m not yet convinced of that.  They get prompt feedback to validate their answer, but if they are always right I’m not sure the student response system does much to challenge their thinking.  The novelty, I feel, would wear out very quickly – particularly if students were using the tool in multiple classes.  Unlike concept mapping, it doesn’t promote student creativity or allow for inter-relating of major ideas and their interrelationships – it is very linear.

The presentation on clickers covered two important components – recent research on the effectiveness of the tool and discussion of actual use.  Both were important for me in evaluating the potential for use in teaching.  I think there is enough research-based evidence and enough value presented from an actual user to suggest it is worth a try.

When a problem comes along, you must click it. . . .

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