Friday, May 2, 2008

Clickers in UMC Classrooms (short)

e-Learning UPDATE: Clickers in UMC Classrooms (short version)

Today’s academic medical center faculty were typically trained under an educational system based entirely on didactic lectures. Because the choice of teaching method is often based on what is known and familiar, didactic lecture methods have persisted. However, if the aim is to teach critical thinking or change attitudes beyond the simple transmission of factual knowledge, then lectures alone, without active involvement of the students, are not the most effective method of teaching. The problem is how to organize lecture material so that the learning needs of individual students are better addressed. One solution to that problem is to design lecture sessions that contain a variety of activities which will stimulate individual students to think; such activities include in-class discussion, working problems during lecture time, questions included in the lecture, and quizzes at the end of lecture.

Asking students questions is one of the simplest, but most effective, techniques to engage learners. At the beginning of a lecture, questions may serve as an advance organizational tool which provides a framework for the students to frame the lecture content. Questions – either at the beginning of or during the lecture – provides a means for repetition of the content and for reinforcement of important concepts. Surveying the class is useful for identifying needs and interests of the audience, assessing the students’ baseline level of knowledge, and motivating students to focus on the topic. The development of classroom response systems allows for real-time class participation in a large scale format without sacrificing control of the classroom, and brings with it a small classroom feel.

Many of our current medical students are Tech-savvy ‘Millennials’, who have lots of gadgets, like to multitask and expect to control what, when and how they learn. Also termed the Net Generation or Digital Natives, they are taught by “Digital Immigrants” who came to computing late in life. Many millennial students need customizable, flexible learning formats that allow students to construct their own understanding with regular interventions to combat their fear of boredom and short attention span. Our students must be actively engaged with the material we are asking them to learn. Part of the process of getting students to become critical thinkers involves getting us (the faculty) to become aware of, not only what they are thinking, but also how they are thinking.

Personal Response Systems (PRS), portable electronic devices that allow answer input in real time, have been used successfully by many schools since the 1990s. PRS can be used in a way that combines student interaction and assessment to enhance classroom productivity by: graphing student responses to identify content areas for additional review/re-teaching; facilitating study by discussing how answers to questions can be found through a critical thinking process modeled by the professor and practiced in class; testing student recall of important concepts prior to and during lecture to assess retention; and measuring learning outcomes through brief in-class formative assessments. Many students found that lectures became more engaging when the lecturer involved the students in a discussion of course content directed by the student’s participation. Students at Minot State University found that the addition of PRS to their classes helped them understand the course material, prepare for exams and improve their overall learning and retention of course material. Students also found that their positive experiences led to their desire for more courses to incorporate technology tools into the curriculum in that these tools present course content in ways that appeal to different learning styles. Faculty reported that incorporation of technology added to their preparation time but that student success made it worth the effort.

UMMC has standardized on Interwrite PRS RF© (Personal Response System, Radio Frequency) Clickers. Some UMC freshmen are now required to purchase a standard clicker from the UMC bookstore. They will keep their clicker for all four years of their program. Grant funds were used to purchase 100 clickers and several RF receivers for use in this project. These will be available for check out from Audio Visual services. PRS RF receivers and software were installed on ACE network classroom computers. Biochemistry, Microbiology, Pharmacology and Physiology professors used clickers in the medicine curriculum this past year. The initial results of these trials will be presented in the workshop.

Clickers in UMC Classrooms Workshop! Tuesday, June 3, 2008 in R153, 12-12:50. Professors will demonstrate how they use these devices in their classes – Audience Participation Required! Then at 1:00 - Afternoon Breakouts – Faculty/Staff Training: “How to Use Clickers in YOUR Class”.

The full-length version of this article (with references) is posted just below.

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