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Effectiveness of Personal Response Systems as a Classroom Technology Tool at Clemson University
Unformatted Document Text:  interactive nature of clickers therefore has the potential of engaging students in classrooms. Attention span of students is always a critical issue in education. It can make the difference between being able to understand and apply critical concepts and just memorizing concepts to pass examinations. In the 1980s, IBM did a study to measure the attention span of its newly appointed mangers. These newly appointed managers had a high incentive to be attentive as the lectures they received were directly related to their tasks on the job. The researchers observed that at the beginning of the class, most students showed signs of attentive behavior. However, this attention diminished rapidly within the first twenty minutes. Researchers also noted that in a typical class, discussions were dominated by only 10-20% of the students. The remaining 80-90% of the students only participated occasionally in the class discussion. In a bid to increase attention span and class participation, IBM built a prototype student response system. This prototype allowed students to respond to questions by pressing a button on an electronic device. A computer program then displayed the results in a graphical way. When the same test used earlier was applied to the students using this prototype machine, the results were significant. Attention of students using the response system shot up tremendously. Additional tests also showed that students who used the response systems scored higher than students in the control group. On a 1 to 7 scale, students in this IBM study answered with an average of 6.6 that they found the response systems useful. (See Horowitz, 1988 for further details) Diminished attention during lectures, therefore, is a problem that permeates all classrooms. Clickers, if used effectively can minimize the incidence of diminished 7

Authors: Ainuson, Kweku.
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interactive nature of clickers therefore has the potential of engaging students in
classrooms.
Attention span of students is always a critical issue in education. It can make the
difference between being able to understand and apply critical concepts and just
memorizing concepts to pass examinations. In the 1980s, IBM did a study to measure the
attention span of its newly appointed mangers. These newly appointed managers had a
high incentive to be attentive as the lectures they received were directly related to their
tasks on the job. The researchers observed that at the beginning of the class, most
students showed signs of attentive behavior. However, this attention diminished rapidly
within the first twenty minutes. Researchers also noted that in a typical class, discussions
were dominated by only 10-20% of the students. The remaining 80-90% of the students
only participated occasionally in the class discussion. In a bid to increase attention span
and class participation, IBM built a prototype student response system. This prototype
allowed students to respond to questions by pressing a button on an electronic device. A
computer program then displayed the results in a graphical way. When the same test
used earlier was applied to the students using this prototype machine, the results were
significant. Attention of students using the response system shot up tremendously.
Additional tests also showed that students who used the response systems scored higher
than students in the control group. On a 1 to 7 scale, students in this IBM study answered
with an average of 6.6 that they found the response systems useful. (See Horowitz, 1988
for further details)
Diminished attention during lectures, therefore, is a problem that permeates all
classrooms. Clickers, if used effectively can minimize the incidence of diminished
7


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