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--Originally created by Adam Rattray and Takashi Yamada March 2010--


iClicker, more commonly known as course response systems, has been widely used in educational settings to promote student to student and subsequently student to instructor engagement in a large classroom setting(Caldwell, 2007). The instructor usually poses a multiple choice question on a screen in front of the classroom and students respond by clicking a button on the remote that corresponds to the answer of choice. Depending of the construct of the lesson and the types of questions asked, the level of engagement can be controlled by the educator.

What is iClicker?

i-Clicker remote

iClicker is a course response system. It is basically a hardware usually composed of multiple push buttons used to provide immediate response to the main hub operated by the instructor.It allows for instantaneous assessment of students in class. Each student has a remote in which they are able to give their answers to poll questions. The data from the whole class is then received by a receiver connected by USB to a computer. The iClicker software takes a screen shot whenever the program is enabled. This then allows for review later when the session is complete. Data from the iClicker grades book that was gathered from a session can be easily imported into the Moodle gradesbook (similar as in D2L). iClicker also has a floating interface that operates with any software.

Use of Clickers in Education

Recently, with the increase in class size, it is difficult both from the educators side, to constantly check for student's understanding and from the student's side, to stay engaged in the contents of the lesson(Caldwell, 2007). However, with the use of the iClicker, educators such as Dr. Dee Siverthom from the University of Texas has been able to bring interaction and engagement back into a large classroom setting. This iClicker-assisted learning model can improve student’s motivation, participation, collaboration as well as academic performance.


The iClicker-assisted learning model can help to accomplish the following goals: 1) Provide students with instant feedback which allows them to immediately reflect on their thought processes. 2) Help students to get by the initial hesitation in participating in discussions. 3) Keeps students constantly engaged through questions and constant discussion activities. 4) Provide students with a safe environment to interact with each other and express their thoughts and share ideas. 5) Gives teacher an immediate assessment tool to gauge the students' understanding of concepts. The teacher can then modify his or her lesson to meet the students' needs on the spot.

Learning Theories

The use of iclickers allows for the production of a constructivist learning environment. This environment has purposeful knowledge and is constructed individually or co-constructed socially by learners (Jonassen, 1999). In such an environment Jonassen (1999) suggests that appropriate problems that are interesting, engaging, and relevant be used in order to keep learners on task. The problems should have little structure and definition. This will help students to take on more ownership of the problem solving process which builds critical thinking skills and promotes motivation. Hence, the types of iClicker questions plays an important role, because effective iClicker questions that are pertinent, interesting, challenging, and searching will “stimulate students to want to hear and analyze the ideas of their classmates, encourage students to think and solve problems from different angles, reveal unanticipated student difficulties or interpretations,” and will check if students are completely mastering the materials (Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative, n.d.). In order to support students and engage them actively in learning, learning should occur using a student-centered or student–oriented classroom model instead of a teacher-centered classroom model (Silverthorn, n.d.).

Ease of Use and Reliability

iClicker at a glance

When the instructor starts his or her instruction using the iclicker system, a floating interface appears above the software that he or she uses to deliver content. The data that is gathered from this session can then be imported into a Learning Management System (LMS) such as moodle, vista, or desire 2 learn. In addition, the iClicker software takes a screen shot each time an answer is required. This then is available later for review when the session is complete. By having students press the button that corresponds to the answer of choice, teachers are able to get an instant idea of how each student is progressing and also from the feedback that appears on the screen, students are able to get immediate feedback on their answers as well(if this option is selected by the instructor).

Critics' Views

One of the counter arguments to using iClicker technology in the classroom is that students do not demonstrate a great improvement in conceptual learning or exam performance. Lasry’s study (2008) shows that there is no significant educational difference between using iClickers and flashcards in the classroom setting. The results also indicate that iClickers do not give additional learning benefits to students neither to increase conceptual learning nor to improve exam marks, although they have been proved to enhance students’ motivation and engagement. Sometimes the learning value of the questions is not well presented or unclear.

There are some notable complaints among students about using iClickers in the classrooms, such as the cost of iClickers, lost iClickers, and the lack of technical support (Caldwell, 2007). Some people even claim that the use of technology has worsened the learning environment and propose that we should go back to traditional teaching. However, aside from the examples listed above, most of the contention in the literature comes from the use of this technology rather than the technology itself.

Many complaints revolve around the fact that the questions are limited to multiple choice . As mentioned previously, Lasry’s study (2008) indicates that the technology may be no different than using flash cards. However, as Lasry later implies that it is not the technology that teaches, but the method behind the use of technology that determines the success or failure of a lesson. Another concern raised in regards to iClicker use was about cheating in the classroom by using other students’ remotes (Caldwell, 2007). However, cheating is prevalent in any learning environment and it will be up to the instructor to manage this situation. There were some minor technical concerns raised as well where remotes were not working as they should. (Caldwell, 2007). In conclusion, to generate successful knowledge building depends highly on effective instruction and carefully planned out questions (Caldwell 2007).


iClicker requires a substantial investment. A set of 30 remotes which includes a base receiver can cost about $1000 US. The iClicker technology is simple, but currently there are no competitors offering the same level of quality which would help to lower prices.

Future Classrooms

In order to support students and engage them actively in learning, we should move from a teacher-centered classroom model to a student-centered or student–oriented classroom. That is to place the focus on students and challenge them to think critically with different layers. In this case, students take the responsibility of their own learning, which follows the constructivist learning model. An ideal constructivist learning environment provides affordances that promotes learners to establish constructive engagement and achieve meaningful learning goals. In this way, the iClicker system may be a step towards giving students a sense of ownership of both their classroom and their education.


Caldwell, J. E. (2007). Clickers in the large classroom: Current research and best-practice tips. CBE – Life Sciences Education, 6, 9-20.

Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative. Clicker resource guide. Retrieved January 22, 2010, From

DIIA instructional technologies. Classroom performance system. Retrieved January 23,2010, From

Jonassen, D. (1999). Chapter 10: Designing constructivist learning environment. In C. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional design theories and models: Volume II (pp. 215-239). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Lasry, N. (2008). Clickers or flashers: Is there really a difference. The Physics Teacher, 46, 242-244.

Lucas, A. (2009). Using Peer Instruction and I-Clickers to Enhance Student Participation in Calculus. PRIMUS, 19(3), 219–231

Penuel, W., Boscardin, C., Masyn, K. & Crawford, V. (2007). Teaching With Student Response Systems in Elementary and Secondary Education Settings: A Survey Study. Educational Technology Research and Development, 4, 315-346.

Scardamalia, M. & Bereiter, C. (1994). Computer Support for Knowledge- Building Communities. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3(3), 265-283.

Image references

  1. Community of Inquiry. Retrieved February 6 , 2009 from, Web site:
  2. iClicker At A Glance. Retrieved March 7, 2010 from Web site:
  3. iClicker Class. Retrieved March 7, 2010 from, Web site:
  4. iClicker Remote. Retrieved March 6, 2010 from, Web site:

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