Monday, June 2, 2014

An alternative to classroom clickers

Today, I'm listening to A/Prof Manju Sharma of the University of Sydney's Physics Department, who is speaking at the latest ANU College of Science Teaching and Learning Colloquium. She is demonstrating a teaching strategy that draws on Eric Mazur's work, replacing classroom clickers with a free online application (

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of her presentation is the way in which she draws on known or frequent errors or common misunderstandings she has observed In previous classes. She uses this experience and knowledge to create the challenge questions that she puts to students in class. These challenge questions ensure that students have acquired threshold concepts and that blocks to future learning in the course and the discipline have been removed early on in a novice's induction to the knowledge of the discipline.

Like Mazur before her, she has collected considerable data which demonstrates the effectiveness of the technique.

Interestingly, comments from students show that they are picking on on her language about learning in giving their feedback about the course: concepts, "hands-on, minds-on".

The tool,, is the kind of generic online tool that could be used in face-to-face classes to encourage deep learning, or in an online environment to replace some aspects of workshops and tutorials.

It's worth a look.