The technology used on the television show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” to poll the audience is coming to PLU economics classes this fall.
The technology consists of “clickers,” remote control-like devices that transmit an individual’s response via radio frequency to a reader. The reader plugs into the USB port of any computer, and collects and displays the responses, said Lynn Hunnicutt, an associate professor of economics who will be using the technology in three courses this fall.
Hunnicutt was among four faculty members to receive funding for new technology through the Digital Media Center’s Small Grants Program. Established two years ago, the grant program allows faculty to explore the use of technology and information services within their courses. For this academic year, $5,000 was available to fund grants up to $1,000 each.
Hunnicutt said the devices will make classroom learning more interactive because students will participate in lectures through “clicker questions.” Students submit their answers using the keypad on their transmitter, and the results display immediately, just like the results of audience polls on the television show, Hunnicutt said.
“It’s an immediate response for me and the students,” she said.
For example, Hunnicutt can hold a pop quiz during a lecture and get instant feedback about how well the class understands the material. If half of the class answers the question correctly but the other half misses it, then Hunnicutt said she knows she needs to go back and explain the concept again. Likewise, if 90 percent of the class answers correctly, then the few students who missed the question know they need to go back over the material or ask a question, she said.
Last year, classes in both economics and chemistry used a similar device that transmitted responses via infrared. However, in larger classroom settings, the infrared transmitter sometimes failed to register student responses and didn’t notify a student if their response was received, said Neal Yakelis, an assistant professor of chemistry who used the system in his classes last year.
The radio frequency transmitters being used by Hunnicutt this year should alleviate most of the problems associated with infrared transmitters, Yakelis said. The radio transmitters have a longer range, which will work better in large classroom settings, and display a “received” message when a student’s response registers with the reader, Yakelis said. He also plans to use the radio frequency transmitters in his chemistry classes.
Recipients of the grants were chosen based on a variety of criteria, including the innovative nature of the proposed technology, the overall impact on the applicant’s curriculum, the feasibility of the project and the benefit to other faculty, students and courses. The technology or educational technique also must be unavailable on campus or easily transferable from another source.
In addition to Hunnicut, Maryann Carr, a clinical associate professor of nursing, Solveig Robinson, an assistant professor of English, and Josh Page, information technology specialist for the School of Business, received funds.
Carr received a grant to purchase a Tablet PC to determine the practical use of the equipment in the nursing curriculum, particularly in clinical settings. Tablet PCs are mobile computers, similar to laptops in size but with the ability to twist the screen around and write on it like a notebook, Carr said.
Computers in patient rooms are a growing trend, and by using the Tablet PC, Carr said she hopes to determine if nurses can realistically apply them in the hospital setting. Textbook material can also be uploaded into the computer and used as a reference in clinical settings, which is more practical since most nursing texts are large and cumbersome, she added.
Meanwhile, Robinson’s project will work to foster collaboration between the book arts and graphic arts programs through the purchase of a digital press. The new equipment will also enable students to experiment with new book arts technology.
And Page will use his grant to implement a podcasting system for the MBA program. Read more about Page’s project here.