Glendon on the leading edge in classroom technology


Above: VOLT host David Baeta (right) interviews Glendon students Émilie Lavoie (left) and Renée Gauthier

VOLT, TFO’s newsmagazine for francophone and francophile teenagers (and their parents), will air a program in prime time (6:30 to 7pm) in the next few weeks about a new technology being piloted in Glendon classrooms: the so-called “clicker” or personal response system (PRS).

Right: Students use the PRS in the classroom

Professor Evelyne Corcos of Glendon’s Psychology Department is running the pilot project in tandem with a similar project at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “While it takes more preparation to set up a lesson or a test using this technology, the payoffs are very real,” says Corcos. “You have to pre-program every piece of the lecture, from background information to questions and answers. But it leaves more time for creative activities in class and I have an on-the-spot evaluation of whether certain individuals, or the whole class, are able to follow the information and answer the questions. It is also an effective tool for some students with certain disabilities.” The instant feedback enables the professor to focus on areas requiring more explanation and identifies students who need help.

How does it work? Each student has a personal gadget – a clicker – much like a television remote control, with numbered buttons. The clicker is an infrared wireless transmitter which communicates with a central computer. Students can answer questions and record their responses with the simple click of a button and the results are instantly charted and displayed for real-time student feedback. The software program on the computer can even take attendance, record grades and produce individual or whole-class reports, taking some of the administrative drudgery out of the professors’ work.

Third-year psychology majors Émilie Lavoie and Renée Gauthier both really like the system. “It helps with preparing for lessons and exams, because you know how much you know, or don’t know, every day,” says Lavoie. “The immediate feedback and the detailed information available within the program make it easier to study,” adds Gauthier. “I would choose this system [if it were regularly available], because I know that it helps me in my work,” she says. As with most of their generation, Lavoie and Gauthier are comfortable with using computer technology and are quick to understand how the clicker works and what it can do.

Mario Therrien (right with Baeta), director of Information Technology Services at Glendon and at Osgoode, considers Glendon an ideal testing site for the PRS. “With Glendon’s small classes, it’s much easier for a professor to engage the students, monitor results and evaluate the effectiveness of the tool,” Therrien explains. “Right now, during the pilot project, Glendon receives the equipment free of charge. But if the clicker is as effective as we expect, it will not be a very expensive system to install.”

Is it just a gadget? Certainly, “it’s simple and it’s fun but it also does the job,” says Corcos. “I am convinced that it makes a difference.” Her findings show that test results are significantly better when students use the clicker. It enables ready access to information, records everything that is said in class for easy review and allows several students to participate at the same time.

“But this is only one of several classroom tools which can enhance course delivery. There are others such as Quickplace or PowerPoint,” says Corcos. “And we must remember that no mechanical teaching aid ever replaces the professor or the immediacy of being in a classroom with other students.”

This article was submitted to YFile by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny.