Students use clickers to give answers

ATHENS, Ga. - University of Georgia professor Angela Sauers asks a question about a carbon compound chain in her organic chemistry class Friday and more than 200 students pull out the newest high-tech addition to many college classrooms - a calculator-size, radio-controlled polling "clicker."

Think audience polling on the television program Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

Ms. Sauers doesn't mumble through a lecture, drawing chemical compounds on a chalkboard.

She faces a 300-student class with her computer screen projected on the wall behind her and a button-size microphone to project her voice.

More and more professors across campus have added the polling clickers to classrooms as a way to offer extra credit, give pop quizzes and find out whether students need more or less time on a problem and adjust the lecture to students' needs.

The chemistry department started using the clickers about three years ago, but upgraded to a new brand that is both cheaper and easier to program, said Joel Caughran, an instructor and information technology manager for the UGA chemistry department.

Students punch in their answers on the wireless gadgets and broadcast their responses to the professor's computer, which tallies the input and allows Ms. Sauers and the class to see how many students answered the question and how well they did.

Being able to project computer slide shows helped turn professors around to face their students, but the clickers go one step further and make classrooms more interactive, Mr. Caughran said .

Sania Nasrullah, a pre-pharmacy and biology major in Ms. Sauers' class, paid about $50 for her clicker, but said the investment has paid off because she can use it in her biology class and she can share it with a friend, so long as they're not in the same class.

Ms. Nasrullah's professors "strongly encourage" their students to buy the clickers, even though the instruments aren't required, because they want to make sure students are following the lecture material, she said.

"It's like a participation grade," Ms. Nasrullah said.

If students don't do as well on a test, their clicker participation helps improve their grade, she said.

"Pretty much, that's why I chose to do it," she said. "In the end, what really matters is - I do come to class and I feel like I should be rewarded for that."