Click It to Check It: Review of Turning Technologies and eInstruction Response systems (Clickers)

This past week, I've been in the classrooms working with Test Prep teachers and using new sets of "Clickers" that we ordered from Turning Technologies.  We've had about 20 sets of clickers from eInstruction in the school for over a year now, but I experienced some sluggish performance from these sets when I was using them in Chemistry last year.  More on that to come as I recently met with our eInstruction reseller after talking with him at ICE a few weeks ago. 

Turning Point AnyWhere and Test Prep

Out of the box, I've been very impressed wtih how easy it has been to train teachers on how to use the Turning Point AnyWhere software and the accompanying response cards (clickers).  It has literally been plug and play (that's how it should be for every device/software, right?) as teachers simply need to plug in a USB dongle and open Turning Point AnyWhere, and voila, they are ready to start polling their classes.  With Test Prep teachers, we have used this feature to immediately collect real time data on how students are answering sample ACT questions on paper copies in front of them.  When data appears after each question, teachers can see a class snapshot of how students performed on a particular item.  Checking for Understanding becomes an everyday possibility as every student has a voice and can safely answers questions without fear of making a mistake publicly.  Common misconceptions can be discussed and analysis of multiple choice distractors lead to rich discussions of the material.  If teachers mark the correct answers as they proceed, they can retrieve session data that will reveal how individual students performed on the questions, thus leading to future interventions as needed.

Turning Point AnyWhere has few bells and whistles, but it gets the job done (as mentioned above), and the hardware seems to be durable.  Lithium ion batteries and credit card sized response devices seem to lend themselves to longevity with these clickers.  In addition to TP AnyWhere, Turning Point 2008 is included software, and this is where the robust features of the program make the device stand out even more.  Similar to CPS for PowerPoint, TP 2008 is a PowerPoint add-in that places additional items into your Office ribbon.  These items allow you to add "Clicker" slides into new and existing presentations, as well as some really eye-catching objects (timers, response grids, attention grabbers).  I also loved the "Team/Competition" slides which allow for a quick dividing into teams based on a question (Cubs or Sox? for example) and then scores are kept using these teams.  Overall, this seems to be a great product and a fairly easy to learn one (which was vital as our representative failed to meet with us in person on multiple occasions).

Revisiting eInstruction and CPS (Classroom Performance Systems)

As I mentioned, I expressed some minor frustrations with our eInstruction clickers to our reseller at ICE, and he was gracious enough to stop by ETHS and run through some of my concerns.  During our meeting, I re-discovered a few areas where eInstruction maintains an advantage, and after getting accustomed to the software's occasional hiccups, I learned to better appreciate some of these features offered.  Namely, the fast grade lesson is a feature that I was unaware of.  Considering our use with the Test Prep teachers, we could quickly input answers for a test document, and engage the lesson either as Teacher Managed, or since the eInstruction clickers have small LCD's, a teacher could engage a lesson as Student Paced, thus allowing students to work at their own leisure, yet giving the teacher feedback all along the way.  I'm looking forward to demonstrating this feature to our teachers soon.  Aside from that, we discussed the integration with ExamView, a nice feature since many of our courses' textbooks come with ExamView software.  We also reviewed how CPS for PowerPoint can do what TP 2008 can (though even the reseller was impressed with TP's "Team" features).

In the end, I'd be inclined to recommend Turning Point over eInstruction at this time.  Although we've only had them for a few months, I believe that these sets will be durable, and the out of the box usuability and stability are huge when working with teachers who would need to integrate the technology into a 42-minute period.


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