RACINE — At the push of a button, Drake Phillips and the 21 other sixth-graders in his class at Racine Christian School can let their teacher know if they understood a lesson or if a review of the material is needed.
The instantaneous, whole-class feedback helps teacher Dale Large assess how his kids are doing — and what he should do next — without embarrassment or peer pressure getting in the way.
It’s possible thanks to tiny hand-held gadgets that are new to Racine Christian this school year.
You can call them student response systems, clickers or, to use their full name, Mimio Votes. They look like TV remotes or video game controllers and they let students answer multiple choice and true/false questions by pressing light-up buttons.
Students’ responses are recorded on Large’s computer in real-time. Settings let him see either the percentage of the class answering correctly and incorrectly, or each student’s individual responses, which can go straight into his computer grade book. Students also can see their own results, explained Large, who teaches fifth- and sixth-grade math and science at Racine Christian, 912 Virginia St.
“It allows for the quick response as opposed to if I have to take it and grade it. Even if I’m a very fast grader, it’s going to take me time to get it back to them. This they can see right away” which is helpful when students must prepare for a test, Large said. He added the instantaneousness also informs immediate changes in his instruction, helping him “decide if I can go to the next step or keep at the basic level.”
Large uses the devices to have students complete pre-tests on new chapters and review-tests of material learned the day before. He also uses them during lessons by putting a question on the board and having students pick an answer with their Mimio Vote. That works better than having students raise their hands to show understanding because kids tend to raise their hands when their friends do, Large said.
“(The Mimio Votes) give an honest assessment,” he said.
Large is careful not to overuse the devices though, so students still learn to speak up in front of their peers. A typical week has his students getting out the Mimio Votes twice, he said.
Students like when they get to use them because they’re high-tech and reminiscent of game controllers or cellphones, said sixth-grader Chloe Woods.
“There’s buttons and you don’t really have to write that much,” she said.
Fellow student Drake added, “They’re fun and easy … because we have multiple choice.”
But the Mimio Votes do come with a few cons. It’s not always a smooth transition when students get them out and kids can get distracted. There’s a learning curve for teachers and incorporating the Mimio Votes into lessons takes extra planning. Technology also doesn’t always work as it’s supposed to, Large said.
Last Tuesday, Large used the Mimio Votes for a sixth-grade math review-test. That went fine but using them later for in-lesson science review questions didn’t work because Large had set things up incorrectly. Despite the snafu, Large said he still likes having the Mimio Votes better than not having them.