A new technology gaining in popularity in college classrooms is the audience response system known more popularly as clickers. Instructors design PowerPoint slides that query students on lecture points or solicit input and opinion interactively during a class; students respond through a personal clicker device that is uniquely coded for each student. The instructor and the class benefit from immediate feedback. There are many other useful applications for clickers including constructing interactive and guided discussions for meetings and planning activities.
For the recent meeting of the CMS Board of Directors in Dallas, we were able to obtain a set of clickers on loan thanks to Sheila Hura at Turning Technologies. The plan was to use the clickers for the annual process of deciding on a national topic for the coming year. The clickers also served as a demonstration for the possibility of their use in some of the Salt Lake City national conference sessions.
Prior to the meeting, a series of questions were developed as PowerPoint slides to guide the Board of Directors in their selection of a national topic; software designed by Turning Technologies had been added to PowerPoint. Here is a snapshot of some of the results. This provides some useful information regarding the national topic program.
The board voted that the most successful past national topic was 2006: Education in music is every musicians responsibility. The 2005 topic (Considering curricular challenges) and the 2007 topic (Beyond the disciplines) were tied for second. Overall the Board of Directors rated the national topic initiative as either extremely effective (46%) or fairly effective (36%). Among the most effective ways we can promote the national topics are: a panel session at the national conference with the regional presidents (18%), followed by panel sessions at regional meetings, a keynote speaker related to the topic, a dedicated CMS web page, and a dedicated issue of the newsletter. The Board of Directors responded that attributes of the national topic should be forward thinking (29%), innovative (25%), supportive of faculty needs (17%), and controversial (13%).
A long list of suggested national topics had been compiled over the past several years. These were grouped by broad topics areas: curriculum, music department, faculty, technology, and arts and lifelong learning issues. The Board of Directors then voted on one topic from each of these lists to create a final list for discussion. The following topics were selected:
- The relevance of the current curriculum to todays students
- The future of the music department
- Workloads and faculty burnout
- The impact of technology on the music curriculum
- The role of the arts in a changing society
Added to this list were three national topics that had been created by the Executive Committee and developed for the Board of Directors consideration:
- Music degrees: online, onsite, and hybrid delivery
- The future of music textbooks
- Who is running the music history class: Professor Johnson or Larry Kudlow?
The Board then used the clickers to vote on this list. Topic 1 received 67% of the vote; topic 8 received 17% of the vote. The Board agreed that The relevance of the current curriculum to todays students would be the national topic for 2008. For a complete discussion of the 2008 national topic, consult the March 2007 CMS Newsletter.
Most of the Board felt that the use of the clickers was a novel and enjoyable experience. Many of us were impressed that we were able to discuss and come to agreement on the national topic in forty-five minutes. Some felt that more discussion may have been useful.
Turning Technologies has offered to provide clickers for the Salt Lake City Conference for some selected sessions. Feel free to contact me if you would like more information concerning these audience response systems.