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What are Clickers?

Clickers are a type of audience response system that allows teachers to ask questions and students to respond using a simple remote control.  A number of departments use clickers in their classes at Swarthmore, including Biology, Computer Science, Chemistry, Math/Stat, Physics, and Psychology. 

Hardware

We use the iClicker brand response system.  Most departments use either the original iClicker or the iClicker+, which has the same functionality in a smaller package.  Computer Science has a set of iClicker 2 remotes which include a small screen for alphanumerical answers.  The iClicker base station works with all types of iClickers.

It is also possible to use a smart phone to respond, but there is a subscription fee and most faculty would prefer students not use their phones in class.

Instructor remotes let teachers start and stop the polling, show and hide the results graph, and switch presentation slides.  Some models have built-in laser pointers.  

 

ModelImage
Original iClickerOriginal iClicker
iClicker+
iClicker 2iClicker 2
Instructor RemotesInstructor RemotesInstructor Remotes
Base stationBase station

Classroom installations

Starting in Fall 2015, iClicker base stations were placed in classrooms in which instructors wanted to use clickers.  They are usually kept in a drawer or cabinet near the A/V system.  Media Services has an extra base station and remote control in case there is a problem with the equipment in the classroom.  

Software

You can download the iClicker software from the iClicker website.  It is free to download.  

The iClicker software is also installed on all classroom computers.  See below for an important note about using the software on classroom computers.  

Setup

  1. Connect the iClicker base station to the computer with the USB cable.  
  2. Hand out the clickers to students.  
  3. Start the iClicker software.  If this is your first time using the software, you will be prompted to create a class.  After creating the class, you can start a new session.  

If using a classroom computer

If you are using a classroom computer, you will need to copy the iClicker software from the Applications folder to your Documents folder. You can do this by opening the Applications folder, clicking on the iClicker Folder, going to Edit Menu → Copy, then go to the Documents folder and select Edit Menu Paste. Then run the program from your Documents folder every time.

This has to be done because the iClicker software stores all the information about your course within the iClicker folder and users don't have write access to the Applications folder.

Instructor Remote

You can pair the instructor remote with the iClicker software by going to the iClicker settings and entering the serial number of the instructor remote (on the back) in the appropriate box.  This will allow the instructor remote to control the iClicker software.  

Teaching Resources

Lots of clicker resources, including a PDF guide and short videos at Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia.

Troubleshooting

Base station firmware needs to be updated

If you use a new version of the iClicker software with an old iClicker base station you may receive an error that the iClicker base station firmware needs to be updated in order to work properly with the software.   Contact ITS for help (help@swarthmore.edu) or use the iClicker firmware update utility from their Tools and Utilities page.

Can't create a new course in the iClicker software

If you are using a classroom computer, you need to run the software from your user folder instead of the Applications folder because of a permissions issue.  Copy the iClicker folder from the Applications folder to your Documents folder and run the program from your Documents folder.  When you make a copy, make sure that you are making an actual copy and not creating a shortcut.  

There is a problem with a base station or the base station is missing from the classroom

Media Services has an extra base station and instructor remote in case there is a problem with a base station.  

Software problems

iClicker has a support site located at http://support.iclicker.com/ where you can view FAQ's or download the iClicker software User Guide.  You can also contact ITS at help@swarthmore.edu with any questions.

Battery Problems

Some clickers have dead batteries but the "low battery" red LED doesn't come on.  The clickers power up normally but then turn off when one of the voting buttons is pressed.  iClicker support says to replace the batteries.  We were able to get an explanation for why the low bettery light doesn't come on from iClicker Support:

This type of behavior is indicative of a power problem. When the problem occurs after battery replacement it can almost always be traced to one of two things: 
1.) - The batteries used for replacement are Duracell, or sometimes a generic brand 
2.) – Not all of the batteries in the remote were actually replaced

Duracell (and some generic brand) batteries cause a problem in the device. This appears to be due to differences between the dimensions on the inside of the remote and the positive terminal on the Duracell batteries that keep the two from making contact.

The second cause, not all of three batteries being replaced, is actually the most common problem we see with returned remotes. Please change all of the batteries in your remote and replace them with new batteries batteries (don't reuse the batteries that just came out of the device). If you have the original i>clicker remote you will find 3, in i>clicker + and i>clicker 2, you will find 2 batteries, which need to be changed for new ones. In case of i>clicker original the batteries make a very tight fit in the remote, and so the third battery frequently gets stuck at the top. The remote has to be tapped a bit in order to shake the last battery loose. For this reason, many customers only see two batteries come out of the remote and so they only put two back in. The third battery is still dead or very weak, and so customers still experience power problems not knowing that only two batteries were replaced.

While the batteries are out of the remote it is also a good idea to tighten the two visible screws on the back of the remote before replacing the batteries. We know that Energizer batteries work and so we suggest using those.