Click Your Way into the Future of Education!

by: Katie Barnard, Ashley Torbert, Nick Bible, Lindsay Crable
Frostburg State University
Spring 2009


Personal Response Systems (PRS) are just one of the hundreds of ways teachers are incorporating technology into their classroom. This system has been around for many years and encourages student participation. The PRS works just like a remote control and can be purchased somewhat inexpensively. This paper will explore the history of the PRS, where the PRS is most used, how the PRS works, and a breakdown of the cost of the PRS.

Personal response systems have been in use since the 1960’s; however, the models have evolved and improved with the advances in technology. In the past, PRS were mainly used to poll audiences’ responses to movies and commercials before being released to the public. During the 1970’s, the PRS were applied to the corporate world. Bill Simmons, a retired IBM executive, wanted to improve the productivity and efficiency of business meetings. The device he developed was used to anonymously determine the level of agreement or disagreement of group members in a meeting. He named it the Consensor and it consisted of a dial which surveyors turned from 0 to 10 to level of their satisfaction. A series of green, yellow, and red lights would illuminate depending upon the general consensus of the group ("Audience Response," n.d.)
Simmons launched the first Audience Response Company called Applied Futures and sold his new device. As technology improved, so did the Consensor. New models were created as portable, wireless, hand-held devices. Eventually, the Personal Response Systems were equipped with materials to hook up to Microsoft PowerPoint presentations and brought into classrooms as a learning tool.

Personal response systems are primarily used in large classroom settings but can also be used in smaller class sizes. These work by an instructor handing out transmitter units or hand-held computers to the students at the beginning of class. With prompting from the instructor, students input answers or comments into the devices during class. Hardware-based units usually allow for multiple-choice- and yes/no type of questions; some allow students to weight answers based on their confidence (Duncan 2005). Personal response systems are used by faculty members during class to poll students or give a short quiz. They are also sometimes referred to as “student”, “audience” or “classroom” response systems. Personal response systems are used in the classroom to ask various types of questions and do several different types of activities.
In addition to facilitating several different teaching activities personal response systems can be used to ask a variety of types of questions. They include factual questions, conceptual questions, opinion questions, data gathering questions, and they can provide direct feedback on how a particular class is going (Elliot 2006). Factual questions would be used to see if students did a reading, remembered important points from class, or to see if students have memorized important facts. A conceptual question would be a multiple choice question that would demonstrate whether or not students understand important concepts and principles. Evaluative and opinion questions may not have correct answers, but asking these questions can engage students and provoke rich discussions. All of these questions are asked simultaneously and enable students to answer instantly and anonymously. They can also be used to take attendance by seeing which students used the clickers during class. Other types of activities personal response systems enable a classroom to do is formative assessment, summative assessment, and homework collection (Duncan). Clickers can be used for graded activities, such as multiple-choice quizzes or even tests. They can also be used to pose questions to students and collect their answers for the purpose of providing real-time information about student learning to both the instructor and the students. Students can use this feedback to monitor their own learning, and instructors can use it to change how they manage class in response to student learning needs.
external image personal_response_...

Personal response systems are great because they encourage participation from each every student in the class. A personal response system gives students a chance to respond to a teacher’s question silently and privately, allowing a student who might not typically speak up in class to express their thoughts and opinions. By asking PRS-facilitated questions, teachers can determine if students understand important points or distinctions raised in class (Macmanaway 2001). They need not wait until homework is turned in or exams are completed to do so. Instead they can receive feedback on a lecture during that same lecture.
Sample of Student Response
Sample of Student Response fds/lrn_srs.htm

Personal response systems can be a useful tool in bringing technology into the classroom while increasing the level of student participation. “Through small remote devices ("clickers"), instructors can poll their students, ensure key learning points are being absorbed, take attendance, or give low-stakes quizzes.” According to the UCLA’S Office of Instructional Development, most personal response systems utilize a combination of both hardware and software in order to present questions, record student responses, collect data and then provide feedback regarding the data (UCLA, 2008). The hardware is generally comprised of the receiver used by the instructor and the clickers that the students use.
Personal Response System most often utilizes either infrared technology or radio frequencies in order to collect data(UCLA,2008). Radio frequency systems offer an easier set up, have the potential to serve a larger number of students and are a more portable system. UCLA recommends the use of the radio frequency technology; however, this is a decision that must be made on a case by case base depending on the desired use of the system (UCLA,2008). Many systems such as the i>clicker operate in much the same way as a Wi-Fi system does(i>Clicker,2008). While others operate using infrared technology which sends a beam from the student’s clicker to receivers positioned around the room. These types of systems while still useful are less convenient because in larger spaces a greater number of receivers are needed. Also the number of clickers that may be used per receiver is lower. Although the useable software varies depending on the particular system that is being operated many systems typically allow instructors to use PowerPoint to create questions. Systems may also be compatible with resources such as Quizdom and Turning Point Technologies ("Clickers",2009).
See full size image
See full size image faculty/prs/index.html

Personal response systems aid professors in engaging their students in lessons. For quite a low cost, use of PRS clickers is possible. A company that makes clickers sells directly to the bookstore, and then these are available for student purchase. InterWrite-a company that makes clickers- sells each clicker to the campus bookstore for about $35. It is then the bookstore's policy to raise the price of each clicker to about $47. Just like used textbooks, students have the option of selling the Clicker back to the bookstore for resale, or selling it to a friend that might need it during a new semester. (Classroom clickers make the grade, 2005) Each Clicker sold to the bookstore includes batteries that will last for about 20 hours. After 20 hours, the batteries need only be replaced with 2 AAA batteries. To equip classrooms for PRS use, few things are needed. A Turning Point Receiver is sold for $99-$220. A Turning Point Clicker to be used with the Receiver is about $33. Not having a computer with PowerPoint program and a projector adds to the cost of equipping a classroom for Clicker use. Also, the program can be run from a jump drive, so only one computer with the InterWrite software is needed.

external image low_cost.jpg Clickers are low cost!

In conclusion, Personal Response Systems have come a long way since their beginning in the 1970's. PRS have moved from audience surveys and corporate conference meetings to schools and classrooms. Several types of PRS devices are available, each with their own benefits. At a relatively low cost, PRS can have a big impact on teaching and learning.

See full size image
See full size image


UCLA Office of Instructional Development. (n.d.). An overview of personal response systems. Retrieved February 31, 2009, from Teaching Enhancement Center:

i>Clicker. (2008). About i>clicker. Retrieved February 31, 2009, from i>Clicker:

The University of Iowa. (n.d.). Personal response systems-"Clickers". Retrieved February 31, 2009, from Instructional Services:

Audience Response.(n.d.) Retrieved February 9,2009, from Wikipedia:

Duncan, D. (2005). Clickers in the classroom: How to enhance science teaching using classroom response systems. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Elliot, C. (2003). Using a personal response system in economics teaching. International Review of Economics Education, 1(1), 80-86.

MacManaway, L. (2001) ‘Teaching methods in higher education – innovation and research, Universities Quarterly, 24(3), 321–9.

Martyn, M (2007). Clickers in the classroom: An active learning approach. Educause Quaterly, 2, Retrieved February 8, 2009, from

Wired. (2009). Classroom clickers make the grade. Wired, Retrieved February 8, 2009, from

Associated Press. (2005). Interactive clickers changing classrooms. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from

Paper Published: 3/2/09