iClickered: iClickers in the Real World of Library Instruction


On Thursday, March 17th, 2011, the Instructor College sponsored an informal panel discussion with three librarians -- Gabriel Duque, Rebecca Hill, and Karen Reiman-Sendi -- and Chad Hershock, an assistant director from the UM Center for Research on Learning and Teaching CRLT about the use of iClickers in library instruction.  Many of Chad’s recommendations were included in CRLT Occasional Paper No. 22:  Teaching with Clickers, a white paper that includes information on student/faculty attitudes toward clickers, best practices and challenges.  The information below summarizes the workshop conversation about question design, challenges that librarians have faced and advice librarians can offer.

Question Design

  • Include “I don’t know” as a question option.  You don’t want the students to guess the answer.  You want to know whether they know the answer.
  • You could ask, “Have you had a library session before?” to get a sense of where to start the session.  You could also ask if they had used Mirlyn or what databases they had used.  You could also ask questions that are more task-based (“Have you ever checked out a book?”) instead of tool-based (“Have you ever used Mirlyn?”) to get a sense of what they have and haven’t done with library resources.
  • After showing students a new procedure or process, you might ask them if it would be helpful to show another example to give you a sense of whether it would be okay to move on with the lesson.
  • Asking international students where they are from with the clickers is a good ice breaker.
  • It is easy to revise a question in “real time.”
  • Ask students for their favorite movie (give them some choices) and then show them how to look it up in Mirlyn.
  • Students don’t need a toy in class.  Use the clickers and design the questions with a purpose.
  • Decide ahead of time the percentage of students you need to get the question correct.  Will it be okay with you if some students get the question incorrect and you still have to move on?  How will you manage these situations?


  • Using the clickers and prepping by creating slides can add time to your instructional load.  Consider if there is something that you can use repeatedly.  Manage in-class discussion of clicker answers appropriately.  If you are co-teaching, have one instructor manage the mechanics of the clicker software during the class while another facilitates the discussion.  Sometimes a student can help.
  • Sometimes the batteries run out of power.  There should be extra batteries in the boxes.  If not or if you use the last ones, please notify Donna McCauley after class.  Many times there are more clickers than students so you can easily exchange one clicker for another.
  • Use the instructor remote to advance slides in a PowerPoint presentation.  Using the keyboard in conjunction with the remote can sometimes cause the PowerPoint to freeze.


  • Try it once and see what happens.
  • Set up class session ahead of time.
  • Make sure the PIN number is in the Instructor remote.
  • Remember that students liked to play with clickers so stop the voting before you show the graph if you don’t want students to change their answers.
  • A bar graph is very easy for the students to read.
  • Most undergraduates are familiar with clickers so you don’t have to explain how to use them.
  • Think about your teaching style to determine how this tool can help you.  Do you need to break up lecturing?  Do you often call on students in class?  How do they respond now when you ask a question?
  • Grad students seem eager to talk in class.  Undergrads may be less enthusiastic so this tool may help with participation.
  • It may be difficult to use clickers with hands-on technology classes because students may have to move from one physical piece of technology to another which may feel awkward.
  • There are other online polling tools out there that are free and web- or mobile-based.  You may want to try them.
  • Clickers are not a magic tool.  The focus of the class will still be on you.
  • Share the data you collect with the faculty member or GSI.