By Andy Powell
Published Tuesday, December 18, 2012
| From the February 2013 Issue of FireRescue
Daily training has become a way of life for firefighters. Taking out our equipment and getting our hands dirty is what we signed up for. But as most firefighters know, training also includes sitting in a classroom. Classroom training often involves the teacher going through a PowerPoint presentation while their firefighter students try to stay awake and act like they’re paying attention. Then there’s that one person who’s more energetic than the rest and tries to answer every question. Often, only a few students will comprehend the information and remain engaged throughout the lecture.
My department has tried to come up with a different approach to classroom training to ensure everyone stays awake and participates. In other words, we’ve attempted to make the classroom more interactive and so far, our efforts have increased participation and retention. How did we do it? By using a new tool on the market: the CPS Pulse Student Response System from eInstruction, or “clickers” as we call them.
There are a variety of clicker-type systems on the market, and each has its pros and cons. The CPS Pulse is a sleek, user-friendly and rugged device that looks and operates like a remote control. The design is small enough to fit into your hand comfortably, but rugged enough to withstand abuse, and it’s easy to operate. If you’ve ever used a remote control or sent a text message, then you know how to use a clicker.
At the top of the clicker device is an LCD screen that displays not only the questions entered into the system by the teacher, but also the student’s answers to each question (the teacher has the option of displaying all the students’ answers or keeping them hidden. Each clicker also comes with a number, which helps the teacher select students at random to discuss the questions given and keeps the class more engaged.
The Pulse clicker is not only easy for the firefighters to use right away, but the instructor can also get the system up and operating in just a few minutes. The system comes with a radio frequency (RF) adapter that plugs into the USB port of any computer. The RF adapter is what communicates the answers from the clickers to the computer used by the teacher to instruct the class. The clickers use an RF signal so that a line-of-sight from the clicker to the RF adapter isn’t necessary; in other words, no one needs to try to point their clicker at the computer.
The computer that’s running the RF adapter has to have the CPS Student Response Program installed. Installing the program is quick and easy, and if you decide to use the instructions, they are very detailed. Once installed, the program provides the communication necessary between the clickers and the computer, as well as the platform needed for developing and asking questions. The questions can be developed prior to the start of class or can be asked during the lecture.
We’ve found many advantages to using the Pulse clickers in a classroom setting. First, every student becomes engaged in the lecture. The clicker gets the “quiet kid” talking. Long gone are the days of one student talking while the others try to stay awake. As mentioned earlier, one of the great features of this system are the numbers assigned to each clicker. When the teacher wants someone to answer a question, the system randomly picks a clicker number. The teacher can then call out that number, and the person with that number must participate in the discussion. And when students know that there’s a chance they might be called on in class, they tend to pay attention and become more engaged in the lecture
Another advantage: The instructor can use the answers to adjust their lecture content. For example, let’s say the instructor is giving a class on air management. During the class, the instructor asks a question about the department’s policy on when to exit a building. The students enter their answers into the Pulse system, and instructor immediately notices that most of the students answered incorrectly. As a result, the instructor can tailor their discussion to review the policy and make sure that all students understand it. This crucial feedback allows the teacher to provide quality training that the students will appreciate.
The clickers are also extremely versatile; they can be used in a large array of settings, not just lectures. For example, they can be used for test-taking, such as EMT tests promotional exams, state tests, etc. Using the clickers in this way provides the students with instant feedback. In a classroom setting, the instant feedback is provided through the instructor simply clicking a box. Once the box is checked, the whole class can see how the questions were answered. The instructor can click another box to provide the responses in a chart format. In a testing situation, instant feedback is only provided at the conclusion of the test, if the instructor decides to show the students. Each student can receive a printout of their answers and scores. There are many options available with the instructor controlling the options.
The teachers also benefits when using Pulse clickers during tests: In every multiple-choice test, there seems to be one question that could have two correct answers. To avoid this problem, the teacher can use the clicker to change the question and automatically adjust the test at its conclusion. We have found that it’s better to never throw out an answer; rather, it's best to make all answers for a particular question correct. This keeps the scoring simple and saves the instructor countless hours.
Last summer, my department used the Pulse clickers for our recruit academy; every recruit was assigned a clicker. The recruits used the devices for recording their attendance, responding to questions during lectures and taking tests. Using the clickers in these ways provided the academy with instant electronic records; it also reduced the need for office supplies, and most importantly, it saved time for the instructors.
If your fire department is like mine, you have hundreds of PowerPoint classes that are already developed and can easily be adjusted to include CPS Pulse Student Response System technology. If you’re developing a new class, instructors can tailor the class around the clickers, but if you don’t have the time to build a class, there are ready-made materials available that can be used with the CPS Pulse system.
Tip: When looking at these materials, look for something called Exam view. Exam view incorporates into the CPS Pulse Student Response System and helps decrease the time it takes to develop a class. We have discovered that for an additional cost, most publishers already participate in Exam view. You can purchase directly from the publisher or there are numerous book suppliers that can provide Exam view. Exam view is not required to be able to run the CPS system, but if you find yourself pressed for time or suffering from writer's block, Exam view is an excellent tool.
The CPS Pulse from eInstruction is extremely easy to use and understand, it fits comfortably in your hand and most importantly, it keeps students engaged and helps fuel their overall interest in the class.
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