Research shows clickers can improve student performance.

The anonymity of lecture hall response systems has taken the awkwardness out of sensitive questions in Timothy Loving’s Introduction to Family Relationships course, and a new clicker software will let the University of Texas associate professor have a more personal exchange with his students.

Loving will use the latest version of the i>clicker response system to analyze student answers by political affiliation, race, gender, and other demographics.

The new i>clicker version 6.0 will still allow for anonymous answers to faculty questions, but the data slicing and demographic polling features will provide a breakdown that could shed light on where students from different backgrounds stand on thorny social issues.

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The newest version of i>clicker is in beta testing, company officials said, and the software will be released in the fall. The i>clicker was developed by Macmillan New Ventures. The technology is used at more than 900 U.S. colleges and universities.

Classroom discussion of varying perspectives can become an integral part of professors’ class plans when clicker responses are broken down by demographic, said Angela Nickoli, assistant professor at Ball State University’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology.

“By giving me the opportunity to slice the demographic data, I can delve into more complicated issues – like the death penalty, facilitating a deeper, more personal discussion,” Nickoli said. “This software will allow students to think more seriously about their peers’ differing perspectives, particularly when broken down by gender and as they relate to socioeconomic status.”