I am the Head of Learning Support and Inclusion Champion at Jumeirah, a high-achieving school with over 700 students enrolled, ranging from 3-11 years old. I’m responsible for coordinating Learning Support throughout the school, from preschool to 5th grade.
We have a fairly wide profile of special educational needs among our student population. With regards to Clicker, we’re currently using it to support students who have a specific learning difficulty related to literacy. For example, we have students with dyslexia, a learner with expressive receptive language delay, students with strong sensory profiles, and others demonstrating dyslexic tendencies.
We were previously using a different brand of literacy software, which although beneficial for our older students, had limitations with regards to the interface and usability for a elementary school user – we wanted to explore other options aimed specifically at elementary school writers.
And then, we found Clicker, which did exactly what we were looking for!
The main outcome that we wanted to achieve with Clicker was to increase student motivation. We knew Clicker had all these wonderful accessibility tools that would improve the experience for struggling writers, but it was really about treating it as a quality first teaching tool, making every child excited by the possibilities that Clicker presented in terms of writing achievement.
The way we decided to roll out Clicker was to create ‘Clicker Leaders’ in each grade. We had a number of students in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade who were in pull out programs - they came to us twice a week and we trained them to use Clicker with tasks that related back to their classwork. They became the Clicker experts in their grade, who would then be called upon to use their expertise to support their peers. Ordinarily, these are students who would be more tentative with regards to literacy, but this gave them a fantastic opportunity to actually take the lead and be the ones supporting their peers.
In fact, we had the Dubai School Inspection Bureau in earlier this week, and they were able to see the grade 5 Leaders working with me to create a Clicker user guide for their younger peers. They commented very positively about the whole concept and the impact on the students’ confidence.
The inspectors also had the opportunity to see Clicker being used in lessons. One of our students was going to be using Clicker as part of his group for planning, and the entire group decided to allow him to take the lead, using Clicker under his guidance; what a hugely empowering moment for him!
From the anecdotal feedback from the children, there are several of them who were previously totally turned off by writing, but absolutely rave about it now that they have Clicker! We’ve had their parents come in celebrating the amount of work they’re able to produce now, and the ideas they’re finally able to get down on paper. Clicker has really inspired and excited these children about writing, which is exactly what we had hoped for.
In terms of usability, all the children have taken to the program like a duck to water. The simplicity of it was enormously beneficial and engaging – children are naturally risk takers so they’re happy to dive in and find their own way. They were quickly showing me all the features and teaching me as much as I was teaching them; it was a real voyage of discovery for everyone.
My favorite Clicker feature? It’s so hard to choose!
Across the board, having heard from all the groups using it, I would highlight two key aspects of the program that are having a significant impact on student progress and success. The first is the Clicker Board mind mapping tool; they can use it to capture all their initial ideas and then with a click of a button, turn it into a key word bank. Ordinarily they would be planning work on a piece of paper then having to copy that over, creating a secondary level of repeated work, but this is instantly removed by Clicker. Second, the text to speech; the students know that their work isn’t going to be read back to them until they’ve added their periods, so they have to remember them! They’re also becoming more attuned to listening for where they’d anticipate the other punctuation being, and noticing its absence. This has been particularly useful for the older students who are working on things like subordinating clauses and ensuring that commas are in the right place - Clicker makes this active engagement with their own writing a lot easier.
From a teaching perspective, I also love how easy it is to create activities that fit with the specific texts we are using and lesson plans we are following. For example, I recently created a new resource for the 5th graders, who were studying ‘Goodnight, Mr. Tom’ at the time. I just found a PDF online about it, copied and pasted the text in, and made a key word bank for them; it was so easy to do. Crick Software also provides lots of ready-made resources for you to use via their LearningGrids website; they’ve just added a new set of resources about Superheroes, which coincidently is the theme we currently have in our first grade classes, so an ideal opportunity for us to start using those!
To sum up the impact that Clicker is having in our school, it’s really transforming the writing experience and creating a community of engaged, motivated writers. These were children who would normally find writing a really frustrating process, whether this be because of the difficulty in developing their ideas, or finding the physical requirements of writing very labor-intensive, or spelling challenges…Clicker has leveled the playing field – it’s giving them the same opportunities to be as successful as their peers.
What would I say to other schools about Clicker? Buy it yesterday! Really and truly - I’d heard of Clicker a long time ago but never really knew what it was, but once I saw it, and witnessed those ‘Ah hah!’ moments that the children and my colleagues have all been having over the past few months, I WISHED I’d explored it sooner. Clicker is something that absolutely matches the needs of our students and gives them the opportunity to be independent learners, which is what it’s all about.