People to Know (Ada Lovelace Day Edition): Angel Hoekstra

Today, as you may have heard, is Ada Lovelace Day, a day in which bloggers are encouraged to write about women in technology they admire.  The day is named in honor of Ada Lovelace, widely regarded as the world’s first computer programmer.  Lovelace worked with Charles Babbage, mathematician, cryptographer, and organ grinder hater, who designed–but did not build–the world’s first computer, the analytical engine.  (As a result of Babbage’s lack of follow-through, Lovelace’s computer programs were, sadly, not actually implemented in her lifetime.)

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize someone I admire in the world of educational technology: Angel Hoekstra, who recently completed a PhD in sociology at the University of Colorado-Boulder.  For her dissertation research, Angel studied student perspectives on learning with classroom response systems in large chemistry courses.  Her first paper on this work came out in 2008:

  • Hoekstra, A. (2008). Vibrant student voices: Exploring effects of the use of clickers in large college courses. Learning, Media, & Technology, 33(4), 329-341.

From the abstract:

This study investigates social, educational, and emotional effects of the use of SRSs–clickers–at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  Methods include participant observation, survey data from over 2000 students enrolled in three semesters of General Chemistry, and in-depth interviews exploring the nature of student experiences with clickers.

Angel’s use of not one, but three interesting methods of surfacing student uses of and perspectives on clickers–surveys, classroom observations, and in-depth interviews–give her findings a great deal of weight.  I’m a great fan of this kind of qualitative research.  I find it’s often more useful than the kind of quasi-control group, quantitative research often conducted around teaching with clickers–more useful in the sense that it provides a richer understanding of how students learn both with and without clickers.  Dr. Hoekstra’s work is a significant contribution to the literature on classroom responses in particular and educational technology in particular.  (More of my thoughts on this paper are available in an earlier blog post.)

Beyond her dissertation work, Angel also uses clickers in the sociology courses she teaches.  Her recent paper (with Stefanie Mollborn) on the use of clickers in sociology education is the first and, so far, only item in the “sociology” section of my clickers bibliography.

Angel will be presenting her dissertation research at the upcoming clickers conference at the University of Louisville, June 4, 2010.  Here’s her abstract:

Drawing from five years of research into the effects of clicker use in higher education, this presentation will make use of quantitative and qualitative data to illustrate the practical experiences of students and teachers who use clickers.  The presentation will compare best practices for clicker use across disciplines, with a focus on effective pedagogy in natural and social science courses.  Data from four disciplines (chemistry, astronomy, sociology, journalism) will be used to illustrate the potential of clicker technology for fostering increased engagement, conceptual understanding, cooperation, and solidarity, while engaging intermediate and experienced clicker users in general and discipline-specific strategies for clicker use.

If you’re heading to the Louisville conference, I encourage you to hear from Angel about her work!  And if you’re not going to Louisville, her talk is another great reason to go.

I’m glad that Angel is bringing a sociologist’s perspective to the growing body of research exploring the effects of teaching with classroom response systems, and I look forward to reading and hearing about her future work in this area.

For more Ada Lovelace Day posts, see the list of posts (over 2000 and still going–March 24th has a few more hours in it depending on your time zone!) at  Here are a few posts from blogs I follow:

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