TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, November 3, 2008

Clickers Redux

Clickers As regular readers of this blog know, I use clickers in all of my classes (see this New York Times story) and wrote an article on my experience (Taking Back the Law School Classroom: Using Technology to Foster Active Student Learning, 54 J. Legal Educ. 551 (2004)).  I will be evangelizing about their use at the AALS Annual Meeting on Wednesday, January 7, 2009 as part of the Committee on Curriculum's Workshop on Redesigning Legal Education.  Today's Inside Higher Ed reports on the use of clickers at the Universities of Delaware, Maryland, and Pittsburgh in Clicker U., by Scott Jaschik:

To some academics, clickers are a great new technology, allowing professors to measure instantly whether students in a large class are grasping new concepts (or are even in class). To others, clickers represent a depersonalizing influence.

At the annual meeting of Educause, an organization of college technology officials, the former appeared solidly in the majority. Indeed, at a session on the use of clickers, officials of three large universities reported that once professors start to use clickers, the devices’ popularity took off, and not just in mammoth lecture classes. To these officials, the questions about clickers weren’t of the “Should we use them or not?” variety but of the policy variety: Should institutions support only one model on campus or whatever professors pick? Who is responsible for training professors in their use? Should certain uses of clickers be discouraged or encouraged?

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When I started using clickers, I was the only member of the faculty using them. I chose einstruction, chiefly because it was the only player in town. Later, as other faculty became interested, the consensus was to use Turning Point. The argument was that it was easier to use. I dissented.

Fortunately, the school supports using both, but that puts a burden on students. Unfortunately, converting to Turning Point would require re-keying all umpteen-hundred clicker questions I developed over a 3-year period, or proof-reading thousands of words and numbers keyed in by a staff person unfamiliar with the substantive areas of the law.

It amazes me that Turning Point, and other latecomers to the game, don't make it easy to convert from other "brands" though I wouldn't convert even if that was possible. There is nothing Turning Point does that I cannot do in einstruction, so why change?

As for the depersonalization issue, students very much prefer using clickers than responding in class in the traditional manner. Students live in a digital world, and the culture of their environment is changing society. Though some see it as and call it depersonalization, they don't have that perspective. To them, it's normal, it's life, and it's their future.


Posted by: Jim Maule | Nov 3, 2008 1:58:08 PM