Paul L. Caron

Monday, December 1, 2008

Clickers: A Dissenting View

Chronicle of Higher Education: Classroom Clickers and the Cost of Technology (op-ed), by Michael Bugeja (Director, Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, Iowa State University):

Ira David Socol, a scholar of technology in special education at Michigan State University, states, "The idea of wasting money on a device no more sophisticated pedagogically than raising your hand drives me nuts, whether it is students' money or the university's." Cellphones, he says, can perform the same tasks as clickers with more interactivity and less inefficiency. ...

Businesses routinely take advantage of the helpful cultures of information-technology and teaching-excellence centers. The first impulse of many such campus programs is to be of service; the second is to be on the cutting edge of innovation in a technological environment. Such virtues, however, can be vices when manipulated by marketers whose goal is profit, not pedagogy. ...

I am still wary of clickers, and I asked professors in my unit if they were using them. ... The students were against clickers ... : "One said that she and her friends would slow down lectures by inputting incorrect answers to poll questions. Another said that it was not unusual to have one student bring multiple clickers as a favor to friends in classes in which clicker responses were used to award credit." ...

Institutions have much to learn from students about the cost and effectiveness of technology. Chief information officers need to be consulted before departments invest in expensive for-profit consumer technologies. Professors need to realize that technology comes at a price, even when advertised as "free." Finally, administrators need to double their efforts at cost containment, demanding assessment before investment, especially in schemes that bypass mandated accountability standards. Otherwise business as usual will continue to disenfranchise our students, who will hold their debt-ridden futures in their clicking hands.

(Hat Tip: Jim Hart.)

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An important piece to any business or educational process is analyzing the cost/benefit ratio. The article points to the costs, but fails to accurately investigate the benefits. There are many faculty and students who recognize the benefits of clicker technology.

Like any piece of teaching technology, there are places to use it and places to not. And there are some who integrate it into the curriculum (generally more successful), while others try to bolt it on to the side (generally less successful). It takes some effort to successfully integrate the technology into the curriculum. It is in classes where faculty fail to take the time to integrate the technology where students dislike the technology.

Posted by: JB | Dec 3, 2008 2:04:41 PM

On the "waste of money" issue, profs who regularly use clickers should be obligated to set up a secondary market to buy/sell used clickers from one year to the next.

Posted by: 3L | Dec 2, 2008 3:33:43 PM

My daughter attends San Diego State, and she hates classroom clickers. She says that students do EXACTLY what the article suggests: they bring the clickers in for others. She also says that when they are used for quizzes and tests, the accidental wrong answer cannot be fixed (unlike a paper test).

To me, the idea seems like technology gone nuts, and a complete waste of money.

Posted by: Larry Stratton | Dec 2, 2008 8:04:26 AM