Clickers!

A number of posts have commented on the Chronicle article and the NPR story on clickers. I really don’t like clickers. I recognize that there are certain classes, mostly large lecture classes, where they seem necessary. Buy why do they seem necessary? Because there’s a recognition that students don’t always learn well in those settings and so the clickers are used to determine if the students are learning and if they’re not, in theory, to go over material again or differently so that they do learn. So rather than deal with the root of the problem, they throw technology at it. This is the worst use of technology in education and unfortunately, it’s the most common.

Bugeja adds in a comment to Soltan’s post linked to above the following:

Cost is the issue. No research to my knowledge documents any learning benefit according to empirical analysis–in this case, raising hands as opposed to clicking keypads in those hands.

Here’s my point:

Unless we stop underwriting any benefit, especially without the above analysis, technology–which promised to democratize academe–will continue to corporatize it, at the expense of the Humanities, I’m afraid.

In the article, he suggests that the idea for investing in clickers came from a few faculty who’d been pitched the technology along with textbooks by publishers. The IT department was simply commissioned to implement the technology after the fact and very little analysis of the costs or benefits was done by either faculty or the IT department. I wonder how many other “educational technologies” came about this way. There’s often an assumption by faculty that the IT department or Teaching Centers cram technology down their throats. But I wonder if it’s not really the case that a few faculty started agitating for something. Where did the idea for CMS’s come from? But really, no matter where it comes from, I agree that before investing in anything, technology or otherwise, one should do the cost-benefit analysis. I had to do this just to purchase a printer in the corporate world. One would think that in academe, which are supposed to be non-profits, that such analysis would be even more important.

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