Another dot in the blogosphere?

Clickers do not click

Posted on: October 7, 2016

This is NOT a sponsored blog post. Quite the opposite.

Requiring students to use clickers during a lecture is not better than not using them. Using clickers is not making enough of a change to actually make teaching more impactful.

Any lecturer or professor who is strongly encouraged to use clickers during lectures in an attempt to “improve engagement” or boost student feedback on teaching should carefully examine the critical research and reflective practice on the effectiveness of lectures (my curated examples).

Just like talking does not lead to listening, teaching does not guarantee learning.

Lecturing, particularly the uninspired kind, leads to nodding and confused heads. Adding clickers to the mix to make such lectures “interactive” is changing without changing. The lecture and the talk are still core. The “engagement”, while strategic, might be superficial, token, or novel.

You might choose to use clickers for a quick quiz. While this is seems like a legitimate move, it is an example of ping-pong pedagogy.

I am not saying that you should not get feedback or data from an audience or a large group of students. This should be done when it counts, e.g., determining prior knowledge, entry level abilities, current attitudes, predominant mindsets. When visualised, such information can look impressive.

But impressive is not the same as impactful. Clickers focus on the teacher and teaching. The operative word is engagement because that is what seems to be important when people look bored or start to drift off.

Clickers do not click with learners because they do not focus on how and why they learn. Clickers are not designed to empower learners to create and critique. They are designed to keep the power and control with the person in front and who teaches only in one place at one pace.

If you are going to claim that the learner can learn at any time and in any place, then you have to go beyond the rhetoric and practice of using clickers.


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