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Posts Tagged ‘clickers

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.


I was appalled when I read this article, For-Profit Coalition Seeks to Bolster the Flipped-Classroom Approach.

First it defined the flipped classroom like this:

A flipped classroom describes a wide range of educational methods, like just-in-time teaching, peer instruction, and the use of clickers.

It did not distinguish between the flipped classroom and flipped learning. JIT teaching and peer instruction can happen in both, but the former is critical in the flipped classroom and the latter is a key enabler of flipped learning.

How in the world did the “use of clickers” even get mentioned? My guess is the university context of lectures and trying to justify clickers as “interactive” or “participatory”. Clickers are neither and their novelty wears off quickly.

The only things flipping when I read the article were my finger and my stomach. All it had to do to flip my life switch off was to suggest LMS, interactive white boards, and smart rooms as means to flipping.

All these and clickers do little to change pedagogy. I have written for years how these constrain pedagogy or maintain outdated methods instead of encouraging progression.

The article also mentioned how the Flipped Learning Global Initiative would be charging a $5,000 annual fee for groups be identified as partners. Why do this? Errol St. Clair Smith, the director of this group said:

…the initiative’s leaders believe there is a $500-million market for products related to course flipping. They include training, software and hardware, and other services. They expect demand to grow to about $2.4 billion by 2020.

So that is what the effort is about: Taking advantage of a financial opportunity. Never mind that university faculty do not really change how they teach. Just sell them clickers. Lots of clickers.

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