New Instructional Technology: Big Brother or Beneficial?
An increasing number of professors at universities and colleges around the country are taking advantage of “clickers”–wireless, hand-held devices students use to indicate they are present and on time, paying attention by answering questions the teacher poses on a projector, and whether or not they understand a concept in the lecture.
There are certainly upsides and downsides to the technology. Many schools require students to pay for the devices themselves. And sometimes, that may mean paying up to $70! But some school lend their students clickers for multiple uses. Obviously, the device is very useful for professors teaching huge lecture hall courses, as Professor White in his “Organizational Behavior” course of 70 students, professed, that the tool encourages students to walk in on time, prepared, engaged, ready to go. I currently attend San Francisco State University, and some of the GE courses, are larger, lecture courses, can have over 700 students–coming from a small town, that was more than my total high school’s population. Being noticed by a teacher or staying engaged in such a large class can be a challenge. The clicker allows a student, no matter where he or she is sitting, to get the teacher’s attention, and it encourages him or her to stay engaged. Further, by answering occasionally controversial opinion polls in a class with the clckers, students can express their opinions and keep their identities anonymous from their peers.
However, other students complain that clickers create a “big brother” scenario. Class time napping, texting, emails, and note passing may be things of the past, particularly in classes like Professor White’s, in which students are using their clickers practically every 15 minutes. Steinburg of the New York Times in his article that features the devices, explained that the biggest impact the devices have may just be on our culture, as students are increasingly less about to devote class time to sleep or social networking. Especially considering the devices are being bought up at such growing rates (up 95% from last year, for example).
Big brother or not, these devices could very well be the wave of the future, as lecturers at middle schools, high schools, and even corporate meetings are using the technology in swiftly growing numbers.