Op-Ed

iClickers are not Gen-Y friendly, just lazy

5th floor lecture hall at Baruch College. Take...

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Classroom polling technologies , like iClickers and Turning Point, are falsely marketed as Generation Y-friendly tools. In reality, iClickers are just a crutch for professors who can’t engage.

I stumbled across yet another article by an educational professional about how amazing polling devices are in the classroom. It was the last straw. Interactivity does not equate with engagement.

Here’s what the teachers apparently think: Cyberpop blog, written by a Queen’s University Professor, erroneously calls polling edTech “the quintessential disruptive mobile teaching technology.” Then there’s NYT whose article claimed that Turning Point polling devices “made it harder for them [students] to respond to text messages, e-mail and other distractions.” Early this year, I attended a presentation on the advanced iClickers that described their utility in the classroom in such euphoric terms that it could have been some sort of drug.

I can’t help but wonder if the professors and single student that the NYT interviewed actually observed student behavior in using iClickers. I am in my first iClicker class this semester and I can tell you what happens when students get a polling question.

  • 85% of the class look to the right, left and behind them and copy the answer.
  • 10% of the class sits in the front of the huge lecture hall and is copied by everyone else.
  • 5% of the class have fallen asleep, are watching a movie or playing a video game and miss the question.

I’ve yet to meet a student who actually likes polling devices in classrooms. I think that anyone in the average clicker class can see right through the professors who use them. Instructors seem to think that a few polling questions can hold a class’s attention, but clicker devices can’t be used to cover for bad teaching.

Can we break the illusion please? Classroom polling devices are not attractive to Generation Y, they don’t count as real engagement. The devices just allow you to pull the veneer of interactivity over your class. Clickers don’t make me interested in a class, they don’t engage my intelligence and they don’t substitute in for discussion. They are not an educational game-changer. Clickers are just one more way for bad and lazy professors to try to cover up horrible teaching or for higher education to feel better about ballooning class sizes.

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