Class ‘Clickers’: Another Creepy, Useless Device On Campus

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While we moan about privacy issues on Facebook and the rise of sexting, it's pretty clear that the technology we use these programs on serve a very meaningful purpose in our day to day lives. Have you tried a day without the Internet recently? Ever have your cell die for more than 24 hours? Like it or not, we are a generation that is more than addicted to our gadgets: we are dependant on them.

But all technology was not created equal, and we're hard-pressed to find a good reason that classroom “clickers” exist, except for lazy professors to feel like they are regaining some sort of control over a classroom that pays more attention to their blackberries than they do their lesson plans. Here's how it works:

Every student in Mr. White’s class has been assigned a palm-sized, wireless device that looks like a TV remote but has a far less entertaining purpose. With their clickers in hand, the students in Mr. White’s class automatically clock in as “present” as they walk into class.

They then use the numbered buttons on the devices to answer multiple-choice quizzes that count for nearly 20 percent of their grade, and that always begin precisely one minute into class. Later, with a click, they can signal to their teacher without raising a hand that they are confused by the day’s lesson.

Okay, I get this is at Northwestern and you're dealing with a giant lecture hall full of students, so attendance may be hard to keep track of. But considering how often students manage to lose their personal devices, I can't begin to imagine the cost to the school (or student), when these things have to be replaced once a week because you forgot it in the quad and don't want to flunk out of class.

Clickers serve know discernible purpose outside the classroom, though the schools that are using them (Yale and Northwestern, as well as some high schools and middle schools which…come on, you can take attendance in a class of 30 just fine) have said that soon students will be able to use their iPads or phones in the same capacity. At which time these stupid devices will be rendered completely obsolete, and we may actually have to go back to raising our hands during class if we have a question.