You know I can’t go too many days without getting my technophobia on, kids! Check out the new tag I’ve added here, “technoskepticism.” I considered “technophobia,” but I don’t fear new technology–I just think that much of it is a waste of my time. I remain open to the possibility that someday, somewhere some new technology will really excite me instead of cause me to slap my forehead and ask, “who falls for this $hit?” And, you may not want to be reminded of this, but once upon a time 8-track tapes were the I-Pod of 1974, and Commodore 64s were the Facebook of 1982.
So–clickers. Have you used them in class? What kinds of advantages do you think they bring to a classroom in the humanities in particular? I’ve been invited to attend a workshop on them, and I’m half tempted, given the ridiculous 123-seat survey course I’m scheduled to teach in the fall. How many annoying clicker questions do you need to write for a 50-minute lecture? (“In her later reclusive years, Emily Dickinson left her home a) every day, b) when the church bells of Amherst rang out, c) to refresh her nosegay when lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d , or d) never.”)
I heard this fairly depressing report on them on NPR yesterday, and I can’t help thinking that all of the problems teachers may experience with not knowing if students are getting anything out of lectures could be solved by the old-fashioned technology used by top-notch prep schools and liberal arts colleges throughout history: classes small enough (say, up to 40) where professors know the students’ names and can gauge student interest and throw out provocative questions to keep student attention. (By the way, check out the comment to the NPR story from a Baa Ram U. student who proclaims that clickers are “a huge waste of time!” Ha!)
But, as I have asked here before, who will pay for it–that is, the technology of small classes we all know works. I guess it’s just so much cooler to pretend that there’s an easy high-tech fix to a problem that’s as old as teaching itself. Yeah, let’s buy a bunch of equipment that will be obsolete in another five years instead of hiring more professors who will stick around for 25-35 years! I am interested in hearing your experiences of working with this technology, and I may yet attend that workshop next week, but for now, in case you can’t tell, I’m a little skeptical.