Clickers from the seventies

Do you know clickers? These are little devices so all students (or groups of students) can participate during class even in a big auditorium. Seems pretty high tech, no?  Ok, one could argue that why we should botter with an extra device if most students have their cellphone (often nowadays a smartphone) or a laptop with them?

But maybe it beats the old-fashioned way Dylan William does it in the famous Classroom Experiment-documentary, although those little whiteboards proved quite effective (if not for some brighter students)?

But clickers are not at all that new, actually, as we can learn from a blogpost by Larry Cuban with the bit provocative title “Why Do Smart People Do Dumb Things? Thinking about School Reform“. Stanford University had them already installed in the seventies!

The amphitheater-shaped room with half-circular rows looked down on a small stage with a lectern, a massive pull-down screen, and two large monitors suspended from the ceiling. At most of the individual seats was a small punch-button pad called the “student responder.” The responder contained the numbers 1-10 and letters T and F.

But were the responder a big success? Well, no, not at all.

Cuban argues now that we don’t seem to learn from our former insights. This might be true, but he takes a big leap when comparing responders with MOOC’s. Still one can ask ourselves indeed if we don’t put too much hope into MOOC’s, just as we have done in School TV, Smartboards and maybe it’s too early to write tablets? This doesn’t mean these devices can’t play an important role in education, and actually quite often they do, but a role is not the same as the game-changing element we like to expect.

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