When will it click for SFU that iClickers are pointless?

These hunks of plastic dross are pricey, unfair, and a little lazy

Photo by Chris Ho/The Peak

Written by Zach Siddiqui, Copy Editor

Excuse me as I do my best Tina Fey-playing-Ms. Norbury voice . . . “Class, raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by the iClicker.”

For those who haven’t, iClickers are grotsky little devices that some professors force you to buy for in-lecture quizzes. Profs will use them for multiple-choice questions during their lecture. Students click letters on their pre-registered clickers to answer, and their answers get digitally recorded for marks, even if only for participation.

On paper, iClickers rock. They can make lectures more interactive, encourage students to come to class, measure how well the class understands the course material, and make it easier for instructors to give and grade short quizzes.

But while I greatly respect the professors who use them, I consider iClickers to be a terrible, terrible staple of university education. SFU, please, let’s leave them in 2018 with Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s defeated lung cancer.  

For one thing, they’re too conveniently cheated. In a large lecture, nothing really stops a untrustworthy student from trusting their iClicker to a friend and ditching for greener, more engaging pastures, like watching the Student Union Building be built at a sad chelonian pace.

As an example, Stanford University’s independent student paper, The Stanford Daily, reported that while clicker fraud at Stanford is documented very rarely, that’s likely just because students often hesitate to snake each other’s underworld dealings. At least one professor told the Daily she “[knew] for a fact that some people hand clickers to friends.”

If it’s happening at Stanford, it’s almost definitely a problem here. It’s ludicrous — I have to attend lecture or lose points, but dishonest students can just cavort about, thriving in their Magikarpy uselessness!

I guess at least the odds are good that I don’t have to deal with iClickers anymore, because they’re rare-to-nonexistent in my degree program. I only had to buy one last semester because of a WQB class, and the same proves true for tons of SFU students.

But that’s just it — I paid around $48 for an irritation I’ll never touch again. And unlike a textbook, this remote taught me nothing.

Students are already infuriated over what we pay the proverbial SFU bagpiper, especially with the recently proposed tuition hikes. (Just look at the ongoing protest campaign, SFU Tuition Freeze Now!) Paying for overpriced, worthless devices on top of that is just rock salt in our angry red raccoon-scratches.

SEE MORE:Students demand that “SFU Freeze Tuition Now!” as the university plans fee hikes

Most critically, nobody should be leaning on iClickers as a form of student engagement. I’m sorry, SFU faculty, but some of you must have been raising pet rocks and sea monkeys as kids, because it really shows. None of us should be financially and emotionally taxed because you don’t feel obligated to learn how to draw your students to care and participate on your own oratory merits.

Luckily, my own iClicker-attached classes have been with strong, engaging lecturers, but I’ve heard stories about others who . . . well, I’ll leave it to your imagination. What I’d love to see is SFU stop pushing iClickers and start pushing professors who are better-trained as engaging educators. More than that, I’d love to see the faculty explore better ways to show students that, yes, SFU wants to help them set the tone of their own learning.

That, I can pretty much guarantee, will get students more involved, more engaged, and much more present.  

So, yeah . . . I hate iClickers. Maybe you do too, maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s a lot to even bother dissecting such a tiny annoyance (though I maintain it’s no longer “tiny” when it makes up 10% or more of your grade). But even if the conversation seems small or petty, we should know how to look at a part of our education and say, “This isn’t working.”

That sort of critical thinking is a skill you’ll need to build yourself the life you want. It’s also a skill that starts with the small-time, small-stakes stuff — and yes, that includes the banality of the iClicker.

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