I Sat in the Back
Throughout my 20-year academic career I always sat in the back of the class, if there was any way to engineer it. The world is divided into two groups: Sane, calm well-adjusted people like me, and those over-caffeinated, hand-waving, know-it-all teacher's pet types who jostle each other to sit in the front row. If you don't already know this, then you are in the latter group.
Mine is a mixed marriage, but my sons are split, 2 - 1, in favor of sane.
The ideal situation is a large lecture, the larger the better. Hardly anyone gets called on, there are always plenty of volunteers, the professor can't really see the back row anyway, and we can doze off in peace.
The front-row weenies and the professors (virtually all professors were, of course, front-row types) now think technology has come to their rescue. But they only think that because, well, because they are front-row weenies.
As reported [HERE], students can be issued hand-held devices that permit them to respond to questions:
First, take note of the fact that this professor-promoter is from Wisconsin at Madison. A front-row sort of school to begin with. Second, observe that this entire system depends upon an unproven -- and erroneous -- assumption: that students will push the button for the right answer.
The new technology isn't all that new, because it has been used for years in audience participation programs designed to evaluate entertainers and products and politicians and stuff like that, but it's pretty new to education. It allows teachers to pose questions and get immediate feedback from the entire class, and none of the students need to worry about exposing their ignorance.
The heart of the technology is a "clicker," very similar to the remotes we use to run our television sets, which sends student responses by infrared signals to a computer system that displays the results instantly.
"I display a question on the screen, and the students all start to click in," says psychologist Jeffrey Henriques of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "Within about a minute I've gotten responses from about 200 students."
Henriques is sold on the technology because now he can tell instantly if any of those 200 faces are backed by a brain that is engaged, or if any of the students are understanding his lectures.
Sorry, but there is simply NO chance that is going to happen. You see, if the professor thinks we understand what he's talking about, he'll move on to more stuff, probably even more boring than the current stuff. And if he moves on, then there'll be even MORE stuff on that stupid exam.
So this system is doomed to failure, or destined to produce frustrated lecturers who can't understand why nobody gets it.
[Oh yeah, you're thinking that each device will also send a signal that tracks WHO keeps giving those bogus wrong answers, aren't you? We've already been there. See, there's this techie guy back at the dorm who can modify the things so that the system thinks my silly answer is really coming from that way cute girl down there in the front row.]