It can be difficult for University professors in large classes to get students to participate. So when the Qwizdom — an interactive remote control used to survey and quiz students — was introduced to University classrooms in 2007, there was potential for this device to strengthen student-teacher interaction in packed lecture halls. But after two years of use in the classroom, faculty and students are reconsidering its usefulness. The University is right to look into replacing Qwizdom with a device that ensures a greater degree of flexibility and reliability. But in doing so, administrators should be more limiting of the role such devices play in students’ grades.
According to the Daily, LSA Student Government and the faculty-run Instructional Support Services said they’re looking into replacing the Qwizdom, a device that students can use to answer questions the professor asks in lectures. The search started after students and faculty reported numerous complaints about Qwizdom’s technical malfunctions and incompatibility with Apple and Windows software. University faculty also noted difficulty using multimedia and Qwizdom at the same time, and negative student feedback also encouraged the search for an alternative device. Representatives from LSA-SG and ISS said they are considering two new options, the iClicker and Turning Technology. According to ISS, these systems are compatible with both Mac and PC computers and run more smoothly than Qwizdom.
There are many good reasons to replace Qwizdom with better technology. The fact that professors are unable to incorporate other forms of media like video and audio clips while using Qwizdom is certainly grounds for replacing it. Professors should feel encouraged to modernize their lectures with multimedia, and the University needs software that permits this. In addition, the new devices are less likely to malfunction, and will ultimately cause students and faculty less frustration over their usage. As long as they are affordable for students, one of these new devices should replaced Qwizdom.
But whether the University replaces Qwizdom or not, it’s important to realize that the device’s major failing is not just its technological problems, but also the fact that it’s often used as an attendance-taking pop quiz. Using this technology to compel attendance in lectures and base students’ grades on answers to rapid-fire multiple choice questions shouldn’t be classroom policy. If teachers want students to come to class, they should be presenting interesting, engaging lectures covering material that will be tested through papers and exams. Using Qwizdom-like devices to require attendance sidesteps this responsibility.
Legitimately used, this technology should serve as an interactive learning tool. Teachers should use it to survey their students, gather feedback and encourage participation in lectures. But students’ grades should not be based on quick responses to these multiple choice questions. Instead, teachers should be grading on comprehensive answers that are more likely to be found in regularly scheduled essays and exams.
But in a sense, such attempts at encouraging participation through new technology only circle around the fact that many classes have gotten too big, making interaction between students and professors more difficult. New technology shouldn’t be used to mask the fact that the University needs to hire more teachers to lower the amount of bodies in some classrooms if necessary.