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State Speaks: The PRS Transmitter

state_speaksWe’d like to present a new series in which community members share their thoughts on a variety of issues. Sometimes, you just need to speak your mind. Today we have Russ Beck lamenting the classroom clicker.

Like most of my fellow Penn State students, I returned to campus last weekend with high expectations and excitement about the year that was in front of me. Now a Junior, I have figured out most of the systems the University has to offer, including trying to wait until the last minute to see what books I actually will have to buy. When I ventured to the website Sunday afternoon to check my book list, I was struck with a familiar twang of horror that no doubt struck thousands others…I needed a PRS Transmitter for my Religious Studies class.


Most of you may not know what these ‘clickers’ are, so I will explain. They have a number pad and some letters, along with a T and F button. What you do is program your abc1234 ID into them and answer questions in class electronically. The idea is that professors can know who is in class and who knows what they are talking about in real time without having to grade anything or wait to get things graded by other people.  Great idea right?! Wrong.

This will be my third class implementing clicker usage.  From what I can tell, nothing has been improved.  My first class, Astro 001, was actually a very good clicker experience. I bought a $20 version from the bookstore and the professor knew how to use them and did it very well. However, I didn’t quite understand why they were necessary (why couldn’t she have us write our ID down with an answer and turn it in?) but it was the first year for clickers so I let it go.  My second class, SRA 211, was an absolute fail.  They never worked in the large classroom, the results were never right, and it was so bad that the University bought all of the clickers back from us.

I thought I would just be able to move on from what, as I understood from my experiences, was basically a useless machine.

Oh how I was wrong.
Now I have to buy a new clicker for Religious Studies. ‘Whatever,’ I think, ‘maybe this will be more Astro than SRA.’  I pick one up while I am buying a few other late books on Tuesday and head to the cash registers.  I run into a friend of mine and we begin to talk while I am checked out, distracting me from price of the clicker. The cashier looks at me and says, “that will be $120.”

No way.

That has to be wrong.

I came here thinking I had to buy a $20 book, a $40 dollar book, and a $20 clicker. $80 tops…

Clickers are now $52 at the bookstore.

I look over everything. Nothing has changed on them.  No updates, no new functions, no new buttons…simply a $32 increase.  I had no choice but to rip the clicker from the cashier’s hands and break it into a million tiny pieces (I wish).  Now I am looking at the syllabus for my class. The clicker will be used to randomly take attendance once a week.  Attendance counts for a portion of the 5% class participation for the class.

I paid $52 to get around 2.5% of my grade.

Is that worth it?

Absolutely not.

In a world full of Twitter, text messaging, and iPod capabilities, us Penn State students are forced to spend $52 on a worthless, outdated technology, that has no function for us outside of the classroom.  I understand that it allows professors to see who is coming and who is skipping classes, but there are plenty of other, much cheaper, ways to do this. Some of which are free functions of Angel.  I also understand that Penn State will try to make a cent anywhere and everywhere it can.  But this is outrageous.

Professors could have students text their answer or a code to a website, or to the professor.  You have a 2 minute window to do it.  Problem solved. Free for everyone.  Have everybody @reply to the professor on Twitter within one minute. Problem also solved, free for everyone.

In the end, we have to go back to our dear friends, the Wu-Tang Clan.

Cash rules everything around me.

Have you ever had to use a clicker? Was your experience good or bad? How do you think this issue could be approached differently? Make your opinion heard!

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