From Clickers to Trolls: Rethinking Anonymity in Teaching

Maggie Quirt

Contemporary pedagogical techniques often rely on – and indeed, ensure – the anonymous participation of students. Clickers and online polls, increasingly used in e-learning and distance education initiatives, can be conducted so that individuals and their opinions are disassociated. While this can be useful in the context of sensitive classroom discussions and debates, such pedagogical tools pose a potential threat to the successful functioning of an equitable society founded on principles of respect, empathy, and acceptance of the ideas of others. Put another way, the difference between a student using a clicker and a ‘troll’ on the Internet may be one of degree, not of kind. This workshop will explore what is at stake when students do not have to take responsibility for their online opinions. How might such unfettered exchanges contribute to intolerance overall? What role do teachers and universities play in encouraging freedom of speech within acceptable parameters?