Learner-Shaped Technology

January 19, 2008

Sustainable Packaging?

Filed under: clickers,general,sustainability,technology — Mike W @ 9:40 am

I know it’s been a long time, but I’m hoping to get back in the blogging groove. I have a list of blog topics in a google doc that I’m hoping will sustain a more regular blog presence. I’ve moved my site over to a new host.  I’m redirecting automatically for now, but please update your bookmarks.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that we’ve been exploring clicker technology in class to promote class discussion (especially around controversial topics), predicting the results of a demo, etc. . We recently received a shipment of 60 clickers, and I was distraught over the packaging. Check it out. Each clicker was individually wrapped in the kind of packaging that leaves one’s fingers bruised and bloodied, and the amount of waste is pretty striking. Below is a pic of the packaging vs. what was inside.


We’re in conversations now with the vendor now to check into alternatives. They may be under the assumption that we’re like many schools where clickers are sold in the bookstore. Instead, we’ve purchased several departmental sets for sharing. The six teacher clickers came with a more reasonable amount of packaging, so it has to be possible to scale back on the waste. We’ve been very pleased with the iClicker brand, but if you decide to go this route, please join in and ask about alternative packaging before they ship.

Some things the iClickers don’t do that we’re trying to find solutions for:

1. Data Formatting – We have a couple of professors interested in analyzing data gathered in class with statistical packages like SPSS. The session data is stored in spreadsheets, but there’s a lot of manual cleanup needed before the stats are run. It shouldn’t be too hard to automate the clean-up process.

2. Limited Choices – A-E works fine for many questions, but if you’re asking students about presidential candidates, important political issues, etc.., 5 choices can be very limiting. We knew that going in, but it would be great if there were a simple alternative. I asked the tech guy at iClicker if they’ve explored hooking into devices with more buttons or allowing a double click to expand choices (like AA, BB, etc.). They haven’t done anything with this yet, but the code is open source, so I’m going to poke around and see what it would take to add this expanded choice mode.

3. Mapping Choices – The flexibility of the software is great. You can pose questions / scenarios in presentation software, ChemDraw, Google Earth, etc.. Because the question is captured as an image, you have to go back and map choice A to Obama, B to Clinton, C to Edwards, etc.. It’s okay if you’re just using the questions as a discussion starter but makes looking at trends in student opinions more difficult.


  1. Mike:
    Your posting is a great example of yet another problem with packaging. A varying distribution cycle forces manufacturers to package for the “worst case scenario” rather than what a specific customer wants to needs. Since some of the product is sold retail where visibility and pilferage are concerns, it is more economical for them to package everything that way.There is a cost benefit to them that is supposed to have a positive impact on the price for consumers like us but I doubt it make up for the waste being created. I would suggest when buying bulk like your 60 clicker order, the manufacturer is usually willing to offer a lower price for a “bulk” pack that excludes all the unnecessary packaging you do not need or want.

    I have written several articles for blogs on the subject of sustainability in packaging. The most recent on appeared on Sustainable Is Good on Friday and you can see it:


    Good luck,

    Dennis Salazar

    Comment by Dennis Salazar — January 20, 2008 @ 12:05 pm

  2. Hi there-
    I am the Director of i>clicker and we totally agree with you on the packaging. We realized that we did need a second version of the packaging for professors/departments. You are completely right that the packaging we created for bookstore sales/stacking is not good for departmental sales. We now have two options: clickers in packaging made for bookstores (so, the tough plastic casing you see here) and then packaging that works better for departments/individuals (the clickers are just sold in bubble wrap).

    If’/when you need to order additional clickers for your pilot, please mention my name when you email sales@iclicker.com to place your order. I will make sure you don’t get the problematic bookstore packaging again.

    We don’t charge a different price for the bubble-wrapped version because we charge departments our net/wholesale (not retail) price anyway so they are getting a nice discount regardless.

    Thank you for your constructive feedback, though! We hear you and agree.

    Renee Altier
    Director, i>clicker

    Comment by Renee — April 10, 2008 @ 9:25 am

  3. […] In an earlier posting I discussed some less than optimal packaging with a recent order of iClickers. We’re very happy with the clickers themselves, btw (which is also in the earlier posting).  A glitch with comment notifications caused a great response from iClicker to sit in moderation for a while.  My apologies for that. […]

    Pingback by Mike W’s Blog » Blog Archive » Way to go iClicker! — August 2, 2008 @ 9:51 am

  4. Thanks, Mike, for your lovely blog!! And I know you also had a terrific conversation with TIm Stelzer, and introduced some neat ideas for us!
    Thank you for your support of i>clicker and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions!

    Comment by Renee — August 4, 2008 @ 3:36 am

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