So mouse jigglers are a thing now

A mouse jiggler is a mechanical device that literally jiggles your mouse, or a dongle that electronically mimics mouse movement. There are even a few real mouses with jiggling functions built in. Why? Though there are a few people who might use it to keep their computer awake (there are better ways), mainly it is because there are companies that track whether their employees are working based on whether they are moving their mouses frequently enough. This would be laughable were it not so goddam serious.

I hardly know where to begin with the many things that are wrong with monitoring your employees’ mouse movements to check that they are working. Anyone ever heard of respect? Anyone ever heard of trust or the importance of it? Anyone ever heard of autonomy or why it matters? Anyone ever read even a blog post about motivation (let alone any actual research)? Anyone ever heard of the McNamara Fallacy?  Anyone ever considered whether people are more productive when given autonomy than when forced to conform? Anyone ever looked at how people actually work, and what makes them productive? Anyone ever even thought about it? So I thoroughly applaud the many people who are buying these devices to fool their employers into thinking they are working when they are, quite rightly and inevitably, emphatically not doing so. The employers deserve everything they (don’t) get. There are devices from a few dollars up that will jiggle your mouse for you so, if your employer seriously thinks that your job is to move a mouse, get one now! Screw them and let them stew in their own vile festering juices. If the measure of your value can be diminished to whether you are sitting in front of a computer (even if you are a data entry clerk) then cheat all you can, because no one cares about you, or whether you can actually do your job.

It is possibly even more concerning that some people get them because, though they may not deliberately be monitored for ‘activity’,  they don’t want their status to be shown as ‘away’ in whatever real-time system they use (IMs, Slack, MS Teams, etc) in case anyone thinks they are slacking. It is sadder when, rather than submitting to unwarranted policing, people police themselves because of what they believe other people will think of them.

There are lessons to be learned from this for online ‘educators’ who think that they can automatically proctor online exams, or who think that log files and similar activity trackers based on automated collection of computer use can tell them anything useful about whether or how their students are learning. Making learning visible is not about measuring compliance, especially when the means to measure it is such a weak, irrelevant, and easily gamed proxy that assumes everyone is average. It’s about designing the learning experience so that students can share their learning – process and product – with you and with one another, voluntarily, as fellow human beings doing something marvellous, unique, and unquantifiable.

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I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor and Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment, at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems. I am a proud Canadian, though I was born in the UK. I am married, with two grown-up children, and three growing-up grandchildren. We all live in beautiful Vancouver.

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