Teaching Naked: Good Idea or Just Another Overeaction?

News flash: The Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that PowerPoint is over-used and boring. This is not exactly leading edge news, but an article by Jeffrey Young (“When Computers Leave Classrooms, So Does Boredom” ) July 24, 2009.
http://chronicle.com/article/Teach-Naked-Effort-Strips/47398/ takes another look at the use, or non-use, of various technologies inside (and outside) the classroom.

While the first section of the article might lead the reader to assume that IT has no place in the classroom, the argument is not quite that simple. Rather, as many of us have been aware of for years, the challenge is to find where technology enhances learning and where it detracts from it. The questions raised by the article continue to be timely: how do we navigate between student expectations and student needs? how do we make in-class time engaging and how do we make out of class time support what happens in the classroom?  how do we keep up with funding the necessary infrastructure? and, most importantly, how do we make time to learn, or support the learning of, the ever-shifting technologies that could enhance learning?

Summarizing quotes:

“José A. Bowen, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts, has challenged his colleagues to “teach naked” — by which he means, sans machines. More than anything else, Mr. Bowen wants to discourage professors from using PowerPoint, because they often lean on the slide-display program as a crutch rather than using it as a creative tool. Class time should be reserved for discussion, he contends, especially now that students can download lectures online and find libraries of information on the Web.”

“A study published in the April issue of British Educational Research Journal found that 59 percent of students in a new survey reported that at least half of their lectures were boring, and that PowerPoint was one of the dullest methods they saw.”

“Mr. Bowen is part of a group of college leaders who haven’t given up on that dream of shaking up college instruction. Even though he is taking computers out of classrooms, he’s not anti-technology. He just thinks they should be used differently — upending the traditional lecture model in the process.”

“Here’s the kicker, though: The biggest resistance to Mr. Bowen’s ideas has come from students, some of whom have groused about taking a more active role during those 50-minute class periods. The lecture model is pretty comfortable for both students and professors, after all, and so fundamental change may be even harder than it initially seems, whether or not laptops, iPods, or other cool gadgets are thrown into the mix.”

“His philosophy is that the information delivery common in today’s classroom lectures should be recorded and delivered to students as podcasts or online videos before class sessions. To make sure students tune in, he gives them short online multiple-choice tests.”

“So what’s left to do during class once you’ve delivered your lecture? Introduce issues of debate within the discipline and get the students to weigh in based on the knowledge they have from those lecture podcasts, Mr. Bowen says. “If you say to a student, We have this problem in Mayan archaeology: We don’t know if the answer is A or B. We used to all think it was A, now we think it’s B. If the lecture is ‘Here’s the answer, it’s B,’ that’s not very interesting. But if the student believes they can contribute, they’re a whole lot more motivated to enter the discourse, and to enter the discipline.”

“To encourage the kind of technology use Mr. Bowen did want, the school gave every professor a laptop and set up support so they could create their own podcasts and videos.”

“‘Strangely enough, the people who are most resistant to this model are the students, who are used to being spoon-fed material that is going to be quote unquote on the test,’ says Mr. Heffernan. ‘Students have been socialized to view the educational process as essentially passive. The only way we’re going to stop that is by radically refiguring the classroom in precisely the way José wants to do it.'”

“‘Initial response is generally negative until students start to understand and see how they learn under this new system,’ says Glenn Platt, a professor of marketing at Miami who has published academic papers about the approach, which he calls the “inverted classroom.” “The first response from students is typically, ‘I paid for a college education and you’re not going to lecture?'”

“Whatever griping students do about being asked to participate in class, though, it’s better than the boredom induced by a PowerPoint lecture, say fans of the new approach.”

“Now that so many colleges offer low-cost online alternatives to the traditional campus experience, and some universities give away videos of their best professors’ lectures, colleges must make sure their in-person teaching really is superior to those alternatives.”

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