If your teaching is hot, you're fine in the nude!

by P

Ok, I did twist the title of Jeff Young’s latest piece for reasons of pure sensationalism (and recursive puns). I also wouldn’t mind a more diverse readership and ranking higher in a google search for “naked” should help with that.  Anyways, Jeff’s article for College 2.0 suggests that less technology in the class-room might lead to better teaching (teaching naked = without technology). At least that’s the experience of Jose Bowen, a Professor at the Meadows School of the Arts.

I agree with most of his points (powerpoint lectures stink, presentation/podcastast/videos should be made available for students out-of-class, there is a lot of bad teaching, etc.), but have not experienced the same resistance by students to leave behind the “broadcast” model of lecturing. My impression is that the cause for student resistance is unrelated to technology or teaching styles. Too often, students don’t know why they are studying a particular topic, and how it relates to their degree and their lifes. In such a situation, where students don’t see the relevance and meaning of what they are supposed to learn, they rely on lecturers to break down the content in a way that — at least — let’s them succeed on the test. However, once the purpose is clear, students readily embrace opportunities to engage more actively. The resistance I have experienced comes mainly from lecturers, who are comfortable with a teaching style that is designed not to challenge their “expert” positions vis-a-vis the students. Admitting that there is something they don’t know is scary for many lecturers, but it’s the norm online – where every google search and visit to wikipedia is an acknowledgment that there is something we don’t know.

An important point that Jeff makes about half-way down the article (a little too late in my opinion) deals with Jose Bowen’s fundamental support for technology:

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.

We know that when technology is used to alleviate bad teaching practices, it will often just compound the problems. The easy, and wrong, response is to blame the technology. Rather than point out examples where bad teaching was made worse, we should look at how the best use of technology is innovating learning. The problem is that these examples might be easy to overlook, because they take place outside of institutions, or because learning becomes a part of solving a problem or taking action, rather than exist as an activity per se. A friend recently pointed out the practices of knowledge sharing in the online poker communities, which seem perfectly in line with the ideals of academia. And it comes as no surprise that many smaller institutions, often colleges and technical universities or Art schools in the case of Professor Bowen, are able to move faster and innovate more rapidly than their larger more traditional (and sometimes more reputable) counterparts. Yet, unless we start looking at what’s happening outside of education institutions, we might miss a technology-enabled revolution in learning that takes place right in front of our eyes.

Apparently something similar is happening in cycling:

Licensed under a CC-BY 2.0 licensed by revolution_cycle

Licensed under a CC-BY 2.0 licensed by revolution_cycle