Discouraging lecture hall technology abuse – Encouraging interactive discussions
Aug 16th, 2009 by Wesley Fryer

I applaud Dr. José A. Bowen‘s efforts to end lecture hall technology abuse at Southern Methodist University. His encouragement to faculty to “teach naked” (sans computer technology) was highlighted in Jeffrey Young’s July 20, 2009, article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “When Computers Leave Classrooms, So Does Boredom.” I am not positive, but given the URL link for the article as well as questions I’ve received via Twitter about this article, I think the original title may have included the words “Teach Naked Effort Strips…” as the lead tagline. Certainly such a headline is bound to get attention, but in this case the message could be misunderstood at several levels. Dr. Bowen is NOT, as I first thought in reading some mentions of this article, encouraging faculty to stop using technology for learning and instruction. To the contrary, he is encouraging faculty to reserve non-interactive lecture deliveries of content for video podcasts: publishing those to the web to be viewed by students in advance of classroom lessons. He has taken computers OUT of classrooms in his college to force faculty to STOP using PowerPoint, since most were ABUSING it. I’m guessing Garr Reynolds, author of the outstanding book and blog “Presentation Zen,” might also be pleased by this effort. Like Bowen, Reynolds (through his book) is not encouraging an end to the use of presentation software but rather a change in the way it is used. Where Reynolds encourages presenters to use PowerPoint / Keynote software programs to share minimal textual elements and lots of impactful graphics, Bowen encourages faculty to video podcast their lectures. This is precisely the encouragement I’ve been sharing for several years in my presentations, blog posts and podcasts. I discussed this at my SITE 2007 workshop on “blended learning,” sharing the following two-by-two framework for thinking about web 2.0 tools for learning:

A Framework for Thinking Instructionally About Web 2.0 Tools

One of the big takeaways from this matrix should be the following: When you want to share content in a synchronous, non-interactive format, DON’T DO IT! That’s technology abuse when PowerPoint or other presentation software is used, and pedagogical malpractice whether or not technology is used. When learners are together face-to-face, the interactive potential of that context should be utilized to the fullest. That’s why the above matrix SHOULD encourage educators, when content is presented in a non-interactive format, to use video podcasting and other forms of online video/audio publishing. Give a listen to Dr. Bowen’s 4 minute video interview with Jeffrey Young to hear more of his philosophy along these lines.

Dr. Bowen’s message for higher education professors is very similar to that of Woodland Park, Colorado teachers Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams. See their website “Educational Vodcasting” as well as the Google Video “Educational Podcasting in Woodland Park, Colorado” for more on their philosophy and modeling of lecture-casting at the high school level.

Of the ten (or so) videos I shared this past Thursday in Aurora, Ohio, for my presentation there for school administrators, the above video of Bergmann and Sams was likely the one most enthusiastically received. Should we be video podcasting / vodcasting non-interactive lectures TODAY in our high schools and colleges? ABSOLUTELY. Why are we not seeing more teachers, instructors and professors do this? There are several reasons, but the biggest one is that secondary teachers as well as university professors do NOT want to change their ways. In many cases, these educators have made their living at the podium, standing and delivering content. To ask an educator used to lecturing every day to give it up for vodcasting, and instead to both craft and lead highly-interactive, engaging face-to-face discussions with students is tantamount to challenging their professional identity and raison d’être.

Cross posted on “Moving at the Speed of Creativity.”

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