de-tech’ing class


I consider myself pretty techy.

I have a special work instant messenger handle I use at least 5 times a week outside of normal office hours for students to IM me questions. Yes, I get IMs right before midnight on the eve of an assignment being due, but I don’t mind – if I’m online I’ve made myself available to them.

I’m on Facebook – though I don’t push it with my students.

I incorporate social media case stories into every course – from writing to research methods.

This semester I’ve skype’d in guest lecturers from around the world & even taught the class myself through the vid conf software when I was on military duty in Middle East after spring break.

With teaching being an integral part of my job (just as important as research, they say), I am on the lookout for ways to improve the classroom experience and increase real learning (you know, when you remember concepts or even lectures long after the class is done).

I was just named a Lilly Fellow at UGA, and so for the next 2 years I’ll be focusing on pedagody. But I’m not going wait for the Lilly program to school me up. I’m looking for ideas today!

So when I saw the recent post from the MIT & Stanford Tomorrow’s Profesosr blog about improving teaching by taking tech out, it caught my eye.

There are a lot of things in here that make sense & even though we only have a few weeks left in the semester I will start to implement these changes.

Highlights & new strategies for me from the post / responding comments are:

  1. Skip class announcements. Eats valuable time. E-mail instead.
  2. Give pre- and post-lecture quizzes outside of class through WebCT.
  3. Open IM during class – when students have questions or need clarification they can IM it & it will pop on the screen (this is done a lot at tech industry conferences).

The whole concept here is teaching naked. Don’t worry – I’ll still have my clothes on. Instead, the focus moves from mere lectures & exams to using class time to involve the student in the learning process.

I’m all for it.

But I’m skeptical at the same time.

I feel like if required, yes, students will indeed do the pre-class prep needed to get to that day’s naked in-class experience. But I’ve attempted (with poor results) to take out the classroom recitation of definitions etc to make time for the REAL stuff (case studies, clarifying difficult concepts).

It just didn’t work.

Students may read, but if it wasn’t covered in class then it wasn’t valued for the most part. It didn’t matter how many times I said, “All info – lecture, readings, guest lectures, multimedia – are fair game for the test” – the great students always seem to take heart & those just checking a box don’t.

What do you think? Can naked work at public institutions?

One Response so far.

  1. Matt S. says:

    I wish my professors at Mason would have done this for us! We had a few that had Facebook accounts, but your use of IM in the class is truly unique. The stuff on WebCT is useful too, as a student, I loved when my prof.’s gave us one place for everything and utilized his/her technology effectively.

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