Checking Technology at the Classroom Door

By Peter Connor

"Teaching Naked," is what José Bowen, music professor at Southern Methodist University, calls it when you check technology at the classroom door.

In his NT&LF (National Teaching & Learning Forum) newsletter article, Teaching Naked: Why Removing Technology from your Classroom Will Improve Student Learning, Bowen makes a strong argument for using technology outside the classroom as a means to free-up time inside the classroom for maximum "face-to-face" student/teacher interaction.

The key is in daring to check, not just the techno-lecture tools—PowerPoint, webcasts, webinars and such—at the door, but whenever possible, even the lecture itself. Traditionally, the first point of contact that students have with your subject material is the lecture. What Bowen suggests is changing that first point of contact with new material and delivering it via technology both before and after class instead. Here's how:

Use Email: Make announcements, assign homework, reschedule appointments, and distribute handouts via email. Doing the mundane administrative tasks saves classroom time for more important teaching and learning activities.

MySpace & FaceBook Accounts: Invite your students into a virtual community. It's a great place for informal discussions connecting tangential current events to current class material thus preserving classroom time for more directed, topic-specific discussions.

Blackboard & Merlot.org: Using Web based academic tools and learning modules to create homework assignments, group projects, practice tests and pop-quizzes, provides extra learning opportunities and timely assessment tools without using valuable class time.

Chatrooms & JiTT: Asking that a few questions be answered online, at least one hour before class, will insure more students are prepared to discuss the day's reading assignment or have developed some familiarity with the day's problem-sets. Just-in-Time Teaching allows you to focus on what appears to have created the most confusion, curiosity or interest.

The result of using technology outside of class rather than in: You are now free to move about the classroom. You are free to engage your students in a more vibrant and meaningful class discussion unencumbered by those first point-of-contact lecture recitations. The students are prepared ahead of time and opportunities for the in-class "aha" learning moment increases.

To learn more about the Inverted Classroom approach, read José Bowen's complete article, reprinted by permission on Stanford University's Tomorrow's Professor Web site.

Sources:

Bowen, J. (2006). Tomorrow’s Professor Msg. 786 Teaching Naked: Why Removing Technology from your Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. National Teaching and Learning Forum Newsletter, 16(1). Retrieved from http://cgi.stanford.edu/~dept-ctl/cgi-bin/tomprof/posting.php?ID=786&search