What makes you think I’m not teaching naked?

A colleague of mine at EMU from another department sent me a link to this article in the CHE, “‘Teach Naked:’ Effort Strips Computers From Classrooms.” My first response was to send them to Alex Reid’s blog entry on this; as Alex points out, it isn’t a question about PowerPoint or any other technology per se.  Rather, it’s about the problem of using technology to continue to the same old teaching methods, and it’s about using the technology in new and logical ways– e.g., podcasts and the like instead of lecture hall classes.

But I’ll point out two other things.

First, I suspect this colleague sent me this article because we’re both on this committee about remodeling/redesigning Pray-Harrold Hall, and I think there is a general fear (or maybe it’s just me) that the powers that be are going to throw good money toward a technology that will become quite useless in just a few years.  When they built Halle Library (which is generally a very nice facility), they spent a ton of money stringing Ethernet cable all over the place.  Just a few years later, they turned that all off because now the building is wireless.  So, what I’m afraid of is we’re going to spend all this money in Pray-Harrold with whatever– computers in every classroom with lots of controlers and gizmos to more or less project PowerPoint slides– when that is both bad teaching (see above) and likely to be obsolete sooner than later.  To quote from the article:

(José A. Bowen, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University advocating the “naked” teaching)  says most of those classrooms had two computers (a Mac and a PC), a DVD player, a VCR, and a tape deck, along with “one of those complicated control panels where you need a Ph.D. to figure it out.”

Last summer Mr. Bowen had most of that gear removed—though he left in projectors so that professors could plug in their laptops and do PowerPoint presentations, if they must. He also took out the old desks and replaced them with tables and chairs that professors could move around to allow students to work in groups more easily.

One reason for the changes was financial. The classroom computers were old and needed an upgrade when Mr. Bowen arrived, so ditching them instead saved money. Plus, the move cut support costs—the school was able to eliminate one staff position for a technician who responded to calls from professors about the classroom systems.

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.

Some professors have complained about lugging their laptops to class, but others have jumped in with both feet.

This makes complete sense to me, and if you follow the trend in computer sales (desktops way down, laptops/netbooks way up), it just seems logical that more and more faculty will start doing this.  Heck, most faculty bring laptops to classes as it is.

Second, the article oddly makes no reference to the truly naked (well, casually clothed and/or pajamas) form of teaching:  online classes.  I found that odd.  Maybe they just don’t do this sort of thing at SMU, or maybe what Bowen means by naked teaching is more about the face-to-face experience, I don’t know.  But I can say without a doubt that teaching online has done more to change my approaches, in both good and bad ways.

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