Sunday, 13 September 2009

Naked Teaching-Reflecting on The Use of Technology in The Classroom

I had a very interesting experience this week. My laptop suddenly became unusable and I had 50 minutes to prepare a lesson with no projected visuals, no recorded sound and no video clips.
What happened? Armed with a black bin liner bag turned into a “touchy feely mystery item” bag and feeling a little bit awkward, I suddenly realised how dependent I am on technology.
Why? Ten years ago, it was not a problem-the technology was not readily available in schools and therefore not expected.

“Naked Teaching” can be a strategy to develop quality learning and teaching in the classroom, as advocated by José Antonio Bowen, Dean at Southern Methodist University in the United States.

The only aim of using technology should be to develop teacher-students interactions, but this is not always happening. In fact, technology can push people even further apart, with the only interaction occurring between students and machines.

However, some new technologies can increase students' engagement outside of the classroom and prepare them for real discussions by providing access to lesson content and assessment before lessons. This turns a classroom into a place where content is being manipulated rather than passively received.

Current research (Crouch and Mazur, 2001) demonstrates that “students retain relatively little content from most lectures, but they do take away a lot about your attitude toward learning and your subject”.

“Technologies’ greatest gift is to release you from the tyranny of content. There is time for everything now. The real problem is that this now leaves you standing naked in front of your class wondering what will happen next. That is also the moment when the most real learning can take place. Be afraid, but take the risk”.

Sometimes, the teacher is ready to take the risk but the resistance comes from the students:
“The lecture model is pretty comfortable for both students and professors, after all, and so fundamental change may be even harder than it initially seems, whether or not laptops, iPods, or other cool gadgets are thrown into the mix.” (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

It is also a fact that ICT does not engage all students and “going naked” from time to time should benefit these students as well as widen the range of learning experiences of all students. My own experience was that a couple of students confirmed this at the end of the lesson by telling me: "Miss, we prefer it without the laptop”

I like the idea that class time should be used to manipulate and discuss content rather than passively receive it, but is it fair that not all students will have access to this pre-lesson briefing? The digital divide is still very present in many deprived areas and there is no quick and easy way to tackle this.

Would I use this as a management technique? I would not make it a permanent feature of the teaching in my Faculty-and certainly not interfere with equipment-, but I would particularly recommend that younger teachers try it to widen their teaching repertoire. More experienced teachers should also consider how they could adapt some old low-tech teaching activities to make them more relevant to the 21st century. After all, good teaching involves a wide repertoire of ideas to engage students-high tech AND low tech.


Pilar Munday said...

I had a similar situation just this week. It was the first day of the semester and I was prepared to show the students our Blackboard page, the QUIA workbook page, the extra credit page, etc. But there was a problem with the projector that couldn't be fixed and when the technician said, "I'm sorry but this won't be ready until your next class" I panicked. I did not even had a marker with me, as I am now used to writing notes in a Word document that I can upload later to our Blackboard page. But this definitely taught me a lesson. I had to rely on what I used to do ten years ago and it actually was not too bad.
I also had a problem with the following classroom. This was even worse. It could not be fixed. So after (a very frustrating class) I requested a classroom change. In the end, the compromise reached was that one day a week I will have a wired classroom and the other day I won't, but I am actually taking this as a challenge to myself to come up with activities that do not use technology, that is, to go back to how I used to teach, which like you said, is appreciated too by some of the students.
Well, wish me luck for the semester and thanks for a great post.

David Sugden said...

Hi Isabelle,

I enjoyed reading this, thank you.

I also agree with you when you suggest that teachers should embrace both high tech and low tech solutions to student engagement. In training sessions (I rarely get to meet students F2F these days - although I will this week, in Ashton U-L) I too have started to use low-tech solutions to helping teachers (usually F.E.) understand the pedagogical need to carefully choose of technology they employ with learners.

Thanks for all your links too. Energizing!


IC Jones said...

Dear Pilar and David
Thanks a lot for your comments. As much as we love technology, it is always worh remembering that there are "other ways" as when the situation is forced on you, it certainly is a reality check...


pab said...

What an interesting proposition! The experience that you relate reminds me of times that one aspect or another of technology-enhanced lesson plans has become infeasible for reasons beyond control, sometimes even beyond perception.

Deciding occasionally to wing it without, or at least preparing for undesirable or unwelcome situations without, even with 21st century technological options at your fingertips, is a stroke of brilliance for various reasons you suggest. Deliberately teaching naked from time to time might entail broadening teaching and learning experiences, catering to a wide variety of learners' preferences, and diminishing the digital divide.

Nonetheless, I disagree with the assertion, "The only aim of using technology should be to develop teacher-students interaction...." Granted, "technology can push people even further apart, with the only interaction occurring between students and machines" (¶3), or between students and content via machines, as the case may be.

Yet that assertion seems to obscure the point that learner-learner or learner-learners interactions are immensely valuable alternatives, if not keys to engagement and learning. That is, with or without modern technologies, both inside the classroom and out.

Indeed, especially if the Informal Interaction graphic in your post may also represent technology-supported interactions, the upper end of it (learner:network, learner:collective [& collective:collective?]) suggests possible escape or release of learners not only from the tyranny of content, but from the tyranny of instruction as well.

IC Jones said...

Dear Pab
Thank you so much for such interesting and constructive comments. Reading this post again, I have to say that what I really meant was "one of the aims of using technology" rather than "the only aim". You picked up on the message via the picture but I must admit that, as it stands, this assertion is contradictory and certainly something I would disagree with too!
Thank you for making me think again...


pab said...

My pleasure, Isabelle, ...

... and a constant wonder, too! How ever do you find the time to keep composing such thought-provoking posts?

Cheers, Paul

Darren Elliott said...

I'm reading in envy... some of us have high speed wireless connections at home, but still use chalkboards in the classroom. For me "blackboard" is literally "a blackboard". There are ways of getting around it, and it is getting better. We have class blogs, and computer rooms now.

But don't let your laptops make you lazy, and get ready for the day when all the electricty stops!