“Teaching Naked”

This article [“When Computers Leave Classrooms, So Does Boredom,” by Jeffrey R. Young about José A. Bowen, Dean of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, who challenged his colleagues to “teach naked”—by which he means, sans machines] got a lot of buzz over the summer when it was published in The Chronicle. Read it here and leave a comment about what you think.


12 Responses to “Teaching Naked”

  1. Pam Regis says:

    Obviously, the ability to go “naked” in the classroom (ahem, without computers–the other sort of naked is too awful to contemplate) will vary from discipline to discipline and from colleague to colleague. That said, speaking for myself, what I increasingly hope to do is connect with my students–with my voice, with my questions, and so forth, leveraging my presence in the room vs. a computer’s intervention between me and them. I let Blackboard support my classes, but during class time I try for a different sort of encounter.

  2. Mohamed Esa says:

    I agree with Pam and Prof. Young 100%. The greatest teachers are the naked ones (I mean technology naked), unless we consider a chalk a “machine.” Technology (computers, iPods, etc.) are only vehicle, instruments. They cannot replace us. I am a technology freak, but I love my chalk and black/ green board and I love to be in the class discussing literature and other topics without using any technology. However, in today’s world, technology is an “evil necessity.” Our students are proficient users of all kinds of technology devices and I don’t want to be lagging behind them. This makes me feel younger and I can engage my students in ways that appeal to them.

  3. rarmstrong says:

    Not only are our students proficient, they are more used to receiving information through media, mostly computer based media. Providing the information in a computer-based fashion might connect with them simply because they are more used to that than receiving it through books or lectures.

    While I don’t like computers for computers sake, bells and whistles for their sake, i am very interested in providing the material and/or engaging the students in ways they comfortable with. This reduced the hump and effort they have to get over in order to become engaged in the topic. As the author does, i try to deliver most of the content before the class so that in class we can process the material. If i had time to turn every reading into a podcast, I might do that. On the other hand, maybe its good to get them to read the old fashioned way, too…..

  4. gretchenmckay says:


    I am interested in what you do in class “to process” the material. I have thought about posting all my lectures on podcasts so that we could do more interesting things in class, which I have been trying to do this semester in my Roman Art class (and I will blog about that at some point if anyone is interested in how my “experiments” are going). I am having them read “the old fashioned way” too and they are doing it. Low-stakes writing assignments show it. And a stern “You had better read in this class” set the tone. What types of things do you do in class when they come in prepped?

  5. Bob Trader says:

    I have read research about PowerPoint and its use in undergraduate classes. The major advantage of PowerPoint seems to be that it forces instructors to “essentialize” — to reduce that huge body of content to some manageable and comprehensible statement or paragraph. Personally, I don’t use PowerPoint because I want to keep course content alive. I want to be flexible enough to adapt to student experiences and build off of people’s experiences and not be held prisoner to the rigid structure of PowerPoint presentations.

    I use technology to enhance instruction. Sometimes the best way to describe something (some cultural phenomenon or example of human behavior) is to show a video of it from youTube or to invite someone to class via SKYPE. I have always made the claim that technology is only as good or bad as the person using it. If technology becomes a crutch, then I’d say the person isn’t using it very effectively. If technology opens a window that would otherwise remain closed, then why not use it?

  6. Henry Reiff says:

    I find myself referring to this article in numerous conversations. In spite of all the advantages technology offers for use in the classroom, it is largely abused resulting in the worst kind of information dumping (Pp) or relegating students to sit in the heart of darkness (i.e., why would someone devote an entire class period to watching a video?). Why not have students access content outside of class time (one of the great advantages of technology) and use class time to focus on process? There can be great applications of technology for this (e.g., clickers), but if we are f2f, let’s focus on each other.

  7. Ok, so I’ve been tempted to take this advice for close to a year now, but I’ve been frightened of student backlash (which as an assistant prof. is, frankly, a concern). I’d already become disenchanted with Pp before I started at McD, and during my first year here, I taught without it, but then my students actually clamored for it in my evaluations…evidently all my creative in-class activities and interactive discussions put them out of their comfort zone, since they couldn’t figure out what to study for the exam (or, indeed, how to read the text!) without a lecture. So I added Pp back to my class, and my students were happy, but I’m not convinced they’re learning.

    This semester, I’ve been toying with capturing lectures and posting them to iTunesU. (go to www2.mcdaniel.edu/itunesu, and sign in with your McD username and password, itunes should launch and take you to our webpage, check out my ecology class lectures.) I’m not completely happy with my lecture capture, sometimes the tech doesn’t work right, or it works too well (like the wireless mic in my pocket capturing me swearing under my breath.) Plus I’m pretty sure that it would take about the same time or less to record narrated powerpoints and post them to iTunesU as it is taking to post process the lecture captures.

    I’ve sent this article to the students in my ecology class (the one I’m putting on iTunes the most) and seeing what they think about going to the online lecture format. (see the bottom of: http://www.mcdecology.pbworks.com)

  8. Mona Kerby says:

    Hi Folks,

    I’m replying to Gretchen’s prompt via her email for the Tuesday, September 22 luncheon meeting on using technology in the classroom.

    I’ve now read the article twice and it must makes me mad. The title says one thing; the article hints at something different.

    SMU got rid of a tech support person BUT they gave the professors laptops and instructional technology support. So, if you’re a reader and are in the saving money on technology mode, you say, ah ha, we don’t have to spend money on machines, But if you believe that teachers need tech tools and support, you say ah ha SMU believes in providing instructional technology support.

    I guess the article makes me mad because it reminds me of the see-saw, that playground piece of equipment.

    The article’s theme doesn’t isn’t about using or not using technology. It is DON’T BE BORING. Key ingredients are variety, student interaction, quality of material being discussed, and teacher expertise. Teacher must be expert in material and group dynamics.

    Perhaps a key point is where is the learning taking place? It is inside and outside the classroom.

    In the old days an educated person meant that the person knew a body of knowledge. Perhaps we’d want a discussion on what is an educated person in the 21st century?

    At the minimum, the educated person must be able to communicate using a variety of digital tools. So, we should give our students plenty of opportunities to communicate in a variety of ways. I don’t think it matters if the technology is inside or outside the classroom.

    Okay, now I’m off my soap box and will be eager to hear your thoughts.

  9. Bob Trader says:

    The other day in my Computer-Mediated Communication class we were discussing the triviality of the information exchanged in our lives since the advent of mobile communication technology that enables us to keep in contact with each other 24/7. All of the students had heard about the Kanye West incident at the VMA’s even if they hadn’t been watching the show at the time when the incident happened (unsurprising since viral communication has become the norm). I asked them what information people should have in order to be a good citizen of the US or a good citizen of the planet. Silence. I asked them if they had ever been asked that question before. No. I asked them if they thought it was an important question. Yes. I asked them why people knew about Kanye West, but had never even considered something as important as the information necessary to be a good citizen even though we all agreed that democracy was dependent upon an informed citizenry. No thoughts. We ran out of time (inevitably).

    The next class we discussed the lack of filters on the messages that people could disseminate using new media. New media are cheap and relatively easy to use, and increasingly content online is produced by amateurs. We have no quality control filters in place on information published online or that are exchanged on mobile devices, and a quick tour of youTube reveals this. In the past, these quality controls were based on an economic model (publishers had to ensure a certain amount of quality in order to sell their products). While this might not be the best quality control mechanism especially in the academic realm (I have seen multiple research studies that show that textbooks are inadequate representations of the knowledge of an academic discipline or specific areas of an academic discipline), it seems to be better than no quality control mechanism at all. So the key question seems to be how to create a quality control process for the messages we exchange with people using interactive media.

    I don’t mean to offend anyone, but I am curious why anyone would believe that if lectures are boring face-to-face those same lectures would be more bearable to students when captured in other media. It is difficult enough to get students to read materials for class (and we spend most of our lives learning to read and write) much less watch a video (and we have spent quite possibly no time at all learning how to communicate effectively using video), a medium that students associate with fun and not school work. People are really good at changing the channel when something doesn’t meet their expectations.

    I am also wary of the “more the merrier” philosophy. More information is not better. More technology is not better. More types of learning opportunities are not necessarily better either. What we really need is quality: quality of information, quality in our use of technology, quality in our communication, and quality in our learning experiences. Unfortunately, most of us do not really know what a quality message is like in media outside of written and possibly oral communication (though lectures and discussions are often not performed well within the classroom and few people have had specific training in how to construct written or oral messages for novice audiences).

    I also do not believe that we have to entertain our students all the time. True scholarship (scholarship which is rigorous and systematic) has an element of the tedious (sometimes it is sheer drudgery to wade through yet another dense research study or to outline the complex argument of an author or a chapter in a textbook). Scholarship is not about finding an easy solution, but requires a great deal of struggle and effort. I tell my students this and they accept it.

    Well, I hadn’t intended a long rant. Basically, the question to me is how we ensure the quality of our learning experiences (and I don’t believe that this is dependent on whether or not we use technology in or outside of the classroom since this is more a question of method). The main challenge is defining quality. After the quality of our learning opportunities has been determined, we can discuss method and assessment.

  10. Mona Kerby says:

    Hi Ya’ll,

    These are the key points that I take from what Bob has posted:

    1. The major advantage of PowerPoint seems to be that it forces instructors to “essentialize” — to reduce that huge body of content to…a comprehensible statement.

    2. –the triviality of the information exchanged in our lives.

    3. What information people should have in order to be a good citizen?

    4. The main challenge is defining quality. After the quality of our learning opportunities has been determined, we can discuss method and assessment.

    I’m now looking at all the words that have been written on this blog, and it makes my eyes tired.

    When I reread, it looks as if it takes us a lot of words for us to come up with one or two memorable thoughts.

    So, I suppose a blog is a visual documentation of how learning occurs. A blog is a rough draft. Learning/ scholarship /writing that in the past was done alone and not seen by other eyes.

    So…our students wouldn’t just post on blogs, they would have to distill the useful information from masses of information. So…distilling is a necessary skill for a quality education of the 21st century?

  11. Reanna says:

    After the teaching with technology discussion yesterday, I left to teach two sections of composition. After a loud chorus of groans in response to my asking students to pull out their homework, I stopped class and told them about the discussion from which I’d just come. I summarized the three basic perspectives as 1) some believe we have to entertain students 2) some reject the entertainment thesis, but do believe learning should be fun 3) others believe that material is sometimes boring, but students should get over it. I asked my class what they believed was my responsibility to them.

    The resulting conversation was fantastic! None of the students wanted entertainment–as one student pointed out, entertainment doesn’t necessarily include content, and he wants to walk away from class smarter.

    Most believed very strongly that learning should be fun and that instructor enthusiasm goes a long way toward that goal. They said they liked to be challenged and they liked to be responsible for leading discussion (with a little guidance from us). A few said they want to be engaged in the sense that learning should be a group effort, not a uni-directional experience where we just talk at them. They said they hated lectures, but copped to appreciating that lectures allow them to tune out and perhaps get away with not doing the reading. Their response to powerpoint was lukewarm; they didn’t hate it, but it didn’t seem to meet their expectations for engaged learning.

    We had an extended conversation about one student’s comment that professors should try to be “cool.” So many heads nodded in agreement that I had to follow up as to what was meant by “cool.” They clarified and said that they appreciated when professors tried to understand their lives and their interests, trying to tie course material to what’s important to them. They also said they appreciate when we attempt to be humorous, even though most of our jokes aren’t funny.

    I think the fact that I abruptly stopped our regular activity to have the conversation conveyed to them that my question was sincere. I know they appreciated being asked about their expectations. And I walked away with a better sense of what’s working, and where I could make a few tweaks. So thanks for getting the ball rolling, Gretchen!

  12. gretchenmckay says:

    You deserve the kudos, Reanna. I think it’s great that you stopped to ask them about what they wanted from class. Sounds like you had some honest feedback. I think you have to find the right balance of holding them to high expectations and finding out what they need. I’ll be interested to hear what comes next with this class and others.

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