The Nature of our Teaching March 16, 2006Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools, Students, Unintended Consequences.
Perhaps student networking is the aspect of new technology that teachers and stodgy old professors like myself need to tap into. We need to watch what students do with the technology, listen to what they say about the technology, find out what makes their hearts beat a little faster about the technology, and use it to our advantage.
I met a girl two or three years ago walking out of the Department of Music. She had one of those newfangled (at the time) iPods and I was so intrigued by it I stopped her and asked her a few questions. She simply gushed with exuberance about how it could store so many songs and how she could bring her music with her and that it had literally changed her life and the way she worked.
It is important for the researchers in educational technology to examine that enthusiasm and pick it apart to determine what aspects of it are most relevant or what aspects of it could be used best to transform education. Was it the mobility? Was it the personalization of the tool? Was it the freedom from sitting in front of a set of speakers? Could the same excitement be transferred to listening to lectures by professors?
I have listened to exactly one lecture from a professor in my educational career. It was a lecture that summarized everything that could possibly appear on a comprehensive examination for my doctoral studies. I desperately needed to understand every aspect of that tape. I listened to it perhaps 10 times until I was certain that I understood every aspect. I was motivated to listen to that tape. I am not so certain I would have listened to lectures from my other professors unless I was motivated to do so perhaps by an examination or because of the nature of the concept that was being explained or simply because it was fun.
I wonder if now that professors are able to put their lectures on podcasts and distribute them electronically, will that change the nature of the lecture? Will professors be less prone to ramble? Will professors be more exact? Will professors speak more quickly? Will professors engage in larger concepts? Will these be the lectures that are absolutely essential? There have been so many classes I have taken were the professors’ lectures were largely irrelevant. Will the fact that students can review a lecture until they understand the concepts change the nature of higher education? How will this change the learning styles of our students? If a student can take a class in the comfort of their office or bedroom and listen to 15 hours of lectures on a podcasts and read the readings and write the writings, within the period of two or three weeks instead of the requisite 15 weeks, what would that do to the nature of the University?
These are questions we have to ask.