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Don’t Lecture Me!

The story in the weekly education section of the Post is supposed to be about how technology is transforming a traditional lecture-based college classroom.

But it becomes clear pretty fast that the quality of these classes has very little to do with “clickers” and certainly not PowerPoint. These students have a great teacher.

Instead of spending 50 minutes putting students to sleep by lecturing about position, velocity and acceleration, Redish, a University of Maryland professor, kept the students awake by getting them actively involved in the lesson — all 192 of them.

He called on his students by name, having taken and studied their pictures. He frequently directed students to solve a problem with their neighbors or register opinions with a “clicker” system that, within seconds, calculates the answers and shows him the response. Sometimes he performs an experiment or shows part of a movie. And if he sees someone doing a crossword puzzle, he is liable to walk over and help out.

Seth Jacobs, a Boston College associate professor of history, said he uses skills he learned in his previous life as an actor, sometimes employing voices other than his own to bring historical figures to life. He has never used PowerPoint, but he has won teaching awards.

The best teachers are always looking for ways to get students “actively involved” or to bring their subject matter to life and will use every tools available to do that.

However, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a lecture in the right hands. I think we’ve all attended outstanding lecture presentations (although very often they’re called “conference keynotes”).

And most of us have also suffered through some incredibly boring ones.

The difference was the teacher, not the slide show.

lecture, teaching, clickers, powerpoint

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2 Comments

  1. Dave

    I’ve yet to use clickers myself, but I’ve heard that being in a college class that requires them is usually not a fun experience…apparently students have to buy the clickers themselves, and they never entirely work properly.

  2. Tim

    I hadn’t heard about a requirement to buy the clickers. I hope the way the teacher uses them justifies the expense. :-)

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