Monday, October 26, 2015

Teaching Tip #34

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #34
That should make my friends in the social studies department happy.
Just kidding.
The lecture isn’t dead.  Really.
Don’t get me wrong.  I’m huge proponent of what a former colleague of mine dubbed “edu-tainment.”  As Marc Prensky once wrote: “Engage me or enrage me.”
I don’t think notes or the lecture should be extinct, though. It's an efficient way to deliver a lot of content to a lot of students. Notice I used the adjective "efficient" not "effective."

I once heard this great definition of a lecture: "a lecture is the process through which the notes on the board by the professor and then transfer to the tablets (or laptops) of the students without going through the brains of either."

Think of the tablets full of notes that you took in college. Does that sound like most of your lectures?

I don’t think the lecture has to look the same way it did a generation ago, especially when we are in a 1:1 environment.
Why not plan your lecture with that in mind?  Why not plan your notes and lecture so you can ask your students to look up specific terms or events and have them add their voices to the lecture?
Why not divide your chapters up and give them to groups of students and then have them construct the notes and lecture and deliver it to their peers?  Just be sure to have them leave some time for you to fill in the gaps that they will most likely miss.
And these are just a couple of the ways I’ve tried to spice up my lectures.
Overall, though, I don’t think lecture should be the predominant form of presenting material to students.  It’s just not an overly effective way to teach knowledge.
When you have to put together the new crib, do you first sit through a lecture on it?  When you are game planning for your next opponent, do you call up someone and listen to a lecture on what you should do?  When you have to build a patio out back, do you listen to a 45 minute lecture from a Lowe’s or Menards’ employee?
Of course not.
If you are like me, you give it a go, fail miserably, and then adjust course as you go.
That’s how we really learn.
Yet, we don’t (or we rarely do it) in our classes.
If that fails, I watch a Youtube video or download an app.
Is it too much to try to incorporate some of this into your teaching?
Some colleagues will say that we do a disservice to our students by being too engaging.
At first I thought this was a legit point.
But I don’t buy that anymore.
If we are engaging and the students are learning, how can that be a negative?
Some colleagues will argue that most of their professors in college won’t be engaging.  In fact, and this is a valid point, most of their professors (especially in large lecture style classes, such as College Chemistry) will simply lecture and put up notes via overhead projectors.  Students need to know how to get through this in order to earn a degree.
This argument is so faulty, it hardly warrants a rebuttal.  However . . .
1.  A majority of college professors are not taught how to teach.  No wonder they are as boring as they want to be.  High school teachers, on the other hand, should know better.  We have been taught how to (or we should have been taught) to create interactive and entertaining lessons.
2.  If boring lessons are working, why do the vast majority of our students struggle on MCAs, Basic Skills tests, and the ACT?
3.  The day is looming where college professors won’t be able to continue as business as usual (John Merrow has a good story on this on his website, Learning Matters) since up to 70% of students leave without a degree.  What a disgrace to the teaching profession!
4.  How can we try to defend boring practices just because college professors teach that way?  Could you imagine a high school teacher telling a third grade teacher to not have such a creative class and so many engaging activities simply because many high school teachers don’t have creative classrooms or engaging activities?  That’s folly.
As a rule - teach our lessons as we would like to learn them . . . if we were 16 again in this digital environment!

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