Chronicle article on “teaching naked” buries lead

In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jeffrey Young reports on SMU dean Jose Bowen's decision to remove computers from smart classrooms in an effort to persuade faculty to "teach naked." Bowen's main objection seems to be to the horrible PowerPoint slides to which students are subjected.

No argument there.

But this isn't really about getting computers out of the classroom. It's about getting the lecture out of the classroom… and into the podcast.

Like many of us, I attended college pre-powerpoint. Lectures still sucked, for the most part. Bad slideware just makes it worse, and having the lights dimmed assures sleep. But the problem won't be solved by removing the computers (in fact at SMU, professors can still hook up their own laptops). What you need to do is help faculty to produce better lectures and even better slides to accompany their lectures.

And then put them on podcasts.

The problem you then face, of course, is what do you do with 100+ students in a lecture hall, three days-a-week, for 50 minutes? Well, obviously, you have to restructure the way college courses are delivered. Sure that's a major undertaking, but it does reveal the fundamental absence of critical thinking behind this "naked teaching" movement.

The faculty aren't naked. Well, duh, right? But what I mean, clothing aside, is that sans computers, faculty are still clothed in a variety of material contexts, just a pre-2000 context. Why would anyone assume this context is any good? I can personally attest, as both student and faculty, that there's nothing special about it.

Whatever solutions we will develop will not come from some knee-jerk reaction to something we don't understand or scapegoating a particular technology. The future, I would imagine, will emerge out of thoughtful use of emerging technologies in conjunction with traditional practices. I think that's what Bowen is trying to get at.