Why do so many college professors suffer under the delusion that students should want to come to class when their instructor drones on and on in lecture, and does not provide opportunities for interaction?! In the LA Times article from January 16, 2006, “The iPod Took My Seat,” multiple professors are quoted who reveal their own belief in this fallacy. (Thanks to Derek Baird for alerting me to this.)
These statements from Terre Allen at Cal State Long Beach are revealing:
This last term, Allen experimented with posting extensive lecture notes online for her undergraduate course, “Language and Behavior.” One goal was to relieve students of the burden of furiously scribbling notes, freeing them to focus on the lectures’ substance.
Yet the result, Allen said, was that only about one-third of her 154 students showed up for most of the lectures. In the past, when Allen put less material online, 60% to 70% of students typically would attend.
When it comes to lectures with enrollment in the hundreds, universities usually don’t compel undergraduates to show up, or even lower their grades for poor attendance.
“This is one of the things that divide universities from high schools,” Allen said. “Students are expected to be personally responsible.”
Still, Allen said, to curb “the absentee approach to college,” she won’t put her lecture notes online this term.
Another example is this quotation in the article from Lee Ohanian, a UCLA economics professor:
Ohanian said he has found that “too much technology really leads to a passive learning environment” and spurs more absenteeism. He has cut back on posting lecture materials online and now provides extensive notes only for the most complicated topics.
If technology use is perceived as leading to a more passive learning environment, I contend this is a problem of PEDAGOGY, not TECHNOLOGY.
It is a fallacy to think students want to sit in a class where the dominant pedagogy is “synchronous, non-interactive.” As I have written previously, if a professor is going to employ a synchronous, non-interactive pedagogy, by all means, PLEASE PODCAST! (Then at worst it can become asynchronous, non-interactive.)
Mark Prensky writes and talks about digital natives and their responses to synchronous non-interactive pedagogy with the title, “Engage Me or Enrage Me.” Clearly in the cases cited here by the LA Times, the digital natives in these classrooms are enraged– or at least quite BORED, with a transmission-based model of “school as usual.” More fuel for the fire for the contentions I offered in “The Case for Digital Storytelling.”
Instead of interviewing Terre Allen and Lee Ohanian about podcasting in the context of traditional instruction, the LA Times should interview Nobel Prize winner Dr. Carl Wieman. His recent lecture at UBC on science education (available as a 1.5 hour podcast) makes this point quite persuasively: traditional, passive, lecture-based instruction DOES NOT WORK. Students tend to retain just 10% of what they hear in lecture. Weiman does not advocate for podcasting, he advocates for a science-based approach to studying teaching and learning, and a corresponding change in the pedagogical strategies instructors employ to help their students learn. I am fully supportive of those ideas, but I extend them further: If the instructor wants to lecture non-interactively, that can be fine: but please offer the lecture as a podcast as well. And don’t be disappointed or shocked when students don’t come to see and hear the lecture “live.”
When instructors and students DO meet face to face, it is the responsibility of the teacher (through the pedagogy he/she chooses to employ) to leverage the interactive potential of the face to face environment. By not coming to lecture classes, I think many students are “voting with their feet” on the importance of this professorial responsibility.
We need to remember the research which supports the following model of average retention rates, and change our own instruction accordingly:
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