I was interested to see this new lecture enhancement technology being bought to market. Prof: ‘Engage Students Through Their Laptops’ — Campus Technology.
I particularly liked this quote:
“The key is to engage students through their laptops or cellphones, so they don’t drift off onto social networking sites”
Of course maybe they actually prefer collaborating online than sitting passively in massive lecture hall. Shouldn’t we take advantage of that?
To be honest I haven’t had chance to look at the functionality of this tool in detail but my first reaction is that its yet another student response system.
Now I’m all for for creating engaging learning experiences be they online or face to face but it seems to me that this is yet another rear guard action from those who are interested in maintaining the lecture as the default method of content delivery in higher education. I won’t say learning because I really don’t think a huge amount of learning occurs in most lectures.
Before you all jump in with arguments in favour of the lecture note that I used the word ‘most’. I do believe that some lectures are fabulous vehicles for learning. Think of the Reith lectures, the Royal Institution Christmas lectures, most inaugural professorial lectures, Professor Marian Diamond’s famous anatomy lectures at Berkeley or of course TED talks (although TED talks are notably shorter than university lectures).
But these are the exception, not the rule. Most lectures are very dull, very passive and delivered by academics who have had no staff development in delivering lectures and frequently don’t care that much anyway. Frankly, if lecturers are going to think sufficiently deeply about their lectures that they incorporate engagement technologies such as this then they actually probably don’t need the technology in the first place.
The other aspect of engagement technology such as this is that it is very easy for its use to be subverted. In particular many lecturers will immediately see it as an opportunity to spuriously include attendance as an assessment criteria. Believe me this happens more than you would think in this day and age.
Now if universities are going to use this technology then fine. They should provide clear direction to all their staff coupled with appropriate staff development and guidelines for the use of lecture enhancement technology. They should also say, we aren’t going to bother with blended learning and our online course spaces are just going to have copies of the notes and maybe a link to the lecture capture (which, in my opinion, is another misused technology).
What universities can’t continue to do is say we’ll have a bit of this and a bit of that and you can use this if you want to and we don’t mind if you use it for assessment even though its not meant for that and you should be doing interactive stuff online as well as interactive stuff in the classroom. That way just leads to madness or should I say continued madness as we seem to be there already.