Burying the lede, indeed

I had the same reaction when I read the Chronicle’s article about Dean Jose Bowen’s decision to remove computer equipment from his classroom. Bowen’s contention? That students will be more engaged without distractions from PowerPoints or laptops.

More than any thing else, Mr. Bowen wants to discourage professors from using PowerPoint, because they often lean on the slide-display program as a crutch rather using it as a creative tool. Class time should be reserved for discussion, he contends, especially now that students can download lectures online and find libraries of information on the Web.

But Alex Reid is right when he says it’s not about getting computers out of the classroom.

It’s about getting the lectures out of the classroom

Certainly slides of photographs that help explain a concept or a quick slideshow to jump start a discussion are not inappropriate ways to bring technology into the classroom. But to simply replace one kind of passive learning for another won’t solve anything. It’s NOT about getting technology out of the classroom. It’s about changing the way we ask students to learn.

So I’ll go one step further. Asking students to watch a lecture and then come to class to discuss that lecture is only slightly better. What about asking students to do the research? What about asking students to evaluate the information? Student-centered, inquiry-driven classes where students use tools to gather, create, decipher, judge, and share information will do more for developing learners and thinkers

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to make sure my students are reading, writing, and thinking next year. I don’t need PowerPoint, but don’t take the emerging technologies away, the very tools that will enable students to become active, engaged members of my classroom community.