Get Naked: Rethinking Technology in the Classroom

It was quite a few years ago when I first heard Jose Bowen speak at a teaching and learning conference, in the role of keynoter. His messages about how we needed to use instructional technology thoughtfully – and that there were times when we needed to “go naked” – putting technology aside – really resonated with me.

And it doesn’t hurt that he was a dynamic presenter. As a musician, he knows how to perform, and he gives great examples of how he uses technology with his students – and why he sometimes chooses not to teach with any technology – what he called “teaching naked”.

I enjoyed his talk so much that I recommended him as a speaker for one of my institution’s Teaching With Technology symposiums. Jose Bowen did come to our campus, and it was great to hear him speak a second time.

Now I see that Bowen, president of Goucher College, has a new book coming out on the topic of teaching with technology. Teaching Naked Techniques: A Practical Guide to Designing Better Classes, expands on his arguments and offers practical advice for instructors who want to rethink how they design their classes. You can read this EdSurge interview with Bowen in which he shares his views on why we need to improve college teaching and how that can happen.

I really like his analogy between an educator and a fitness coach:

So, as a teacher, I can’t do the work for you. You have to do the work. And the analogy they use for this is fitness. The fitness coach can’t exercise for you. Ultimately, only you can do that. They’re the same model. A fitness coach is a fitness coach because he or she likes to exercise, and that’s why they’re all buff, right? But the analogy goes further. Just having more equipment and more knowledge isn’t necessarily more useful. This fitness coach knows about equipment, knows about your body but mostly they get paid because they’re motivators. What they’re paid to do is to know about you. What is it that motivates you?

That must be why he would like us to start calling professors “cognitive coaches”. I almost always seek to motivate learners, by encouraging them to think about the value of developing better search skills: better grades; better writing; less time spent hunting for information. And while I won’t do the work for the students, I can advise and coach them as they work through their research.

And when students have their breakthrough, when they “get it” and really understand how to make the most of the library research environment – you can see it in their eyes. That’s the truly rewarding part of our work.

Check out what Bowen has to say about other technologies, such as class capture, PowerPoint and smart classrooms. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he states, because there are times when all of these technologies make perfect sense. As is always the case, the technology is just the tools. It’s up to the educator – and the technologist –  to determine how to make the best use of the tools to achieve student learning outcomes.




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