Thursday, February 4, 2010

Naked Teaching in the Inverted Classroom

Jose Antonio Bowen of SMU writes about teaching naked in the National Teaching & Learning Forum, Volume 16, Number 1 ( The full title of his article is Teaching naked: why removing technology from your classroom will improve student learning. The core of his position is captured in the phrase “the Inverted Classroom.” In the traditional model, students came to class without much preparation, encountered and initially digested the material there and subsequently displayed mastery through written papers or examinations. In the “inverted classroom” (the phrase is from Platt and Lage’s 2000 paper “The Internet and the Inverted Classroom,” at ) , the initial encounters and first steps to mastery occur outside and before class meetings; student engage in the classroom with each other and with the instructor to extend and deepen their learning. While project-based approaches or the studio model of arts education can also facilitate this inversion, it the various forms of technology which are currently most applicable, powerful, nimble and flexible.

In terms of students becoming versed in new material, Bowen makes the case for podcasts, talking powerpoints (or audiotours), “serious” games, peer instruction and review (using e mail, Facebook, and so on, as appropriate). Some of the talking powerpoints and games he has himself created can be experienced at These means the banishing of both direct instruction and class business, the latter taken care of through e mail, Facebook and the like; the former by students listening to podcasts, readings texts and so on, all integrated through a course management tool such as Blackboard (or Moodle).

For me, there is a very direct path from this position to much of what I have learned from Co-operative Learning – especially Jigsaw procedures. There is a vagueness in Bowen’s piece which makes me uneasy: the descriptions of the classroom are highly unspecific and have no apparent structure. This continued in the radio interviews he gave (exposure on NPR is not common for higher education practice, so attention was rightly given).

But faculty development programmes and teaching/learning centres on college campuses are there to help. The hard part, I think, is doing away with the old, burning the worn, shabby clothes of traditional pedagogy. While the emperor might be only lightly clad for the moment, he is at least aware of the need for new clothes.

And that’s the naked truth.

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