Saturday, August 3, 2013

Lecturing on Lectures (Dear Katie V2 #6)

Dear Katie,

There will be two types of education courses you will be taking in your undergraduate studies, the practical and the theoretical.  In your educational philosophy class you will read and discuss words like "constructivism" and names such as "Vygotsky".  You will be encouraged to make your lessons hands-on because people are able to know and understand stuff they "construct" for themselves.  The popular catch phrase you will hear is...

A teacher should be the "guide on the side", not the "sage on the stage".

As you have witnessed in my classroom, I have attempted to create an interactive, participatory classroom.  So you can attest that I am no anti-constructivist or necessarily disagree with the quote above.

Your uncle is not a  Luddite!

However, there is a place for the lecture in the 21st classroom.

Wait, what?  Lecture--21st century classroom?  Isn't that a contradiction?  I mean, come on, with the proliferation of digital devices in the classroom, a student can just pull up a video or "ask Siri" to get the answers that a teacher can provide through a lecture.

A lecture models logical thought and critical thinking for your students.

1) "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."

For education that means a time for lecture and a time for project based learning.  Some of your students will be auditory learners and will catch the information better when you verbalize it.  Your Aunt will attest this being true for her (and she's pretty smart).

2) The problem with lecturing isn't the lecturing, but the lecturer.  

Some of the most knowledgeable people cannot explain what they know to others.  Other people miss the mark because it is not delivered at an age-appropriate level.  Others offer no opportunity for those in the audience to ask questions.  Combine the lecture with back channeling (students use a website like Today's Meet can post thoughts & questions about your lecture that can be displayed on a monitor) so students can interact with the information you are providing. 

3) "We all need, the human touch" -Rick Springfield

The availability of video instruction is awesome, however, a student cannot stop the video and ask a question.  The popularity of TED videos only shows that lectures are not dead.  However, as we begin to be absorbed more into the digital age we cannot become so consumed that we lose out on "face to face", real time, same locale human interaction.  We cannot buy into the idea that only people who appear on the TED stages have something of value to share.

4) Quick & easy is convenient, but just touching the surface.

How one gets to the answer is more important than the answer.  We live in an instant gratification world, where what is called "debate" is won and lost more on style rather than substance.

When I taught at Christian Heritage School in Trumbull, CT, I was fortunate enough to share a classroom for two years with one of the smartest men I have ever known, Jim Bair, the Harvard educated English teacher.  Working in the back of the class listening to him lecture the class about Shakespeare didn't just help me to understand the Bard's work better, but guided me in developing logical arguments.

I had students that had us both as a teacher come up to me and say, "Why is it every time I time I ask Mr. Bair a question, he never gives an quick answer, it's always feels 5 minutes long?"

My response was always the same and was based on a similar feeling when I first began asking Mr. Bair questions.

Listen not just to the answer, but how he is answering it.  

He is offering a logical, reasoned opinion.  You're just not going to know the answer, but WHY it is the answer.  Students would come back a week later with a better appreciation of Mr. Bair's long winded answers.

A lecture models logical thought and critical thinking for your students.

Okay, time for me to get off my soapbox and allow you time for you to digest and implement what you have learned.

Uncle Kevin

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