Improving the Lecture?

Tools that improve upon the traditional lecture are abundant in today’s edtech landscape. These tools can be categorized as follows: (1) Improving real time lectures (2) Flipping the class to allow lectures to be seen anywhere at anytime.  Both types of types of tools make lectures more responsive and could be important starting points on a teacher’s journey towards a student-centered classroom, but they also amplify the pedagogical weaknesses of a lecture.  

Improving Real Time Lectures

Nearpod and Pear Deck allow teachers to embed assessments and interactive elements into their slides. For example, both tools allow for multiple choice, free response, and polling. These features provide important formative data. In a traditional lecture a teacher is likely to pose a question and hear from 1-2 students, but with the interactive features in both tools, teachers are able to involve every student. Also, instead of teachers having to walk around the class to look at the notes or answers students have written on a handout, teachers can more efficiently gather data about comprehension about a specific topic in order to decide to re-teach or move on.  These features help generate immediately actionable data and opportunities for engagement with students.

Flipping the Class

Tools like EdPuzzle, Zaption, Vialogues, and Play Post It allow teachers to easily post and share videos with students. These sites also allow teachers to embed multiple choice and short answer questions while some like, Vialogues allow for enhanced interaction by facilitating time-stamped discussions while watching a video.   Similar to Nearpod and Pear Deck, embedding questions into the lecture provides valuable data on which concepts students mastered and which need further review. However, since these videos are generally watched at home it frees up class time for more meaningful learning during class such as authentic projects, discussions, debates, simulations, etc.

Critique

Tools that make lectures more interactive are valuable because they provide actionable data and can help teachers begin to think about pedagogy with students at the center. However, they also amplify some of the shortcomings of a traditional lecture. First, these tools are still teacher directed because teachers are the ones that find the resources and create the presentation; therefore, the material reflects one point of view and most of the cognitive load falls on the teacher. Before the advent of flipped learning, the audience for a lecture might be 30 students in a room but now it could be thousands or even millions.  Second, engagement still occurs at a relatively superficial level. While responding to multiple choice or short answer questions does ask students to reflect on their learning, it is a poor substitute for engaging dialogue with peers on compelling questions. While a technology enhanced lecture might provide important background on a new topic, it has some of the same shortcomings of a traditional lecture; therefore these tools should be seen as entry points to student centered learning not the final destination of a tech-improved classroom. 

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