Teach Naked: Dean Urges Tech-Free Classes

Dean Jose Bowen at Southern Methodist University's Meadows School of the Arts. i i

hide captionDean Jose Bowen at Southern Methodist University's Meadows School of the Arts.

Courtesy Jose Bowen
Dean Jose Bowen at Southern Methodist University's Meadows School of the Arts.

Dean Jose Bowen at Southern Methodist University's Meadows School of the Arts.

Courtesy Jose Bowen

A dean at Southern Methodist University in Dallas is advocating a different way for professors to get their lessons across to students: teach naked.

If that's prompting some disturbing images of the lecturers you had on campus, don't worry. What Jose Bowen, dean of SMU's Meadows School of the Arts, wants professors to do is to strip the technology out of their classrooms.

BandStand

Dean Jose Bowen isn't anti-technology. In fact, he has created online games for his students, including one called BandStand, which allows players to assemble a swing quartet. Download it here.

"While it sounds like it's an anti-technology position, really what I'm doing is using technology like podcasts and online games and things so that students have first contact with the material before they come to class," Bowen says.

In fact, he's urging professors to invert the traditional model, in which students come to class unprepared, are introduced to material by a professor, then leave to study on their own before coming back to be tested.

He suggests an alternative:

"First contact with the material is about you, the student. Then you come into the classroom, and now we have what's called learning. We work together, we work on problem sets, we argue. And then you go away and I assess you."

In addition to more actively engaging students, Bowen says his method gives residential universities "something else to do." He says he thinks traditional colleges will be in trouble if they don't change their ways.

"We are medieval institutions. We haven't changed in a very long time, and our basic mode of operation is based upon medieval technology," he explains. "I mean, the lecture was an efficient way to deliver content a thousand years ago. It's just not anymore. And I'm a parent — I'm looking at college choices for my daughter. I look at the variation in price: Is it worth 10 times more to take this course in the flesh than it is to take it online?"

Bowen, who also teaches music history, has created online games for his students, including one called BandStand that helps them learn the styles of different performers by allowing them to assemble a swing quartet. (You can download it here.)

"Part of the point is that when you make it a game, students — they'll play," he says. "It's actually pretty easy to memorize that Gene Krupa is a swing drummer, but in some ways, part of the fun is just hearing different styles, and hearing what happens when you change drummers or you change piano players."

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