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Teaching Without Technology


There's a long article in The Chronicle of Higher Education about stripping technology out of classrooms to better engage students. Jose A. Bowen, the dean of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, has begun to promote "teaching naked"—or teaching without technology in the classroom.

Although there is a definite focus on higher education in this article, it has major implications for the K-12 classroom as well. Bowen's main beef with technology seems to be specifically with PowerPoint, which he claims many teachers use as a crutch, rather than an effective teaching tool. Class time should be reserved for group discussion, says Bowen, not for displaying information that could be downloaded later, such as a PowerPoint presentation or lecture.

Those who are made most uncomfortable by Bowen's teaching style are the students. They've become used to the passive lecture method of teaching and aren't used to actively participating during a 50-minute class, says the article, although Bowen claims that once students see the effects of group discussions vs. lectures, they become less bored and more engaged.

While I can see how PowerPoint might facilitate a passive style of learning, there are many other technologies that require active participation from students, and I wonder what Bowen thinks of those. Having students record their own podcasts and upload them to a class blog is a much different experience than walking students through a series of PowerPoint slides. Ultimately, I think it comes back to the idea that it's not about the technology, but how that technology is used and implemented in the classroom.

What do you think? Does relying too heavily on technology in the classroom make students passive learners? Or do you find that incorporating technology into lessons better engages students?


Nice post! You have raised a good point, but, depending too much on technology may harm a student's abilities. To some extent engaging students to learn, one can use technological means.

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PowerPoint is hardly state of the art 'technology'.

PowerPoint presentations are precisely the sort of things so many of us in ed tech are trying to steer folks away from.

So I guess, in that sense, me and the dean are in agreement. Power Point often leads to a passive audience watching a lecture.

Where we disagree is in the 'naked' classroom concept. And this has to do with the fact that if the dean thinks PowerPoint is what we're talking about when we're talking about technology, then he's only demonstrating that he has no idea about what technology is.

We're talking social media, cloud computing, mobile applications.

Tech that actively integrates into learning.

Sounds like Bowen needs to catch up with what's actually happening in ed tech. He's a bit behind the times.

Technology can be an excellent teaching tool, but nothing can be as good as discovery through interaction. In the real world, successful businesses are based on personal relationships, as well as technology. Kids must learn how to use technology for learning and communication, but also how to interact with others to solve problems and create opportunity. Thanks for raising awareness to such an important issue.


You hit the nail on the head. It's not about the technology. Too many focus on the technology instead of using the technology to engage students. PowerPoint, video and other technology can be used to put a class to sleep or create lively discussion and engagement. Just depends on how they are used which depends on the teacher and how good he/she is at interaction and engagement and making the topic interesting.

Katie, Powerpoint is old news. I would have thought someone in charge of higher learning at a prestigous institution like SMU would have cutting edge techniques. I'm taking a class right now in which we had to design a lesson plan for middle school students involving technology and collaboration. The students use web 2.0 tools to communicate with other students around the world and get feedback on their research papers. In this case the web 2.0 tool is a teacher monitored chat room. My students upload their papers onto a website that these other student/participants can see then they give their peer feedback. My students learn something about themselves, hopefully how to handle constructive criticism and the other students learn how to be objective and diplomatic.
My point is they used computers to do research about their papers, they used email to contact an expert to ask questions about their topic, then they used the chat room to hear from students from other parts of the world regarding their work. Technology was used at almost every juncture. One thing about students today, they want to be grabbed, they want their lessons to be relevant and meaningful and what is relevant and meaningful to them is technology. That makes them active participants in their learning. They are doing, surfing, finding, creating as opposed to sitting.

Technology stripped from today's classrooms? I'm surprised to even consider that! I don't think the question is whether or not to use technology, but HOW to use technology. Educators should include Web 2.0 technologies as part of their teaching strategies, as a tool to enhance learning. Unless educators watch for ways to include new technologies we will not connect with our learners. Digital technologies are a routine part of the world of today's students. They text and use Facebook without even thinking that they are using technology. PowerPoint, though, is passive learning for our students. Online collaboration is is one Web 2.0 tool that makes them active learners as they interact with users from around the world. Online collaboration and texting are already a part of the business world today. We want to help our students be ready to participate, and developing technologies will certainly be a part of their daily lives.

There are many effective teachers who teach without technology. A teacher who plans and interacts with her students can create an engaging environment. However, I still feel that such teachers are doing themselves and their students a disservice.
Technology is not something that is a passing trend. Our students need to be not only familiar, but experts in using web 2.0 tools to be successful in future careers.
I also am taking a Web 2.0 course, and I have discovered that by creating a webquest for my students to follow, they are engaged in reasearch, team management, organizational skills, digital communication (by blogging), evaluation and multi-level discussion.
As the others have said, lecturing along with a power point is hardly technology in the classroom. Most of the time the students just sit there and copy notes off the slides. We, as educators need to study and learn and evolve our teaching skills with the current technology. We need to reach kids where they are and use all the tools available to do so.
An engaging classroom is one that embraces technology, student directed learning, project based learning, discussion, hands on experience and observation. These strategies should work together to bring about the learning spark in our students. Having our students use technology to help them express themselves whether it is through video, blogging,or writing is a valuable interactive tool

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