Dr. José Bowen – “Teaching Naked” at Keene State College

On October 17, 2013,  Dr. José Bowen presented his workshop,  Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning, at Keene State College.  Four GSC faculty and staff  attended this workshop including Reta Chaffee, Linda KenneyPaula Lombardi and Gail Poitrast.  Dr. Bowen is Dean of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University.  He is also a musician, scholar and author.

He started the workshop with an overview of what Clayton Christensen describes as disruptive innovation, when a  seemingly “unattractive or inconsequential to industry” innovation eventually redefines the industry.  Think about film cameras, online banking or even the post office.   In the case of education, the disruption is the fact that “knowledge” is no longer confined to libraries and universities.  Knowledge and information can now be found online any time you want it.    And more particularly, knowledge via courses can be free in the case of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) as modeled at some of the most prestigious universities such as Harvard, MIT and Stanford.   (See WIRED article about the next generation of MOOCs.)  

So the challenge then is to find the value proposition for coming to class?   What is it that students cannot get on the Web that they can get in the classroom?  They can get lectures from highly qualified experts around the world.  They can find the content for most anything.  The premise of Dr. Bowen’s workshop is that it is the faculty interaction and the ability to change the student’s mind is what makes the difference.  While he advocates for getting the technology out of the classrooms (i.e. Teaching Naked), he does not advocate for dismissing technology as a tool.  In fact, he provides many examples of how you can use technology to deliver the content and communications outside of the classroom which allow for deeper, richer conversations and interactions when you are together with the students in the classroom.  One of his examples is having students watch a video prior to class and write a reaction, for example “What did you really like/dislike about ___.”  When the students get to class, he has them exchange index cards and write a rebuttal.   GSC instructor, Gail Poitrast, tried this in her own course and noted, “I asked students to watch a math video, take notes, and come to class with math questions on 3 separate index cards to share with others.  The students were engaged, and it exceeded my expectations.”    She also pointed out that it works out if it is well-planned which speaks to another point made by Dr. Bowen.   Course design is now more important given that content is so readily available online.   Instructors need to think more about how to engage the students with strategic learning activities.

In the end, he suggests that the answer to MOOCs are MBCs…or Massively Better Classrooms.   To learn more about Jose Bowen and Teaching Naked, you can watch the 17 minute TedX video or visit his website   Teaching Naked.