This morning I read a post from a higher education educator about the negative effects of Tech in lectures. The author was perplexed when he realized a great many students in his lecture hall were paying attention to Facebook, or attending to email during the course of a two-hour lecture. His school chose to ban tech devices from the lecture hall. Additionally, students were required to use nametags, so that the lecturer could address individual students with questions during the lecture. This was to be a spot check to insure people were paying attention.

The author said that grades increased as a result of the changes. It seemed to be implied that the positive effect came from the banning of devices. Of course my perspective on the incident led me to believe that the banning of the devices had less to do with the increased attention on the part of the students, but rather a greater impact was caused by the involvement in more of a discussion with the name-tagged students in the lecture.

As a person who attends many education conferences year round, I experience many lectures often in the form of Power Point presentations. I find myself dependent on my devices to distract me from the boredom that often accompanies too many of these 45-minute presentations. As a person of some age, I must admit that a two-hour presentation for me would probably result in a series of short catnaps. If truth be told I think a two-hour lecture would be too much for most people.

The way many people have been programmed to interact with content through the Internet may be one reason why lectures have lost their allure for many.

When kids explore a topic today a primary source is YouTube, which is probably why it’s the second most used search engine after Google. Video for many seems to be more engaging. It also gives control to the learner to repeat or skip over material at will.

Beyond the video even the exploration of text for today’s learner is different. Before the digital explosion, text was stagnant. To get from point A to point G one had to read points B, C, D, E, and F first. Hyperlink changed that linear mindset. Today, while reading text learners can diverge from that straight path with the click of a mouse. They can travel down paths of their own choosing on the subject at hand. Again, they control the path of their learning.

The vast quantity of sources is also staggering when compared to an earlier age when all knowledge was recorded in print. Lectures back then synthesized and condensed things serving a real purpose. Text today is sprinkled with audio and video clips offering variety to the learner. Many different sites address the same topics offering choice to the learner. The role of the lecturer in a digital age is far less of a need when given the plethora of alternatives available online.

There is interaction and dialogue that can take place between authors and learners.

The sources for learning today are much different from previous centuries when lectures ruled education. For the curious mind the digital journey seeking knowledge can be its own experience. Having control over one’s own learning is a very effective way to learn. It is also relatively new to a very conservative world in education.

Many of the educators in the system were not students within a digital age and have yet to come to a full understanding of it. Understanding and harnessing the powers of digital learning seems to be difficult for many educators. This may be evidenced in a two-hour lecture delivered for the purpose of testing the students’ retention of facts from that lecture. This is a short-term goal with few lasting effects for learning, and seems like a waste of everyone’s time.

Many educators are products of an education based on lecture and direct instruction. It is difficult for some to understand that kids today have different ways and many more sources in order to learn. Forcing 21st Century learners into models of learning from previous centuries may not be as effective as some of these educators would hope.

There will always be a need for lecture and direct instruction in education. However these methods can no longer be the mainstay of education. We need to develop newer methodologies to maximize the sources available to today’s learners. Since today’s kids approach learning differently, it stands to reason that we need to approach teaching differently.

If collaboration and discussion within problem-based learning is more relevant to today’s learners, why would educators insist on staying with less effective methods? The technology has changed the way learning happens. That is now a given. Technology by its nature will continue to advance and evolve. It is easier for us to change our methodology and to use the technology than it is to withhold the technology to maintain the outdated methodology. My personal belief is that at least in education relevance is more important than tradition when it comes to methodology. 

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