Another Nail in the Lecture Coffin

By Sidneyeve Matrix

As reported in U Connecticut’s Daily Campus newspaper, N. Katherine Hayles, a professor at Duke University, recently gave a lecture on the impact of everyday digital media use on university students. The bottom line: the perpetually connected lifestyles of today’s students means they are coming to the classrooms with significantly shorter attention spans than previous cohorts. Professors can ignore that, stay calm and lecture on — or we can respond by adjusting our teaching styles.

Hayles suggested:

“If the environment is highly technologically engineered, humans become technologically savvy but also dependent. Some cognitive scientists have realized that GPS technology has changed our sense of direction and left us more dependent on getting around, since no one will have to read a map anymore.”

Similarly, back on campus it follows that:

“Students nowadays are increasingly multitasking. No longer do students go to the library to write their papers; they’re watching T.V., surfing the internet, listening to music, and viewing webpages. All of these aspects influence their research and essays.”

In her research Hayles “toured many colleges and heard a lot of professors say that young people nowadays can’t read whole books, so they assign chapters, and students can’t read whole novels, so they assign short stories.”

All things considered, Hayles concluded:

“The challenge for educators is to build bridges between the rapidly changing generations of students with newly integrated learning through other forms of digital media, ending the traditional lecture which is becoming outdated.”

Another nail in the lecture coffin. Interesting.

For a very similar perspective on swapping lectures for more interactive techno-teaching, see Twilight of the Lecture — describing the groundbreaking work that Eric Mazur is doing in the classrooms at Harvard.

All of which leads me to wonder: in the age of TED talks, which we can’t seem to get enough of, why is the university lecture doomed?

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