October 28, 2005

Appropriate Uses of Lectures (Podcasts)?

The following is some information I found about lecturing. I have seen some other bloggers try a technique of inserting a new term in a block of text. I hope this makes you think. I'm not sure it is an exact fit, but interesting enough to think about.

The lecture (podcast) as a well-told story.

Think about what makes a lecture (podcast) interesting, the beginning captures your attention, the middle builds suspense or intrigue as the lecture (podcast) unfolds, and finally, the lecture (podcast) ends in some form of resolution. There are really two components of a lecture (podcast): 1) the content and 2) the delivery. First, a few rules about the content.

Appropriate uses for lectures (podcasts).

Contrary to popular belief, lectures (podcasts) are not good for teaching large amounts of information in a short amount of time. Information is better presented in a text where is available for review by the student. In fact one of the most effective learning strategies students can employ is to read and the reread their text assignment. Lectures (podcasts) are good for making information memorable. That is, lectures (podcasts) are good for providing elaboration of content, examples, and context. Also, because texts often lag current knowledge, lectures (podcasts) can also be valuable for presenting new information. Most of all, lectures (podcasts) are good for validating information from a respected source. That is, if the instructor says it then it's true (at least to the instructor), and that's what should be remembered.

One counterproductive lecture (podcast) activity is to read the text to the students. Now, most instructors might say I never do that! But in fact they do. A survey of the students at the US Air Force Academy, found that students employ a strategy that if the instructor is lecturing (podcasting) the material in the text, they don’t read the text. Instructors often feel that the students are lazy, and that they don’t come to class prepared to learn. But then they turn around and tell the students what it was they should have read in the text. It is probably never a good idea to lecture (podcast) from the text. It will be helpful to elaborate on what is presented in the text, assuming that the students have read the assignment, you are now providing what the text can’t provide, a context for use of the information, examples of when or how that information is used, and stories that illustrate the importance of the information.

We forget much of what we hear. Howard Gardner has a saying that in a lecture (podcast), less is more. What he is saying is that it is very easy to present too much information, such that the student quickly saturates and simply drops into role of passively listening. They may understand what is being said, but they aren’t “learning” it. It is better to teach a few things well than it is to poorly teach a lot of stuff. The decay of information learning is legendary, and unless the learner can encode the information in a rich context with good examples and a reason to remember, it won’t stay in memory very long. To aid memory, it is helpful to use visual illustrations during a lecture (podcast). Visuals are remembered longer than verbal information, and they can aid the recall of information that is associated with them.

Active Lectures

In this manual we have suggested many times that instructional activities that make the student an active learner are more effective than passive strategies. Is there such a thing as an active lecture (podcast)? Are the students leaning forward in their seats trying to catch every word, or are they leaning back, thinking about what they are going to do this weekend. In one case we have an active listener, and the other a passive listener. The trick is to create a desire in our audience so they want to hear more.

My thoughts on this last paragraph, if you've listened to Adam Curry's show for any period of time, you know that he has incredible interaction with his audience (students). They send in comments, information, just about anything he asks for. So don't get caught up in thinking... "well this can't be active."

session 2 MCG lecture skills

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