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Beyond Lecture

Today’s technology not only captures lectures, it leaves them in the dust.

When I was working on my doctorate in the late 1970s, I traveled around the country to visit K-12 schools, colleges, and universities that had programs in futures studies. One characteristic of every program I visited, from middle to graduate school, was an attempt to change instruction in the classroom from large group lectures to small groups of students solving real-world problems. The thinking was that there are no facts about the future, so why not turn the students loose on trying to anticipate and then solve some of the problems that may pop up in the future? One superintendent was so intent on changing the process that he said to one of his teachers, “You provide really good lectures, so I am going to videotape every one of them and make them available to all the teachers and students in the school; then I am going to fire you because I won’t need you.” I have no idea if he carried out his threat, but he seemed serious.

Flash forward to 2010 and campuses with smart classrooms with automatic recording systems. CT did an online poll recently in which we asked, “What percentage of faculty on your campus record their lectures and make them available to students?” A quarter of respondents said no one, but 64 percent said between 1 and 25 percent of their faculty recorded lectures for student use.

One difference between 1970s “lecture capture” technology and today’s is the ease with which students can access the recorded lectures, as well see and hear the resources the professor used during the lecture, from video to PowerPoint slides. Students value the captured lecture as a great review tool, as well as the ability to catch up on a missed class.

At the recent InfoComm conference, I saw a fascinating lecture capture tool: the Pulse Smartpen from Livescribe, which captures everything you write while recording the lecture at the same time. If you want to check your notes against the lecture, all you have to do is tap your special notepaper and the pen will play back the lecture synched to your notes. You also can download the notes and audio to your computer.

Technology, in essence, has relegated lecture to a valuable learning resource rather than a vital pedagogical approach. This seems particularly true when you look at some of the innovative uses of technology in the teaching and learning category of this year’s Campus Technology Innovators awards. Can lecture match up against a simulation with a Twitter soap opera, or students using geospatial tech to map critical infrastructure elements on the Alabama coast? We always will have lectures, but if I had my choice, I’d be in these innovators’ classes. (For more on all of our 2010 Innovators, click here .)

About the Author

Geoffrey H. Fletcher is the deputy executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA).

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