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Posts Tagged ‘lectures

The only thing that surprised me about this tweet was how the lecturer was surprised that no one showed up for his first lecture.

Expectations about conducting and attending lectures changed even before the COVID-19 pandemic imposed emergency remote teaching. Most current institutes of higher education have had lecture recording systems in halls and/or recording studios. Faculty either ‘live’ record or pre-record so that students do not actually have to show up at venues.

Here is my own experience. The last formal lecture I gave was in 1999 when I was a tutor and lecturer at a local junior college. I remained in education after that, but did not conduct lectures as a curricular requirement.

Some might argue that the talks I conducted as a professor and consultant were lectures. They might be if I just talked. I used to warn my attendees that I considered them participants and included activities that required them to think, discuss, provide feedback, etc. Those were definitely not lectures of the chalk-and-talk variety.

Lectures are a relic of the way we used to do things because we did not know and have better. Lectures might be good for inspiration, but they do not often result in perspiration, i.e., they do not result in action or change. This is despite some organisers’ efforts to design change with talks as part of a larger strategy. 


This is my fifth image quote update for the week:

The danger of lectures is that they create the illusion of teaching for teachers, and the illusion of learning for learners.

My original image quotable quote was:

The danger of lectures is that they create the illusion of teaching for teachers, and the illusion of learning for learners.

This is one of those image quotes that 1) speaks for itself, and 2) had a great CC image from Flickr (thankfully, still available online).

I am dead set against lectures. I try to lecture as little as possible because once I start talking, it is hard to stop. But my talking does not necessarily translate to listening or learning.

So when I found this graphic image below several years ago, it almost became a mantra.

As good that the graphic image was, I wanted something to show why lecturing is less relevant now. Then I found this image via ImageCodr.

Why just lecture when glowing portals of learning already sit on the laps of potential learners? Why lecture when there are active learning methods an instructor can use?

By sheer serendipity, RSS fed me with some fuel for this fire.

I am halfway through conducting a series of talks on Creative Commons for the PGDE cohort of student teachers in NIE.

[SlideShare] [Google Presentation]

I am almost enjoying the practice of lecturing, a strategy that I thought I had long abandoned.

I have to remind myself that didactic teaching has its moments provided it is used sparingly and only if you are a charismatic storyteller.

I do not consider myself to be in that last category even if a few enjoy listening to me. But I am an experimenter and risk-taker. I have tried to create more interactive lectures, “participates” instead of “talks”.

Of the three backchannels I have used, Facebook has been the most successful if you go by the number of responses. Most participants are not on Twitter or do not know how to use hashtags.

LinoIt is in the middle and the quality of responses there is better. One sticky on LinoIt reads: Much prefer linoit/twitter as a platform than facebook. Less intrusive.

What did I learn? Provide more than one backchannel. But when you do that, it gets harder to monitor and respond. Future implementation? I might consider using just Facebook and LinoIt (for choice) or LinoIt alone (to provide a neutral platform).

The five-question online quiz I included at the end offered a bonus I did not plan on. It was a way of taking attendance! I know that at least 50, 139, and 210 student teachers attended sessions 1, 2 and 3 respectively. I know who attended and how many times they attempted the quiz.

Could participants use some other name in the quiz? Yes, but only if they wanted to get singled out or have their integrity questioned as teachers-to-be. They would also lose a chance to win a small prize for getting all the answers right and quickly.

Some might say that lecturing as a dying art. They should try designing and implementing an interactive lecture.

Others might just point out that lectures should just die. Or be put to death. (Not good storytelling though, because that is different.)

In this day and age and with the new expectations of learners, boring face-to-face lectures are on death row. Making them interactive just gives them a last meal to make them feel good one last time.

Mention the phrase “Twittering during lectures” ten years ago and people might imagine excited chatter because (or at the expense) of the lecturer. The audience could also have been quietly laughing for the same reasons.

Actually you could go just five years back when Twitter was just a fledgling and twittering would still not have had the meaning it has now.

Cliff Atkinson’s The Backchannel (2010) by inju, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  inju 

According to Edudemic, there are 10 New Ways Twitter Is Changing The College Lecture. As usual, I greeted this “news” with yeas and nays.

Encouraging the use of Twitter during lectures, talks, or seminars does not disguise the fact that they are still just that. The backchannel may exist, but the speaker must first allow it and then actually leverage on it to understand, interact with, and better engage the audience.

But fundamentally, the speaker is still lecturing. I think that very few people are gifted lecturers. That is why lectures are boring.

Lectures are also outdated and outmoded. When information was scarce and lecturing was the only way for experts to pass information on, lectures made sense. I quote from a recent article in Prospect, Professors Without Borders:

As Thrun observed in his Digital Life Design talk, the world’s first university appeared in Bologna in 1088. “At the time, 350 years before Gutenberg, the lecture was the most effective way to convey information.” Then came the printing press, industrialisation, celluloid, the web. “And miraculously, professors today teach exactly the same way they taught a thousand years ago! The university has been, surprisingly, the least innovative of all places in society.”

These days we talk about having information at our fingertips. The challenge is not to find the information but to make sense of it.

So why do lectures persist? I can think of a few arguments and also counter those points.

It is the traditional way to teach. The experts were taught that way and it does not seem broken, so they teach the way they were taught. But that is only if you ignore disruptive technologies and expectations like Twitter backchannelling.

It is evidence of teaching. I recently shared a quote on lectures. But lecturing does not guarantee any more learning than talking ensures listening.

It is more efficient to lecture when you are a researcher. Some lecturers are researchers and they would rather focus on their research than teach. Lecturing, no matter how badly, can be neatly packaged. The process of learning and interacting with learners is messy. But being efficient is not necessarily being effective.

It gets everyone in the same place. And that is somehow comforting. But we can now attend conferences, unconferences, seminars, and the like over the Web. If you miss a talk, you can watch it later and interact with other participants via a discussion forum or shared Twitter hashtags.

It makes money. It does for now whether in the context of business talks or lectures linked to university courses. But again, technologies that allow direct access to experts, crowdsourcing, content creation, and online discussion are disrupting this process. The money will be in consultations and value-adding to what people already know or can find out on their own.

More thoughts on lectures tomorrow…

I get what Jeff Utrect was trying to say in the evolution of the lecture. But I have to wonder, have lectures really evolved? Getting the audience involved by polling them or creating a back channel does not make a lecture any less of a lecture.

During the time it has taken me to draft my reflection, Utrect has a new blog entry on how the lecture as content delivery is dead. This I agree with, especially if the information or content is already available elsewhere.

I also like the quotation in the image above. Simply because someone is talking does not mean that the rest are listening. The traditional lecture is based on the very old model of verbal transmission of information from a sole expert.

In an era of ready access to information, content creation and curation, and access to expertise anywhere in the world, lectures look long in the tooth.

So I think that lectures are almost effectively dead because they are not evolving with the times.

That said, I think that there is a time and place for lectures, just not all the time and in every place. There are folks who are very good lecturers or highly charismatic speakers. Many of them make good money going on the lecture circuit. But these should be the exception, not the rule.

What of TED talks? I think that most are not lectures. At least the good ones are not lectures. They are storytelling sessions. There is no power trip from the speakers. It is about the passion of the speaker and the attempt to move hearts and minds.

Down with lectures. Long live storytelling!


Video source

There is unwritten rule in survey research that goes something like “Do not ask questions that you do not want answers to”. These are the difficult questions that result in difficult answers that in turn might lead to actionable change.

The Chronicle worked on the premise that something might be wrong with lectures and asked students what they thought of them.

I wonder if anyone here has done something like this.


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