We had a "pedagogical seminar" on this topic ("Giving kick-ass presentations...") at my department this week. I introduced the topic at the seminar, but the majority of the time (which was only 45 minutes) was spent discussing the issue of "social media + lectures/classrooms" in smaller groups. We finished the seminar by presenting the results to each other during the last 10 or so minutes.
The background to the seminar is perhaps interesting in itself:
1) I gave a course about social media this past autumn
2) One student wrote a blog post about a Fastcompany.com article called "Giving kick-ass presentations in the age of social media".
3) I sent a mail to people at my department with a link to the article in question.
4) Because of the mail, I was invited to host a pedagogical seminar on this topic.
The short article treats the new rules of giving public speeches to a wired (and demanding) audience. What do you do when your audience doesn't look at your while you talk, but rather down, at their screens? What are the implications of your audience being able to "check the facts" in realtime while you deliver your talk? What does it mean that you can have a second (remote) audience that "listens in" on your speech and that is (much) larger than the one you have in front of you? And do you have to understand Twitter as a speaker/lecturer and also "mix in tweetable quotes" in your talk/lecture?
The article was written from the point of view of public speakers at conferences and similar events, so some aspects were perhaps not directly applicable to university teachers giving lectures in courses. A speaker at an event has higher demands on being "entertaining and insightful", while the demands on delivering facts and "correct knowledge" probably are higher on a teacher. The lecture might be less exciting, but it might at the same time be OK for a teacher to be a little bit less "exciting" and more factual-oriented?).
Quite a few people turned up at the seminar. I was also a little surprised, because my guess beforehand was that teachers in general would hesitate or be more negative about the pressure that social media can exert on them to change the way they teach, than they would be positive about the possible benefits. But perhaps only teachers who had a positive attitude towards using social media in higher education showed up for the seminar?
Here are some of the suggestions that our short "brainstorming session" turned up:
- How can better Q-and-A sessions be organized, does the teacher need a (student?) "helper" who filters and chooses questions? Who benefits, what are the potential drawbacks compared to raising your hand and speaking out loud in a lecture hall?
- We first need to think about the relevance (or irrelevance) of Twitter in relationship to academic knowledge and academic articles.
- Yesterday students brought a (free) newspaper to the lecture, today they have their phones. At least reading a text on their phones doesn't make a lot of nice! (This is a very pragmatic attitude.)
- We should support/educate/talk more among lecturers about how to embrace these new technologies. How can we take advantage of these devices and services so as to increase the interaction between lecturers and their audiences?
- We should also support/educate the students so as to use the devices "correctly" or responsibly (e.g. not to play games or listen to music while at a lecture).
- Some teachers have done experiments with "clickers", i.e. the lecturer poses a question and students click the right alternative (A, B, C or D). The answer (nice bars or a pie chart) appears directly and the teacher can decide whether to (for example) go on in the lecture or continue to explain a concept. The clickers (hardware) cost money, but there are nowadays also iPhone apps with the same functionality (but not everyone has an iPhone/smartphone). One teacher has experimented with low-cost alternatives in the form of color cards. Four cards with different colors, please make your choice and hold it up.
- We should explore social media functionality in our own social media-enabled system, KTH Social.
- Everything that engages and activates students is worth trying!