Another nail in the lecture coffin


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with newly integrated learning through other forms of digital media, ending the traditional lecture which is becoming outdated.”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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About Sidneyeve Matrix

Professor, blogger, trendwatcher. I share research & news about digital culture & commerce on Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Comments

  1. It’s possible that the lecture *never* worked. I’d argue that it’s more than possible – that in fact it’s *probable*. But the claim that students have shorter attention spans than previous generations would be more persuasive if it was backed by empirical evidence (which may exist, but I’ve yet to see it reported).

    As to the enduring attraction of TED talks, that’s easier: they’re stories. Moreover, they’re stories told by experts in both content and presentation. Of course they work. Notice how easy it is to sit through a very good 80 minute movie?

    The enemy of good learning is us (the faculty). Often our material is boring and we either don’t know or don’t care about how students actually learn. We have to adapt, and if we don’t, we are in the wrong (IMO).

  2. And yet she gave us this information as… a lecture.

    I am puzzled that the conclusion to “students have shorter attentions spans” is “we must assign shorter and more digital media”. Do we normally take students with deficient skills and cater to those deficiencies?

    I’m not saying that I don’t do so, because I do. I assign shorter readings now because I want them to put together the whole instead of having it put together for them. Also, I am not very good at working with students through a long work, which has always been necessary (regardless of what the Net Gen theorists say). But I have great admiration for teachers who lecture well, who assign large texts, and who are skilled at taking students through them. They should be admired, not told to adopt digital media.

  3. Hi Sidney, thanks for a great post. We’d like to include it in One Change A Day blog calendar. I saw that you have CC3.0 NC-SA, we have CC3.0 NA-SA unported. We are hoping to publish the calendar in print format at the end of 2012.

    Would that be ok for your current permissions,
    Thanks
    Nicola

Trackbacks

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  2. Last line is very astute observation about the so called "death" of the lecture > Another nail in the lecture coffin http://t.co/S5s6ukNm

  3. Another nail in the lecture coffin: N. Katherine Hayles on digital technology use and students' limited attention spans http://t.co/V3NciSh6

  4. Gordon Ruby says:

    Another nail in the lecture coffin: N. Katherine Hayles on digital technology use and students' limited attention spans http://t.co/V3NciSh6

  5. Another nail in the lecture coffin: N. Katherine Hayles on digital technology use and students' limited attention spans http://t.co/V3NciSh6

  6. The perpetually connected lifestyles of students means shorter attention spans, what doss this mean for the lecture? http://t.co/lYN2lLCL

  7. Another nail in the lecture coffin: N. Katherine Hayles on digital technology use and students' limited attention spans http://t.co/V3NciSh6

  8. Another nail in the lecture coffin: N. Katherine Hayles on digital technology use and students' limited attention spans http://t.co/V3NciSh6

  9. Another Nail in the Lecture Coffin (cyberpop) http://t.co/VKY8ExC6 (cyberpop!)

  10. Another Nail in the Lecture Coffin (cyberpop) http://t.co/VKY8ExC6 (cyberpop!)

  11. Luís Tinoca says:

    RT @TopsyRT: Another nail in the lecture coffin http://t.co/9BDPi465

  12. C. M. Elias says:

    RT @TopsyRT: Another nail in the lecture coffin http://t.co/9BDPi465

  13. […] of the decline of the lecture, I’m struck by the comment another blogger made about the paradoxical popularity of TED talks in the age of the death of the university lecture. Given that TED talks are essentially lectures – and lectures that the vast majority of us […]

  14. Pam Ross says:

    These short-attention-span kids will soon be your employees. Need for bite- & byte- sized learning http://t.co/lVSvpBPf via @sidneyeve

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