As a followup to my earlier post about academics using YouTube to post lectures and presentations, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus had an article today entitled "Dueling Videos: Scholar Creates Remix of Another Academic’s YouTube Hit." The article, by Jeffrey Young, describes how one scholar remixed a popular YouTube video of another scholar as a critique of the original. The author muses that "The dueling videos might point to a future in which scholarly arguments take place in visual rather than written form."
This got me to wandering, are we moving in that direction? I often hear colleagues say that our students are visual learners and that we need to bear that in mind as we search for ways to hold their attention and impart information during a 50 minute class. I certainly feel that I need to use visuals when I teach survey courses since I believe that it is very hard for students who have never left the US to really understand ancient civilizations without visual imagery (photos, slides, videos, etc.). I can remember my undergraduate archaeology classes which had dual slide projectors going non-stop every day. The problem was that these classes were right after lunch, in non air-conditioned classrooms, in the sweltering NC heat, and that made staying awake very, very hard. In fact, one of my memories from these classes was a young lady literally falling out of her chair as she dozed off. Humorous at the time, but now I have to worry about causing my students to nod off.
Where am I going with this? Well, I am not really sure. I believe that all methods of teaching can be effective, in the right setting. I am also all for trying new techniques in the classroom, and do appreciate that students today are different from the students of 20 years ago – but do worry about using technology for technology’s sake. This point has been really brought home to me by my Digital History class. In talking to one of my sections last week, I somehow got off on a tangent (quite common for me actually) and mentioned that I was interested in trying out a Kindle, Amazon’s new wireless portable reader. None of the students were familiar with it and in fact, they all expressed a preference for traditional books, not reading from a screen. They also said that they preferred classes to podcasts and video delivery. So, for my students, technology is coming slowly and I need to remember that.