July 16, 2014

Summer reading on teaching – and Teaching Naked

Posted by Laura Guertin

“I firmly believe that if every teaching faculty member could carve out the time to read one or two great books on teaching and learning every year, we would collectively serve our students much better than we do already.”  —  James Lang (Top 10 Books on Teaching, June 11, 2014)

I think it is safe to say that each of us are challenged to find time to read a book with a pedagogical focus during the year – we struggle just to keep up with journal articles, as well as issues of EOS, GSA Today, EARTH Magazine, etc.  And we welcome the end of the semester and beginning of summer as a time to read books to “escape” and disconnect from our professional lives.  But it seems that our summer reading lists may soon include books for summer conferences.  This year was the first time I saw the Council on Undergraduate Research select eight books for conference attendees to read ahead of their June conference for a lunch book discussion.

With plenty of flight time this summer, I was able to curl up (as much as one can curl up in an airplane seat) with a variety of books, including one that has been on my professional reading list since the beginning of the year.  The book I just finished was not one on Lang’s or CUR’s list but one I heard about back in January at the Summit on the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education.  José Antonio Bowen’s book Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning explores how technology can be most powerfully used outside the classroom rather than as a substitute for traditional classroom learning. The book is AAC&U’s 2014 Frederic W. Ness Book Award winner for best illuminating the goals and practices of a contemporary liberal education.

Teaching Naked is divided in to three sections.  The first section provides an overview of the new digital landscape, the second section explores technology that can improve learning, and the third section addresses administrative and financial issues for higher education with technology in and out of the classroom.  There are full reviews of the book and the first chapter is available online and linked below in the Additional sources for exploration section, so I will just call attention to some of the items that stood out to me.

The book immediately grabbed my attention with the first sentence of Chapter 1: “The new classroom is a flat screen” (page 3).  And it isn’t just the “sage on the stage” happening on a flat screen.  The book provides examples of using Skype for virtual office hours, posing a question on Twitter or via text for recall, and integrating tools such as Calibrated Peer Review (CPR) and Inkshedding for student peer review.  But I have to say that the part of the book I was most pleased to see is the section on Models for Designing Educational Experiences, which discusses using Bloom’s Taxonomy to develop learning outcomes (link is to a page by Iowa State University) to Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning, and even includes Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.  This entire section complimented what I read in the book’s preface, that “technology is a technique, not a strategy.”

One quote I found interesting late in the book was the following:

College has been focused on individual work and social interaction, but the world is becoming a place of collaborative work and social isolation.  Should we resist this change or embrace it? (pages 228-229)

This certainly is an important question to consider when reflecting upon issues and challenges of technology integration in higher education, as well as thinking about how this statement plays out in the geosciences.  Are we a discipline that provides more opportunities for student collaboration as well as social interaction?  When I think back to my undergraduate days at Bucknell University, I would label all of our laboratory sessions and field trips as collaborative and social (I always found it fascinating that in my class year, we all came from different social “clicks” on campus, but we all worked incredibly well together and were supportive of one another).  Have the advances in technology since my undergraduate days eroded that sense of community and support?  Can we do even better with student-student and faculty-student interactions and collaborations, with and without technology?

José Antonio Bowen certainly provides many questions with suggestions for possible solutions.  But I think the most important step is for each of us to first ask and answer the following questions: “who are my students?” and “what technology can they access outside the classroom?”  Once we can answer these questions, only then can we think about moving technology out of the classroom for effective teaching and learning.  For example, I teach at a non-residential campus, and it wasn’t that long ago where I had students that did not have a home computer.  In fact, most of my students have a “family computer” in the home that is used by all family members each evening, limiting their time to get online.  Fewer students have the Microsoft Office suite on their computers, and more students are using their cell phones to access course material.  I am now having students utilize Google Docs/Spreadsheets and making sure my online materials can be viewed/played on mobile devices.  There is much thought that needs to go in to using technology outside of the classroom, and each instructor may have a different comfort level and appropriate level of “teaching naked,” depending upon their students and overarching course goals.

To hear more from Bowen himself, please check out the following TED talk:



Additional sources for exploration

Lang, J.M. (2014, June 11).  Top 10 books on teaching.  The Chronicle of Higher Education – Advice.  (Article online)

Lang’s review of Teaching Naked [blog]. (Post online)

Stansbury, M. (2014, June 23). 10 ed-tech books for summer reading.  eCampus News.  (Article online)

Bowen, Jose Antonio. (2012). Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. United States: Jossey-Bass, 352 pp. (Chapter 1 from Wiley website)

Wrigley, K. (2012, October 24). Teaching Naked: a Review. WPI Technology for Teaching and Learning [blog]. (Post online)

Young, J.R. (2009, July 20). When Computers Leave Classrooms, So Does Boredom.  The Chronicle of Higher Education – Technology. (Article online, has interview with Bowen)

José Bowen’s TED talk, Beethoven the businessman, The revolution that made music more marketable, more personal and easier to pirate began … at the dawn of the nineteenth-century. At TEDxSMU, José Bowen outlines how new printing technology and an improved piano gave rise to the first music industry and influenced a generation of composers.  Filmed December 2011.