Friday, 20 April 2018

teaching naked: technology for engagement

In this 6th chapter, Bowen is advocating for instructors to design their teaching, assignments, and courses such that they use internet resources and tools. It is a good idea to interact with students periodically (no more than once a day and not on Friday afternoon!) via email. This allows linking and summarizing the particular topic of the day and perhaps linking it to what is going on in the world and in students’ lives. He also thinks that Twitter and other messaging apps are a good way to interact with students outside of class time. He is urging instructors to find ways of keeping the learning happening outside of class between class meetings. This would take a little time to craft a good paragraph linking the material together. I understand why this is a good idea. But I do have trouble trying to imagine how I could fit this in on a regular basis with my teaching/research/service schedule as it currently is. Writing this blog takes some time away from other things I should be doing. It’s a little like saying I’ll write 20 minutes a day. Wish I could do that. It works when I have done it, but other things rise on the priority list and after a while, it disappears. So this suggestion, like any suggestion for improving our teaching praxis, requires discipline to keep at it. But this is what Bowen is advocating, changing the way we approach our teaching which does require rethinking the priorities on our to-do list.

I do like his ideas about using freely available internet resources as sources for students' first contact with the material being learned. But it does mean taking the time to determine which sources are reliable and truly of pedagogical value. Which is why once you find a good textbook that works for students I am so reluctant to change. It takes time to assess and field test a textbook for a course. And this would be the same for using internet resources.

Currently, my university is encouraging faculty to consider adopting open educational resources for our courses. Thank goodness our Centre for Teaching and Learning is willing and able to provide some resources to help us curate that freely available content. But it still takes time away from other things I need to be doing. What do I do less of in order to do this?


Bowen, J. A. (2012). Technology for engagement. In Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your classroom will improve student learning, Chapter 6. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley. p 129 - 152.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

teaching naked: technology for information delivery

In this fifth chapter, Dr Bowen advocates for using online technology to deliver first contact with the course material to students. He explains how there is ample content freely available online (and this is back in 2012!) that likely addresses the material to be delivered in class. A lengthy example of a 1st-year chemistry course is provided. Bowen argues that instructors need to see themselves as curators of content rather than delivery people or creators of content. Of course, if there is something that we are particularly good at explaining or exploring, then we should consider producing a podcast for the delivery of that content. But only if no one else has produced a better version freely available online. But Bowen does think that it is worthwhile to produce a short introductory podcast for each course section or assigned reading. And if not a podcast at least send an email that is archived on the course LMS. Something that explains what you hope students will get out of the reading or pre-class assignment.

I do this now on our LMS for each course section but not necessarily for each assigned reading. For example, this week after students complete their reading quiz for enzyme properties we will be considering enzyme mechanisms in class. I could, for example, the evening before write a short email detailing why I want students to know well the example of the serine proteases and how it illustrates the influence of amino acid residue charges on enabling transition-state and catalysis. Then in-class we could address student concerns and explore in detail the enzyme mechanism and perhaps even have time for an application of the knowledge. Sometimes I do include an overview explanation in my reading guides to provide context for the reading assignment and what we are learning in this section of the course. But mostly I rely simply on providing for students the learning objectives for that particular reading assignment.

I am not sure that preparing a podcast is better than preparing a reading guide. Dr Bowen makes the case that a personal podcast from the instructor is more inviting. But it is still a talking head. Is that better than text? Is listening better than reading? According to Bligh, talking heads are no better than text at conveying information. But Bowen is not arguing for using these introductory podcasts necessarily simply for transmitting information to students. I get the sense that this is more of an invitation to learning. Is that done better in a podcast than inside the classroom in real-time? But then again, this is the introduction to encourage students - to invite students - to prepare for the classroom so it needs to be done outside of class. I'll continue to provide overviews of the point of the reading assignment. Even if students don't read them, at least it provides me a point to refocus myself on why I am teaching the material.

One of the things that I am finding out about myself as I work through this book is that I tend to really focus on the cognitive domain and not so much on the affective domain of learning. And this may be what causes some of the resistance I experience when I implement active learning in my classrooms. We know that learning works best when students feel invited to learn, welcomed to learn, made comfortable while learning. Of course, learning is about effecting change in students' thinking - in how they conceptualize the world - and thus will require students to move out of their comfort zone. But are there ways/approaches/strategies/considerations that better support students as they enter the learning environment in which they may need to feel uncomfortable while what they are learning does not match their mental models of the world?


Bligh, D. A. (1998). Evidence of what lectures achieve. In What’s the use of lectures? (5th ed., pp. 10–23). Exeter: Intellect.

Bowen, J. A. (2012). Technology for information delivery. In Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your classroom will improve student learning, Chapter 5. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley. p 103-127.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

teaching naked: designing college more like a video game

What would make post-secondary education more like a video game? Bowen suggests that similar to video games, higher ed needs to be designed so that failure is not the end of the game - you get to try again. This involves lots of feedback and low stakes assessment in which the challenges are interesting but not impossible. In addition, higher ed could be improved by adopting what many current online games do and allow students to have some creative input into what and how they are learning.

Interestingly, when I have implemented frequent low-stakes quizzing in my classes my students don't like it. Their complaint is that the learning environment in this situation requires them to be always "on" and performing. I think this is a result of students thinking that it is ok to continually put off actual learning until later - students think that it is acceptable practice to cram, gorge, or mass their learning just before the exam because this is what they have done before with success. They become frustrated when that approach to learning no longer works in university and college. But it certainly takes time for students to understand that the only way forward to really learn something is through repeated active practice rather than through repeated passive listening/reading. Of course, listening to a lecture and reading a text can be a part of learning. But for deep learning to occur, it is insufficient.

This fourth chapter in Bown's book also advocates for moving first contact with the material out of the classroom. Assign a reading and then have a low-stakes reading quiz online before class. This allows class time to be used for application of the rote learning. In addition, it allows students to reprocess the knowledge by re-explaining it to others during the in-class applications.

So these are all the elements that I have incorporated with Team-Based Learning in my courses. Why do so many students rebel against it when all of the pedagogical literature suggests that this is the right way to go? The research evidence suggests that what I am doing is correct according to how we understand learning to work and the results of implementing these teaching and learning strategies. I suspect that it has to do with something else that Bowen discusses in this chapter: the understanding that both motivation and emotion impact learning. Students need to care about what they are learning and they also need to feel good about the learning process.

I suspect that my in-class reading quizzes and apps may be perceived by some students as being too difficult - and this may be particularly true in my second-year fall term course. I find that students need to significantly up their game - their approach to learning - when transitioning from high school to first-year university and then again from first-year to second-year. This chapter implies that a poor implementation of active and flipped learning occurs when the challenge is perceived by students as being a little too beyond their abilities and this will impact students' affective domain of learning. Students won't feel good about their learning because if the challenge is too great, they feel that they are never able to master the material being learned. This is difficult because what was pitched at an appropriate level last year may not be appropriate for a current cohort of students. How do instructors figure this out from year to year? In addition, in active learning, the in-class application of students' out-of-class preparation needs to be a little beyond what students can accomplish by themselves, but doable when a team effort is applied to addressing the challenge. This is difficult to balance from course to course and year to year as different cohorts with different experiences and preparation populate our courses.

This chapter also discusses Perry's scheme of intellectual development and how students move through dualism, multiplism to relativism. I like how Kuhn (1999) who Bowen cites rewords these as absolutist, multiplist, and evaluativist. These changes in students' intellectual development will certainly be reflected in students' understanding of how learning works and who is responsible for the learning to occur. Instructors can provide the environment in which learning can occur. But students need to do the actual work of reconstructing their mental models of the world to integrate what they are learning. Otherwise, the learning is superficial and doesn't stick - their understanding of their world will not change until their mental models have changed.

Bowen cites the evidence that brains are still developing during young adulthood: in students' early to late 20s synapses are still being formed. But note that the chapter implies that neurons are growing. I thought they were done growing after childhood and what was changing were synaptic connections.

So bottom line from this fourth chapter: carefully consider how to develop our courses so that students feel challenged but that the rewards for learning are not unobtainable. This requires careful scaffolding of what we expect our students to be able to achieve on their own throughout the course. This is not easy as it will change from year to year and we, as instructors, cannot assume that what worked for last year's cohort of students will work for this year's cohort.


Bowen, J. A. (2012). Designing college more like a video game. In Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your classroom will improve student learning, Chapter 4. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley. p 75-102.

Felder, R. M., & Brent, R. (1996). Navigating the bumpy road to student-centered instruction. College Teaching, 44(2), 43–47.

Kuhn, D. (1999). A developmental model of critical thinking. Educational Researcher, 28(2), 16–46.

Perry, W. G. (1981). Cognitive and ethical growth: The making of meaning. In A. W. Chickering & Associates (Eds.), The Modern American College (pp. 76–116). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Prince, M., & Weimer, M. (2017, November 2). Understanding student resistance to active learning.

Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2018). Reflections on the resurgence of interest in the testing effect. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(2), 236–241.

Seidel, S. B., & Tanner, K. D. (2013). “What if students revolt?”—Considering student resistance: Origins, options, and opportunities for investigation. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 12(4), 586–595.

Smith, C. V, & Cardaciotto, L. (2011). Is active learning like broccoli? Student perceptions of active learning in large lecture classes. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, 11(1), 53–61.

Taylor, A. (2011). Top 10 reasons students dislike working in small groups … and why I do it anyway. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 39(3), 219–220.

Van Sickle, J. R. (2016). Discrepancies between student perception and achievement of learning outcomes in a flipped classroom. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 16(2), 29–38.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

teaching naked: games, customization, and learning

What an interesting chapter that considers how successful games are actually graduated learning. Good games are self-explanatory: no user manual - or textbook - required. Games teach players how to play while they play. That means that challenges, problems, quests are intuitively understood while being moderately challenging - they are doable. But each challenge successfully met is followed by another that provides another level of skill or knowledge.

Bowen argues that higher education should be the same. And this is something that is interesting for me to consider in my own courses and may explain some of the recent resistance to my courses that a few years ago were well received. I have always provided students with the resources needed to practice the course material. But I have never organized those resources in such a way that there is levelling involved. What I mean by that is that the formative feedback would be better organized in a graduated manner such that each successive problem assigned is a little more difficult to further develop students' knowledge, understanding, and skills.  A few years ago students were fine managing that on their own. More recently, however, students seem to want more guidance in terms of which problems to attend to first and which to attempt next and subsequently. Most textbook end-of-chapter problems that I assign do this fine - the first ones are easier than the last ones. But sometimes it would work better if I better-tailored sequencing of those assigned problems to how I specifically teach a course. That is, rather than simply indicating which end of chapter questions to attempt with each course section, it might be better if I were more granular by indicating which questions to attempt after each class and if there are multiple questions available, to indicate in what order the questions should be attempted.

This requires significant planning on the instructors' part.

The really important point is how to make learning into a game - make it fun and interesting. How best to highlight the course material in such a way that students will find the challenges interesting?

Is there a way, for example, to develop an online pH game?


Bowen, J. A. (2012). Games, customization, and learning. In Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your classroom will improve student learning, Chapter 3. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley. p 51-71.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

teaching naked: social proximity and the virtual classroom

In the second chapter of Teaching Naked Dr Bowen argues for instructors to use social media to make ourselves available and approachable to our students. He provides a number of examples email being the most common. But he suggests that instructors consider where their students are already meeting online outside of the classroom. He cautions against friending students personally on Facebook suggesting a workaround where a discussion board can be shared on Facebook and gently ask students to post class-related queries there rather than on our personal Facebook pages.

That is the gist of the chapter: meet students online where they already congregate. The discussion boards of most learning management systems (LMS) are fine, but they are not as easily accessible via smartphone apps compared to other options. I know that is certainly true of our Moodle installation at the University of Alberta - it is not readily accessible even when in a browser online. Bowen advocates that the online tool must be readily available and accessible to students in their daily life. If access requires pulling out a laptop, then it probably won't be a good route to communicating with students outside of class.

It would be interesting to start a course asking students how they would like me to interact with them online. But I do think it is important to set boundaries in terms of not expecting a reply on weekends or in the evening. It is critically important that we as instructors model for students how to live a balanced life. Difficult I know! But it is important that students see that we have a life outside of work. I think that can send a signal to students that we understand that they similarly have lives outside of school.

Bowen's suggestion to use Twitter as a backdoor conversation during lecture is interesting but I think that would require assistance perhaps in the form of a TA or student volunteer to moderate and raise class questions that way. I already have enough difficulty moderating the class discussion, managing my in-class personal response system, and navigating whatever else I may be projecting to the class! Having a student(s) moderate a back channel is another way of giving students responsibility for their own education. My experience is that when you do this, students rise to the challenge and take more ownership of their education as advocated by Maryellen Weimer in Learner-Centered Teaching.


Bowen, J. A. (2012). Social proximity and the virtual classroom. In Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your classroom will improve student learning, Chapter 2. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley. p 27-49.

Weimer, M. (2013). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

teaching naked: the flat classroom and global competition

In preparation for Dr Bowen's keynote at our Festival of Teaching and Learning this year, I have been reading his book Teaching Naked. I'll be posting my reading notes to my blog a couple of times a week for the month of April. By the time of his keynote, I should have read and blogged on all eleven chapters.

This is an interesting book. The first chapter explains how online learning threatens to make traditional liberal arts colleges obsolete because information and lectures are freely available online. Of course, this assumes that education is simply information transfer. Dr Bowen argues, however, that education must include interpersonal skills and critical thinking: skills that are not so easily learned online. So he makes the case to use educational technologies to leverage content coverage out of the classroom and online in order to release time inside the classroom to engage with the course material by learning how to apply and communicate it.

Bowen makes the analogy that online learning is revolutionizing education similar to how Japanese car manufacturers revolutionized the car market by producing better quality for a cheaper price. GM lost massive market share because they were unable or unwilling to change their product and how it was produced. Is the same thing going to happen to bricks and mortar colleges? Bowen thinks it will unless we focus on the advantages inherent in face to face learning when content is moved online outside of class time.

My issue with this is that students still want to have content in class rather than online. Many of my courses are taught using Team-Based Learning as the instructional strategy. I regularly receive student comments on my student evaluations of teaching complaining that they had to learn the material themselves and that if they were going to have to learn that way then they might as well take a cheaper online course. So is the problem mine in that I have not taught students what true mastery of a discipline is? Or is it that their learning curve is too great for the first contact I give them in the textbook? More likely many students do not understand that learning ultimately requires that students learn it themselves. Teaching is guiding students to do the learning.

My first-year course went ok last year when I switched to giving students an overview lecture the class before their reading quiz. My second-year course was less successful I think because I did that with less consistency. Also, I wonder if the 2nd-year textbook I choose was at too high a level for students? Effectively flipping the classroom, which is basically what Bowen is arguing for, requires careful consideration of what to expect students will be able to master on their own before discussing and working with the material in class. Expecting too much of student first contact will cause needless frustration. Expecting too little results in students not appropriately appreciating what they need to learn in class. A successful flip really does require the Goldilocks touch.

So, I think Bowen is correct in his assessment of the place of face-to-face teaching and the role that online technologies can play in freeing up time to engage students in deeper learning. I look forward to reading subsequent chapters which may address how to successfully do this given that this is a  counter-cultural approach to learning for most students.


Bowen, J. A. (2012). The flat classroom and global competition. In Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your classroom will improve student learning, Chapter 1. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley. p 3-25.

Smith, C. V, & Cardaciotto, L. (2011). Is active learning like broccoli? Student perceptions of active learning in large lecture classes. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, 11(1), 53–61.

Spence, L. (2004). “The professor made us do it ourselves.” The Teaching Professor, 18(4), 6.

Van Sickle, J. R. (2016). Discrepancies between student perception and achievement of learning outcomes in a flipped classroom. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 16(2), 29–38.

Weimer, M. (2014, September 10). “She didn’t teach. We had to learn it ourselves.” Faculty Focus - The Teaching Professor Blog.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

social pedagogy

What is social pedagogy?

This question first arose for me a few years ago when I started implementing e-portfolios in some of my courses and published an article on its efficacy to promote student learning outcomes. Back then there were a few articles (see below) that seemed to suggest to me that social pedagogy simply involves having students make their learning public. I found this dis-satisfying because it didn't explain to me how one makes this a requirement or how one grades it. It seems to me that it involves inviting students to publicize their learning, but then how does one assess that? My 27 years of teaching experience has taught me that unless instructors assess something, students will not attend to it. In teaching and learning, assessment is what produces value for students. If instructors do not assess it, students are being sent the message that the instructor does not value it. A bit black and white I know, but that is my sense of the interaction between students, instructors, and student learning. Granted, when students become independent learners, assessment is done by the students themselves. But that only happens after students have developed some expertise in learning and understand the value of self-assessment and how to go about engaging in the constructive criticism of their own abilities and learning.

After a short perusal of the web, it appears that some (see resources below) use social pedagogy to define a way of being in community and caring for each others' learning. I guess that could encompass e-portfolio practice. But it seems that those practitioners are advocating for living in community. Would this include e-portfolio practice? I don't understand how advocates of e-portfolio practice are invoking social pedagogy in this context.

So, back to my question: what is social pedagogy? Pedagogy involves an understanding of how teaching and learning are practised. The articles on social pedagogy in an e-portfolio context advocate for students to make their own learning public and to publically respond to the feedback they receive in the public forum. But I am having difficulty understanding how we, as instructors, support students' forays into publicizing their learning, and more importantly how we support our students' response to their peers publicized learning. The closest understanding I have is the peer review in which students provide their fellow students with constructive criticism of their peers' term papers, presentations, participation, etc. But I don't think this is really what those who have successfully implemented e-portfolios are meaning when they advocate for social pedagogy. Or rather, it is more than simply peer review, because peer review can be a private transaction between only two students. In contrast, e-portfolios are intended to make student learning public; i.e. beyond the classroom. How does this get assessed and supported?

The reason this is an issue for me is that I understand how making my learning public provokes me to really consider my thinking. Hence, why I keep this blog. But this does take courage to make public our own misunderstandings and the possibility of being found to have a mistake in our thinking - in a public forum. One has to have the courage to make learning public. So, many of my students are very reticent to open their e-portfolios to the public and encourage responses from the public. As instructors do we simply tell students to get over it and grow up? That seems a little harsh to me. What practices do instructors use to help students understand the value of making their learning public? How do we assess our students' participation in social pedagogy on both the giving and receiving end? Is it a matter of simply indicating in our e-portfolio rubric that it is a requirement for e-portfolios to be public and to not do so elicits a failing grade? That doesn't make sense to me. Rather, there must be some approach that enables students to see the value in publicizing their learning. How do we do that beyond simply assigning some marks for the number of comments they give or receive on their e-portfolios?

How do we assess students' publication of their learning in the midst of their learning? This is different from simply publishing their final paper - that is summative assessment. I want to know how to provide students with a formative assessment of their social learning.

What is social pedagogy in higher education?


Bhika, R., Francis, A., & Miller, D. (2013). Faculty professional development: Advancing integrative social pedagogy using ePortfolio. International Journal of ePortfolio, 3(2), 117–133.

Editors. (2011 May 3). What is Social Pedagogy? The Therapeutic Care Journal.

Eynon, B., & Gambino, L. M. (2017). High-impact ePortfolio practice: A catalyst of student, faculty, and institutional learning. Sterling,VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Eynon, B., Gambino, L. M., & Török, J. (2014). Completion, quality, and change: The difference e-portfolios make. Peer Review, 16(1).

Eynon, B., Gambino, L. M., & Török, J. (2014). What difference can eportfolio make? A field report from the connect to learning project. International Journal of ePortfolio, 4(1), 95–114.

Five Rivers Child Care Center. 2017. The application of social pedagogy at Five Rivers: What is social pedagogy?

Gambino, L. M. (2014). Putting e-portfolios at the center of our learning. Peer Review, 16(1).

Jensen, N. R. (2013). Social pedagogy in modern times. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 21(43), 1–16.

Rafeldt, L. A., Bader, H. J., Lesnick Czarzasty, N., Freeman, E., Ouellet, E., & Snayd, J. M. (2014). Reflection builds twenty-first-century professionals. Peer Review, 16(1).

Storø, J. (2013). Practical social pedagogy: Theories, values and tools for working with children and young people. Policy Press. University of Bristol.