Teaching Naked:  How Moving Technology Out of the Classroom Will Improve Student Learning 

by José Antonio Bowen

José Antonio Bowen, President of Goucher College, has chosen a provocative title for his book, but a quick glance at the preface and Table of Contents makes clear that he is not dismissing technology as an effective teaching tool.  Instead, he acknowledges its ubiquity and concedes that student dependence on technology requires effective teachers to use it.  What he does say, however, is that technology is more useful when it is incorporated into assignments beyond the classroom.  Indeed, he points out that if the traditional brick and mortar liberal arts institution is to thrive among changing demographics and college preparation, for-profit institutions, hybrid class schedules, free online learning, and even free certificates from the best schools, it must emphasize what it does best—face-to-face student-teacher interaction.  The book is divided into three sections, the first of which gives an overview of the current digital landscape in three chapters.  The first chapter explains how the numerous e-learning options are changing the marketplace for higher education.  In the second chapter, Bowen points out that the current student population does not consider proximity essential to the learning process, and in the third he describes how games "have become the model learning environment and can teach us a great deal about the importance of customization in course design."  But the crucial section of the book is Part Two.  Its five chapters lead faculty through the creation of courses that depend on technology outside of the classroom to ready students for face-to-face interaction in the classroom.  The first of these chapters may surprise readers by its title, "Designing College More Like a Video Game," but Bowen writes convincingly that advanced learning must challenge students with constant change that builds upon previous changes just as video games do.  "Mastery of each level, topic, or course would be required before moving on, but failure would be utterly inconsequential, with infinite opportunities to start over."  The next three chapters in this section, "Technology for Information Delivery," "Technology for Engagement," "Technology for Assessment," illustrate how some outside-of-the-classroom technologies can improve student learning and privilege crucial face-to-face student-teacher interaction.  On the most basic level, electronic communication is useful for everything from announcements to clarification of a classroom comment, Bowen points out.  On a more sophisticated level Bowen makes the case for podcasts rather than in-class lectures, whether the professor's own or someone else's.  He argues that with podcasts the professor never runs out of time and can include as many examples as she wishes, and students can move through a podcast at their own pace.   With regard to the use of technology for engagement, Bowen suggests virtual study groups work particularly well because it is easier to meet on cell phones or through a wiki or blog.  And with assessment in mind, he describes just-in-time teaching in which students respond to an online assignment due right before class so that the professor can adjust what he does in the classroom based on student need.  Finally, in the last chapter in Part Two, "The Naked Classroom," Bowen reiterates the point that efficient use of technology outside the classroom can transform the in-the-classroom experience from "a passive listening experience into a transformative learning environment."  Part Three, "Strategies for Universities of the Future," is devoted to the ways in which this transformation can materialize and includes chapters entitled "The Educational Product in the Internet Age," "The Naked Curriculum," and "The Naked Campus."  Colleagues interested in this topic may also wish to read "Why a leading professor of new media just banned technology use in class," an article that appeared in the September 25, 2014 issue of The Washington Post.  


Review by Elizabeth Richardson Viti, Director and Professor of French

This book is available in the JCCTL library.