Thursday, January 10, 2019

Lecture As Performance Art

Mark Guzdial posted a link to an article about him (The social justice case for computing: transforming tools for some into a language for all  – you should read it) that had a picture of him teaching. His comment on Twitter was that “Pictures of me teaching look like I'm either a preacher or a Jazzercise instructor.” Shuchi Grover suggested “Bollywood’s greatest actor.” Now Mark is a great speaker, very dynamic. And really dynamism is a hallmark of good presenters.  A number of professors have large YouTube audiences because of the way they present material.entertained

Now I know there is often pushback from teachers saying that their job is to teach and not to entertain. Let’s face it though, all the “teaching” in the world is of little use if no one is paying attention.

Not everyone is a great entertainer. Lots of them are in the “lecture is dead” school of thought too!  There is a lot of pressure to be the “guide on the side and not the sage on the stage.” Personally I think most material needs a mix of the two though. Students need somewhere to start and often that means a lecture of some sort. BTW showing a video is a form of lecture not matter how cool the sound and graphics are.

If we’re going to stand in front of an audience we owe them our best efforts. I’m a firm believer that part of what makes a teacher, and a lecture, a good one is the presenter's enthusiasm for the topic. If you are really enthused it will show and it will be contagious.

I’m always amazed at how little formal training most educators get in presentation skills. One would think that would be a regular occurrence. When I worked in industry I was given a mandatory presentation skills training about every second or third year. Eventually I hope to get good at it. I’ve noticed at events with both educators and industry people presenting the industry people are often the most polished and, yes, entertaining, presenters.  Industry speakers often get salary reviews based on the reviews they get from giving presentations. Educators are evaluated differently of course. And that’s not bad.

With as many distractions as students have today we really have to up our presentation game though. No, we are probably not entertainers by a strict definition perhaps but at least we have to be interesting. And give students some reasons to stay awake.


Garth said...

I teach Stats to 26 seniors at 8:00 in the morning. If I was not entertaining, enthusiastic and partly crazy the class would be toast. Standing in front of the class for 90 minutes (we have block periods) talking nothing but stats is guaranteed in 26 stats hating seniors half asleep. I hate boring lectures, why would we assume our students would not also? Teaching involves presenting material in such a way that the listener can remember it. Being entertaining about the subject will do that. Does any school of ed teach prospective teachers that?

Unknown said...

I totally get the meme! I feel exactly the same way when I see disinterested faces!