SMU Dean Says Universities Should Embrace Technology, Social Media To Survive
"The gaming industry didn't set out to be an educational tool," says Meadows School of the Arts Dean José Antonio Bowen, "But we need to be that engaging, interesting and compelling. We need to adopt that energy in order to get students hooked, so that they will want to tackle the subject matter for hours."
Last week, Bowen released Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology out of Your Classroom Will Improve Student Learning, but despite its title, he is hardly anti-technology. In fact, the Dean emphasizes wholly restructuring higher education so that it -- like the journalism industry and the music industry -- can effectively adapt to the changing face of human interaction and learning.
"Today, I carry in my hand more knowledge than an ancient scholar could amass in an entire lifetime. Our challenge is no longer imparting a depth of knowledge, so much as honing the skills of analysis and critical thinking. We want to turn the fire hose of knowledge on students and teach them how to keep up."
It's true. Remember the last bar fight you settled without the assistance of a 3G "Google Machine?" And despite cautions against its "truthiness," Wikipedia is likely your first stop -- at least for personal information. Bowen seeks to infuse this healthy "grain of salt" skepticism into the classroom which, under his model, will be the home of critical analysis and discussion rather than lectures or power-points. Why learn the Periodic Table, when an app can be downloaded for free in a matter of moments? Why not instead use those hours or rote memorization to learn how to calculate atomic mass?
With the onset of free Open Classroom learning from the country's heaviest hitting universities (think Yale, MIT and Stanford) -- podcasts, lectures and even full courses posted for public streaming -- Bowen realized that, if "red brick universities" are to survive, it is time to consider ways to tailor higher learning to students, rather than wage a quixotic war against modernity. As with journalism -- where global information, of varying quality, is now available at the click of a mouse -- university classrooms can now refocus on the regional, with hyper-specific sessions focusing on the local and its application to international news and ideas.
And while most video games aren't exactly tools for scholarly learning, Bowen is a huge proponent, pointing to scholar James Gee, who says that "a good game is pleasantly frustrating." Within recent years, even a few literary ones have popped up, from Dante's Inferno by EA Games, BioShock from 2K Games (based loosely on Randian Objectivism) and adorable 8 bit retro-style games based on The Great Gatsby and Waiting for Gadot (which you can play online, here).
Ultimately, it means asking professors to utilize Twitter, Facebook, email and new media outside of the classroom to broach topics of immediate relevance and applicability. Recorded lectures and book readings -- depending on particular students' unique learning styles and preferences -- will return to the realm of self study. Classes will meet fewer times per week as small groups, and professors will take on a more Socratic role, emphasizing critical analysis, debate and making wise sources choices.
So prepare yourselves for a friend request from Prof. #ThatAwkwardMoment when you realized your mom was on Facebook has nothing on this.
Educators and philosophers, find Dean Bowen's book -- you guessed it -- for purchase online at Amazon.