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The lecture as a trans medial pedagogical form


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The lecture has been much maligned as a pedagogical form. It has been denigrated as a “hot medium” to be “superseded” by the cooler dialogical and televisual forms (McLuhan, 1964, p. 256), or as an “oral residue” in an age of proliferating digital information (Jones, 2007), or. Yet the lecture persists and even flourishes today in the form of the podcast, the TED Talk, and the “smart” lecture hall (outfitted with audio, video and student feedback technologies). This persistence provides an opportunity to re-evaluate both the lecture and the status of the media related to it through an analysis of its form and function over time. This paper examines the lecture as a pedagogical genre, as “a site where differences between media are negotiated” as these media co-evolve (Franzel, 2010). This examination shows the lecture as bridging oral communication with writing and newer media technologies, rather than as being superseded by newer electronic and digital forms. The result is a remarkably adaptable and robust form that combines textual record and ephemeral event, and that is capable of addressing a range of different demands and circumstances, both practical and epistemological. The Web, which brings together multiple media with new and established forms and genres, presents fertile grounds for the continuation and revitalization of the lecture as a dominant pedagogical form.

Published in: Education

The lecture as a trans medial pedagogical form

  1. 1. The Lecture as a Trans-Medial Pedagogical Form Norm Friesen PhD Al taqui (flickr)
  2. 2. <ul><li>We are today as far into the electric age as the Elizabethans had advanced into the typograph and mechanical age. </li></ul><ul><li>- Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy </li></ul>
  3. 3. Overview <ul><li>Current views on the lecture: “rooted in orality” versus print, electronic & digital media </li></ul><ul><li>The Medieval lecture: cultural preservation </li></ul><ul><li>The 18 th century lecture: authorial performance </li></ul><ul><li>The 20 th century lecture: dramaturgical effect </li></ul><ul><li>The 21 st century lecture: the future of an illusion – the lecture as hermeneutic </li></ul>
  4. 4. Diana Laurillard (1993/2001) <ul><li>Why aren’t lectures scrapped as a teaching method? If we forget the eight hundred years of university tradition that legitimises them, and imagine starting afresh with the problem of how to enable a large percentage of the population to understand difficult and complex ideas, I doubt that lectures will immediately spring to mind as the obvious solution. (93) </li></ul>
  5. 5. What are the assumptions here? <ul><li>Communication as information transmission </li></ul><ul><li>What is the most efficient way? </li></ul><ul><li>Verbally: the lecture is “rooted in orality” </li></ul><ul><li>Writing, text, printing, electronic, digital </li></ul><ul><li>“ The sheer quantity of information conveyed by press-magazines-film-TV-radio far exceeds the quantity of information conveyed by school instruction and texts. This challenge has destroyed the monopoly of the book as a teaching aid” </li></ul>
  6. 6. Communication as Information Transmission Lectern Book Radio Internet; multimedia Lectern Print Radio Internet & Multimedia Tempor- ality Synchronous; one place, one time Asynchronous; anyplace, anytime Synchronous; one place, one time Synchronous & Asynchronous Inter- activity Low None None High (potentially) Numbers Reached Dozens, hundreds Unlimited; thousands Unlimited; 100’s of 1000’s Unlimited; millions
  7. 7. The medieval Lecture <ul><li>Medieval era: 5 th to the 15 th century in Europe </li></ul><ul><li>No printing press; books are extremely precious; seen as authorities </li></ul><ul><li>Lecture (read) from the cathedra (lectern), on which books were designed to fit. </li></ul><ul><li>one spoke of going to a lecture to “hear” the a“books” being read </li></ul>
  8. 8. Teaching & Learning as Recovery <ul><li>Lecture was a reading, and reading was a lecture (of sorts; public lectures common) </li></ul><ul><li>A world of “drifting texts and vanishing manuscripts” (E. Eisenstein) </li></ul><ul><li>“ the simplest way of getting [books] ... was for the teacher to dictate the texts to his pupils” (Hajnal) </li></ul><ul><li>Lecture was for copying, to recovery </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>through the printing press, texts are multiplied, “as now a book is reproduced many thousandfold. Therefore if one, two, three, ten or twenty are burnt or otherwise are given up, there are still very many additional others, so that a book is never totally lost...” </li></ul><ul><li>Informational abudance (relative to earlier situation) </li></ul>
  11. 11. The early modern lecture <ul><li>The eighteenth [century] appears to be the century when dictation was first stopped, even if only erratically at first” (2006, p. 85). </li></ul><ul><li>Mixture of glosses and recitation </li></ul><ul><li>“ masters noted down on their own copies... a few words by way of résumé, and as a help in their lectures” </li></ul><ul><li>25 year lecture as a gloss & commen- tary on book of Isaiah (16 th c.) </li></ul>Ulrich Pregizer
  12. 12. The 18 th Century Lecture: Johann Gottlieb Fichte <ul><li>In the 1790’s in the University of Jena, Fichte became one of the first German professors who began officially lecturing without a set text... Fichte and other Romantics began lecturing on their own work without any pretense that that they were glossing a text or recapitulating a tradition... Departure from an actual or even virtual textbook as a basis for lecturing constituted the ultimate break with the sermon [or medieval lecture]. (p. 410) </li></ul>
  13. 13. Fichte as Lecturer <ul><li>“ extraordinary” </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Goethe </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>“ rapturous” </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Hegel </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Could read as if speaking, and speak as if reading </li></ul><ul><li>My principle concern is not what “is printed in books for us to read,” but rather, “what has stirred and transformed our spirit” (Fichte). </li></ul><ul><li>I wish to “succeed in scattering in your souls fiery sparks which will arouse and stir them.” </li></ul>
  14. 14. W. Clark, Academic Charisma & the Origins of the Research University <ul><li>In Romantic Jena and elsewhere, the cathedra [or podium] became a locus where one created knowledge, became a site of the new, radical stress on spontaneity, creativity and originality. ... a new relation between the Romantic “I” pontificating from the cathedra and the academic chorus [or audience began to emerge]. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Theory of knowledge <ul><li>Hermeneutic: meaning originates in the speaking subject </li></ul><ul><li>It is also created anew in the listening audience: “...scattering in your souls fiery sparks which will arouse and stir them.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ passionate” and “moving” lecture(r) </li></ul>
  16. 16. 20 th Century...
  17. 17. 20 th Century Lectures & their Technology Virginia Woolf Theodore Adorno Richard Feynman   Stephen Hawking
  18. 18. Lectures in the 20 th Century: Dramaturgical Effect <ul><li>“ In our society we recognize three main modes of animating spoken words: memorization, aloud reading... and fresh talk . In the case of fresh talk, the text is formulated by the animator from moment to moment, or at least from clause to clause. Fresh talk is perhaps the general ideal and (with the assistance of notes) quite common. ...a great number of lectures depend upon a fresh-talk illusion .” </li></ul>
  19. 19. Goffman <ul><li>“ Your effective speaker is someone who has written his reading text in the spoken register; he has tied him- self in advance to his upcoming audience with a typewriter ribbon” </li></ul><ul><li>The most important selves in the lecture is the “self-as-animator” and the “textual self;” the textual self stands behind the self-as-animator” to create the dramaturgical effect / performance </li></ul>
  20. 20. Lecturing in the 21 st Century (Lecturing to Large Groups, Morton, 2009) <ul><li>share their passion and enthusiasm for the subject by telling students why they are personally interested in this topic. Where possible, this could be a link to their personal research; </li></ul><ul><li>link the lecture to some current news or activity </li></ul><ul><li>use relevant and current examples to illustrate the point </li></ul><ul><li>(structure, preparation and variation) </li></ul>
  21. 21. Lecturing in the 21 st Century <ul><li>Lecturing is about a personal, relevant and current connection between the lecturer & the audience </li></ul><ul><li>An emotional connection between the two </li></ul><ul><li>It is about cultivating an illusion of spontaneity, of direct communication. </li></ul><ul><li>The illusion is created through technology or media </li></ul>
  22. 22. Lecture as Hermeneutic Event <ul><li>not about the textual self, about the dead letters recorded well in advance of the lecture itself. </li></ul><ul><li>about the illusion of fresh talk; about the connection of speaker and audience </li></ul><ul><li>The lecture, in short, transforms the artefact of the text into an event </li></ul><ul><li>An artefact can be reproduced; an event (think of music) is different each time </li></ul>
  23. 24. Examples <ul><li>TED Talks (Technology Entertainment & Design) </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers’ TV: </li></ul><ul><li>Academic Earth: “Online courses from the world's top scholars” </li></ul><ul><li>5 min knowledge: </li></ul><ul><li>Subject collections: e.g., </li></ul>
  24. 25. Conclusion <ul><li>Lecturing is not about information transmission </li></ul><ul><li>Is about personal, emotional connection, bringing the subject alive for the audience </li></ul><ul><li>Showing it is alive in the lecturer via fresh talk </li></ul><ul><li>Media are essential to this achievement </li></ul><ul><li>“ As to the question regarding the bet method of lecturing... [I] have been regretfully forced to the conclusion that the best way a man can, is the best way for him to lecture.” (John Dewey, 1891) </li></ul>
  25. 26. More General Conclusions <ul><li>It is not a question of students being “digital natives” and of an older generation of teachers being “digital immigrants” </li></ul><ul><li>We are all digital nomads (in different ways), and the better we are able to know terrain within and between media, the better </li></ul><ul><li>Education & teaching is about becoming an adept nomad, from text to orality to recording (lecture), from print to writing (exam), etc. </li></ul>
  26. 27. Happy Travels!