Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. By José Antonio Bowen. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass, 2012. xxii + 327 pages. ISBN 978-1-118-11035-5. $36.00.
Article first published online: 1 JAN 2014
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Teaching Theology & Religion
Volume 17, Issue 1, pages 83–84, January 2014
How to Cite
Miller, C. W. (2014), Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. By José Antonio Bowen. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass, 2012. xxii + 327 pages. ISBN 978-1-118-11035-5. $36.00. Teaching Theology & Religion, 17: 83–84. doi: 10.1111/teth.12166
- Issue published online: 1 JAN 2014
- Article first published online: 1 JAN 2014
What do music, print media, and higher education have in common? According to José Antonio Bowen, all three industries are experiencing profound (and for the most part, negative) transformations due to their inability to anticipate and to adjust to the cultural changes brought about by the expanding usage of technology. Their primary problem has been the confusion of product with packaging. The music industry, for example, was not prepared for the move from a tightly controlled physical delivery system (vinyl, tapes, CDs) to the easily transferable and shareable digital file. Bowen argues that higher education, like the music industry, has not understood what its product is. It is not the degree conferred, the majors or minors offered, or even the courses available, but, rather, it is learning. Higher education is in the business, so to speak, of promoting learning and that can only be accomplished when universities and colleges take seriously the technological challenges of the contemporary world.
One might think by reading the title of the book that the systemic problems facing higher education would not be addressed, but, in fact, Bowen views what happens in the classroom as directly related to these larger issues. Since learning is higher education's primary product and the basis of its mission, according to Bowen, “The job of faculty needs to become more focused on designing learning experiences and interacting with students” (246). It is faculty interaction with students and increased student engagement that promotes student learning, but these things are accomplished best through “naked” (non-technological) contact with students in the classroom. Technology, however, should not be abandoned. Rather, it should be understood as a tool, as a “technique,” not as an end in itself. Bowen suggests, “Technology makes it possible to improve learning in classrooms, but it is most effective when it is designed into out-of-class experiences and removed from classrooms” (xvii, italics in the original).
In Part I Bowen describes “The New Digital Landscape,” providing an overview of how contemporary forms of technology have come to define our culture, and in Part III he offers “Strategies for Universities of the Future,” suggesting ways of constructing “naked” curricula and campuses. Both of these parts of the book are instructive in their own ways. But the “pedagogical heart of the book” is the second section, where in five chapters, he offers faculty practical suggestions for moving technology out of the classroom (not out of the course), so that it can be used to prepare students for an educational experience within the classroom that promotes both interaction and engagement.
The second part of the book, “Designing 21st Century Courses,” is both provocative and inspiring. Provocative in the sense that Bowen places technology, especially the use of social media, at the very center of course design. And inspirational because he provides a practical “how-to” on ways to use technology to flip a classroom and enhance deep learning. Much of his time is spent offering ideas and resources for using technology to deliver information (103–128). Some may find his suggestion to employ existing podcasts and lectures (found on the internet) to be problematic, but his discussion regarding how to effectively employ such resources (whether self-produced, or found) will be of benefit to all. He also discusses using technology to promote more substantive student engagement with course materials, as well as to build an intellectual community outside of the classroom (129–152). The goal is to help motivate students to read, apply, integrate, and reflect on their assignments, so as to be prepared, when they enter the classroom, to engage with the teacher and their colleagues in meaningful dialogue about the ideas and concepts they have encountered outside of the classroom. Although perhaps the weakest chapter of the book, since he covers well traveled ground, Bowen does address how technology might assist in the assessment of student learning (153–184). In the final chapter of this section (“The Naked Classroom”), Bowen discusses several ideas for encouraging student participation and engagement in the classroom. Most of these ideas are not new, but all are placed in a fresh context, coming, as they do, after chapters on using technology to prepare students for what will happen in class. The objective is to turn class time “from a passive listening experience into a transformative learning environment” (185).
There is much to commend Teaching Naked, particularly its balanced presentation of educational theory and practical pedagogy, both of which are discussed within the context of our technology dominated lives. Bowen's emphasis on education as being transformative, helping “students to confront, analyze, and articulate compelling discrepancies that require change in what they believe” (80) might be of special interest to those of us who teach religion and religious studies. In the end, however, the value of this book is in its practical vision of how technology may be used to free the classroom so that it can actualize its potential as being a place of deep and meaningful learning.