Friday, April 16, 2010

Teaching on the Go by Dr Stephen Kinsella

I have just  been listening to a podcast of a talk given by Dr Stephen Kinsella of UL (available here) about "Teaching on the Go". The talk is divided into two parts: first - he talks about slideware and its limitations. The second part is a Q+A (which contains lots of tips). This podcast is certainly worth listening to (especially the first half - 30 mins approx), as he gives a good summary and discussion on his "sans slideware" debate - and it has the added value of feeling his passion for what he is doing. (The photo to the right is a link to his page, which he also discusses in the podcast).

Kinsella starts out with an excellent story on buying fonts in his Dad's taxi (immediate connection made with me -  I thought "hey, this sounds interesting" because I often mention my Dad in class). And then he describes how he asked his students to prepare a 10-slide summary of some complex material. He realizes that this doesn't really work, as all you get are 10 slides of "grunts" in a linear format. There must be a better way.

The podcast discusses a wide range of topics from cognitive overload to cost-benefit decisions being made by students. Interestingly, Kinsella (who is 31) has worked out that in the remaining 37 years of his lecturing career he will deliver "7,104 slide decks" (presentations) until he retires, as he says himself - "boring the arses off my students" at the same time. No wonder he wants to try something different. Pre-podcasts of lectures seem to be his preferred way to go, and then use the lecture for other student-engaging activities (he has a brilliant explanation of economic concepts by auctioning a €20 euro note in class). I know separately from the talk that Kinsella uses his own software and gets students to use their mobile phones to send text messages to the lecture theatre screen. A much more engaging learning experience.

I look forward seeing the fruits of this work, and in particular how students feel about his classes when compared to other classes. It's wonderful to see such passionate and young (he's 19 years younger than me) lecturers who want to improve both learning and teaching experiences at third level. The future of our education is in the (safe) hands of such people.

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