The Naked Professor: How to teach a class using NO technology

Powerpoint. Keynote. Prezi. Blackboard. Smartboards. These are just some of the technologies that are used as learning tools in the classroom to engage students. However, sometimes it’s a good idea to mix it up and revert back to the ‘old days’ and rid of technology; teach ‘naked’. Bring out the flip chart paper, crayons and markers, some simple props, and yes, if you still have a ‘chalkboard’ in the classroom, bring out the chalk (in multiple colours!). Some of the most interactive and fun classes that I have taught, and that former students say they remember most, were the one’s where I simply brought out the flip chart paper and markers and put the students into groups. No hum of the overhead projector, no images on the big screen, no laser pointer, nothing.
I find that when you ask the students to get into groups and have them rip off a sheet of flip chart paper and grab a marker, it immediately creates a buzz in the room; they know they are going to be ‘doing’ something. Most often, ‘doing’, means learning. Maybe the reason that they enjoy it so much is due to some psychological reason that propels them back in time to kindergarten or public school?  It could be that the smell of the crayons and markers ignites their olfactory cortex in their brain, which then brings back emotions and memories to a time when learning was fun? I myself remember that there was a lot of interacting and laughing going on with each other as we worked in class. Although, I do recall when I was in grade 6, my buddy and I were goofing around in class and were tugging back and forth on a book. The teacher walked over to us and said, “If you boys tear that book in half, I’m going to tear you in half!”. Come to think of it, I also remember when kids were slapped upside the back of the head or had their hands strapped with a thick belt. Nice. Maybe, it wasn’t all fun and games?! Anyway, whatever it is about in-class group work, it just works.

Give the students a timed activity to create a flowchart, a top 10 list, or mind map to get them brainstorming and working as a team. Let them know how much time they have and always use a timer or a bell (‘dinger’?) so they know when their time is up. One interesting observation I’ve noticed is that most of the time, they want a few more minutes to finish, so allow for a couple of extra minutes when you set your time schedule. Next, give them a short break to re-energize their brains. It will allow you the time to put up their flip chart sheets on the wall around the room (lecture hall included – it can be done). When they return, they will see their flip chart papers posted all around the room and you’ll even see some of them walking around looking at the other groups sheets.

Now comes the fun part; reviewing their work/ideas. You have a choice, either you review it, or you get a ‘spokesperson’ from each group; whatever works best. Personally, I like to do it to make sure their ideas aren’t glossed over or missed entirely. You’ll also find that this review period allows students to show off a bit, show some pride in their work, and learn from others. It allows you to interject your own comments, humour, and it will give you a chance to give positive feedback (“Great idea”, “Never thought of that…”, “That’s genius!”).

So, next time that you’re creating slides for your next class, ask yourself if you can still achieve the same learning objectives in a ‘no-tech’, ‘naked’ kind of way. And, just a final tip, don’t sniff the markers for too long; you’ll get a headache.

Let me know how you have successfully used a ‘naked’ approach in one of your classes.

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