February 16, 2014
This weeks interview with John Boyer was very interesting. I had no idea that there were classrooms being conducted like this. He’s truly a trendsetter in utilizing technology in the classroom. What I think I admire most about his educational style, is that he beats to his own drum. Instead of doing things the typical way he is a risk taker, he openly spoke out against teachers lecturing and conducting classes the same way year after year. By changing and adapting he is holding his students attention and by doing so they are knocking down his door to take his classes.
Boyer explained that originally his 3000 person “MOOC” as they call it, was the answer to the rising demand to get into his courses. A class this big is met with some challenges, and it seems Boyer is constantly changing to meet the needs of his students. One point that he made which I found particularly interesting, was that he couldn’t understand why student’s feel the need to show up for class when they aren’t going to pay attention. It made me think to myself how many times I have done this very thing. If I’m not going to pay attention, and take anything away from the class, why did I show up? I’m not doing the instructor any favors, they are paid regardless. To address this problem in his classes, Boyer starting giving the student’s other options as opposed to “traditional” lecture settings. Boyer started recording his lectures, and streaming them live which gave students the opportunity to watch them as they were happening, or watch them later on. He noted that with this, attendance started to decline. With these different lecture options, there was one he discussed that I really thought was a terrific idea. When Boyer was discussing his Russia lecture he had mentioned that he had the students do the readings, watch the lecture, and during what used to be the “traditional” lecture time, the class discussed what they had already learned. Wouldn’t it be great if we could watch those “boring” lectures on our own, and then during class time have interactive discussions and activities to further strengthen the concepts we had already learned.
In another article I read on Boyer, they highlighted some of his other achievements that I found particularly impressive. Boyer has used several YouTube videos intended for his class to reach some pretty amazing people, including Martin Sheen and Emilio Esteves. The most impressive was a video in which he managed to score a live interview with Aung Sun Suu Kyi, the leader of the resistance movement in Burma, for his World Regions class. Aung Sun Suu Kyi has been interviewed by Hilary Clinton and turned down many other mainstream interview opportunities. This is a great example on the power of utilizing social media and technology in the classroom. Below is the link to the interview with Aung Sun Suu Kyi.
What I like most about John Boyer’s utilization of technology, is that he’s not just using technology to say he’s using it, he’s using it in the manner it should be. In the article Ten Ways to use Skype in a Course, there were a few uses that I found would be particularly helpful for building classroom communities. Utilizing Skype would be an excellent way of connecting distance learners for group work. Students could brain storm and trouble shoot face to face in real time. The lag between communication is what I find most difficult in distance learning group projects.
Boyer, even though he states sometimes he doesn’t quite know what makes him so popular, is clearly a visionary in his teaching style. He beats to his own drum and embraces the changing times. I really enjoyed his little rant about the textbook companies and the price gouging tactics. Boyer’s achievements should be used as scaffolding and guides for anyone trying to incorporate more technology into the classroom if they aren’t sure how to do this efficiently.