The Difference between Lecture & Textbook?

I’m sitting a Starbucks working through a final draft of Gardener’s Approach… (before it goes to the editors) and happened to glance over at my Twitter stream, discovering a trend of shouting out Will Richardson quotes. Excellent stuff. But one of them caught my attention for the slight spasm it caused.

Assign the lecture for homework, do the rest in class.

Now I completely understand the sentiment here. You do what you do where you can best do it. If you can deliver a lecture via video, then you push it through the Net to the point of most convenience for your students, reserving the classroom for its best activities — discussion.

Is there a place for lecturing in Second Life?

Flickr Photos (L/R) by Gary Hayes

A statement like this is useful and powerful, especially in a <140 message. But I feel that, in practice, the application should be conditional. First of all, as I first started considering the two chemistry teachers in California who first brought this technique to our attention, I was duly impressed. But I also starting thinking, “So, they’re watching a video of a 50-min lecture online. When are they reading their textbook (or whatever their textbook has evolved into)? Are they spending more time involved in history (from my context) outside of class so that we can spend more time discussing issues in class? ..and I have nothing against students spending more time outside of my classroom engaged in learning. But if it’s just about consuming content, then why doesn’t the textbook chapter suffice? What are you adding that the textbook does not contain? If you are adding more, then why not just type your lecture out and have students read that too?

Plus, can’t discussion be done outside of class? In fact, there may be some important advantages to holding discussions via the network?

I guess I have two real questions here:

  1. How does you’re lecture add value to the learning experience? ..and if there is value-added, is part of that value lost when viewed through a 5×5 window?
  2. What does it mean that the textbook is left out of this equation? What does the textbook evolve into?

Of course there is no one answer to these questions. It will be different from teacher to teacher and for the same teacher, from time to time. What seems important to me is that teachers should be skilled no only in making content available in a variety of way, but to be able to determine the mode of conversation that is most appropriate for the learning objective.

All that said, I think that Will’s statement is a useful one, because it cracks open some possibilities that some teachers may not have considered.