May 21, 2013

Let’s N-Screen the Classroom

I used to be one of those educators.

There was a time when I wanted singular focus — an unadulterated fixation on my scintillating sermon — from every set of eyeballs when I was on stage in the classroom.

I was raised to believe the educator was the ‘sage on the stage’.

nscreen2 Maybe you were too?

Maybe you still are?

If I were a high school teacher or a higher education professor today though, I’d be thinking twice about that philosophy. If I were a corporate trainer (I really do hate that term) or a Chief Learning Officer (wait a minute) I’d also be thinking if my approach might need to be altered.

Do educators of any stripe really believe learning solely happens through the lecture? Sure, there are times where said ‘sage’ should be pontificating from the pulpit to the pupils, but this doesn’t have to be the sole means of instruction.

But, let’s keep calm and carry on with the lecture in the classroom for a moment.

I don’t believe the lecture should be completely abandoned — and I do think we still need to tear down the walls of the classroom — but I do believe there is one issue that needs to be remedied once and for all.

Teachers, principals, professors, trainers, facilitators and lecturers alike … let’s N-Screen the classroom once and for all.

There was a time not too long ago when you might have attended a corporate training event and the facilitator made you drop off your mobile device at the back of the room. There was a non-descriptive box found at the back table and there may even have been a sign that read, “Park Cell Phones Here Please“. That same facilitator explained she needed your undivided attention because the forbidden fruit of your cell phone was ultimately going to cause you to perform a sin so you might as well separate yourself from the temptation. Unless of course there was a priest in your class, but that’s just a weird anomaly.

nscreen3You know it’s true.

What about the various (and many) school boards who continue to ban cell phones, tablets or laptops from the classroom by students who are simply trying to enact their own BYOD — bring your own device — policy for themselves? Picture the following. Jasmin and Kuldeep show up on their first day at the new school. At the old school in a different part of the country they were able to bring their iPad’s into the classroom because their (then) forward thinking teacher and administration said it complemented their ‘pervasive learning‘ strategy. What happened on day one of the new school? Both Jasmin and Kuldeep were informed by the school principal that they need not bring in their iPad’s because “computer class happens every Day 3 on the schedule.”

You know it’s true.

Teachers, principals, professors, trainers, facilitators and lecturers alike … let’s N-Screen the classroom once and for all.

Let’s first acknowledge that although you may be a subject matter expert in your domain — whatever the domain — you still don’t know everything in your sphere of competence. Get over it. So, if you agree that you don’t know everything, why not let your students ‘plug in’ to complement what you’re saying or to reinforce the exercises or discussions you’ve put on the docket. Let your students use a device that is connected to the internet to not only help their own acumen but yours and the rest of the group.

That’s an example of N-Screen.

The group will undoubtedly be listening to you while you’re speaking and dancing around with your flipcharts and slides, but you will create a classroom environment that is both fluid and connected. It’s not a distraction, it’s simply another tentacle. It’s a reinforcement.

nscreen1Second, as a teacher, principal, professor, trainer, facilitator or lecturer, perhaps you can begin utilizing the N-Screen directly into your material. When I’m at a conference — whether as a speaker or an attendee — I love when there is an opportunity to engage through polling/quiz devices. That makes me feel a part of the process whether I’m the speaker or a bum in a seat.

If I’m actually teaching, I might alter my delivery to incorporate said mobile devices … presuming there is internet connectivity. Online scavenger hunt? Why not. A race to find three additional facts about the content you’re currently plowing through? Sure. The use of the web to complement an in-session group activity? You better believe it. Free surf time on the lecture at hand? Is it any different from allowing a smoke break and people talking about the class or content?

When I’m speaking, I’ve been known to tweet from the stage — while speaking — or give away free copies of Flat Army to those that have used a device to connect with others through the event hashtag. I scan the stream before I go on and head out into the audience at some point during my talk to drop off the book to the unsuspecting Twitter handle/peep.

These are examples of an N-Screen in the classroom.

To my brethren in the overarching teaching space; the digital device train has left the station long ago. No, not everyone has a device, but we’re getting close. And yes, etiquette, exemplary practice along do’s and don’ts might have to be taught and/or communicated. The question that remains is whether you are prepared to not only incorporate an N-Screen into your classroom but whether you are also going to modify the way you actually teach.

Are you ready to N-Screen the classroom?

Dan’s Newest Book

Click for details about Dan’s latest book, Work-Life Bloom.

Buy Dan's Books
Listen to Dan's Podcast
Read Dan's Column On