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The Dying Speech

Unless you’re taking a course with a narrow focus, chances are you have a lecture-hall course. These stadium-seating classes are wide enough to hear a faint echo and call for a lot of patience as numerous chatters, coughing, and the balling up of chip bags can be likened to a terrible orchestra. But I’m sure you’re all too familiar with these. What’s become more problematic than the human-created orchestra is the established lecture teaching method.

On the surface lecturing is a one-way communication via the lecturer of information. You are at best supposed to take notes and give a timely nod in agreement. At some point, we’ve all found ourselves surfing Facebook or nodding off during these lectures. While I find that most people feel this is a consequence of the lack of interaction during lectures, I feel the fault lies in the delivery of the lecture. Think about the following:

When you go to the movies and see a film, there is no interaction between yourself and the film playing. You simply watch and listen. Whether bad or good, you walk away from that film with a plethora of information, so much so that you can recite lines from it months later. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what a lecture should be like. So a lecture doesn’t have the surround sound of a theater or screensaver visuals. It’s not about what’s being seen, it’s about what’s being heard!

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A lecture should be a story, with a plot, climax, and resolution. It should have characters, fictional or not, and should include humor and drama. Any subject can be constructed into a story. Take Gymnosperms in Biology for instance. Unless you’re a bio major, who wants to hear about Gymnosperm? In fact, what in the world are they? But what if the lecture began as follows:

“There are some species where the woman is not only bigger but takes the lead role in the bedroom…”

Tell me this wouldn’t capture your interest. What the professor will go on to say is that conifers, a type of Gymnosperm, have a larger female gametophyte that is the conducter in the process of fertilization.

Don’t be mistaken, small interactive classrooms are great and have their benefits. The use of laptops and tablets as modes of teaching and learning has benefits as well. But we must not brand the lecture-method as “old” and “useless”. If done right, lecturers can tastefully incorporate technology such as projectors into their lecture, or “stories”. Steve Jobs was an awesome lecturer but I’m sure he never made you feel as if you were listening to a lecture. He knew how to deliver information and convince you that it matters. It’s really quite simple and all it takes is a little more effort on the part of lecturers and a little less doubt on ours.