Book Review: Teaching Naked Techniques: A Practical Guide to Designing Better Classes

If you’re an educator, you need to run right out and pick up Teaching Naked Techniques: A Practical Guide to Designing Better Classes. If you use even a fraction of what you find in this book, you will improve your teaching. As an education geek, I could not put this book down. It contained lots of research and provided a stripped-down strategy for improving learning.

José Antonio Bowen and C. Edward Watson wrote Teaching Naked Techniques. But they have 60 other contributors who have given ideas and classroom strategies.

“Most of our structures and systems are traditional and come from a time when we did not know a fraction of what we now know about our learning” (Bowen & Watson, 2017, p.177). It’s time that we started using these research-based strategies. This book is about designing better instruction and strategies for executing better instruction. The book is 229 pages long and has 13 chapters. Each chapter provides background information about the topic at hand as well as a step-by-step guide for implementation, instructor examples, key concepts, additional resources, and references.

Here are the various chapters:

  • Introduction: Designing for the Brain in the Body
  • Transparency and the Clear Target
  • Finding Online Content for First Exposure
  • Creating Your Own Digital Content
  • Instructions and Entry Point
  • Online Exams to Improve Student Preparation for Class
  • Free Class Assignments
  • Massively Better Classrooms and Classroom Surprise
  • Critical Thinking, Metacognition, and Cognitive Wrappers
  • Grading and Feedback
  • E-communication
  • Integrated Courses in Sequence
  • Integrative Learning and Integrated Experiences
  • Being a Superhero: Pedagogy as Human Relationships

Creating better courses

Bowen and Watson pointed out that everything we’re teaching in the classroom students can find online. So we have to offer more. Although individuals pursuing physical fitness can buy all kinds of equipment, most improvement comes when these individuals use a fitness trainer. It is not so much about the equipment. It is having somebody guide them through what they need to do and provide them the shortcuts to success. Educators need to look at teaching and learning in a similar way. As the authors pointed out, typical educators have been in the classroom for more than 20 years. We love being in the classroom, we understand it, we get it. Yet most learners coming into our classrooms do not see the magic. We have to make it transparent and enjoyable for them.

The first chapter focused on explaining to students why you do what you do. Bowen and Watson suggested we introduce learners to Bloom’s taxonomy to help them understand how and why we created the courses the way we have.

All good instructional design starts from the student learning outcomes. The enabling objectives make the course outcomes come to life. This is further enhanced with the use of supports. The authors stressed the need for creating as much transparency as possible through the use of rubrics, checklists, and job aids.

Teaching for the world they live in

“Colleges claim that we are teaching students to think, but then we pre-select and distribute reliable hard-copy sources (textbooks) to students for the last time in their lives. Once students graduate, there will be no more textbooks, and students will be asked to find reliable information themselves, quickly, and out of a sea of rubbish on the internet” (Bowen & Watson, 2017, p.19).

We need to do more with content that is available to them in the real world. “Everything we do should be reexamined through the lens of how and where students learn” (Bowen & Watson, 2017, p.180). We need to help students learn how to discern between what is good and what is bad, and how to use information in meaningful ways. One of the real world issues that bumps up against academics is the use of Wikipedia. In the real world, everyone uses Wikipedia, yet academics do not. But research has demonstrated that Wikipedia has been as accurate or more accurate than the encyclopedias ever were. We need to teach learners how to use Wikipedia as an effective tool.

Useful ideas

After reading this book, I walked away with many useful ideas. Some of those ideas I’ll share with you right now.

The authors provided great ideas for how to get students to do pre-assignment work as a way to create an active classroom. If you give in and lecture to them when they have not done the work, you will never get away from lecturing.

One of the ideas that I’ve been sharing from the book to any instructor that I can find is separating the grade from the feedback on a paper that you hand back. You want them to read the feedback. But what happens is they look at the grade, crumple up the paper, and throw it in the garbage. Instead, place the feedback on the paper and placed the grade in the LMS.

Bowen and Watson also talked about providing video feedback for assignments. I’m going to create a workshop that will walk you through the process. I will show you how to create video feedback and tie it to an assignment in Blackboard for a particular student.

They went into intelligent course design. With the push to open education resources, we can design better courses. We can create courses help students learn at a deeper level.

This will put more responsibility on the students for their learning. This is a good thing. A lot of our students know how to do school, but they don’t know how to learn.

Teaching Naked Techniques is a book that will help students learn how to learn through your reorganization and redesign of courses. This book applies to teachers who teach any discipline whether the course is face-to-face, hybrid, or online. The strategies in Teaching Naked Techniques will help you improve your classroom. I cannot recommend this book enough.


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