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John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-118-11035-5

URL: (last check 2017-06-20)


Imagine being in front of 300 students in a lecture hall, completely naked, with all eyes on you, wondering how you are going to impact the lives of students that day. José Bowen’s Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom will Improve Student Learning isn’t about being unclothed in front of your students, but rather a guide to removing the technological pieces faculty have come to embrace in their teaching from the physical classroom space to maximize this precious time. Though it seems like a somewhat radical concept, Bowen insists that using technology in other ways and for other means can actually improve the overall performance of students. In a time when many institutions are seeking to expand online course offerings (from technology enhanced to fully online) this book’s suggestions fit a middle ground on that spectrum while admitting that technology still has a place. Bowen successfully argues that colleges and universities can not only capitalize on the use of technology for learning, but also maximize face time in the classroom for a better final product than ever before: increased student success.

Though written in 2012, the arguments made by Bowen at the book’s onset still resonate clearly: that higher education has before it a new purview of digitalization, with countless possibilities and approaches to learning, and adaptation to this new world is vital for long-term success. Institutionally, colleges and universities have lacked a necessary adaptation to the emerging digital culture, all the while thousands of students enter each year having adjusted and become used to technology as part of their learning. Considering social and economic research, as well as making relatable historical connections, Bowen presents a fair but firm view of what changes must take place in higher education as the field moves forward. By employing a discussion of four business models currently in use in higher education (free, elite university, results-driven/for-profit, traditional) he examines their sustainability and viability as the 21st century continues. There is also a strong imposition of the accountability demanded by the public for institutions of higher education to be efficient, cost-effective, and valuable.

Part one of Teaching Naked presents a strong summary and explanation of how students interact in the virtual world in what Bowen calls the digital landscape. Through a breakdown of different approaches to a virtual communication strategy, readers can see how to use social media tools (Facebook, Twitter) and online conference pieces to interact in proximal albeit virtual manner outside of the classroom to better what happens inside. There is still the possibility and reality of collaboration and intimacy in this manner. Bowen echoes the sentiment of not having technology only for the sake of having it, but using it effectively. Rounding out part one, Bowen argues that the higher education world needs to move away from the stance of professor-to-student relationships and knowledge transmission from being given by faculty to being created by students. He focuses on the notions of customization and individualization of learning and pushes its application by using gaming, which he argues takes the disliked parts of school and makes them fun, to demonstrate. A similar justification is made for apps, avatars, and using them constantly (which are elaborated on further in later chapters).

The second part of Teaching Naked details, at length, the methods in which higher education faculty can take hold of the power of technology to improve learning, with an emphasis on the face-time aspect of teaching. This is ultimately the pedagogical power house of the book. Bowen makes an argument that this facetime is so precious and thus what is done via technology must be meaningful and substantive before students enter the physical space. He presents integral methods for gaming (and how to think of college like a four year-long game), information delivery, engagement, and assessment - all infused with technology.

Bowen posits that such facets as mentioned are all implicational outside of the normal classroom, yet are acceptable inside as well. This generalization seems to calm the reader’s tense nerves that may be tingling as reactions to the arguments already made. Embedded within these chapters are sample strategic approaches for integration in terms of delivery, engagement, and assessment - a strong thematic approach. The summative piece in part 2, chapter 8, grounds his naked classroom idea into looking at a place for lecture, active learning for engagement, strong discussion structure, implementing lab and studio concepts into regular courses, pushing high-impact student-faculty interaction, including the use of personal technology in the classroom, and making the physical space a stimulating learning environment. What makes his argument strong is that he justly defines these ideas for the classroom as not limited to the traditional rows of desks and four walls arrangement. Rather, the classroom is the studio the lab, and anywhere physical where students meet.

At this point, a Bowen makes a strong insistence that change will be difficult, time consuming, and against the grain. However, the strides made to present students with a near-custom learning path and experience will be significant to their success. Appropriately, this will hopefully rectify the dismally slow pace at which change and accountability are enacted in higher education.

As the book moves into its conclusive section on potential future strategies, Bowen offers several long-term and large-scale suggestions for implementing many of his ideas through the lens of change management. These strategies will redefine the educational product that is currently offered by higher education institutions as in many cases the present product is to the public’s chagrin. There is a mounting need to know that embracing new and innovative practices are a risk. Bowen argues, retrospectively, that they are a necessity for success as without risk cannot come innovation. Additionally, there will be lessons to be learned which need mastery for this innovation. It must be known that the product can change while at the same that same product must be customized. Additionally, this tailor-made approach will lead to a bit more isolation of students, though technology will overcome, enabling them to be and stay connected. Finally, the customization of learning will lead to more gatekeepers and opportunities to be the one controlling the keys.

The closing chapters of Teaching Naked relate to the concepts of naked curriculum and naked campus and emphasize targeting the local audience, design of learning experiences, and the need for faculty to become curators of education to transmit their knowledge and passion. Bowen suggests a redefinition of what it takes to earn a degree through an integrated approach where all facets of campus life support and add to learning. Through a reconsideration of pricing, infrastructure/services, spending, risk, and integration, a better package will lead to a better final product, the ultimate success of the student. He further argues that the selling points of what worked to ensure student success in the past will not sell the product in the future, pointing to existing educational products (such as the Khan Academy) and institutions (such as the University of Phoenix) that are successfully going out with the old and in with the new. The use of competency-based education, flex pacing, and rolling starts are further modes which break the mold.

As Teaching Naked ends, Bowen considers the physical space of teaching again, insisting that it, too, can be altered for student needs. Rather than having rows of computers in a classroom, for example, institutions can make the space more flexible and have wireless internet for the countless devices students will bring. He further and again argues for specialization and integration of education to push for customization and the ultimate student experience.

All told, Bowen has written a detailed yet informative book in Teaching Naked . His inclusion of personal stories and experiences supply a relatable connection to the book’s content. The inclusion of suggestions, vignettes, and ideas pushes the reader to evaluate their own mindset and think about the possibilities of change. While he posits himself a practitioner and leader in what he preaches, Bowen isn’t afraid to point out that his demographic has its problems and even at times struggles to learn new ways (he admits he is fearful of using Twitter). Ultimately, he is not suggesting changes for the sake of change; many of Bowen’s ideas are already happening in limited places, but there is still much work to be done on a national or global scale.

Teaching Naked isn’t a method of teaching unclothed, but rather an idea by José Bowen that colleges and universities need to redefine their mission, product, and offering to improve student success. He argues that removing technology from the classroom while capitalizing on it elsewhere is the true path to take as education moves further into the 21st century and face the constant challenge of meeting student needs. By describing the new digital landscape, pedagogical suggestions, and pushing for large scale institutional change, Teaching Naked is a must-have for anyone involved in the inclusion of technology into learning who wishes to maximize student success and thrive into the future.