Random Thoughts

Lecture As Content Delivery Is Dead

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I continue to think about how lectures are changing in our new connected world. My last blog post primed my thinking and thanks to the comments and a great run yesterday. I have been able to push my own thinking to what it is I was trying to get at and the changes to the lecture that we’re seeing today. 

Lectures For Content Delivery Are Dead

Boring LecturesThis is what I am coming to understand. That the lecture use to be the way we delivered content to students. The PowerPoint made this easier on us as it allowed us to make some quick bullet points of what we wanted to cover and then go about “covering the material”.

When content is free, open, and accessible to all then we need to rethink what lectures should be used for and delivering content or knowledge is not a good use. Let kids go find the content….what we need to use the lecture for is to inspire them to go learn the content, create understanding, and apply that new knowledge to other areas. 

Lectures should be used to inspire, tell stories, and push ideas

Before every keynote or lecture I give I start by giving the audience a page like this that allows them to get involved with what I am talking about or to be off task.

I constantly tell my audience that if they are going to be off task then here are some links, some ways to be off task. If I can’t hold their attention that’s my fault as a teacher not their fault as a learner.

Is that right? We are quick to blame students for not paying attention but to be fair if I’m in a boring lecture I don’t care how old I am I’m not paying attention. Is that my fault as a student or the teacher’s fault? I believe that’s my fault as a teacher. You might disagree but I’ll own it that if my class is boring that’s on me.

So what should a lecture be used for if it is not to deliver content?

Inspire: I love inspiring lectures. The ones that make you stand up at the end. The ones that make you feel like going out and making a difference, the onces that you can’t wait to share with others, that you retweet, or reshare in some way. They inspire you to take action, to try something new, or just to smile and enjoy life. Lectures should be used to inspire. 

Tell Stories: I love a good story teller. Sir Ken Robinson is a good story teller along with pushing ideas he tells stories about as good as anyone….his ability to weave story telling and idea pushing together is what pulls you into his lectures. Use lectures to tell stories that inspire, that get a point across, that push me to want to learn more or to think deeply about a subject. 

Push an Idea: My personal favorite are lectures that push my thinking to the point where my head physically hurts. Have you ever been to a lecture where your thinking has been pushed so far past what you believe, what you thought possible, or what you can image is possible that it actually hurts? It’s happened to me a couple of times. These are also the type of lectures that have me scrambling to find…get this….content. Use lectures to push ideas.

So how do kids learn the “stuff”?

So where does the stuff come from? This takes me back to my ideas around flipped learning. Where the students are responsible to find the stuff and we learn it together in the classroom with a professional (educator) to help students put the stuff into context. 

What if your time with students ended in a 10 to 15 minute fantastic lecture that told a story of a person, or pushed out an idea that inspired students to want to know more. The students then for homework go and research what it is they want to learn more about around that idea, person, place, subject, etc. The next class period they come back with all this “stuff” they researched and we take the first part of the class to talk about the “stuff” and try to make sense of it as a class. We try to connect the dots, we try and find out how all this is connected to what we have been studying. Then we go out and research some more. 

We don’t need to deliver content, we need to inspire students to go out and find it for themselves. What inspires you to do a search? Why do you search for this or for that on the web? It’s because you want to know it….you need to know it. It pains you not to know it. That’s what we need to do and that’s the role of the lecture in today’s world. Not to deliver content but to inspire, tell stories, and push ideas to the point we want to go learn the “stuff” on our own. 

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Hi Jeff,

    Awesome post. I remember sitting at BLC10 and hearing several such of those “lectures”. One was by Marco Torres, another by Michael Wesch, and the third by some guy named Jeff Utecht. You all left my head ready to explode! I went back and changed things up in my classroom after your inspiring words. I love the section in this post about how you “can kids learn the stuff?” I will try some of these ideas with my social studies curriculum in the coming year. I wish you were speaking at BLC again this year.


    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks for the comment. Just couldn’t fit all the conferences in this summer so decided to do something different and will be presenting at a couple of Google Summits. Glad you found my BLC session helpful.

  2. Jeff:
    Great post. The model for lectures should be TED Talks. In fact, teacher should search TED Talks for talks they can assign to their classes. If you want to know how you can do this yourself, read my summary of “Flip Your Classroom” at http://bit.ly/LfEr63 Keep up the good work.

  3. Hi Jeff! I wrote a very similar post to yours yesterday. I don’t think lecturing is the anti-Christ. I think it is useful in the way you described it – as inspiration and as a starting point for discussion. It can also be useful for students for clarification purposes once they’ve already started learning something new that they find challenging. Looking forward to seeing you at Learning 2.0 Beijing!

  4. With programs like Twitter, TodaysMeet, and other backchanneling that goes on during lectures it never occurred to me that you could give your audience an off-task assignment. Audience members WILL get off-task, I always do. And the kicker is that you direct the off-taskers to voluntarily write notes from the speech. What a great idea! Not only does it give you notes from someone else’s perspective, but a clue as to what audience members think is most important from what you’ve said. How great! 🙂

  5. Jeff,
    I will be sharing this with my next workshop and with my co-teachers! You are changing the landscape of education with your ideas. You make it stick when you mention how kids learn in this new world. Cheryl

  6. The flipped classroom is becoming more and more popular. Many math teachers are beginning to use videos for their students to learn the topics at home and then use class time to work on homework with the instructor’s guidance.

  7. Jeff, great ideas in this post. I never thought of giving tasks out to a class to keep them engaged. I like the note taking or alternative websites to view. I am in almost done with my education degree and getting excited to start a teaching career in math. All these ideas are great and get me excited to get started. Thanks! Peggy

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  9. Spot on mate! The art of teaching is the art of telling a story. Dan Pink says “it’s about story not just narrative” and that is true in any classroom. My great teachers were the storytellers, the ones who immersed me in their story and took me to places in my imagination. Unfortunately, teaching for tests immerses you in the limited imagination of politicians which is somewhat akin to bathing in a muddy rain puddle.

  10. I agree that lecture as content delivery is dead. Lecture should mainly be used for a set or motivation, basically for telling a story to get students interested in what is to come.

  11. Students are already more than willing to “search” Internet. They don’t need inspiration or encouragement to do that. We need to teach students how to evaluate information! Students need to learn how to search efficiently to find reliable, relevant information. They need to know ways to curate that information, to organize it so they can refer to it again and cite it as needed.

  12. Great article! Have you seen the documentary entitled Finland Phenomenon (http://www.2mminutes.com/films/finland-phenomenon.asp)?

    It shows why Finland has such a powerful education system: how they recruit teachers, train them and their approach to teaching. One of the things that is very big there is to NOT lecture the students. You can see it in the film during the teacher trainings when they instruct the teacher to talk less. Instead, they encourage the students to learn through discovery and the teacher is the guide. This promotes depth of learning as well as problem solving. I think you’d really enjoy this documentary.

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