Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Its about the Teacher - NOT the ISD

It’s difficult to write strictly about corporate learning when there are so many awesome discussions occurring in the blogosphere about Web2.0 in academia.

This post from School Me! Provides an interesting look at the importance of the teacher.  It struck me because the LATimes Blogger is still stuck in the old paradigm of school.  There is a lot in his post but here is the conclusion:

That doesn’t mean schools should eschew technology. Even a master needs good tools, and I’m willing to bet that a few hundred years back some cranky monk in a monastery school criticized hand puppets as too high tech, too entertaining, a threat to all that pedagogy holds serious and sacred.

But let’s first make sure teachers have the relatively rare skill to engage students personally, then encourage them as they decide when and how to use new gadgetry to enhance their look-’em-in-the-eye-talents.

Before I continue let me state a couple TIBs (things I believe)…I believe that teaching kids absolutely requires entertainment value.  But I also believe that a passionate teacher is naturally engaging and entertaining. 

The blogger talks about his experience in a classroom of kids learning Russian from a teacher from Alaska.  She sounds like one of the good ones.  And I have no doubt THAT experience for the Blogger solidified his belief that its all about “the teacher, stupid”.  My problem with this starts with the obvious fact that not all teachers are that good.  AND that particular teacher may be bad at the many other subjects she is responsible for in our current system.  The trouble with ISD is that the teacher is never really taken into account.  How can you account for the multitude of personality types that will be engaging students with your “instructionally sound” instructor guide and student manual?

The Blogger speaks of “eye contact” and “engaging classmates”, etc.  I’ve seen untrained, extremely introverted and shy, instructors naturally employ these “teaching skills” when they are speaking with passion about the content they are delivering.  Sure they could use a few pointers here and there, but the point is that passion trumps the presentation and teaching skills.  Personally, I’ll take passion over slick presentation skills any day.  I’ve been in many situations where conversation with a new acquaintance was extremely difficult.  But if you can stay at it and find the other person’s passion, something they love to talk about, then they completely change their body language, eye contact, volume, and engagement with me. 

The promise of technology is that we are ALL teachers and now have the ability to connect with others.  We all have topics that we are passionate about and simply engaging in those passions with others takes our interpersonal skills to new levels.  Technology, and the web specifically, has democratized the learning process.  I look (google) for the things I want to learn.  If I don’t find it, I create it.  If I don’t find exactly what I’m looking for, a search will turn up a blog or 2 written by someone who is at least discussing the topic, or something close.  You connect, and begin a conversation.  At that moment, you and the person you connected with each become both teacher and learner.

The future of learning will have that teacher from Alaska branding herself as an elementary Russian instructor teaching hundreds of student from around the world and dropping the topics she may not be as passionate about leaving them for others.


The discussion that any teacher can have with his/her students is the most important thing, NOT the instructor guide that’s sitting on the shelf collecting dust.


(perhaps disjointed thoughts caused by early morning flight, oh well)


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