There was an idea that audience members at the Roane State Ed Tech Academy seemed to find intriguing that we never developed too deeply: the idea of the teacher as curator. It’s an intriguing idea. Let’s dig into it a little more here.
This is not a new idea. I think I first heard the term from my colleague Audrey Williams speaking at an academy for the Tennessee Regents Online Campus Collaborative. It immediately resonated with me as a great metaphor for teaching in the information age. Since then, I have come across lots of references to the idea, beginning most prominently with an article and related talk by George Siemens in 2007.
As we mentioned at the Roane State academy, if we as teachers believe our primary values lies in transmitting information, we are in trouble–there are cheaper, faster, more efficient ways of doing that. That’s never been our primary role anyway, but when getting information was difficult, it was an important part of the mix.
Now, the problem isn’t getting enough information; it’s processing the firehose of information. Continue reading
This is a frequent theme of mine: if we believe our primary value lies in standing at the front of the room and talking, we are in serious trouble.
Whether we are primarily speakers or classroom teachers, this is true. Standing at the front and talking is a form of information transfer. Audience members and students can find information more easily and cheaper than they can by going to all the trouble it takes to get in front of us. Continue reading
I posted the following as a comment on LinkedIn. It deals with both communication and higher education, and it affects our whole society–or does it? Am I right?
We [that is, college faculty] have had three basic roles since the time of Aristotle: information transfer, intellectual skills (i.e., critical thinking and context framing), and inspiration.
Many of our funding bodies (such as legislatures) have thought primarily of the first one. In the Internet age, if we believe our primary value lies in standing at the front of the room and passing on information, we are in serious trouble. Our students can find information cheaper and easier elsewhere. Continue reading
You don’t have to know a lot about history to know that people used to think illness could be caused by too much blood, and so the way to cure illness was to bleed the patient. I heard that George Washington died as a result of being bled to treat pneumonia (turns out it was actually “acute epiglottitis“). We just shake our heads and sigh at the ignorance.
You may not realize that the idea of “having too much blood” made perfect sense, supported by evidence and observation. Continue reading
The following is adapted from a piece I originally wrote a decade ago, but it certainly still applies today.
Not long ago I heard a student give a speech that I know would have killed her had she been forced to sit in a classroom and listen to a professor lecture that way. She stood still as a statue, holding her notes in front of her, and read most if not all of the speech in a flat, sing-songy tone, the kind that movies use to stereotype boring speakers and teachers.
If you read a written “speech” out loud to the audience, why are you bothering to speak to them?
Wouldn’t it be simpler, easier, less nerve-wracking, and more time-efficient to just photocopy your manuscript? Continue reading
I’ve noticed the last few years that students seem to bring a slightly higher degree of beginning presentation skills into the classroom. I suspect this comes from growing up surrounded by hundreds of cable channels and YouTube.
It has even reached the point where the old saw about public speaking being the number one fear is no longer true. I thought perhaps it was, indeed, a steady trend of increasing confidence. If so, this semester doesn’t fit the trend. In fact, students have generally had more trouble with the second speech round than the first speech round. Continue reading
There are certain advantages for students getting “lecture” material outside of class via reading or podcasts (audio or video). I have tried to follow my own guidelines and speak rather than lecture, and I think it works in the way intended. I contend that “out loud” excels at giving the “big picture,” the context into which the details fit, making them more understandable because the audience sees the pattern, whereas print excels at explaining and mastering detail.
A skilled writer can show the big picture, and a skilled speaker can get detail across memorably, but neither are easy. Most of the time, why not simply focus on strengths? Give an audience a handout, a white paper, a book, etc., to master the detail, and use speaking to give the big picture.
Think about when you’ve been on the receiving end. Have you ever had a history teacher flood you with dates and names and wars and wound up simply empty? Have you ever gotten so lost in the details of a book chapter, you couldn’t find your way through? Most academic conferences, and most business reports, would improve fivefold from this simple realization.
I’m trying an experiment this semester in the college classes I teach. In various circles it’s called a “flipped” or an “inverted” classroom, a term I’m not completely comfortable with, but it’s a handy term at the moment.
While relatively new, it is rooted in ideas and practices that are not, and it seems to me to be good communication practice, recognizing the strengths of various forms and building on them.
The flipping background
A flipped (or inverted) class swaps out what goes on in the classroom and what goes on outside the classroom.
Traditionally, since the Middle Ages students listen to a professor lecture in class, and do application work (otherwise called “homework”) outside class. Reading could fall into either category.
Almost everyone has heard that the lecture is passé, exemplified in the now-cliché, “Be the guide on the side rather than the sage on the stage.” I’ve taken a related approach, demonstrated in workshops I’ve done for teachers around the theme, “Stop Lecturing and Start Speaking.” When you want to master detail, you do better to work with the information in written form. When you want the big picture, “out loud” excels. That partly has to do with the way we process information, and also with the interactive nature of “out loud.”