Open Letter to Jeremy

light-bulbs

Dear Jeremy:

Your (I suspect) tongue-in-cheek response to a Facebook posting has led me to a lot of introspection and thought. When a colleague posted a very frustrating example of inept prose from a student (if I recall correctly, someone in the last weeks of the second semester of English comp, who should have known better before even beginning that semester), you responded with, “Yeah, I’m not teaching college students… thank you for helping me make that decision. ;)”

It’s always hard to tell if someone is joking in social media, and I realize you probably were—but at that moment, you seemed serious to me, and I was saddened. I can’t depend on my memory anymore, but I’m pretty sure you planned to become a professor, and I fear our water cooler banter may have seriously influenced you.

In any case, you prompted some introspection on my part that I would like to share with you, and with others who might be considering similar professional goals—even if you were just joking. (And I apologize for sucking the comedy from it if that was the intent.)

Note: thank you for letting me use this moment as a foil to dig into my own thinking a bit and writing about it!

Continue reading “Open Letter to Jeremy”

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Teaching as curation

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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 “Teaching as curation”

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Education is doomed, unless….

Graduation!

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 “Education is doomed, unless….”

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The changing “delivery” of education

We have many conversations going on in the Pellissippi State community concerning what constitutes acceptable or effective or “real” college education. I came across an interesting article that adds fuel to the discussions, potentially boosting velocity in several directions. When you first start to read “How Web-Savvy Edupunks Are Transforming American Higher Education,” you might assume it is a whole-hearted endorsement of “delivering” education as a commodity via the Web. This assumption will likely be exacerbated by the realization that it is published via Fast Company’s Web site, i.e., a business publication.

Read further. You’ll find that the article observes the need for caution in that assumption through statements such as Brigham Young University’s David Wiley. Keep in mind that Wiley is one of the “architects of education 2.0.” He has written, “If universities can’t find the will to innovate and adapt to changes in the world around them, universities will be irrelevant by 2020.” Although the article predicts that unless higher education folks adapt, they will join newspaper chains and record stores in near-extinction, Wiley also makes it clear he speaks not of simple packaging and commoditizing.

“If you didn’t need human interaction and someone to answer your questions, then the library would never have evolved into the university,” Wiley says. “We all realize that content is just the first step.” In other words, education is more than the mere mastery of information. To truly educate yourself, you will always need a teacher. But the nature of those interactions may come in many forms. Let’s face it, the classroom itself was at one time an innovation, a way to deal with the need to connect teachers and students in larger numbers. Few can afford the luxury anymore of wandering among the hills in small groups of one teacher and four or five students engaging in Socratic dialogue.

The question remains, though, how to maintain the quality that makes education more than mere aggregation of information. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of answers to that question, you will likely find material in this article that will both delight you and enrage you.

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