While thinking about my teaching plan and the challenge for 2010, I sent out a tweet this afternoon:
Conceiving & justifying a 2010 teaching plan… keywords: rhizome, Moodle, community, challenge, ‘sacred cows’, ‘we’. Excited.
I will post details another time, but let’s just the say the “rhizome” part is informed by the original ideas of Deleuze, outlined a lot more eloquently by Dave Cormier (link) and Erica McWilliam (Meddler-in-the-middle, Unlearning How To Teach) and is something I am passionate about, read about, think about and which I have, in parts, tried already at my old school (how time flies with encouraging success. ‘Moodle” – the plan involves students creating and managing their own Moodle course, knowing just a couple of Moodle-basics that my old classes learnt in an hour. “Community, we” – gist of the rhizome, above. “Sacred cows” – some below. Will post, promise.
Very soon, I got a reply from Olaf Elch (a fellow moodler ) in Germany:
My t-plan is similar to yours. I left out the rhizome and changed the “we” to “I”. (It makes it more likely to actually happen. ;o)
“But that kinda misses the crucial point of it Olaf…” so we started a quick Twitter conversation. Two lines by Olaf particularly raised my eyebrows in further conversation:
1) McWilliam makes some VERY big assumptions. “A T[eacher] who doesn’t add value will be bypassed.” How can a pupil bypass a classteacher?
2) If you turn a teachers from an expert into a meddler or co-learner you are taking away the chief selling point of the teacher role.
Olaf then expands on the expert part, saying that as a teacher, he needs to be an expert, that his students (adult and young) expect it and ‘demand it‘, and that some of his colleagues are stimulating but have ‘faulty factual knowledge’, which makes them ‘just as useless’ as experts who can’t teach [probably meant as stimulate, since Olaf recognised the importance of teaching of how to learn and engaging students].
I opened Olaf’s question to the venerable Twittendom full of very intelligent and caring people and got a bunch of replies which Olaf no doubt read too. Another Twitter-sation success, thank you all who chipped in.
OK, but let’s clear the air a bit here and shoot some sacred cows…
- I am not against content knowledge. It helps to know the stuff we are talking about, have depth to it, see where it fits. I can’t ‘teach’ French if I don’t know how to say ‘Bonjour!’ and what it means (although Stephen Downes has something interesting to say on that). I am also not throwing the didactic baby completely out with the bathwater. But content knowledge to then ‘fill the vessel’ of those who don’t have it (oh, the deficit, the poor darlingsl!) – that alone is inadequate and unfair to millions and is depriving many creative, smart kids. Not to mention the implicit value of knowledge by “those who know’ (and those who don’t)…
- A teacher who doesn’t add value SHOULD be bypassed. Let’s take a look around us… Isn’t that what networks of people do and have done for ever (just the range, speed and volume of networks has exploded in the last decade and we’re just beginning to used to it)? They do so sometimes foolishly too and it’s not always wise but … why not? Alternative? Interestingly, Olaf makes a point of people who are ‘stimulating but light on content’. Well, as far as I know, given a chance, kids would bypass those as much as the experts who drone. For now, kids resort to mischief or withdrawal, bypass of a kind.
- On meddling. My most treasured memories of teaching were exactly the ones I was “the meddler in the middle”. We produced things that mattered to us. See our Web 2.0 Expo for the latest example. Knowledge transmission versus value creation. Chain versus network. Stable versus dynamic. Learning just-in-case versus learning-on-demand. Routine and known versus inventive and unknown. Error-avoiding versus error-welcoming. “I” versus “Us-ness”. I know where the world is heading, social, economic, educational (?) …
- Having ‘an expert’ breeds dependency, the ‘just tell us’ attitude to learning (hm, learning?). Dean Shareski hits the nail on the head. I love the moments (much like Tony Searl, according to his tweets) where I am not the expert but the kids let fly, challenge me, teach me. I mentioned one such ‘incident’ of a colleague in my farewell speech. There were many!
Quick quiz: Which of these best describes the verb ‘to learn’: a) to be clear, certain, never fail, b) to be confused, uncertain, fail frequently
A breeds false self-esteem, steeped in extrinsic rewards, B is an increasingly common discomfort in our societies. As McWilliam states “let’s take ‘lifelong learning’ seriously (or stop using it)” and not just as a nice gimmick.
And in that mess, ‘teacher’, valuable as we are, may become a placeholder for a name of a role that needs to and will change. And that’s OK with me.
Have something to say? (I) missed a/the point… Click ‘Comment’ and go for it