On Education


I just finished a class taught on-line. Today, that is not that unusual, except that it was a class to teach teachers how to teach on-line.

First, one has to get beyond the concept of a classroom full of professors who make their living professing. Then you have to turn your mind to the concept of all those professors becoming willing students. That is hard enough, then wrap it all in a bun of “on-line technology” and you have a meal guaranteed to choke someone.
I had a lot of issues in this class, there was a lot of forced self reflection. I know I could have blown off the assignments by spitting back statements from Bloom’s Taxonomy or terms from the “learning objectives” embedded in the outline…. and perhaps I did dip my toe in those waters for a moment or two. But in the reflection sections I couldn’t help spending some time thinking about education, teaching, learning, and student success.
I got involved in this world of education by instructing a class in a discipline that was my craft. Technically a vocational education class. There wasn’t a textbook because it was too new. There wasn’t a four year degree anywhere, so people couldn’t transfer. 
For a few years it was taking some skills in art, blending in some problem solving, photography and advertising all in a bowl, bake at *350, and out pops a graphic designer. 
Then, the Macintosh came out and it changed completely. Lesson plans were thrown out, new ones created, and again, no textbooks were available. 
There were two community college instructors in the entire Bay Area that were teaching “Desktop Publishing”, that would be me, and a young women up in Santa Rosa. Robin Williams published her lesson plans (with editing) as The Little Mac Book. After several other books, she retired to a comfortable life in Taos, New Mexico. I should have taken notice.
Meanwhile, I kept updating my lectures with each new machine and the software that it used by lecturing. I refused to require a textbook. I suggested a few, but I was more comfortable by being the source of the information.
I was reminded by a friend that the true source of the word lecture comes from a time when there was only one book, and it rested on the lectern.
Times had changed, everyone could have a book now. 
Of course I knew that, I taught about Gutenberg and his impact. I even went over the impact on our basic Constitutional rights.
“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” – A. J. Liebling
I still lectured as if it was the Middle Ages.
When the internet exploded the issue only got more complex. Not only were there more books, there were thousands of books. Thousands of YouTube videos, hundreds of thousands of self-professing blogs teaching concepts and short-cuts.
I could not track them all. I had no idea about the quality or the depth of knowledge. In the traditional world of publishing there was a “vetting process”, you submitted a manuscript to a publisher, then several experts looked at it, then the publisher risked their reputation to print it. 
All that was gone. Hundreds of “vanity presses” produced hundreds of thousands of books with no vetting at all. A true anarchy of knowledge.
I retreated further into lecturing. Oh, I found a few texts that worked for the outline requirement, but I never taught from them. They were good for the required textbook and resource material, if used properly. 
Then I retired. A dyed in the wool lecturer surrounded by the very technology that could and should replace it. Hell, I even taught multimedia that proved the flaws of lecture.
So now, I take this class and I am struck by the reflection that was forced upon me by the online requirement to reflect. Ha! Hoisted on my own petard.
There is now a big difference between teaching and learning. It isn’t the information that is buried in the mind of one instructor. It is the glut of information that is so accessible all around us. 
A professor doesn’t profess as much as they manage information. Thanks to the internet there is a steady diet of content. But often it isn’t organized, nor is it evaluated as worthy. 
It’s like students have found one aisle in the grocery store, and they only eat from the aisle that they see. They give themselves over to gluttony and become extremely unhealthy,
The online class forced me to look at other sources where I did the “vetting”, it forced me to design modules where I determined how much was eaten, and in what order.
The side benefit was that the information was fixed in a media, frozen in time, but available for fine tuning and/or editing.
So maybe I will enter into this world, where I manage learning instead of lecturing. 
Maybe I will find a way to eat an elephant one bite (byte) at a time!