When what you are doing isn’t working…

June 21, 2016

I’ve been interested in Professor Michael Wesch’s teaching methods for some time and have followed his use of social media in the classroom (via social media naturally).  So I was fascinated to read this Chronicle of Higher Education piece on Wesch’s decision to ‘reboot’ on hearing that his ideas aren’t working as well for others as they are for him.

The professor’s popular talks have detailed his experiments teaching with Twitter, YouTube videos, collaborative Google Docs—and they present a general critique of the chalk-and-talk lecture as outmoded. To get a sense of his teaching style, check out a video he made about one of his anthropology courses. In it, some 200 students designed their own imaginary cultures and ran a world-history simulation by sending updates via Twitter and a voice-to-text application called Jott.

Wesch has spent some time in the classrooms of other teachers observing how they make connections with students.

As Mr. Wesch began to rethink his teaching, he visited Mr. Sorensen’s class and was impressed by how the low-tech professor connected with students: “He’s a lecturer. He’s not breaking them up into small groups or having them make videos. That’s my thing, right? But he’s totally in tune with where they are and the struggle it takes to understand physics concepts. He is right there by their side, walking them through the forest of physics.”

I believe this to be true of any work relationship – the human connection between people – whether that is teacher/student, manager/worker etc and the quality of that relationship is what create the conditions for learning.  If the respect and interest (and wonder as detailed in this article) doesn’t exist then the conditions for learning cannot exist either.  All this is a way of reinforcing my view that we spend too little time attending to the human elements of organising and too much trying to get technology to do the job for us.  It’s heartening to see someone like Wesch re-evaluate his teaching stance while not abandoning his interest in technology all together.

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