Teaching: It’s All About Change

Of Mice and Men (1939 film)

Of Mice and Men (1939 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe it’s because I work with technology or maybe it’s just because I always like change, but I’m the kind of person who constantly re-arranges things, clears out clutter, and never hesitates to throw things away. Compared to my husband, who might be classified as a borderline hoarder, I don’t see the use of keeping anything that does not have a useful life in the present or near future.

This must translate to my teaching style, as I always (and I mean always) change some items of my courses every semester. I always want to try something new using rapidly evolving technologies, helping my students (who are learning to become leaders in the field of educational technology) understand and apply these principles of change to their own profession.

Of course, embracing change and constantly pushing the envelope of experimentation can get you into some hot water. For instance, you will more than likely make mistakes and provide mis-information at times. You will possibly increase frustration and cognitive dissonance in your students. Students may not like it and blame you for their difficulties. But, in the end, taking risks, embracing change, and using technology in creative and new ways is just what teachers should be doing.

I believe it is only through trial and error, testing our hypotheses, and constantly making corrections and adjustments that we truly learn. Aren’t teachers supposed to be learners too, modeling just what it takes to become a 21st century learner?

Instead of teaching to the status quo, re-using “safe” curriculum and lessons, I argue that teachers should push the boundaries, suggesting ways to improve learning and engage learners. Why do we still insist students read Siddhartha and Of Mice and Men, when there are so many other excellent books that can fuel a student’s imagination and inquiry? Teaching should be about transformation, about meaning, and yes, also about enjoyment. I am reminded of a very powerful statement written by one of my current students: “An important, often forgotten element of all lesson plans should be the question ‘Am I excited about this?’” (You can read Dave’s tweets @daveguymon).

No one is perfect. As teachers, we strive for perfection, accepting that we might never truly reach it, but trying all the same. Might change and the desire to take risks in teaching help us reach this goal of perfection–that moment when our teaching captures the epiphany of learning and inspires our students to assume more autonomy and leadership? That’s probably the goal behind my desire to always try new things, to always keep changing my courses and how I teach. At least I’ll keep telling myself that when the end of course student evaluations come rolling in.

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2 thoughts on “Teaching: It’s All About Change

  1. Absolutely agree Barbara! As someone who took your course when you were playing around with Google + for the first time, I am so happy you teach the way you do. I think as long as we stay humble with our students, model how to admit when we make mistakes and show them how change and experimentation can lead to greater excitement and greater learning, those end of the semester evals will stay strong. Thanks for a great 501 class last year.

  2. You’re absolutely right. If you’re not excited about your lessons how do you expect anyone else to be? When it comes to learning it is important to get out of your comfort zone. How often in life do things go exactly as we planned? Getting used to being able to transform ourselves as our environment changes is quite possibly the most valuable lesson in life.

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