Three years in, and still learning

I wholeheartedly agree with Jeff Jarvis: the lecture method of teaching is inadequate and outmoded, because we’re all learning faster these days than the knowledge we’re able to acquire online can be distilled into 45-minute sessions delivered in a lecture hall. Students and workshop participants often feel shortchanged when their individual, unarticulated concerns are not addressed. The traditional lecture doesn’t allow for enough interaction, or for learning to be transmitted in both directions, and 45 minutes isn’t enough time to do more than scratch the surface. It’s probably not even enough time to inspire a handful of people to go forth and examine the suggestions offered or decide to read more on the topic. After all, some of us return to a place of worship every week of our lives to be reminded, in an inspirational and spiritual way, of how to proceed in life. I’m not about to speculate on whether those persistent lectures are effective.

In this talk, Jarvis says, “We must stop looking at education as a product—in which we turn out every student giving the same answer—to a process, in which every student looks for new answers. Life is a beta.”

Around the same time that Jarvis posted the text of what he calls his “This Is Bullshit” lecture, followed by this video, I noticed a Facebook advertisement—you know, those obnoxious little banner ads—for new online video courses offered by Robert McKee, the workshop instructor so well known for his screenwriting classes that he was a significant character, played by the actor Brian Cox, in the movie Adaptation. Very surprised, I clicked through.

McKee certainly isn’t the first to venture online to deliver lectures (the New York Times covered the trend in the academic sector this weekend), and he won’t be the last. He is, however, the instructor whose adaptation to online course delivery strikes me as a tipping point (now that we no longer say turning point).

What effect will excellent indie instructors have on academia, and how soon? That’s the question. (That, and where are Edward Tufte‘s online workshops?)

Today, for me, marks three years of blogging. Three years, and I’m still learning how to do it. Three years, and change all around me has done nothing but accelerate. We all face only two viable choices in our professional lives:

  1. Move forward into the unknown with the explorers and innovators
  2. Find a gig that involves historical reenactments or preservation

Pick one.

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