Thursday, March 13, 2014

When Teaching has nothing to do with "Big Data"

I read two remarkable posts today from two remarkable teachers, Michelle Pacansky-Brock and Gardner Campbell. You will get more value from reading what they have to say than what I say here, so follow the links and if you're still interested come back.


Hey, you're back, thanks. By mentioning both Michelle and Gardner in one post, I don't mean to imply that their approaches to teaching are the same - they are as unique as each one of them - but there's a common element - teaching as a human activity.

When looking at Michelle's slides from her talk today, I have the advantage that I have heard her speak many times so can hear her voice in my ear as I read them. But even without that, you can glean the core of her lesson - that there is nothing that substitutes for the human bond between teacher and learner. And furthermore, that teaching is an act of faith. Great teachers take chances for their students - and for themselves. We learn to love what we fear because it makes us a better person and because we believe our students will benefit.

Gardner talks about the urge to hide behind the "stuff in stacks" (beautiful turn of a phrase) because it's safe. His exchange with his student describes teaching heart-to-heart, a process that in his words is "emotional, or spiritual–hard to know the difference, perhaps". 

Put me down on the side of those who believe that the best way we can use our technology is to support and enhance these human connections. "Big Data" has its place but it doesn't help us understand the heart of the learner.