Thoughts on Life, Art, Photography, Technology, Teaching and Travel…..
I got up early this morning thinking about how things have changed so much in my lifetime. Our Amercan culture has changed dramatically, as well as the way we educate our children and ourselves.
The world my children are growing up in is so vastly different than the one I experienced as a child growing up on Long Island in the 1950’s and 60’s. Things were certainly slower, less intense and we weren’t constantly bombarded by a constant deluge of commercial and mindless entertainment media imagery. We didn’t have e-mail, cell phones, computers or the internet
I’m not sure that was a bad thing, in fact…as much as I am addicted to my cell phone, internet and my computer, I almost feel like I have become a slave to them. I think many of us feel enslaved by them.
It all started with the prehistoric people sharing the “knowledge” through rituals, storytelling and painting crude images of animals on the walls of caves. Just imagine the Shaman of the cave clan leading a group of young wide eyed boys down into the inner depths of the ominous cave with only the flickering flame of a torch to follow.
Click for Prehistoric Art PODCAST
Giant dark shadows bounce across the cave wall as they decend towards the inner chamber. At the end of their journey they are told to sit across from the looming wall covered with painted beasts…the masked Shaman begins his ritualistic ceremony and dramatically tells the story and history of the clan, imparting all his knowledge to the young boys with the torch projecting ominous shadows across the paintings of bison, horses and deer which seem to move across the wall as he speaks. This must have been a dramatic and fearfull ceremony meant to impact and embed the knowledge of the clan into the minds of this younger generation. After all, they had to rely on story telling and pictures because there was no written language at that time. The cave paintings played an educational role in reinforcing and illustrating important knowledge critical to the survival of the clan. We’ve come a long way in educational since those prehistoric days.
Morning ritual checking into my online classes
Approximately 35,000 years later I sit here at my wireless laptop sipping a coffee (in my pajamas) teaching students online at 4 different colleges across the state over this amazing circuit we call the internet. If someone told me ten years ago that I would be teaching my courses from a computer and not actually interacting with my students face to face, I wouldn’t have believed them. Now I teach online in an almost seamless (and intuitive) fashion weaving in and out of my various course blackboards (and schools) without giving it much thought as far as the tools I use and the methodology I apply in my online and hybrid classes. Each morning starting at 6:00am checking in with my 100+ Art Appreciation and Art History students before heading out to my regular college teaching job. We as online educators are empowered more than ever before, just like students can shop around for the best online colleges and courses we can teach outside of our county and suppliment our incomes as well. In my case, putting my son through college by teaching extra classes.
I’ve even converted all my hands-on photography and art classes at Carteret Community College to hybrids as well.
For example, I met my photography students on a location shoot at Marsha’s Surf Shop last week. I recorded my lecture on an IPod and took digital photographs as my students applied what they learned about location photogaphy to the site.
Location Shoot Podcast
Now I can monitor their work from home or any location via the internet using instructional delivery software called Blackboard. They can go back and listen to my lesson as a Podcast and look at the photos I took of them at the location.
Yes…things are unbelievably different, but then again…things in many ways are still the same. Teachers still need to teach and students need and want to learn, however we are sharing (imparting) the “knowledge” in different ways with different more sophisticated tools. Our technologically evolving society demands that educators are constantly learning along with teaching – we can no longer be complacent in our knowledge and skill level – things are changing too rapidly for educator’s or students for that matter to be comfortable in our respective skill (knowlege) levels. The term life long learner truly applies in this new millenium and if people aren’t of the mindset to be proactive in life long learning they will not succeed in this economy and global marketplace.
Business and industry have embraced and continue to harness a variety of sophisticated communications and educational technologies such as video conferencing, Pod casting, streaming video, interactive online forums, blogs, etc.
The web provides a vast amount of information for instructors who truly understand how to seamlessly apply, channel and integrate this vast web content into their courses. Distance learning provides the best (and most flexible) instructional environment for connecting and exposing students to the resources (and information) being generated exponentially around the world.
This is a very exciting yet intimidating and challenging time for educators. If we don’t aggressively retool mentally and technologically we are going to eventually become obsolete and other forward thinking educational venues will fill the void we leave due to being left in the dust by the rapid growth and evolution of technology and web culture.
The sense of urgency is high and now I believe it’s a matter of breaking out of the outmoded industrial model, in and beyond the information age and into a creative, conceptual age where we can educate and train our students in the technologies being used TODAY in the global marketplace.
This is no longer just an option – it is an absolute MUST if we are going to remain a viable and competitive force in higher education.
We have so many more creative options and instructional tools than ever before to help us communicate (instruct) and guide our students to our course content and hopefully transfer the knowledge. I don’t even see us as traditional teachers anymore – we are like cyber guides and our role is to lead students to our course content. We are (should be) proactive moderators, facilitators if you will on this journey through the course material. The key to success when teaching in the online environment is being creative, innovative and proactive. Traditional teaching methodology no longer works as effectively as it once did- in fact, the old rules no longer apply and are not even viable, and teachers who try to transfer archaic (didactic) teaching techniques into the online classes are doomed to fail or at least will not be able to truly engage or inspire their students.
For us to succeed and survive in this new digital terrain, I believe (based on first hand knowledge) that we as educators MUST find balance in our lives and find recreational pursuits that take us away from the computer and our online classes.
We also have to be creative and innovative in how we convey our course material (the knowlege). Start thinking about incorporating digital audio podcasts and enhanced podcasts using Itunes, skype, blogs, wiki’s and who knows what else we will have at our disposal in the next 5 years. Your students will appreciate it and once you learn how to harness these digital tools you’ll have fun incorporating them into your classes. The bottom line to surviving in the digital terrain is controlling all these new teachng tools we have at our disposal and not let them control you. Now I’m saving this final entry and going to play some golf on this beautiful Saturday afternoon.
Feel free to post your thoughts, comments and feedback below throughout the conference and continue this dialogue. We are all in this together! I’m just another Community College instructor trying to survive and excel in this new and rapidly changing teaching environment.