Thoughts on Life, Art, Photography, Technology, Teaching and Travel…..
I’ve been teaching at Carteret Community College for 22 years. In fact, I have taught Photography in some capacity for over 25 years. Education has changed dramatically since the first day I walked into a classroom/lab. To think that I’m sitting in a coffee shop on the coast of North Carolina (this very cold Sunday morning) checking in to my Art and Photography classes with my laptop computer. I’m picking up a wireless signal and just finished having a discussion about art with a group of student 8 hours away at a college (SWCC) in the mountains of western North Carolina. If you would have told me I’d be able to engage my students, teach my students, connect with my students and help them learn a variety of college level subjects without actually seeing them 10 years ago I would have thought you were absolutely crazy. Now it’s an integral part of what I do as an educator. Online education (distance learning) has been accepted and embraced by high schools and colleges around the world. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s good online teachers and bad just like in the classroom. It takes a completely different approach to be an effective teacher in the online environment. It’s almost as if you become a moderator / facilitator instead of a didactic talking head standing in front of a group of students (sage on the stage) imparting your knowledge to them. Good teaching is still good teaching whether its in the traditional classroom or in the online environment. Good teaching is proactive, dynamic, engaging and takes a certain amount of empathy and compassion. Good teaching online also takes innovation, creativity and a willingness to think (and communicate) in completely new ways.
Distance learning empowers teachers and students in a variety of ways and offers so many more options and alternatives to the traditional instructional model. Teaching online has reinvigorated me to literally reinvent myself as a teacher in addition to making me think about (and teach) my subject matter in a whole new way. In other words it forces me to be a better instructor because I MUST rethink and retool every aspect of my teaching strategy and methodology to be effective in the online environment. The other part of this equation is our students. Especially the ones coming out of high school. Most of them are very comfortable working, communicating and socializing online and they expect their educational experience to be every bit as dynamic, interactive and sophisticated as their other online worlds such as My Space and Face Book.
Its like anything else in this world. People evolve, cultures evolve, society evolves and nothing truly stays the same. That certainly goes for the learning process. I think its great that I can get up in the morning, drive to my local coffee shop and start my day off teaching while sipping a cup coffee. Now I have to get back to a discussion about Prehistoric art with my students in Fayetteville. You gotta love technology. Like I mentioned in an earlier post – it can be a curse or a blessing depending on your point of view, attitude and mindset.