Sunday, June 22, 2014

Teachers gotta teach

A Teacher is a person who provides education for students.
The role of teacher is often formal and ongoing, carried out at a school or other place of formal education. In many countries, a person who wishes to become a teacher must first obtain specified professional qualifications or credentials from a university or college. These professional qualifications may include the study of pedagogy, the science of teaching. Teachers, like other professionals, may have to continue their education after they qualify, a process known as continuing professional development. Teachers may use a lesson plan to facilitate student learning, providing a course of study which is called the curriculum.
A teacher's role may vary among cultures. Teachers may provide instruction in literacy and numeracy, craftsmanship or vocational training, the arts, religion, civics, community roles, or life skills.
A teacher who facilitates education for an individual may also be described as a personal tutor, or, largely historically, a governess.
In some countries, formal education can take place through home schooling. Informal learning may be assisted by a teacher occupying a transient or ongoing role, such as a family member, or by anyone with knowledge or skills in the wider community setting.
Religious and spiritual teachers, such as gurus, mullahs, rabbis, pastors/youth pastors and lamas, may teach religious texts such as the Quran, Torah or Bible.  
Some Synonyms for Teacher:
  • master
  • dry nurse
  • don
  • trainer
  • tutor
  • coach
  • governor
  • instructor
  • director
  • grinder
  • bear leader
  • institutor
  • Corypheus
  • crammer
  • governess
A Learner is a person who is learning a subject or skill.
Some Synonyms for Learner:
  • apprentice
  • tyro
  • eleve
  • inceptor
  • fellow-commoner
  • freshman
  • senior
  • questionist
  • remove
  • apostle
  • scholar
  • prentice
  • abecedarian
  • recruit
  • catechumen
  • debutant
  • junior soph
  • sophister
  • undergraduate
  • pupilage (learning)
  • proselyte
  • student
  • articled clerk
  • alphabetarian
  • novice
  • probationer
  • schoolboy
  • junior
  • sophomore
  • class
  • disciple
  • fellow-student
  • pupil
  • beginner
  • alumnus
  • neophyte
  • chela
  • fresh
  • senior soph
  • soph
  • form
  • follower
  • condisciple

Now, throw TECHNOLOGY into the mix. The technology of today has “flipped the script” as far as all of this goes. In today’s world, anyone can research, explore, investigate just about anything

A student with a solar powered laptop in Africa can access information that just a few years ago required Ivy League campus access. If a “teacher” is doing their job (professional or volunteer) is it possible to teach any topic or subject without the teacher becoming the learner?

Instructors can hand someone a textbook (or video series, or eBook, or Podcast) and say “here you go” you should be all set. Anyone can host a webinar, or give a lecture. But the true teacher must flip the script. A true teacher must receive data and information BACK from the learner. The most successful teachers are both senders and receivers of information - constantly getting feedback FROM from the students. Just like flying a plane or steering a ship, constant course corrections are necessary. Get the pun - course corrections? Ahem.

When I went to college (Purdue, Rutgers) the professors gave lectures. Many times these same professors wrote the textbooks that we used in class. Then there were TAs or “Teaching Assistants” who were there to “help us understand” what we just heard in the lecture. Remember playing the game "broken telephone" where the true message gets distorted as the message goes from kid to kid? It was always so funny to hear a simple sentence get mangled. Knowledge flow: Professor > TA > Student. The "best" lecturer in the world is lucky to have 80% of the knowledge transfer. So, 80% of 80% is 64% if my math is right.

You could see the Professor during scheduled office hours, twice a week. But for a class of 300 or more (in a big school) it would be impossible for more than a handful of students to see their professor for one-on-one sessions. Information was “pushed” out to us, and it was up to us to catch it. If we did not fully comprehend the material, if we were getting it wrong, if we were lost, it was up to us (the student) to seek out the additional help necessary to pass the course.

We don't know what we don't know, and that is the problem. By the time you take the exam and get the grade, it's too late to go back and find out. Grades are posted, time to move on. Next!

College textbooks have now become eBooks read on iPads. Live lectures have become talks. Sprawling college campuses with dormitories like Purdue and Rutgers have become entities like the University of Phoenix.

In my humble opinion, teaching without receiving and processing the feedback from the students is not teaching.  It might be presenting, lecturing, pontificating, promoting, or any other word that involves the pushing of data “out” to the world. Unless the teacher becomes the learner, seeking the feedback, looking for the clues, making the observations FROM the students back to the source for analysis and re-engineering, we might as well just Google it or watch a video on Khan Academy. To be a successful teacher in today’s world, you need to flip the script.

Check out to see the future of "teaching" via technology.

Agree with me? Think I’m nuts? Either way, your feedback is welcome.

Email me: or  I reply to all emails.

Ruth Chang: How to make hard choices via

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