Easy to Teach isn’t Easy to Learn

This is another post that comes under the category of Pedagogies for an Information-Abundant Learning Environments.  It was just after my second three-hour presentation today, in Queensbury, New York.  I have one more to go, early evening, with community folks.  I do this fairly often, offering to present a 45-minute session for parents and community.  It’s an important message for them to hear, and I’ll get anywhere from four to a hundred people showing up.

Anyway, Gwen Brilling came up to me just after my presentation and said that she wanted to tell me a story.  She said that although she is fairly close to retirement, she has been very interested in computers and the Internet, attending as many staff developments as she could.  She said, though, that her pattern was to learn something, and then, without using it right away, she would forget how to do it.

So, a few weeks ago she got her son, a Junior at SUNY, to show her how to run a particular program, and she sat their ready, with pencil and paper in hand.  Her son said, “Mom!  What are those for?”

She told him that she was going to take notes and he said, “Mom!  Put that away.”

So they went through the program in a number of ways, and basically played with it, and she said that her perceptions of technology changed dramatically that day.  She said that she had always tried to write down the steps and learn the steps, rather than just running the program.  She said that it was her tendency to take notes, that it was the way she’d always learned.  But now, she just plays (or works) the program until it helps her do what she needs to do.

It seems to me that breaking something down into steps and teaching the steps makes it easy to teach something — a way to explain it.  But it is difficult and probably not productive to lists steps when working in most information-abundant information environments.  There is always more than one way to solve the problem and even more aspects of the problem that need to be factored in.

I think that it’s important for us to model this, as staff developers.  Pull up a program from time to time that you don’t use regularly.  Let the teachers see you playing with the program to get it to do what you need it to do.  Model that learning happens to a mind at play.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.