I don't often say this, but I consider what is written below to be an extremely important post. If you enjoy it and, I hope, agree with it then please share it with others at your school. The more people in higher education who understand the necessity of what is said, then the closer it can become to actually being accomplished.
Next post will be December 1.
Would it work?
Is it a crazy idea?
Is it different from the way it has always been done?
Is it risky?
Would it dazzle?
Would it improve a situation?
Is it worth spending minutes, hours, days and weeks getting right?
The innovation space in higher education teaching is relatively small. While there is so much discussion about new techniques, new formats, new tools and new activities, most profs still primarily sit or stand in front of a class and talk.Flipping the classroom is in its infancy and may never grow at all into a significant method. Online classes are so varied in how they’re done that they are virtually indefinable. And many profs are simply uncomfortable doing things they’ve never done.
But what about finding new innovations—new ways of teaching that aren’t performances or lectures or group work or anything that is now done? What about ways that don’t remind traditional students that college is just more of the same “school” that they have disliked or hated or been bored by in the past.
How do we get the ideas, concepts and designs that will take higher education from point A to point Z?
• Perhaps the innovative course becomes just sitting around asking and answering questions.
• Perhaps the design becomes drastically altering course time patterns.
• Perhaps it’s the concept of scrapping the stand-alone course in favor of course groupings that are offered back-to-back-to-back.
• Or perhaps it’s just saying that the present system does not work the way it should and sitting down with a few others and figuring out ways to change the future. Ways that dazzle, ways that are not the ways of the past, ways that are risky or even a little crazy. Ways that definitely do improve the situation.
And yes, education always does have to educate. But it cannot be your father’s way of educating. The ways of the one-room higher education schoolhouse just do not work. And that means that right now there’s an unmistakable need to create different ways.
And getting there is hard work.
Here are two brief examples to show you there are other ways.
Lots of higher education pundits discuss the use of guest speakers in courses. Guest speakers can be a new voice, an expert voice, a voice that says the same things you say but in a more authoritative and somehow more credible way. But most guest speakers are local in-the-flesh people brought into a class to talk.
Yet today’s technology makes the concept of guest speaker far broader. Using Skype or Google Hangouts or other related software and using today’s projection technology it is easily possible to bring guest speakers into your classrooms from anywhere in the world. All it takes is coordination, connections and the confidence to make it work.
And don’t just use one guest speaker. Take advantage of the many voices available to you during as many class sessions as possible. Few students would expect or reject an economics course taught by you with guests from Harvard, Switzerland, the U.S. Department of Economic Development, the Cato Institute and the London Centre for Economic Policy Research.
A second idea is along the same lines. There are a couple thousand TED talks on every topic imaginable. Why not begin each class session with a relevant TED talk that opens the door to the concept(s) of the day? Use each talk, which is really like having a knowledgeable guest speaker, as a springboard to questions, to discussions, to having students prepare and deliver relevant talks of their own. The sky’s the limit on their use.
These are ideas not for you to necessarily adopt, but rather to demonstrate that the whole objective and design of how to educate and how to teach and how to inspire can and must evolve. It’s not an impossible task and it doesn’t have to be done all at once, or even alone.
But it does have to be done. Otherwise, the future is just another version of the past. And the past just isn’t working anymore.
Come up with ideas and innovations that are worth spending minutes, hours, days and weeks getting right? And be willing to do everything it takes to get from concept to reality.