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Teachers should be “more than talking heads”

01 Apr

You may have heard of Nolan Bushnell. No?

He founded Atari, and is perhaps one of the fathers of the video game industry. (He was named by  Newsweek as one of the  “50 Men Who Changed America.”)

He makes a point about education that is true for communicators: that the learning environment is toast, and we are competing for the minds and hearts of an audience that has moved far beyond what our established systems can cope with.

I just got done with an article for publication on why the marriage between newsletter publishers and readers is on the rocks. While researching this topic I came across a common thread between education and business communication. We are trying to pry open the new cannister (attention) with an old set of tools.

The competition for the  minds of kids is not sufficient. We have to have more than talking heads, says Bushnell. (He recommends abolishing classrooms!). The one-to-many distribution of information is fraught with problems.

  • Pace is one of those problems
  • Class size is the other.

These are connected. Altering the pace means altering the class size, he says.

I’ve conducted many webinars and workshops. Virtual and face-to-face. I can see from where he comes. The moment I become the talking head in front of a cool PowerPoint template, I lose the audience. Sure I have their attention, but I lose the connection — between my brain and theirs.

Watch Bushnell’s presentation, and even if you have issues with video games, try to see the meta discussion here. I have problems with the lure of instant gratification and the goals of education. But new media is not something we can keep locked up in a dark room. The academic response to Wikipedia has moved quite a bit from horror to skepticism to adoption. I have seen how teachers have inspired students to create a literary project using a Wiki. Social learning is here –another topic worth exploring –whether we like it or not.

But if I put this aside, I could glean some great ideas from some of what he says here.

Thanks to my friend Manoj Fernando for pointing me to Bushnell

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