Monday, September 24, 2012

Has Teaching Gone Out of Style


On Wednesday nights, I teach a group of youth at our church.  This week, at the end of our session, a seventh grader whipped out a handful of balloons and a pump and started making balloon animals, much to the delight of all the other middle schoolers in the room.  It was actually quite amazing to watch him work.

One of his friends asked excitedly, "How'd you learn to do that?"

"I learned it on YouTube."

That sentence stopped me in my tracks.  My brain immediately started thinking, "Have I become unnecessary?"

I shared the thought with a parent who arrived to pick up his child.  "Yeah, you can learn anything you want on the internet nowadays."

And I replied, "you're right, if something breaks or I want to find out something that's the first place I go."

Have I become unnecessary?  I even admit to myself, if I want to learn something, I go to the internet and find out.  How to fix my car, why the pilot light on my gas logs burn so high, what was the name of that guitar player from Extreme, is John Tyler's grandson really still alive, and on and on.  If I want to find something out, I go online.

But sometimes, I don't know what I want.  Sometimes I find myself unprepared because of something I don't know.  Sometimes I need more than knowledge and find it helpful to see the example of a person who can lead me, guide me, or maybe even inspire me.

The internet has so fueled our desire for "disruptive change" we move at such breakneck speed that sometimes we end up, well, metaphorically with broken necks.  In the past few weeks, I've prematurely mourned the deaths of Morgan Freeman and Carlton from the Fresh Prince of BelAir because of incorrect Facebook and Twitter posts.  This year we've seen major errors in one time trustworthy news media outlets reporting on the Supreme Court health care decision and the Colorado theater shooting.  And I'm sure that the television show Mythbusters could manage two or three more seasons just debunking all of the false information that spreads as truth online. (Remember the cellphone popcorn popper?)

Maybe I'm not so unnecessary after all.  Despite these problems, the internet has brought about quite a positive revolution in both availability and quality of learning, and this I appreciate.  But until all students become completely self motivated to learn; until learning takes place in isolation rather than community; until we stop relying on each other to expose us to new and interesting ideas...

Until then, I am necessary and relevant.  Even if I can't teach a twelve year old how to make a balloon monkey.
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