It’s About People

5 May

This morning I began the day in the office with memories of a conversation that took place between myself and former colleague, fellow Moodler and friend, Tomaz Lasic. Tomaz’s blog, Human, is combination of discussions, anecdotes and deep thought involving education, social media, communication and the tools we use in each of those areas. He has been blogging for quite a while now and has a great depth of experience and wisdom on those aforementioned subjects.

About a year and a half ago, I was engrossed in a conversation with Tomaz about something new to me known as the Human Filter.

When discussing the benefits of using, previously free, social networking tool Ning in the classroom and at the workplace (for me, that’s both), Tomaz waxed lyrical about how an automated solution system (Google) has its limitations and that this is all about Humans, Human communication, the Human Filter.

I’d never come across that term before but since then it has stuck with me and made a large impact on the way I teach and my personal philosophy about education: We are all here together as humans to learn off each other. So therefore why not use fellow humans to share questions and answers with?

We all have, no matter what stage of our lives we are at, some depth of personal experience and education. Why should we choose to only open up a page of an encyclopedia or automatically assume that Google has our answer? We are all resources for each other in our own right.

When I begin a new topic in my student’s courses, I don’t begin by handing them a plethora of typed up definitions, examples and page upon page of written information. I begin by a simple class discussion.

“OK, we’ve just covered popular culture and it’s origins in the early part of 20th Century USA, now who can tell me what popular culture consists of in 2010?”

“Post-modernism? What is it? How has it impacted on modern art and entertainment forms?”

“The four media codes are; Technical, Symbolic, Written and Audio. Let’s take a look at how these codes are conventionally used in different film genres.”

Just a few examples of how myself and a very large growing number of teachers are beginning their teaching and learning programs in the classroom, particularly at the school where I work, learn and teach.

It is beneficial for the teacher as well, for we are only learners ourselves who have the task of inspiring and motivating young people to increase their knowledge in areas that they believe would make a great career for them. The conversations the develop and take place over the years in each of our careers are part of our own learning. From these conversations we learn about what our students think, believe in and know. We learn about our own opinions on certain topics. We learn a different point of view and relate that back to our own way of thinking. Imagine if politicians and corporate CEO’s worked this way!

We do not simply ‘teach’. It is far too broad a term to describe what takes place in the modern classroom. Inspiration and motivation are terms which I prefer to employ in describing my duties. This can only happen through the Human Filter. A student can only learn so much from an automated response. They can only become inspired to a certain extent. Then the learning ends and repetition takes over. Words appear to be just that – words. Without sense and purpose or any link to the learning that should be taking place – the outcome that was set in the program by the teacher.

We, as adults today, are so quick to judge young people as not being able to communicated openly or discuss issues, when it is us who are inhibiting their communication. We set far too many regulations and guidelines without realising that it is more beneficial to discover what is REALLY on a child’s mind than being ignorant to their needs.

Communication is very important for the individual to be fulfilled by the top three tiers of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Human Needs. Our self-actualisation is where our self-esteem and confidence factor in. These two things are vital for our learning and psychological development. With a low self-esteem, it is very difficult for the individual to focus, to learn, to thrive in an educational environment.

If a teacher can allow students to build stronger relationships with each other and develop a fairly good teacher/student rapport, then that development can thrive. The open discussions that allow students to have their say as well as tap into the Human Filter are vital in this development. They are also vital, not just in the classroom, but in society in general.

This is also a reason why I am a firm advocate of allowing social networking such as Twitter and Facebook into the classroom. There are far too many SN critics out there who are quick to dismiss them as simply wastes of time and nothing but more trouble in our society. This is only the case when the use of these tools are not monitored and taught properly.

If we educate young people, even adults, about the privacy issues, about what can and cannot land you in hot water, then virtually no problems would occur. SN in the classroom is a great tool to use because students can then receive first-hand information from the source itself rather than a reference.

I’ll give you an example: Late last year, myself, Tomaz and another ICT-using colleague, Jaeik, held the first ever Web 2.0 Expo in Australian schools. This was a whole week of nothing but showcasing the latest and greatest in Web 2.0 tools to our staff and students at our college and how they can be utilised for educational purposes.

On the final day of the expo, students viewed a live Skype conversation with a university student in Michigan, USA. He discussed what he did, what he was studying, we told him what we were doing and he showed us, through Google Maps, where he lived. There you go, quick geography lesson for the students and they got to talk to someone that they otherwise wouldn’t even know existed.

Jaeik, who is a LOTE teacher of Italian and Japanese at the college, also had a Skype discussion in his classroom with another classroom in Japan. Australian students learning Japanese got to speak to Japanese students learning English. They saw them face to face and spoke to them without even having to get on a plane.

To conclude this article, I’d like to quote Tomaz on something he said last year and what was the tag line for our Web 2.0 Expo;

“It’s not about computers, it’s about people”

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