Friday, September 13, 2013

It's About Ducks | September 6, 2013

By Andrew Taylor

You hop up on the table and wait. Well, maybe you don't hop much nowadays, but the nurse told you to wait for the doctor, so you sit. When she enters, who is the "learner" and who is the "teacher"? Naturally we expect to teach the doctor about our condition while she learns. Then we expect the doctor to teach us. While the doctor holds the status, the degree, and hopefully wisdom, ultimately she is powerless without our participation and application of her remedies.

This time-honored profession is undergoing systemic change with the proliferation of online resources. In 2011, 75% of doctors owned at least one Apple product. According to "How Apple Accidentally Revolutionized Health Care," Yale University provides medical students iPads and has eliminated paper materials in their physician training programs. The bastion of the old guard has opened the gates to change.

Physicians use the free Medscape app to check drug interactions and look up procedure information. It's the most popular of Apple's more than 14,000 health-related applications. Today's doctors are armed with ready access to information. They are ready to teach. But so are their patients; armed and ready.

The same information revolution is at the gates of education, and it is not the enemy. Yet, classroom practice is even more fortified against change. So, what is the role of the "teacher" in this new paradigm? It's about ducks.
You'll notice that some of the learners can complete the task quickly and independently. The majority, however, are left behind. Maybe they do not believe themselves capable. Maybe they are not developmentally ready for the task. Maybe they are just not trying hard enough.

Their traditional mothering teacher decides to wait. It's not until the human offers the appropriate support for the ducklings that they are able to succeed. Notice he doesn't "teach" them in the traditional sense. Rather:
  • just-in-time support is provided to get them to the next level,
  • an environment is created to encourage them to choose to go forward,
  • but, the standard is never lowered for them. 
This is the role of a "teacher" in this age when we are all continual "learners." Just like I want my doctor to pull out an iPad and learn/teach with it, I want my children's teachers to continually learn new skills and tactics to foster healthy students. Their role is not to tell the ducklings how to do the task, but is instead to learn what the student needs, to provide support, and then quietly get out of the way.

But you forgot about ...
No, I didn't fail to realize that some of the ducklings were had already completed this Red Curb Challenge, and they certainly should not be held back to wait for the class. No one wants to be the guy who calls out a mother for her poor skills, even if we are talking about a duck. Unfortunately, she's a creature of instinct and hers is to wait for those left behind, rather than be proactive. Once she completes her 7 Habits training, the metaphor will be complete. It's an untapped market.