September 04, 2003

Teaching Technology

I dont know why people dont understand technology. Mebbe, it is the same reason people dont like mathematics, or logic or thinking. Because, technology is the closest one can get to naked logic and mathematics.

I guess it is okay, if most of us dont really understand technology, because a great part of technology also carries with it the responsibility of not needing to understand it. Technology is geared to have technically-impaired customers.

But technology needs technically qualified implementors. And technically qualified people dont grow on deciduous trees. Rather they are grown in classroom farms. And the quality of these implementors is directly dependant on the quality of the teacher teaching them.

The teacher forms the jugular vein of the entire cycle of technical resource development. A technically-impaired teacher is probably the worst thing that can happen to cloud the entire cycle of getting technically competent personnel.

Being a teacher is not easy. Being a technical teacher is even more difficult.

A teacher is not one who can merely transfer information to the student. A book can do that. A video can do that. A teacher is not merely an interactive data source either. A website would have been enough. A teacher is a live person, who can talk to a class, raise awareness of the subject in the class, raise interest about the subject in the class and get people to fight and argue about the subject.

The problem with our teaching system is that it is just that - a teaching system. The focus is on teaching, not learning. The focus is on completion of portion and not on the insights into subject. The course structure gains importance over class structure. Content delivery gains precedence over contect acceptance. But the most importantly the difference is in the time limits. A teaching class is complete when the class or course or test is done. A learning class is for life.

Many people have written about the inadequacy about our teaching systems. And to make things better most have identified that interaction is that aspect that is missing from modern schools. Interaction between students to learn from each other, to gain form others insights and to give a rather subtle point which others have missed. In a way, it is like taking the mantle of teaching away from teacher and putting it with each student.

But the method is still teaching. When all is done and the stove grows cold, all that the student is left is with what he has managed to learn. A half baked knowledge of the world around. A confusion of ideas learnt, and ideas idenfied and conflicts between then all.

But no smoldering desire to learn and to know more.

That is the crux of the difference between a teaching class and a learning class. A teaching class teaches. An interactive class betters some, worsens other and teaches a little more. A learning class, ignites a desire to learn, a desire that takes knowledge to beyond classes, courses and exams. That is the way to teach.

And that is what is wrong with teachers in general. But most teachers might get away with it. For knowledge changes at a pace that would not seriously challenge a snail. Hence teaching is not very handicapped by its inability to ignite a learning attitude. But that is where technical teaching is affected. And affected badly.

We are dealing with a rate of information upheaval that would leave the most ardent followers breathless. A technical subject is having its bases and roots rapidly obsoleted and wasted and revised. Such is the pace of change that teaching would not really teach anything. There is only one way of teaching and that is a learning class.

But that is where most of today's technical teachers lack.

A technical teacher needs to love technology. And get other to feel passionately about it.

The teacher needs to understand technology, not just a concept, but the core. Needs to be friendly enough with technology to be able to introduce it as a friend to any audience. The teacher needs to realized that implementation does not matter, what matters is the core concepts. And understand these concepts.

A teacher needs to be able to get the students interested in technology, not just in how to work it or even in how it works. But the interest should spread and encompass the idea, the implementation and form a seed for new and unheard of solutions.

And a teacher needs to be able to enthuse not just technologists but every lay man to understand and love technology.

That is what we need form a technical teacher.

That is what we lack in a technical teacher.

We have technologists who love technology. We may have some teachers, who can make students learn. When will we have a technologist teacher?

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