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The AaHa Experience

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Jennefer Hart
29 October 2010

There are good and bad teachers.

One good teacher was a costume history tutor. She loved her subject. She had a strong personality (she was chain smoker). She brought her costumes to class so students could touch and even wear them.

There are two lessons to learn from this:

- A shared experience improves knowledge accumulation. A student remembers a real experience of being close to design. 

- A teacher needs a strong personality to make the teaching being remembered.

The Aha experiences comes from being close to good designs, but also being close to good teachers.

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nicole schadewitz
3:33pm 29 October 2010

Personality is something that does not get across well in distance learning, if it is design or another subject. A passion for a subject is not well mediated through technology, except if the person’s passion is recorded. But even then, students cannot interact with this recording. Personality is a big challenge for distance education. Everyone I had talked to always had a teacher they remember - an influential person. How can we recreate this is a digital environment?

Derek Jones
8:27pm 3 November 2010

hmmm. I think that personality can come across in distance learning - you just need a Clive Hilton (someone with a personality that can not be constrained by normal methods, such as electrocution or rope).

I'm also note entirely sure that passion isn't obvious - think of Johnny Ball or Brian Cox or even Nicole Schadewitz being a suitcase... 

It is harder, though, and the simple fact is that you 1) need to have a personality 2) are able to project it effectively via e-communication. 

A couple of other things might also help :

  • It may sound trivial, but having a face helps. If you use an online profile photo (and consistently) it really does allow students to 'put a face to the name'. Trivial, I know, but a really, really basic human thing to do...
  • Allow your personality to come through in your communication - especially email. You don't have to sound like credit card email circular each time you speak to students. Many teachers can find it very hard to get the balance right here - you don't wish to offend or be misunderstood, but the alternative is that you can come across as completely vanilla.
  • Make a few mistakes. It's really hard to say 'I don't know' when you are a teacher, but sometimes when you say 'let's find out together' you are not only engaging educationally but socially. Similarly, if you you are corrected by a student, offer them a refund to the amount of learning they have given you ... 
  • If you are teaching a distance course that has face to face tutorials then this is your big chance (don't mess it up). You can really get through and make a real connection with a lot of students - this will happen in the first 5 minutes and either be reinforced or diluted thereafter. If this connection is made then it can serve you well for the entire distance learning experience.
So, you need to be: personable, communicative, IT literate, psychologist, sociologist, entertainer, enthusiast, expert, comedian, human, fallible, and have a reasonably trustworthy face.
Really interesting subject, though...

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