I teach in a state-of-the-art classroom.
I began the semester, however, teaching in a temporary classroom, without any computer, without internet access, and without any projection. The classroom was in a trailer at the back of the campus where I teach two different history courses on the collegiate level. The only teaching medium the room offered was a chalk board.
The beginning of the semester was difficult without the assistance of what now seems to be needed technology. In some ways, I felt the course would become primitive to the current collegiate standards of teaching today, and I was not satisfied at all with the arrangement.
Intimacy, however, was one advantage in the classroom. The student tables were in close proxemity to each other, and I stood in the front of the class, very, very close to the students at the front. I turned what I believed to be a disaster into a blessing, changing my teaching style to flow without the crutch of media presentations. And so the course began with intimate teaching and great discussions.
After spring break, my class was moved to the newest building on campus, which houses some of the most advanced classrooms in the country.
My first introduction to the classroom was the entrance, with lights that were activated by sheer motion. The lectern was a stalwart piece of furniture, with two screens. One was for the desktop computer, the other was a touchscreen for all of the technological aids the classroom offered. It controlled projection, the computer itself, as well as a laptop, a DVD player and a VHS player, and the document camera that also was equipped to the lectern. A flat panel television serves as a personal monitor for the instructor. There are also cameras in the room, and microphones placed at various intervals in the ceiling tiles, which serve for recording purposes, if the instructor so chooses to record the lecture to stream online at a latter date.
The only thing that is missing is a chalk board.
That chalk board became the focus of my course this semester. I was able to write and talk and move across the front of the room, as well as field questions and prompt discussions. But the new room, with all of its advances, is without the one thing that has driven education for the better part of a century.
The room communicates to me, and to the students, that the teaching medium will change, or has changed already, and the presentation offered by the instructor must be different than what has been offered in the past.
That frightens me.
Overnight, I was asked, inadvertently, to change to an entirely different teaching style, one that is more technogically interactive, and one (dare I say) more impersonal. I feel like the methods that were successful in the first part of the course are now, in a broad brush stroke, irerelevant. I can adapt, and will, but the shock to me was great.
The course now feels different. Same students. Same material. Same instructor. Different room. And now, with only three meetings before the end of the semester, I feel like I need to prove, if to no one but myself, that the final three meetings can, and will be as beneficial and interactive as the first few, blending the succesful elements of teaching during this semester with these incredible advances.
I must admit that I see change in a different way now. My generation looks at the previous generation, and is tempted to say that their familiar ways of communication are antiquated. And those methods may be antiquated, from our persepctive. But now, I am part of a “previous generation,” teaching high school and first year college students, and their modes of communication are familiar to them, but new to me.
Change is needed to communicate effectively. Colleges are expecting instructors and professors to rethink how they communicate material to their students. And instructors who fail to adapt will no longer be given students to teach. Or students will refuse to listen.
To be fair, too, when we look at change from religious perspectives, change generally refers only to communication mediums. Vibrant members of any church want to see truth presented in ways that are easily digested. And a casual look at the social climate of any given era mentioned in the bible will show that communication mediums changed with the era.
Moses stood on top of a mountain, and, when discussing important matters, only communicated with the leaders of each tribe. Judges sat beneath trees, or in common places to decide matters. Kings used more noble approaches to communication, with edicts and mediators when speaking to their enemies. Prophets walked through the streets, in very brash ways, to communicate lean and tough messages. Jesus used personal approaches, with stories and object lessons. Paul went to synagogues and, in some instances, to very secular, even hostile environments.
Mediums of communication changed. But the message remained static.
And maybe that is the point. The message should always remain static. But if the medium does not change, the static message may never be heard.