Teaching for understanding.

Teaching for understanding

Image Credits: Bud Blake (1918 – 2005)

What a wonderful task for a teacher, isn’t so? My guess all teachers would agree on that, unless… Unless they view students as potential troublemakers who need to be disciplined!

Whenever we talk about education, it comes to mind Clark Aldrich’s quotes shared in his book: Unschooling Rules: “Rather than viewing and treating students who want to do something new as troublemakers who need to be fixed, we should recognize that they will be the engines of improvements in our standard of living. Point of fact, they always have been.”

I admit schooling is not always that bad, where students are learning how to be students in a classroom and they are learning it very well… (C. Aldrich – Unschooling Rules), I know of many teachers and educators who dedicate their life, leisure and free time caring about their classes, caring about the schoolboys and schoolgirls, caring about teaching them to understand and feel good about that!

I remember when I was a kid struggling every morning with my mom not wanting to go to school, I knew I would have to sit most of the day, listen to the teacher, raise my hand to ask a question, make sure to follow instructions, listen to my teacher reading the course instead of explaining, and when asking a question I was told to keep it for later because schedule did not permit “too many questions”.

It was clear to me that spending such years until I finish high school will either push me to drop school, or be considered a troublemaker according to the prevailing rules at that time of schooling. So inevitably I became that troublemaker Things changed when I attend my first class at high school, during the math course our teacher started his first class telling us a story, the story of math through ages, the discoveries most known mathematicians gave us and above all he explained how these theories and discoveries were used in our every day’s life! I assure you we could hardly hear people breathing, we were captivated and drawn to the teacher’s words. When we heard the bell announcing the end of the class we felt returning back into a different reality! We were in a wow mindset, all of the 35 students of the class. The same happened with the science teacher and the French teacher… Sometime later we discovered that these three teachers did in fact attend to a special program, in fact a workshop dedicated for teachers providing those skills and innovative approaches to teach. This happened in the early 70’s, however the dream-class had to be stopped as the school board received complaints from the other teachers who were angry to note that students were comparing their styles to our teachers. So instead to encourage other teachers to get accustomed to something good for the interest of learners they put a stop to the initiative and back we were to lesson, assignments, grades, leader boards… ! Sad story I know but at least it showed that there was something better for the sake and benefit of education, maybe it was ahead of its time! At least I learned so much during this short period of time to the point I still remember most of the advanced math and science notions.

Teaching for understanding! What a wonderful thing to do! Teaching becomes a mutual enrichment in the class, I am sincerely convinced that both, teachers and students, learn from each other, but most important they do understand why they learn and what they learn.

Until  next time,


Michel – October 10, 2014


Which way the bus is going?


I had a very funny but very interesting experiment today. I was reading some of my elder daughter’s posts when I saw the clipart (see above) proposing an amusing quiz to her visitors.

I knew what is was about for having tried in the past to solve the quiz myself, smiling to my daughter’s comments I saw she did not get the correct answer at first. Many others were unsuccessful too so everyone was joking how short sight they were.

This amusing incident was a confirmation to me that most of us, the education / training /material designers and specialists; we were in some way unprepared for the new changes that need to be done in education. The reason – in my humble opinion – related to the way we learned, the fashion we were educated and the thinking scheme we got to use in defining the principles of a modernized education approach.

I do not claim for a total change, but as long as we will keep our mindset work in a very linear and procedural manner, we will certainly lack some elements to help us bring key factors to a renewed creativity in education.

We all agree that changes must be done and applied, however we still think in a manner that make us innovate instead of create. . How much do we dedicate to engage to better know our audiences, students, teachers, programs, validation retention strategies? We fall into the trap of innovating through new technologies and still we mostly fail to provide a correct answer to a simple logical question: “Which way the bus is going?”

I know it seems too simple to compare with the various important challenges experts will need to think and come up with solutions on renewed education for the generations to come. But what if we just try to think the way they do? I think we are used so much to think in a two dimensional way that is does not seem obvious when we look at young kids able to solve in a more realistic way and manner such quizzes (I like to see them as the three-dimensional thinkers and users).

They are the one who are not afraid to consider technologies as a mean and seldom a tool, this allows their minds to act freely independently from schemes organized and structured as we are. I always keep in mind my grand-daughter’s when she showed me in less than 5 minutes how she used her mini-tablets to build and publish an animated multimedia clip with a couple of pictures, two drawings, some clipart and the music of her preferred singer. When done she knew how to publish it on her social network’s page, (she did not in fact because her dad did not give her the password 😉 )

I guess to us, it would have taken a FAQ, or consult the online help, and more to get started, all due to our education format we learned since the awareness of our consciousness.

I am grateful to both my grand-daughter and her mom for having reminded me some of the essentials in our field of expertise. Thinking like they do, isn’t a good avenue for a better adapted educational offering? This will let us know in which direction the bus is going, is it right?

Michel – December 30, 2013