Lately, as I’ve followed the conversations about teaching and learning in the 21st century, I find myself increasingly taking a negative stance. It may just be my natural need to be the devil’s advocate, but I think it’s also a frustration with black and white rhetoric in which old is bad, new is good, ALL teachers are luddites who are stuck in their ways, EVERYONE should have an online professional learning network, and the ONLY way to teach is through project-based, student-centered learning. I could go on but I think you get the picture.
The irony, of course, is that I am a denizen of the digital world with an extensive online PLN, and I have adopted project-base learning methods in the courses I teach believing it is the best way for my students to engage with the content in my course.
So, what’s the problem? Why won’t I jump on the 21st century bandwagon? I think the main reason is that, as I complete my 5th decade on this planet, the biggest lesson I have learned is that the words “always,” “never,” “all,” and “none” are simply not useful. Our propensity towards polls and statistics and nice, neat charts tends to blind us to the infinite variety of experiences that exist in the world. We want to be able to make our case for the best way to live, work, teach and learn, and gray is not the appropriate color to use when we paint that picture.
It’s summed up simply in that old saying, “There’s an exception to every rule.” So, while I don’t lecture, I have known some wonderful lecturers in my day whose words have stuck with me over decades. And while I find it comfortable to engage with community online, I understand that others prefer to be in the same room. In my own realm, I was an early adopter of electronic books but I am also, even as I write this post, surrounded by thousands of books and have no intention of abandoning that habit. I guess my preference is to focus on the exception rather than the rule.
Or maybe I’m just an old curmudgeon.