Brave New World

Brave New World

My father had a saying that he used quite often. “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

Well, I beg to differ with my father. I’ve done, and I’ve taught. In the end, the reason why I’ve chosen to teach others is twofold.

The first is that, as an editor, I saw a serious need to develop good Christian writers. The message is there, but those who can communicate it effectively are in short supply. That’s what I am here for; to train new troops.

The second reason is that I never got over being a student. I love learning. And I would wager that students who talk to your professors will find most of them in the same boat. Even when we don’t have to, we go out of our way to learn something new. It’s cool, and it’s fun. And I hope that my students are having as much fun as I’m having.

And the reality is, learning never stops if you’re a teacher, nor should it. Consider what’s going on in journalism, in communication, in media, and you increase that tenfold. Every year I’m challenged to not only keep up with changes in technology but turn around and teach them to my students. And more than once I’ve said in class, “We’ll learn this together.”

We’re in the middle of a major overhaul of the way we do things in the communication department. The Southwesterner was probably the first indication of that. More things are coming, though. Exciting things, driven by the massive changes in technology. And these are things that are overdue.

But what’s really cool is that I’m learning as much or more about these changes than my students are. And even though I learn through reading, exploring on the Web, and experimenting, I also learn by just watching my students.

Case in point. An epiphany came to me as I considered e-mail. The school has tried for years to get students to activate their campus e-mail accounts so that important announcements would get to them. But the reality is, most students don’t use e-mail in the same way that adults my age do. E-mail is a necessary evil to them, and often not even that. The reality is: if they don’t have to use e-mail, they won’t.

So how do students communicate? To learn, all you have to do is watch them, or even just ask them. Students use two ways to communicate: Facebook and texting. None of this waiting to get back to your desktop or laptop to communicate with someone. If it’s important, text me. If it’s not important, I will catch it on Facebook. And that doesn’t even consider the impact of smart phones.

They move around in a world that expects the important to find them, rather than them seeking it. They are deluged by information, and really don’t want to go out of their way to get more of it. When you are surrounded by noise, why turn up the volume?

I had a fellow editor at Pacific Press years ago bemoan the fact that so few kids read books. “We have to get more kids to read books,” he said. “No,” I told him. “Our job is not to teach them to read. Our job is to communicate the message to them in whatever method it takes to get through to them.”

And that’s the brave new world, with implications to teaching, communication, publishing and a variety of other disciplines. We are talking, but not to them. And they are listening, but not to us. It’s our job to find the channel that we have in common, and communicate the important message that we have. And often that starts with simply listening. And observing. And learning.

After all, isn’t that what school’s all about?

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