Archive for January, 2008


Education by the Large vs. the Small

There are several sets of parallel models I could choose for this sort of comparison. Corporation versus individual, university versus tutor, publishing versus software, military versus mercenary, etc. In the context of commerce and teaching we will start with university versus tutor. (Please excuse my personification of the system that is a university. It is purely for convenience.)

The difference is not primarily a matter of what happens nor even just a matter of scale. The difference really lies in the approach and world-view involved.

Within the goal of educating students a university and a private tutor have many similarities.

  1. Both perform this service for something in return — money, recognition, experience, a warm fuzzy feeling, etc. (This is the quid-pro-quo required for commerce.)
  2. Both university and tutor deliver similar content. (Setting aside the way in which they approach the material and the way in which the information is transmitted.)
  3. Both play the numbers game and expose ten, a hundred, a thousand times as many people as they take on as “clients”. This is by way of some form of communication, often advertising such as billboards, magazine ads, word-of-mouth, flyers, etc.

So what are some of the differences?

  1. Overhead – A university maintains facilities, equipment, records, and the staff that supports this infrastructure. All of those resources (people spending time, energy, and money) are secondary to the “money making” activity of teaching and learning. The tutor typically requires students, a location to study, some books, and maybe some papers. Once you have the first (students) you can typically make use of existing resources for the remaining items.
  2. Expected Knowledge – Most people paying for a degree (and the university education leading to that diploma) come with the reasonable expectation that their professors will have extensive knowledge in the field. Generally, the tutor is expected to know more on the subject than the student or at least be able to guide the student through their current problem.
  3. Adaptability – All of the infrastructure also maintains a fair bit of inertia (a body at rest tends to stay at rest, a body in motion tends to stay in motion). Imagine an aircraft carrier (university) attempting to make a sharp turn when it is at cruising speed. The one man fishing boat (tutor) has much better maneuverability. Of course a fishing boat and an aircraft carrier are made for totally different purposes.

The fun part is that this is an entirely artificial comparison — both tutor and university provide complementary services. What I find most interesting is the space between a single tutor and a degree granting university, especially when coupled with the potential embodied in delivering lessons digitally. More on that soon.

What topics do you know well enough to “tutor” others?
How much of the space between ignorance and mastery can you cover?

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Communication and Play

I used to think that I communicated well. Then I learned NLP.

The funny part is that now my awareness is much more attuned to the ambiguity in those sort of sentences. I hear when language patterns are being used less than effectively. I notice my sentences are more and more in terms of what I do want rather than what I don’t want. I am aware of when I have good rapport with someone and when I do not.

The entertaining part is that I have a good knowledge of all these patterns. I know many techniques for change. And I also know when to use which pattern or technique.

The useful part is the behavior that goes with the awareness and knowledge. Actually applying the patterns and techniques makes a huge difference. And of course I play with the ideas, techniques, and procedures. There is valuable behavioral flexibility that comes with a playing mindset.

Where are you in need of more entertaining knowledge, amusing awareness, and useful behavior?
What will be different once you’ve got “improved” knowledge, awareness, and behavior?

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan | 1 Comment »

Content Revisited

Unfortunately I have not been able to come up with another pair of “C” words that fit this model. That means we only get five Cs instead of sailing the seven Cs. Bad puns aside, these five Cs provide a great model for teaching. Unsurprisingly they also provide a great model for marketing information.

Oh, wait, information marketing is generally done by teaching content! And the bonus is that almost anyone can communicate some content to clients then make the commerce explicit and continually improve. Without the vernacular that means anyone with something to teach can market that information. The wonder of digital technology makes this easier than ever.

Every successful information based business I know of has been based on education or entertainment (or both). The content can be delivered online or offline via text (email, PDF or print book), audio (MP3 or CD), or video (Flash or DVD). Sometimes that content is delivered by someone else (affiliate marketing, advertising). However it is delivered, it started with someone communicating content to “clients” — which means teaching.

Just in case you missed it: I am a huge fan of exchanging value by teaching from your passions.

What excuses have you used for not teaching yet?
What value will you exchange when you begin teaching?

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CANI in Teaching

I ran across the term CANI while learning about kaizen. CANI stands for Continuous And Never-ending Improvement, which is the same idea embodied in the Japanese word kaizen. Deming is the father-figure of the modern quality movement and brought the term kaizen back from Japan. Supposedly Tony Robbins decided to rebrand the idea with an American moniker and came up with CANI. Whatever it’s source, the concept of continuous improvement sets an interesting direction.

During my time teaching at the college level I discovered an aspect of teaching that is generally hidden from students. I felt like Dorothy skipping along singing “Rubrics, evaluations, and professional development! Oh my!”And like Dorothy I found that rather than being scary they became quite helpful in getting me further down the yellow brick road.

For those unfamiliar with these ideas here is a quick synopsis.

  • Rubrics are comparable to goal setting in a personal development setting. They are the criteria for how grades are assigned, which hopefully reflects a student’s mastery of the material. Good rubrics go beyond homeworks and tests. In fact a really well done rubric will make it clear what homework and tests are most appropriate for measuring understanding.
  • Teacher/course evaluations are filled out by the students as a form of feedback on how the teacher is doing. Because they are anonymous and administered near the end of the course the seriousness of responses vary widely. Those students who take the evaluations seriously can help a teacher “see the forest for the trees” but often they just nit-pick about the homeworks or tests — validly if the assignments are arbitrary instead of being outcome driven.
  • Professional development consists of activities intended to improve teaching abilities. Taking short courses, workshops, or other continuing education can all contribute to an improved learning experience for the students.

Here are a few key aspects needed for continuous improvement: you must know what your goal is, how well you are doing now, and how you will determine how well you are doing in the future. This is similar to planning a road trip — where are we going, where are we now, and how will we know when we are going the right direction?

Do you know where you are going? Where are you starting from?
How will you determine when you are getting closer to your goals?

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“Clients” in Teaching

Ever since I heard Jay Abraham explain the difference between a customer and a client I’ve considered everyone I interact with as a client. Merriam-Webster quickly shows the difference in attitude with the first definition of each word.

customer : one that purchases a commodity or service
client : one that is under the protection of another

Set aside the curse embodied in being a commodity. As a consumer would you rather be approached as “one that purchases” or “one that is under [my] protection”? This one word change (and the attitude that goes with it) may be the difference between a transaction with a customer and a relationship with a client.

In education there are several similar distinctions to be made.

student : one who attends a school
pupil : a child or young person in school or in the charge of a tutor or instructor

teacher : one whose occupation is to instruct
mentor : a trusted counselor or guide

When students are thought of as customers then teachers become commodities and are interchangeable. When pupils are considered clients then mentors become irreplaceable because of the trust and experience involved in the relationship.

Where in your life are you treating people as if they just show up (customer, student) when you could build a relationship (client, pupil)?

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Commerce in Teaching

“Squidoo is unashamedly commerce based because our world is commerce based.”
— Seth Godin Flipping the Funnel

This statement buried in the middle of one of Godin’s random ebooks has tuned my awareness of when and where commerce takes place. (Hint, commerce happens every time and place there are people interacting.)

If you strip down the idea of commerce to its basest form you are left with quid pro quo, “this for that”, value for value. We trade work for food. Time for entertainment. Emotion for good feelings. Service for satisfaction. Energy for learning. (Remember, money is an abstract form of stored energy that we trade for the things we really want and need.)

Education (teaching and learning) is no different than any other part of life. We still trade time, energy, and money for what we want.

I had experienced more of the commerce side of higher education than I realized — until Godin tuned my awareness. While teaching at a small two-year college I was exposed to nearly every facet of running an educational institution. Each step was commerce based: recruiting students, soliciting donations, even the registration and financial aid processes. Each one involved trading value for value. At each step the student traded time, energy, and money for knowledge, skills, and recognition. While you may not intend to grant degrees you can still model the quid pro quo of education.

What value are you willing to trade for what you want in life?

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Communication in Teaching

So we’ve got a passionate, knowledgeable professional. Does that automatically make them a good teacher? Not if they can’t communicate what they know.

Communication is more than just sending words out into the aether and expecting some response. It is a two way exchange. One person shares their thoughts and gets feedback from another. The words we use make up a very small portion of the communication channel we typically use. Non-verbals dominate any communication between humans.

Here is a brief list of sub-bands that we communicate through.

  • Words – vocabulary, jargon, language patterns
  • Tonality – pitch, tempo, timbre, tone, inflection, emphasis
  • Body – posture, positioning, balance
  • Hands – relationship to space, gestures to hallucinations, motion
  • Eyes – accessing cues, focal depth
  • Skin – muscle tone, color, temperature

Almost all of this communication takes place out of conscious awareness. Very rarely do people notice more than vocabulary or particularly bad tonality. Most of the other aspects often need to be very blatant for people become consciously aware.

Your assignment today is to choose one of the six examples and observe within that channel as many responses as possible.  Report back below.

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Content in Teaching

Like a kite with no wind a teacher with no content is a big flop. Without content, the substance of what is being taught, “teaching” can come off as preaching or just acting like a know-it-all.

There are many poor substitute teachers reciting lines from an instructor’s manual or just being a warm body to “babysit” a class full of would-be-learners. Unfortunately there are times it seems the warm bodies outnumber the professionals who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their subject.

But where did those knowledgeable teachers get their knowledge? And how can they be enthusiastic about a subject for years or decades?

The short answer: hard work and passion.

How about a less enigmatic answer. Most professional teachers, just like the multitude of “amateur” teachers, learned about their subject by applying the KAB principles. Knowledge was gained by reading about the topic, observing others first hand, direct experience, and commentary by others. Awareness developed through all of these activities and was reinforced over time. Behaviors change based on the knowledge and awareness.

Of course all three KAB aspects are in play when you just do it. It is hard not to increase your awareness while applying your knowledge performing specific behaviors. Not to mention the increased value of knowledge gained by being in the trenches and experiencing and behaving in the ways you practiced.

And as I turn the focus on you I can hear the chorus: “But I can’t teach. I don’t know anything people want to learn about!”

We often get caught up in the idea that teachers know more than other people. And to a certain extent that is true — but only if we let those “other people” be their students and we specify that the area of knowledge is limited to the subject being taught. Everyone has something they are passionate and knowledgeable about.

Which brings us to the other key that keeps professional teachers on top of their game for years. They love the game! They have passion for their topic and so all the “hard work” everyone else sees is counted only joy by the teacher.

Occasionally that passion is born out of a need or a pain. Cancer patients and their families often get a crash course in medical jargon and technology. Those who have gone through the process naturally know more about what is involved than those who have never experienced the disease. The “pain” can also be as mundane as how to catch a mole that has made its winter home in your laundry room (don’t ask). At the very least I know a lot more than most about what moles do not eat and what does not work to trap them. Kind of like the Benjamin Franklin approach to light bulbs.

Now, if you did the needs inventory I suggested recently you also created an inventory of your resources. Now is a perfect time to re-visit that list and continue to add with this thought in mind: everyone knows something, has experienced something, and is passionate about something.

What do you know something about?
What have you experienced? Felt passionate about? What has pained you?

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan | 2 Comments »

Wombats, Teaching, and Marketing — Oh My!

Over the next few weeks we will examine the many parallels between teaching and marketing. To kick off the topic I found an appropriate, and amusing, story that ties together teaching and marketing (and wombats).

Without futher ado, I present to you The Wombat Report (936k PDF).

Who are the wombats in your life?
Where can you stop being a “Grammar Cop” and start taking action as an “anti-wombat”?

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Need to Educate (or Ten Points for Educators to Address a la Maslow)

There is an amazing power in being able to name something, whether or not that label is 100% accurate. Maslow did more than just model excellence in self-actualizing people. His metaphor of the needs hierarchy has influenced and inspired countless individuals.

I believe the biggest influence Maslow has had on society is by way of teachers. Who else has access to as many “young, impressionable minds” and the feeling of duty to explore these ideas? Along those lines I’d like to share the “ten points educators should address” (edited from this source to remove the shoulds and musts).

  1. Teach people to be authentic, to be aware of their inner selves and to hear their inner-feeling voices.
  2. Teach people to transcend their cultural conditioning and become world citizens.
  3. Help people discover their vocation in life, their calling, fate or destiny. This is especially focused on finding the right career and the right mate.
  4. Teach people that life is precious, that there is joy to be experienced in life, and if people are open to seeing the good and joyous in all kinds of situations, it makes life worth living.
  5. Accept the person as he or she is and help the person learn their inner nature. From real knowledge of aptitudes and limitations we can know what to build upon, what potentials are really there.
  6. See that the person’s basic needs are satisfied. This includes safety, belongingness, and esteem needs.
  7. Refreshen consciousness, teaching the person to appreciate beauty and the other good things in nature and in living.
  8. Teach people that controls are good, and complete abandon is bad. It takes control to improve the quality of life in all areas.
  9. Teach people to transcend the trifling problems and grapple with the serious problems in life. These include the problems of injustice, pain, suffering, and death.
  10. Teach people to be good choosers. Provide opportunities to practice making good choices.

I am inspired and enthused by the fact that I already hold most of these in high regard in my own life and in my teaching. Whether you have your own children, dozens in your classroom, or only influence a single co-worker I feel these suggestions encourage each of us to make the world a better place. (For more teaching tips check out the full article and these other resources collected by the University of Hawai’i Honolulu.)

How do these guidelines influence and inspire your interactions?

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