A Guide on the Side, that’s one of the best things to be when you teach.
At least, that’s what I heard. As a guide on the side, you never ignore the ways students learn from each other (and do not fall under a #5 pitfall of designing an online class!). You center your perception around student learning rather than your own teaching. I like this idea, but perhaps it’s the “on the side” part of the metaphor that throws me off; perhaps the “guide” part is more important. I would like to guide students on their own path of learning toward the class learning outcomes. But what exactly does it mean to be “on the side”?
Sure, there was a Sage on the Stage, who, probably, was one of your favorite professors ever.
Wasn’t there? Well, mine was, because there were no other kinds. My schooling happened in traditional dimly lit classroom environments in Eastern Europe (former USSR) where classroom activities were not encouraged. Even the chairs and desks wouldn’t move. However, the professors were passionate for teaching and learning, and they were inspired, inspiring, enthusiastic, and came across as a “students’ revered and primary access point to the desired knowledge”. Many students held them as role models and wanted to become as bright and knowledgeable.
In graduate school I took classes from the US professors who came to teach to the former USSR countries. They were no less impressive in terms of how much they knew in their chosen discipline, yet a different breed altogether. They structured classes between lecture and discussion; they let students bring in what was important for them, but they always made sure that some topics got developed and some died out. Perhaps, the concept of a “content curator” describes this approach which shaped my learning in graduate school.
In the context where the word curator is used most often, that is, in museums, the curator is the one who has a lot of power and authority over visitors. The curator is the one who has the last word on what gets included in an exhibit and what gets taught in a program.
I have rejected being a sage on the stage, so I won’t want to fall for a curator.
I do like the way Elizabeth St. Germain continues talking about it, “the one who prunes and trains the branches that extend from your expertise out into the world”. I like the idea of students growing the thoughts and ideas and me suggesting, “Feed this one with the works of C. Wright Mills, and it will flourish.” “This idea needs some time in a dryer environment.” “If you want to grow this, it might now grow here.” Can I be a master gardener in an online classroom?
Being a master gardener in an online classroom means supporting the branches that lead us toward the learning outcomes. Perhaps, sometimes branches that lead away in a way that is putting the entire plant off balance can be snipped. We all do it, and it seems to me that it is easier to do in the classroom face to face than online. What is said in the classroom disappears in the air if it is not supported by the instructor and the rest of the students. Online, it is written down on the discussion board.
How do you train and prune the branches on the discussion boards?