If the Horse is Dead, Dismount
Years ago (back in the Dark Ages) when I was a young pastor, I would attend many of the leadership conferences offered by Willow Creek Community Church. Willow Creek was one of the early pioneers in the megachurch movement. At one of the conferences (I don’t remember exactly which one) I took note of what Willow Creek’s Senior Pastor, Bill Hybels, said regarding the need for our churches to change to meet the needs of the culture, ͞”If the horse is dead,” he said, “dismount.” This relates to education, but let me introduce that by using another example.
I took that idea of dismounting the dead horse back home with me to Texas where our churches were fighting the Worship Wars. I had been discouraged because we couldn’t get on with our mission in my home church. I was desperately trying to get our church into the 19th century. I know it was the 20th century but I thought we should take it one century at a time. I didn’t mind giving my life for the battle, I just wanted it to be the right battle. In those days, the term ͞”liberal” in our churches had nothing to do with classical liberalism like denying the resurrection. It referred only to those who thought it might be a good idea to change some things, not doctrine, but in approach.
So much of the energy of the church was being exhausted on resisting change that the very word became a vulgarity. And, like the Russian Orthodox Church of 1917 arguing over the color of the vestments of the clergy as cannon fire could be heard in the outskirts of Moscow, many churches in the 1980s were determined not to change anything. In the sociology of institutional evolution, Man, Movement, Monument, and Memory, we were in the monument stage.
Now, to be sure, every institution, both secular and sacred, engages to some extent in this same battle when it comes to change. The world of education is no different. The mission to educate is still the same; the battles however tend to be ͞”how much should we change to meet a new generation of learners?” As an adjunct, I do not know how much this battle rages on an institutional level when it comes to American universities, but I know that most of us instructors deal with it to one degree or another in our own approaches to education. Why do I need a computer?
Think of the edubable that has been added to the academic vocabulary. LMS, Wiki, MOOC, ELearning, MLearning, Blog, Gamification, Landing Page, Flipped Classroom, Screen casting, Artifact, Webliography, and Twitter, are just a few words of the new vocabulary. But, trust me, it can get even worse. Are you aware of the controversy over NQTs being involved with the EBDs because in the UK you have to be a SENCo? If you’re not familiar with that battle, don’t worry, you can still be a great teacher.
Here are some things you can do to open yourself to changes in education:
- Overcome techno-phobia. Some psychologists call this behavioral desensitization. I believe in it. By slowly exposing yourself to the digital world, you can eventually overcome that fear. Let your kids or even grandkids, help you. My 5 year old granddaughter taught me how to play Angry Birds, and it still bothers me that she can beat me. .
- Take the time to learn: We have an incredible Tech Department at OKWU. They are fluent in both Geekese and Normalese. We are so blessed. They’re here to help us. There’s nothing that drives me crazier than calling tech support in a foreign country, trying to understand their attempts to navigate me to the right place on my computer while at the same time decrypt their accent. And guess what? I even lived in that country. There are so many professional development opportunities here at OKWU like the 8th Floor which is free to professors at our university. There are many others. Many tutorials are available on Blackboard.
- Resist boredom. Okay, I’m old—at least my body is. I’ve had to determine whether I wanted to spend the rest of my days doing the same old thing the same old way, or if I wanted to reinvent and revitalize my teaching. I’ve always loved doing research. There has never been a better time to do quality research in such an amazingly easy way. I confess, I didn’t even know where the library was located on the college campus from which I got my BA. Today, we have LIBRARIES as close as our keyboards.
- Don’t believe the Rumors. There’s a false narrative going around that older teachers are actually slowing down the educational process of many universities. I don’t believe it. And it’s especially not true here at OKWU. Check this out: A survey of 11,132 teachers revealed that “Defying conventional wisdom, older teachers are as comfortable and fluent using technology as their younger colleagues” (http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/speakup_data_findings.html 5).
Back to the dead horse, I will admit that the comparison of dismounting from it is not a perfect metaphor for adapting to the digital age. For many of us, I don’t think our education horse is necessarily dead; it may be just a little tired. Maybe it’s time to mount the fresh horse and at least give it a try. Change is always uncomfortable, but comfort is not our mission. Educating our students in the best way possible is.
Remember, at the last great meeting of the dinosaurs, they voted not to change.