Zen of Teaching

Antonio Vantaggiato

The Zen of Teaching project began on my blog “Skate of the Web” with the series of posts on Myths of Teaching & Learning some months ago, and was born of my interest to investigate the inertia to change of educational institutions and the alleged crisis of higher ed, especially in the States.

I had a wonderful opportunity this summer to be awarded a Scholar-in-Residence grant from New York University‘s Faculty Resource Network. During June I thus had the unbelievable, undeserved and awesome luck to live in NYC’s Village and to work almost every day within that gorgeous library on Washington Square Park.

I had a lot of fun to participate in an interview that Tim Owens and Jim Groom did to me for their DTLT Daily webcast. In the video, I try and explain what the project is about and what I did in NY during June 2011. See the video here.

I began writing what soon declared itself it wished to be a book. The idea is simple:

I write about the myths around teaching, learning and technology. Such myths tend to confuse teachers, researchers and students. Thus, I hope to clarify the matter a bit.

Those myths actually inhibit our understanding of teaching and learning & technology and compel us to live within often self-inflicted boundaries. The problem is that such boundaries have impeded us to utilize the new extraordinary technologies such the Web in really effective and creative ways. We’re just using the Web to do the same old stuff, just with a new tool, like Alan Kay likes to say.

I am also researching the “reality” beneath the surface of such concepts as “liberal arts” and its relationship to maths and science; the supposed “crisis” of higher education in the world; and the extravagant costs of this world in the US, among others. The idea again, is to help myself and other fellow faculty to better handle the new world and separate myth from reality. How do the freedom we enjoy in building and consuming Web content is pushing change in our courses? Are we aware of that freedom? What enemies to that freedom are there and what can we do to defend ourselves and our creations? How is downloading related to creation and course “content”? Is “Content” that important, actually? Why do we love to separate so much content from the form it is presented? May they not be one and the same thing?

After that part, which I worked on in June but is not completed yet, I am going to discuss what can be done and what is actually being done in the realm of real new paradigms being explored. So, I am going to talk about Siemens’ Connectivism, about the MOOCs, about Groom and Lambs’ edupunk idea, about Jim Groom‘s storytelling and ds106 radio construction, about books being shared before paper-publishing, and so on.

I also set up a series of interviews with people I consider pivotal in this exploration, and that includes thinkers & theorists as well as practitioners, teachers and students. I started with an awesome interview with Clay Shirky, moved on to a great groups discussion with Mikhail Gershovich, Luke Waltzer and others (which I am transcribing now and will post shortly here), another interview with GNA García, Gershovich and Michael Smith, and others with Sava and a delicious short interview at Think Coffee with Kathleen Fitzpatrick. I am profoundly indebted to all this people who contributed a whole lot to the discussion in my head and whose ideas and opinions are helping me put together material that would be too difficult to digest without and to try out my own ideas. This last component has been very important to me. Shirky and Fitzpatrick both understood immediately (and thus reassured me) of the worthiness of this work and its usefulness. Also, through interviews-discussions I could polish my own views by exposing them to the free market of ideas. I had a really good time in NY, with the writing, the interviews and all. In particular, I am very happy I had a chance to meet and enjoy the company of such good people! Particularly, I am so happy I spent almost a full day in Brooklin with the effervescent lovely GNA García, after she got bored by my interview the day before!!! What fun! When shall we meet again, hermana?

I will continue with the interviews here in Puerto Rico during the next months. I have two groups of interviews to do: the friends and colleagues here who lead the way in education and technology and who inspire me from the Puerto Rican community. Then, those whom I could not reach in the summer, Jim Groom, Siemens, Downes etc. I’ll post the interviews here, at least in those cases (not all) where I will be videotaping them.

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Myths of Teaching, Learning & Technology