By Chris A. Heidelberg III, Ph.D., Publisher & Producer & Isidra Person-Lynn
This is the final interview in a series of interviews with Professor Isidra Person-Lynn on my uses of blogging and social media in the classroom as part of my learner-centered approach called edutainment & convergence to learning, thinking, communicating and collaborating. I have to warn you that I call out some of my colleagues who are so old school that their thinking leaves out the school and it is just plain "old" thinking without a sense of the history behind why things are the way that they are in education historically speaking. The truth is that the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks and Hellenists believed in the use of edutainment for learning. How do we know this? Well, education was only provided to the royal and religious class, and storytelling through religious ceremonies, festivals, dances, griots and artwork were used to convey important religious teachings to the masses (Heidelberg, 2008; History Channel, 2009; Pollard & Reid, 2006). In fact, religious temples in Alexandria actually competed for visitors through edutainment and ancient technology demonstrations to raise funds and attendance (Heidelberg, 2007; History Channel, 2009; Pollard & Reid, 2006). However, edutainment was taken from the anals of credible learning due to idealogy and religion. I often find it difficult to say this as a person of faith, but then again people have always used the name of God to justify everything from slavery to wars to sexism to discrimination so I should know better!
Professor Isidra Person-Lynn:
What direct message would you have for educators, especially writing coaches when it comes to blogging and social media?
Me: I would advise them to get over themselves and get with the program use these new school tools with their old school tools. Every educator and writing coach has greatness within themselves and the talent to change and transform the old with the new. How do I know? Edutainment is truly and old school tool that goes back to Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Alexandria, Rome and Paris.
However, Emperor Justinian was persuaded to close The Academy at Athens because of the "heathen" or questionable moral behavior of the Athenians, and then the Library and Museum at Alexandria was burned down by unknown events or persons. These actions literally took the interactivity and the fun out of education and made it the "sage on high show" where students got locked into everything from standards to the whims of some professors with axes to grind or on authority trips.The goal is to transform the student into a philospher-leaders to paraphrase Plato (since there are few kings left to be philospher-kings). This cannot happen when students cannot articulate in writing or verbally. Since human beings have been trying to communicate visually and verbally throughout the ages based on the Great Pyramids in Egypt and in South America and the cave paintings, it stands to reason that writing is the physically extension of the verbal story. Once we can teach a student to tell a story verbally in the correct manner; it is much easier to transform the written version of the student's story. We can even teach punctuation marks as signs along the road. For example, the period would be a red light and so would a question
mark. A comma could be a sign to pause and slow down for the speed bump and go slower after the speed bump because a light is coming up soon. A semi-colon could tell you to slow down because you have a speed bump, but then you can proceed at the posted speed again. A colon could be a green light for a long list of signs that are coming up like deer, falling rock, speed cameras, children crossing, hotels, gas stations, restaurants and super markets. My point is that for most people we have to start concrete and then we can move on to complicated abstract concepts like conflict, structure, and metaphors. Most people can learn this by doing it, and then we can explain to them what they have done in theory and in the deeper context of writing.
The interesting fact that I have noticed is that once many of my concrete learners understood an abstract concept they mastered it and never forgot it because they had been educated in a concrete manner that fit their indivdual learning styles. One of the first things that I did was to find out what types of convergence devices that my students owned (iPods, cell phones, gaming devices, computers, digital cameras) and what was there learning style. This is what happens in my class. You teach what you learn because you are the director, the producer, the writer, the casting agent, the location manager, the public relations person (who have to write a lot of persuasive copy) and the actor. The ultimate compliment to a professor is when his or her students can emulate them and add some of their individual style to what you have taught them when they teach their peers. All great philosphers and religious figures from Moses to Socrates to Christ to Mohammed to Confucius challenged their followers that they would do even greater things if they stuck to the teachings.
So when an old school professor presents me with issues on technology based learning, I present them with the history of edutainment and how it can work with convergence. My question is this: why did we stop teaching the art of storytelling? This is what social media and blogging allow one to do.We can all see the same event on YouTube, iTunes or our iPods repeatedly and then write our
analysis of the event based on our unique perspective. As a professor, I believe that blogging enables a student to get it right on multiple levels. We worry so much about how many times students get it wrong , when our real concern is this: do the students get it right in the end when it is time to give them their final grade.
This is the measure of what they learned on their road to writing, but sometimes we as educators get stuck on what we do not have with our students instead of focusing on a learner-centered approach which I learned through reading Dr.Barbara McCombs who has written and researched extensively on this subject and I actually got to meet her and become acquainted with her on a more personal level through my friend Dr. Reid Cornwell. Get her books on Amazon LOL! We work together as part of The Center For Internet Research where I am the executive director, and we are continuing the search for innovative approaches to educations such as learner-centered principles, natural learning and edutainment and convergence which encompasses both of these approaches.
Seriously, I am a unique hybrid of a professor, researcher, edutainer, speaker, techie, working writer/producer/director and social media specialist and now that I realize that these experiences and gifts have helped me I am working on having books on how to apply edutainmentand convergence and my research (theoretical and applied) ready for fall online so stay tuned. It is one thing to tell folks to do something but it is quite another to show them and that is what I plan on doing. I really appreciate this opportunity to speak with you Isidra.