A two-part adventure with tragedy, desperation, redemption and hope.
My name is George Machlan and I am a do-it-yourself addict. I have been sober for two weeks and I am happy to be free. I, like many of you, have taken on the role of being superman since I first came online to try teaching. Some of us have learned this mode of behavior from birth in our cultures. I think that it actually crosses cultural borders in that, at the heart, it is about control. As a control freak I certainly did not like the burden I put on myself but I just knew that nobody could do it as well as I. Have you believed that you must do so much yourself to be successful, that you find yourself alone and overwhelmed? Have almost given up on having enough time to achieve your goals? Then take heart and listen to my story…
Once upon a time there was a pretty cool guy named George who wanted to find an online path to achieve significance. Pretty typical among older males who wish to impart some of their wisdom to the next generation, he decided to teach. As he was not credentialed, his only venue was the online frontier where almost anyone could carve out a niche.
The first path he traveled was the path of accumulating provisions for the journey ahead. It seemed a reasonable efficiency to have a myriad of class materials on hand for all contingencies encountered. Then, no matter the time constraints on a given day, he would have class support materials ready. He also continuously developed lesson plans which were hardly ever used because the class dynamics would never settle down to a consistent demographic of learners. After four years and thousands of documents he quit spending so much time on these. He found the freedom to let go of that task and concentrate on what he does best. He is a coach/teacher/motivator with a flair for fun. He now uses free or inexpensive materials that are online. These materials are made by professionals with course writing skills and passions. Current favorites are from Jacek at English-4U and the Visual Dictionary. Next up he will be experimenting with materials from Brad at Edulang and Jason with Fluency MC.
The second path for our hero, George, was to try to become the master of every learning app, portal, gadget and cool tool that everyone flashed before his computer screen. Dear reader, I need not tell you of the hopelessness of this online malady. Probably 95% of would-be online teachers suffer from this cruel task master. It is not that there are not some very cool apps out there, the problem is that it never ends. And much as the curse of Atlas, you too may be doomed to forever trying to hold that orb up. Our hero now has chosen three platforms to maintain his skills on. Skype, WizIQ and Vokle. Each has properties to serve a specific class dynamic. While there are others popping up every day, he chooses to stay with his students and his first love of teaching rather than pursuit of the Holy Grail, aka the perfect widget for online teaching.
This also means that he does not even look at the latest and greatest things like mobile learning. The burden is simply too great to carry alone, others will prepare the way and when the time is right, he will allow them to bring him on board. This revelation that others can prepare the way without him allows our hero time to live a life and even make time for family and friends. Surfing the internet is no longer scary because he does not fear finding a new app that must be learnt.
A path not taken was a truly academic path. The LMS (learning management systems) underworld with all of the demons and darkness that entails. Our hero (George) was never under the thumb of administrative types with the attendant demands of structure and accountability. However it is truly amazing that conventional teachers would bring that monster to the online world. I guess the old saying, “The evil we know…” is at work here. In any case, IF the online class materials are chosen carefully (e.g. Edulang and Khan Academy) one can let them take care of these administrative type tasks. For George, if it doesn’t fit on his blog or FB class info pages, it is pitched.
The paths our hero and each of us takes are very similar. While the reader may take exception to the particulars, it seems systemic that we all spend far too long on unproductive paths. We legitimize this by referring to professionalism and self sufficiency dogmas. Kindly grant artistic license to the story and play along with the premis that we corporately, if not individually are constantly trapped on dead-end paths. Are we spending far too much time on unproductive pursuits? Is there simply not enough time to be and know everything?
– End of part 1 –
Stay tuned for part 2 where Hero passes through the bowels of Hades (aka Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and SEO) narrowly escaping into his newfound “Promised Land” and his “happily ever after” path where you can now find him spending most of his time and energy teaching.