I wrote an earlier version of this article on LinkedIn, back in 2016, but I thought it might be worth a moment to revisit an epiphany that I believe continues to affect and shape the way I think about both teaching and learning.

WARNING WARNING WARNING – I am about to unleash some fairly uncomfortable (personal) truths here.

Back then I was taking a postgraduate class, listening to an online lecture delivered by a rather distinguished (pompous) and prestigious (arrogant) gent with a doctorate from an even more prestigious (possibly over-rated?) university.  Bear in mind this was before the advent of “video for all”, and he approached the 80+ folks listening online as he might a freshman class in the dignified and hallowed halls he was used to teaching in:

In other words, he spent a solid 30 minutes brow-beating us about how he was “not about to waste his valuable time…” and “we had best prove ourselves worthy…” of the knowledge he was about to “gift us”

Having a bit of my own share of arrogance, a masters degree, and many, many years teaching technical students, I felt a bit peed upon.

Now mind you, this was a super bright guy.  Had done some truly inspired research. But he had the value chain completely backwards.  I was paying him, and not the other way around. He was providing a service: Delivery of Knowledge in an area that I had chosen from a catalog (or menu). In essence, I realized: he was my pizza boy.

This changed the way I teach and train in my own classes – I hope for the better.

My professor from that class was working with an outdated model – that knowledge was rare and precious, and doled out sparingly only to the most privileged. This worked in days past.  But, today?  YouTube it, dude.

Though I had this revelation almost a decade ago, it seems so much more evident today:  Knowledge has become more democratized than ever.  A commodity rather than a rare material.  More and more companies are looking for the ability to learn, and to acquire learning on their own, not through some prestigious degree or course by some esteemed professor.  In fact, NPR recently posted a story on companies looking to diversify their workforces no longer requiring degrees.  More than ever, when it comes to more advanced skills, it’s the teacher that is lucky to have an audience, not the students lucky to have a teacher.  And this requires a bit of a mind-shift on the part of the person delivering:

Teachers / Trainers / Pedagogues – deliver a service. At the end of the day, I like to hope it’s more valuable than pizza delivery, but still – a service.  And today, like pizza delivery, it’s often more of a convenience than a necessity.  If it becomes too difficult, you can just go pick up your pizza (or your knowledge) yourself.

So how can this be helpful for us as teachers, trainers, etc?  We can approach our students and classes from the perspective of a service provider.

I believe instructors can better frame their classes, and the service they provide as facilitators, helping their participants better understand how to make a class more collaborative by their participation. I believe instructors (facilitators) can guide their students to better find the right knowledge resources to continue growing beyond the class while those resources are, er, well, still hot.  

In the next post I’ll include how I try to frame this.

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Published On: June 24th, 2020 / Categories: On Teaching, Training, Facilitating, Engaging and Presenting, Uncategorized /

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