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Development (Writing) and Delivery (Teaching)

Michael Ernest
High Plains Drifter
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Joined: Oct 25, 2000
Posts: 7292

I keep welling up into massive blog entries on this topic. Then I write them. Then I delete them. What I have to say on topic at the moment is so mired in the organizational dysfunctions of a big client that it's way easier to vent than sift. I'm hating it, because for now I'm at a loss for the long stretch of reflection I need to sort learning points from the environment I have to work. I'm thinking it makes more sense to start the conversation and balance ready-to-rant me with others who'd like to chat about this stuff.

Those of you that follow the Creating Passionate Users blog see the manifesto behind the Head First series and in general the mission to get people thinking, feeling, relating and therefore learning. That's the game and goal right there.

In the writing job I currently have, there's a disconnect between the 'content development' group (who create/control published course products) -- and 'content delivery' group (who connect customers, times, places, instructors, products to create 'events'). Some of the disconnect is territoriality, as it is in many places. But what's more surprising to me is how two sub-organizations who claim to focus on the customer (and indeed go through their idea of proper motions for that) seem to keep their irreconcilable differences on their sleeve.

The process for producing an instructional book, guide, online tutorial, whatever, is different from getting people to apply that information in a classroom setting. We can help people absorb some number of learning points in five days, yet it requires months of effort to produce the materials that guide the session.

Anyway, I'm expanding when I should be focussing. Here's a question for kicking around the Lounge: how intensely do you teachers scrutinize the materials you're given to teach from? How do you use them? Are your course materials the Bible or a sometimes-useful guideline? Who is the course developer's customer? You or the student. For the sake of contrasts in discussion, assume the course developer will only focus on teacher or student. Let's leave out the "I'll be teaching myself, so, ha!" thing for the moment.


Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.
- Robert Bresson
Neeraj Dheer
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 30, 2005
Posts: 225
Michael,

When i used to teach, the materials i referred to were more of a 'guideline' thing. I could never stick to one 'material' so to speak. Because what i always found out was that each material tended to focus on one primary area, leaving others untouched. Like you so rightly said: It is of paramount importance to decide who the end-customer is, the teacher or the student.
What i have noticed is that tutorial aimed at 'beginners(or students)' normally cover the basics, but not the 'concepts'. For ex: A beginner inheritance tutorial would describe what inheritance is(most likely than not, giving the famous 'car' or 'box' example) but would not talk about how it is actually implemented or the practical advantages and pitfalls of using it, whereas an 'advanced' tutorial on the same topic would assume i know all about the 'basics' of inheritance and would delve into more 'complex' issues.
So what i have had to do over the years is to refer to all kinds of tutorials before broaching any topic and take students from the 'beginners' to the 'advanced' ones.

Again, i am not blaming the content developers or the tutorial authors, cause well, a beginners tutorial is meant for beginners!!! And covering each and every aspect of even any one topic would normally always require volumes!!!

Also, i am not saying tht i do the best job of either finding the best tutorials or getting the 'mix' of beginners and advanced right, but i base my stuff on what i see being implemented in the industry and bridge the gap between the book and actual 'production' code.

i hope this helps and many, many thinks to the authors whose tutorials/books i have referred to over the years...not only have i learnt and benefitted from hem, but i am sure many, many others have to.
Ilja Preuss
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Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
In school, I always found classes that closely followed one book to be boring. It seems to me that an important part of motivating people to learn is trying to teach them the things they are interested in. For that you probably need a lot of flexibility - closely following one single source probably won't cut it.

Just my 0.02


The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny - it is the light that guides your way. - Heraclitus
Michael Ernest
High Plains Drifter
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 25, 2000
Posts: 7292

Both interesting points.

Neeraj, you might like this blog posting, which says in part what you are saying. I'd have more to say in response, but this article overlaps my thoughts well enough to dissuade me from further comment.

Ilja, you've hit on a point I'd like to develop and say more about. The biggest difference between a book (be it reference or learner) and a course guide, in my view, is the assumption that one does a better job of contributing to the classroom experience, if only because one of them tries to, and the other doesn't.

One might think that some authors with classroom training in mind would factor this in to course guides. I don't see a lot of that, and in my time I've taught from 50+ different course guides, not even counting major revisions among them.

I'm not talking just about dry, tech-transfer type course guides either. It seems to me a good course guide does two things at once. First, it presents a loose but coherent narrative that allows the student to see clearly a sustained build of ideas, a natural flow of topics. From that, it seems to me a sense of well-being that there's a plan (and a good one) will follow and so the student has every reason to stay engaged.

Second, the guide persuades the reviewing instructor that the plan is good enough to help them do what they do as teachers. That goal is a damn tall order, I'm here to tell ya. Part of my current kicking and screaming stems from trying to fix and update a spaghetti mess of an existing course guide. Given the time I have, there's no way I'll make it into something very good. Better, sure, but not worth the price they charge for it. There isn't enough calendar time to do the work, and I can't work 50 hours every week just to try and cover the difference. (Not on this kind of material anyway...)

And on particularly specialized topics, I suspect instructors want the course guide to be as completely behind their experience and desired presentation style as much as possible. So you'll rarely if ever get unanimous acclaim that a course guide is perfect, but done properly you could satisfy a large number of them perhaps.

What are some qualities you expect to see in a book or course guide that makes you think you're in good shape for the duration of the class?
 
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subject: Development (Writing) and Delivery (Teaching)