5 Change Before You Have To

A photo of John Hadjimarcou
Figure 5.1: John Hadjimarcou

John Hadjimarcou

I wish I could take credit for the title of this essay, which is a quote attributed to Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. Although he is referring to change in business organizations, the same idea applies to teaching and learning. We are frequently confronted by myriad new teaching ideas, methods, and techniques, and it is very easy to just say the heck with it. But change is always good as long as it brings about positive and desired results.

Change has come to the media in the form of technology using names such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. The initial reaction of most faculty members was that all these new modes of communication were just distractions. “Let’s keep them out of the classroom,” many of us said. While social media have changed the lives of our students for better or worse, we have been sticking up for “traditional” education and insisting that there is no place for this new “stuff” in the hallowed grounds of our universities. No way, no how, no matter what! We are just too sophisticated for something like that. Learning cannot happen on Facebook. How can you mix Mark Zuckerberg’s desire for millions of dollars and world domination with learning? And just when we thought we had won the battle, here comes the bright, young, recently graduated assistant professor who knows everything, even keeping her students informed on Facebook. She ruined it for the rest of us. Where did we go so wrong?

It is our duty not to use something just for the sake of using it, but to use it in a way that makes sense.

So, who is, in fact, right? The answer is not as straightforward as it might seem. Yes, new, shiny stuff always looks better, stronger, more efficient, and more effective. But how do we really know whether that’s the case? Well, rather than simply jumping on or off the bandwagon of the next version of Canvas or Blackboard or even Facebook, why not study these media and learn about them? Will these tools really change our lives and those of our students? I am all for change, and I love shiny new things as much as the next guy or gal. But how this “stuff” improves learning is not clear. It is our duty to not use something just for the sake of using it, but to use it in a way that makes sense. If you decide to adopt something new, study it in a way that allows the laggards in the group to be informed and to perhaps use it as well. As teachers, our responsibility does not stop with our students. If we find out about something that will help all students learn better, then we should certainly pass it on, share it, write about it, tweet it, and post it. Is Jack Welch right? I don’t know. It depends on how good this change is. Keep sharing.

A photo of UT San Antonio campus with overlayed text reading, "Teachers don't give grades, students earn them."
Figure 5.2: UT San Antonio
A photo of John Hadjimarcou
Figure 5.3: John Hadjimarcou


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