A while back I was having banjo lessons. The banjo teacher couldn’t actually play the banjo. He was a fantastic guitar teacher, but had zero experience of banjos. He would joyfully rationalise this situation by assuring me (after he’d taken my £20) with soothing words, “don’t worry my son; as long as I stay one step ahead of you we’ll be just fine….”
Things felt a bit like this last week when I helped out at the Canton Social Media Surgery, with me staying just about one step ahead.
Having spent a while blogging, using twitter and other bits of social media I felt like I had enough experience to do my bit and help other people. I was slightly anxious, being very much in the territory of that Eleanor Roosevelt quote of “do one thing every day that scares you”. The other side of this was forcing myself to become more competent by trying to teach what I knew, a bit of a test……….. well I wasn’t disappointed.
Juliette and Nicky did a good job of preparing me. Plenty of pre-surgery reading, assuring me I’d be fine and giving me the grand title of ‘surgeon’. I was then introduced to my ‘patient’ a lovely lady. As I recall this is how it played out:
- Lady: “I’m not that good with technology”
- My thoughts: Great I’m on safe ground here…..
- Lady: “I’m interested in WordPress, but I don’t know very much”
- My thoughts: Excellent, I’m bound to dazzle you with my knowledge…..
- Lady: “I have been on holidays, the campsite had WIFI so I’ve been looking at WordPress”
- My thoughts: okaaay……..this could be interesting……..
- Lady: “I’ve done some WordPress research….” and she produced an A4 notebook containing what looked like about 20 pages of neatly written notes
- My thoughts: Arrgghhh…….. Where’s the fire escape!
Fortunately we had a chat about Twitter while I gathered my senses and then we moved onto WordPress. In the end everything went very well. I found out that I do actually know a few things, and learnt quite a lot as well. Admittedly some of the learning came later that evening when I got home and clicked a few WordPress things (not that anyone would notice).
This process of learning was a big thing for me was. Recently I heard Physics Teacher Alessio Bernadelli talk about how first year sixth form students (year 12) had learned about photo electricity by posting blogs to be reviewed by year 6 students. The act of explaining what they knew to others helped their personal understanding. This is nicely summed up in a post from another teacher, Lucy Bunce in her blog where she quotes from the book Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams…….”What I mean is that if you really want to understand something, the best way is to try and explain it to someone else. That forces you to sort it out in your mind”
My experience at Canton Social Media Surgery was about combining three things:
- really understanding what I know by explaining it to someone else;
- staying just one step ahead; and
- learning from the person you are teaching.
Overall this made for a very rewarding experience. Thanks to my ‘patients’ who were very tolerant and to Juliette and Nicky for letting me take part, hopefully I’ll get invited back next time.
So, what’s the PONT?
- As Dirk Gently says, if you really want to understand something, explain it to someone else.
- It’s amazing what you learn from the people you are supposedly teaching, just be sure you open yourself up, look and listen.
- In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “do one thing every day that scares you”. It worked for me.