I have been a college educator for more than 2 decades. Although I moved out of academia full-time and went back to my primary profession in healthcare, I still enjoy teaching as an adjunct with a number of institutions.
One of my favorite teaching gigs is in the Community Education division of the local community college. I have been teaching adults how to use technology in adult Ed classes for almost 5 years.
Often I am teaching people my age or even a little younger how to navigate basic technology. I have been immersed in the application and use of technology tools for many years. I have deep knowledge and experience in technology tools (expertise in using software including MS Office, Adobe Creative Suite; building elaborate databases with drop down menus, linked tables and auto-generating reports and can code in several programming languages), but my adult education students often come to me unsure of how to turn on their computers. The “internet” is a great mystery to them and forget about using a word processing or spreadsheet package. Technology, to these students, may as well be ancient Chinese script: they are tech-stymied and are coming to me to learn how to be more literate in the use of technology.
I’ve been teaching these specific classes for 5 years because I get great reviews from my students, who leave my classes with knowledge and skills they can apply in their lives and build on to improve their technology skills.
While I happen to believe that most things in the world can be improved with a better database, or a more detailed app (cell phone app, e.g.); if I blew into these classes and began to lecture about building a database with integrity, and insuring that the code in the background was debugged appropriately before running any new routines,… none of my students would learn anything useful. I’d get terrible reviews, there would be demands for refunds abound and I would not get any more asks to teach classes.
The students I see in the basic classes cannot understand the linking of tables with a primary key and indexing field in a database if they cannot turn on the computer and aren’t sure where to click when I say “open your browser“.
As a seasoned educator, I understand this, and so I teach about the computer as a digital filing cabinet, and demonstrate folders on the computer and relate these to the old school files, folders and drawers. Believe it or not, this sheds a LOT of light on the computer for many people.
I then move on to explaining the Windows operating system in user-friendly terms, and the use of a mouse as well as menus, and touch screen options.
Eventually, we put our toes into the water and begin to explore the basics of the software programs such as MS Office. By the end of most sessions, my students are able to navigate their computers, open software, explore the Internet, download photos they receive in email (and find them again later!) and function on a basic level in ways they were unable to before we met.
Some will continue to explore, learn and grow – often coming back to take more advanced classes that I am teaching – while others will be content to simply understand where their photos go when they download them from their email.
NOTE: in the 20th century, being illiterate (not being able to read and write) was a deterrent to a decent job. In the 21st century, being technologically illiterate is almost as big of a barrier to a decent job (decent = family sustaining wages).My opinion
My students come to me from all walks of life, and all manner of experience. Some of them are professionals who have worked in industries that are only now coming online in terms of technology and they need to upskill or they may face an earlier retirement than they planned to take. Some are stay-at-home Moms who are trying to reenter the workforce, and others are folks who need better skills to leave food service or retail jobs and make a living wage – sometimes they are ex-cons who are struggling to reenter the workforce and rebuild their lives.
My success, if I may be so forward, is that I understand that while *I* may think about the world through a complex technical lens, and while I can give an impromptu lecture on how a database is better than a paper file and why a spreadsheet is better than a paper ledger, and why online options are the way to go for banking; I would lose each and every student if I stayed on my perch and did not acknowledge that there are steps and levels that people must achieve before they can embrace that level of technology.
Why am I going on and on about teaching basic computer skills on a spiritual blog?
Because I have observed a tendency among some spiritual teachers to teach from the perspective of an expert and dismiss the basic building blocks. Yes, we are all one. Yes, we attract things to us. Yes, our persistent thinking creates the circumstances in our lives.
But if we stand up and say to someone, “That crisis in your life is something you attracted to yourself” or “We are all one, so the bad behavior in someone is really just your mirror reflection of your own issues” – we’re going to have the same luck in teaching spiritual principles as I would have if I went into a Basic Computer Class and began to blabber about writing SQL queries.
It will not compute (pun intentional).
If our goal is to teach spiritual principles, we must know more than the spiritual principles: we must posses a basic understanding of the teaching and learning process.
Whether we are talking computer skills or spiritual principles – we must learn to crawl before we walk, and walk before we run. We would all likely agree that lecturing a 6-month old baby on how to run a marathon seems like a ridiculous exercise. Standing in front of a class of senior citizens who don’t know what a browser is and telling them to “Google” something is just as ridiculous and insisting on teaching spiritual principles to those new to spiritual metaphysics from the level of someone who has been studying and applying them for many years is a zero-sum-game.
If we want to grow our communities, we must understand the teaching/learning continuum. My students would leave a 3-class series (and demand a refund) if I lost them on the first night. I’ve also had students come into my classes and report that the “other class” they took was a waste of time because the instructor took off right away making assumptions that they knew things that they had hoped to learn in the class and they were lost from the get-go.
In some ways, this is the opposite end of the continuum I have written about previously, and perhaps this is a good sign as it signals movement. We cannot continue to teach only introductory/how to classes for people who already know and are applying the principles in their lives. On the other hand, we also must not get so wrapped up in our own evolution that we forget from whence we have come.
Organizations that are hoping to serve the world by teaching spiritual principles must recognize the need for higher level “salons” for people who are more advanced where they can banter back and forth; and also “Intro to Spiritual Living” (generic term) classes that teach the basics for folks just coming into the teachings.
Colleges reserve 400-level courses for upper-class students (Juniors, Seniors) for a reason: you can’t do advanced calculus before you have mastered college algebra.
Growing up, I once heard this pejorative comment about teachers:
“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”
After several decades on both sides of this, I will revise this comment:
“Those who do are (sometimes) role models. Those who (can effectively) teach, hold the keys to the world”Me
And that’s all I have to say about that (for now) 🙂
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