Changes

I don’t know who first said it, but my mother was partial to the saying, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” It was her way of saying that there are some things in life that are constants, no matter what seems to be changing. Change is a given–how we react to it makes all the difference.

When I started teaching, we didn’t use PowerPoint. Transparencies were the height of technology along with a portable cassette player. Although much has changed, there are some constants:

Learners still want information they can use (in life, in their business, etc.). Relevance is important. How you present topics can depend on the audience, but whether they grasp the concepts can depend on how well you relate the information to their situation.

Classrooms are where subjects are taught and learners learn. Today, a classroom may be a place people gather to learn or an online environment, a virtual classroom.

Performance is what we measure to determine how well learners grasp the concepts and skills acquired. In school, performance is often measured by tests and quizzes. In professional development, we look at how well learners put the skills into practice. We might measure sales made or actions taken as a result of training.

Change is inevitable, and I’ve seen many changes in education. Take for example the classroom. Much of my teaching today takes place in a virtual environment through live webinars and video training. The method of delivery influences how skills are taught. I cannot immediately monitor whether my learners are actually acquiring the skill I’m presenting. Instead, I must look at other factors such as feedback on surveys, questions asked, and results.

My learners are less enthused about sitting in a traditional classroom and listening to a lecture today. If they sit in a classroom, it can’t be for too long, and there has to be activity. I try to break up the material into chunks that consist of information presented by me, picture or video representations of the information, and group or partner activities to reinforce the subject matter. Breaks are important, too. Never underestimate the value of a well-timed break in the session!

Virtual classrooms and learning represent one of the biggest changes in education and professional development. Once, we discussed how we would implement “distance learning” with fear and dread. What if they watched a class that was taking place in a different location? What would we do if learners didn’t show up to our classes? How would we assess their progress if we couldn’t see them? Would this be the end of teaching?

The reality is that it takes much skill to devise and deliver effective online learning. What may be the biggest change in education in the past several years has not been the death of the need for instructors and instructional developers.

Even if some things in professional development change, we learn new techniques and adapt our approaches to be able to continue to help people grow in their careers. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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