The Educational Point of View: The teachable moment

It is an educational practitioner’s role (I argue) to engage with social media, to look beyond the surface layers of services like Youtube and get beneath it, to create accounts and subscribe to new content feeds, to favorite and comment and connect, and to realise the deeper layers of what is available in social media collections, and to help identify quality information and resources and help it to emerge and rise above other content. Further, if by chance that teacher notices something missing, or something in need of correction, to see that need as an opportunity for them to create the additional or corrective media and add it back into the social media so that it can play its role in that wider collective context. Its “teachable moment”.

The Educational Point of View « Learn Online

I reckon Leigh’s hit the nail on the head here. And the contested role of the teacher as facilitator is all the more apparent. If I look to bell hooks’s work with popular culture artifacts, this is another demonstration of using social media to generate ‘teachable moments’. Mitra’s work is also a good example – a social experiment contesting the role/need of the classroom as a ‘prerequisite’ for learning.

Our learning, as with our teaching is iterative, messy, frustrating, serendipitous and we often fight to control it so as to make it neat and tidy (as we’ve been expected to do), especially in conventional educational contexts. This is why I like the notion of ‘hot action’ that David Beckett (1995, 2001) writes about – it acknowledges the work done ‘on the fly’ with a confidence and a grasp of knowledge that enables someone to push forward to pick up a new skill, strategy or process, whatever it might be. It validates what people develop, understand and learn ‘in action’, whilst working, living, playing – whatever it is that makes up our day (although Beckett talks about the workplace as the context for ‘hot action’).

There’s also the acknowledgment of the body and bodily understanding in Beckett’s notion (not a new thing if you look at work by Merleau-Ponty for example). This isn’t about ‘muscle memory’, repetitive actions refining practical skills, it is more about how our bodies carry and dispense social cues and facets of power (see Foucault’s Power/Knowledge and work by McLaren (1986) and Turner (1982) on the body and ritual for example). This is how we BE, our Self within a social context loaded with power, social politics – the body politic, ‘regimes of truth’ (again, see Foucault). We don’t just teach, we are the embodiment of teaching, likewise a student, a mother, a singer, a carpenter. We don’t simply take on the role – we BE, through our veins, our eyes, our voice, our skeleton.

And so to Leigh’s final paragraph:

I am beginning to let go of the idea that the education sector will ever make an impact on the development of social media for education and that either something else will fill that opportunity, or that darker elements such marketing and shallow entertainment will take advantage of the illiteracy and ignorance that the education sector permitted to exist. This is no reflection on the people at Orange by the way. Its just that after 5 years of doing this, I can’t see anywhere near the level of change in the educational mindset, and the wider society to that measure, that I thought should have taken place by now. Others more senior and more experienced than I assure me that a significant change is happening, but that the education sector can only respond when those changes are prevalent throughout society, rather than be the one to make the change or prepare a society for the change. And that is a fact that I am beginning to see the fairness of.

I don’t for a second believe that “the education sector” should be waiting until the “greater society” shows prevalent change – we ARE the greater society aren’t we? How can we dissect society in this way? Is change about taking turns? What makes education sit outside the greater society? Since when do we need some sort of permission to “respond when those changes are prevalent”? Who will tell us when that happens?

Stick to your guns Leigh – the proof is in the practice. Surely a critical mass of ‘teachable moments’ must at some point amount to a revolution?

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. –Margaret Mead

Beckett, D. (2001) ‘Hot Action’ At Work: Understanding ‘Understanding’ Differently, in T. Fenwick (ed.) Socio-Cultural Perspectives on Learning Through Work. New Directions for Adult and Community Education Series. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

Beckett, D. (1995) Adult Education as Professional Practice. PhD thesis.

McLaren, P. (1986) Schooling as a Ritual Performance. Taylor & Francis.

Turner, V. (1982) From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play. PAJ Publications.

4 comments so far

  1. leigh blackall on

    Thanks for the encouragement Marg, and for the pointers to further reading.

    The concern implicit in that final paragraph you cite, is that we (that is people like you and I) may be playing more of a social engineering role because we see only a potential for positive change at a larger social scale (to the scale of educational institutions). We can’t really be sure that things like social media will stimulate a positive change at that scale – in fact al the evidence I have is that all social media has done so far is highlight the false assumptions in the education sector. It seems to me that we can only be sure of positive change at a very personal and local community level.. the conversational level. Beyond that scale, we can’t be sure and so I think we should become more circumspect. It is only the existence of educational institutions, and the employment it gives you and I, that we mistakenly consider things on that unwieldy scale.

  2. alexanderhayes on

    I’d like to explore with you as to when we could kick off that virtual ALARA event that we spoke of last year ?

    Hope all is well your way.

    Married at last –

    Off to Noumea tommorow. Wish us luck 🙂

  3. Marg on

    Thanks Leigh, I agree with you certainly that change should begin with the individual and I think we’ve been attempting to do that but the mechanisms by which we’ve attempted this have been confined within the educational frameworks with which we are familiar and comfortable.

    As a consequence, we have become part of our own failure to see broad scale change occur, particularly when it comes to social media. We need to develop something of a critical pedagogy to combat our own efforts!

    If we are to truly invest in significant change it must be personal and deep rather than broad and all-encompassing, so that individuals can see how their actions can have an impact and also that they can commit in ways that are meaningful to them. I guess the phrase I use here is to “go to where people are at
    ” and work from there” – that’s where people are investing their efforts so far!

  4. Marg on

    Hi Alex,

    Love to talk more about ALARA ( and what we can do for the national conference.

    Here’s the blurb: Living Differently: Action Researching our way through the Ecological and Economic Meltdown

    In the midst of successive waves of ‘bad news’ about our global economy and ecology, Action Learning and Action Research practitioners are turning their visions, objectives and methodologies to the newly emerging context. At the same time, many of us also encounter in the communities, organisations and people with whom we work, an inability to fully engage with the new realities. The liberal use of words like ‘sustainability’ may make things seem well, but is the needed response really galvanising?

    Call for papers is already open, so perhaps we can talk about ways to present what’s been happening with EDUPOV?

    Exciting stuff!

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