Q3- What does an ideal teacher do? How could just-in-time technology be used to do some of the same? How can we motivate more people to act as teachers for each other?
Hmmm..well it’s hard to say what an ideal teacher should do because teaching and learning are so intertwined. Also, as each learner is different with different needs, it’s hard to come up with generalized characteristics for what is a very personal experience and process for everyone. I guess based on my experiences, the characteristics of my best teachers have been those who have allowed me to develop personal relationships with them in some way. They had always made me feel that they had a vested interest in me and that they actually, truly cared about my successes, or failures. They provided encouragement, and guidance, but were also honest. Another characteristic was that they didn’t give me the answer, but they guided me appropriately by asking questions, listening, and generally creating an environment where I felt comfortable enough to express my doubts, concerns, and confusion without making me feel inferior.
So, I guess I would have to say that the ideal teacher would focus first on the relationship with the individual and then guide the learner through the learning process. Obviously, people can still learn regardless of these qualities, but I feel that these qualities instill in the learner something deeper than knowledge acquisition, which allows them to then move forward more independently and with less guidance. It also fuels those intangible qualities such as motivation and passion for something that many teachers wrestle with in their day to day interactions with students.
Because of the highly personal nature of this interaction, I’m fascinated by what form this could take in an online community and as the question above refers to, how it could be recreated in some form with just-in-time learning. Perhaps that could in the form of the interface itself which, in its visual design, could create that environment of comfort and ease that might not be there necessarily in the physical presence of a person. It could also come in the language expressed on the site itself. Language could be used that invite others to share, and the site or community gives feedback that leaves room for conversation and discussion rather than shutting it down. For example, I noticed that when a Scratch programmer shares something on the community, other users can show they like the creation by clicking on a heart. The symbolic gesture of the heart, instead of thumbs up already takes on a different form in a user’s mind. The relevance of this really hit home, when during a live feedback session with other students in my class, one of the students who really enjoyed my creation said, “Cool, I’m going to ‘love’ your program then” and proceeded to click on the heart. Just the word “love” versus “like” took on a completely different meaning, particularly when it was about something that I had just spent hours creating.
Finally, I think more people can be motivated to mentor by first setting up a solid foundation with a community-focused feel. Again, I think the Scratch community does an excellent job of this by providing many options for people to communicate, connect, and learn whether they be external (such as discussion forums and Scratch cards) or even through the medium itself (where students are programming tutorials for other students using Scratch). Once that foundation is set, early adopters and those who have already shown an inclination to help others could be recognized and given opportunities to do more of that. I also feel that the learning process would be deepened if these early adopters worked with those who had an actual need, so information learned would be remembered more readily, and thus could be later shared with others.