Teaching: It’s not about technology – Brett Beston


Much of my work-life is spent teaching: If I’m not lecturing myself, I’m helping others achieve teaching their teaching goals. However, I don’t consider myself to be an expert on the subject, just a ‘student of the game’. I spend a fair amount of time thinking about what I can do to keep the attention of my students. Sometimes, I’m not assuccessful as I’d like to be, so I keep thinking of what to do next.

In the current teaching climate, I hear a lot of talk about integrating technology in the classroom. This works out well for me because I like to ‘tinker’ and it’s all too easy for me to think about the different ways to play with technology in the classroom. As teachers, we often use technology as learning management systems to organize our courses, post lecture slides, create web-modules, hold discussion forums, and even poll students in our classes.

But the more I teach, the more I realize that a great teaching experience need not have anything to do with technology.

Technology is a tool that can be used to enhance a classroom experience, but shouldn’t be the focus of our teaching. No smart boards, iclickers or projectors will make us good teachers. What limits my performance in the classroom is the quality of my instruction.

So, I’m going back to my teaching-roots. When I started teaching, my mentor, Dale Roy, asked me to identify effective things that instructors do in the classroom. Not once did I think of anything related to technology. Instead, the most effective instructors that I’ve experienced seem to entertain as much as they inform.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that our lectures should be a circus act kind of entertainment. But, the best teachers that I’ve had go beyond simply doling out facts. Rather, they take a more personal approach to tell stories and experiences that provide context to the subject matter at hand. We are often experts in the area that we teach; why not share our own experience to make a subject matter more personal and create real world context that students connect with.

So I’m shifting my focus away from technology and towards an approach that shows my passion for what I’m teaching about and the experiences that I’ve had: To show them how I connect with the material that they are learning about.

I forget who said this to me, but I’ll always remember this little saying: “It’s not about the tech, it’s about the teach”.