a reflection on teaching 3

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the idea of contact and connection with students in teaching, and I know with this idea that I am standing on the edge of a deep lake, wet up to the ankles, and I will keep coming back here to drink. This is particularly true now that we are again practicing full contact aikido, that other laboratory of contact.

But this contemplation of contact leads naturally to contemplation of other aspects of teaching. Two of these are design and delivery: how I structure my interactions with students, face to face and on-line, scheduled and spontaneous, and how I take this developing map of (in this case) graph theory and get it out of my mind and into my students’ minds.

Because to a great extent, this is what I’m working to do. One aspect of this, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before at some point, is the basic fact of distance. As I teach a subject year after year (graph theory, calculus, aikido), my understanding continues to develop. I see deeper into the subject, and my distance from those just beginning their journey increases.

And so part of what I have to work through, in terms of design and delivery, is how to manage and mitigate this increasing distance in understanding. The issue I find with design is that I want to show my students the nifty things I’ve found, but I have to be careful in doing this.

What I like about graph theory is that there are some (relatively) easy to state questions relevant to the material we’re covering, where I can give my students their statements and then point to (sometimes very) recent papers and preprints where mathematicians are still working through those questions.

But there is a deeper question kicking around here. The past year and a half has changed how we think about delivery. The lessons we’ve learned will change what we’re doing, how we design and how we deliver, and the landscape here is constantly shifting as we digest these lessons.

What will this landscape look like in 10 years? 15 years? I can make guesses, but they can be only guesses, as my Magic 8-Ball doesn’t provide sufficiently nuanced answers to my questions. And I’m very curious to journey through this landscape.

~ by Jim Anderson on 24 October 2021.

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