When people saw MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) reshaping the landscape of higher education, they mainly talked about technology. Cathy Davidson, a scholar and author of The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World In Flux, on the other hand, saw human interactions in MOOC.
When people were talking about Airbnb and Uber, they said these companies are leading a sharing economy. Rachel Botsman, a scholar and author of Who Can You Trust, recognized they change something more fundamental—how we trust each other.
This is what experts do. When non-experts or pseudo-experts see what’s presented on the surface, experts lift up the cover and look for the crux of the matter.
(Image credit: CC0)
Cathy Davidson, who was invited to the campus to talk about higher education, said it was a great experience to run a MOOC course with the enrollment of ~18,000 students from all over the world. She also mentioned that her teaching assistants were exhausted from communicating with students 24/7. “Learning is social and interactive,” she added.
Acquisition of information could happen in solitary, but learning requires interactions for two reasons. First, in order to explain something to somebody, the speaker needs to break the information into bite-size pieces, fill any missing links between concepts, come up with analogies, make a story line, etc. These active mental engagement, largely overlooked in education for a long time, is what converts information to knowledge. Second, having a listener means that somebody cares about you—your understanding, thoughts or opinions on something. It’s an implicit, simple but warm gesture that makes your learning relevant and, more importantly, fun.
An effective teacher evokes an image of an eloquent speaker whose clear explanation, charisma and charm overflow from the stage and grab students’ attention. Nonetheless, in light of the importance of human interaction in learning, I wonder if that image may not be correct. As a professor, I should perhaps strive to be an active listener—someone who finds holes in students’ logic and/or asks smart questions that challenge the student to look at the information from different angles.
Image credit: “Listen” by Steven Shorrock is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
“공자는 인이란 ‘근자열 원자래’라고 합니다. 가까이 있는 사람이 기뻐하고 멀리 있는 사람이 찾아오는 것이 인이라고 했습니다” (p92, “담론” 신영복저).
어질다는 의미를 이렇게 간략하게, 마음에 와닿게 정의하다니. 신영복 선생님의 책 “담론”을 읽다가 내 눈이 위 문장의 끝에 머무는 순간, 그 감동은 입안에 들어온 사탕의 민트향이 몸에 사아~ 퍼지고 내 몸 밖으로 잔잔하게 번지는 그런 느낌이랄까?
“인(仁)”이라는 내면의 향기라는게 이런것인가보다. 강하지 않고 은은해서 곁에 더 있고 싶게 만들고, 강하지는 않아도 오래 남아 다시 찾아오게 하는. 처음엔 민트향처럼 느껴진 그 감동에 갑자기 무게가 실려 나를 짓누른다. 아… 너무나도 어려운, 도달하기 어려운 것이 인(仁)이구나.
좀 가벼워 지자 하는 마음에 목표를 수정해 본다. 근자열 원자래를 실천하지는 못해도, 이 은은한 향을 띈 사람을 알아보는 사람이 되자. 멀리 있는 사람을 찾아오게 하지는 못해도 내가 마음 준, 하지만 지금은 멀리 있는 이를 찾아가는 사람이 되자. 가까이 있는 이들이 맘 편하게 내 곁에서 쉴 수 있게 하지는 못해도, 타인이 보낸 배려에 밝게 웃으며 고마운 마음을 꼭 표현하는 사람이 되자.
Sanger’s point rang true to me in part because I almost never speak about my own abortion, which I had when I was an eighteen-year-old freshman at U.C.Berkley. This was strange, it occurred to me as I read Sanger’s book, because the decision was as consequential as any I’d made as a young person’ it had allowed me to claim the future I imagined for myself. But, in another way, it wasn’t so strange, because I had never regretted having an abortion, so it was not a choice I felt compelled to revisit… I never did feel that I’d killed a baby; I felt that I’d ended a pregnancy. What I remember most of all was the relief when it was over, and the kindness of the doctor and the nurses at the health center, who treated me like a person with a reasonable sense of her own mind. So why don’t I ever talk about it? … in part, it’s true, because abortion has a stigma–a stigma I don’t believe should exist but am not entirely immune to, an aura of selfishness or callousness. (Obstacle Course by Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker (April 3rd, 2017))
Margaret Talbot’s piece was just another monthly book review in The New Yorker until the paragraph above appeared. She reviewed a recent book on abortion and then toward the end of her piece, she unveiled the story of her own abortion. Her candor and willingness to stand up for and share her decision astonished me. It goes without saying that her honest personal account made her review more vital and relatable. Ms. Talbot’s article reminded me of an interview of Krista Tippett in the podcast “On Being”. When the interviewer asked Ms. Tippett about including her separation from her father in her book Becoming Wise, she said,
… the book, it just — it didn’t come alive for a long time, and I realized, actually, I also had to do what I ask other people to do, which I know makes ideas come to life, and also makes them listenable, makes them land in the imaginations of listener with vitality, which is to really walk that line, that intersection between what you know, and who you are. And, yeah, then I had to actually — I had to be honest, even just with myself, about the hard, the sad parts of my life, and those things that I wrestle with. (https://onbeing.org/programs/krista-tippett-the-mystery-and-art-of-living/)
Perhaps, what makes someone a true intellectual who desires to bring about changes in others and communities is strength and courage that allows him/her to be able to share own struggles and vulnerability pertaining to his/her ideas. Because changes occur when the heart is touched and only a shaky but firm voice coming from the heart can touch another heart.