Monday, March 7, 2016

Technology and the teacher’s personality

Teacher extraordinaire Mr Keating appears as the epitome of the charismatic teacher – one that his students are sure to remember long after their school years are over. Way over the top as this might be (though I am sure that, whatever we may say, many of us would love to feel we are a little bit like Mr Keating) it is only natural to ask ourselves: does the personality of the teacher matter in this Brave New World of technology and on-line courses?
As teachers we are in the business of influencing people. How can we do that? It helps if we imagine each individual as a big elephant with a rider sitting on top of it (a metaphor first used by J. Haidt 2006). The elephant is our emotional side; it is big, strong, somewhat impulsive and not as predictable as we would like it to be. The rider is our rational side; it can guide the elephant and the latter usually allows itself to be directed by the former (but if there is a disagreement, we all know who we should bet on! J )
So how can we influence people? There are 3 ways: a) We can motivate the elephant; this is what charismatic teachers do – they inspire their students, and this clearly works best in a f2f context. b) We can direct the rider – appealing to the logical part of our students and telling them what to do. This can work equally well in a f2f and an online context. c) We can shape the path down which the elephant and the rider will walk (an idea first proposed by Heath & Heath 2011 – click here to watch a 2-min clip). By careful use of choice architecture (see Thaler & Sunstein 2008), we can ‘nudge’ the duo in the direction we would like them to go. * An on-line environment is ideal for such an approach. However….
  • Bloom, P. (2008) Introduction to Psychology. Yale Courses, You Tube
  • Haidt, J. (2006) The Happiness Hypothesis. London: Arrow Books
  • Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2011) Switch. London: Random House
  • Lieberman, M. (2013) Social. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Thaler, R. & Sunstein, C. (2008) Nudge. Michigan: Yale University Press