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C'est la Z

The Tech or the Teacher

Every morning one of the first things I do is quickly glance at my emails and other notifications. I really should wait until I'm more awake but old habits die hard.

As some of you know over the past couple of years I've been making a series of videos and related post on using my editor of choice, Emacs. I've done 48 videos, have over 2500 subscribers on YouTube and people seem to find some value from the series.

This morning one of my emails was a new comment on one of my videos:

Thanks for not describing a single key combination and how that fits into basic usage of org mode. I was going to subscribe but if all your videos are going to be about showing off how fast you are at typing emacs commands on your annoyingly noisy keyborad, then no thanks!

My first reaction was "you know, you could have said something like 'if you slow down an actually say the keys it would be much easier to follow and would be more valuable' and it would be much better received" but then I started to think about instructional videos in general. I started to make these videos for my students. I thought they might be helpful and then found that the Emacs community by and large liked them. They're not teaching anything deep or complicated just how I use a programmable editor. Even so, I was reminded by this comment about the limitations of videos and ed tech in general.

Videos provide some nice features - you can watch them at any time, you can pause and replay, and in some cases you can watch at super speeds. What you can't do is slow the video down and most importantly you can't ask questions or interact with the instructor. You can leave comments if the video is on a platform like YouTube but that's pretty limited.

On the other hand, if this was a class, we would have been able to interact and I as the instructor would have had a much better chance to make sure this "student" was up to speed.

Of course, this wasn't a class. I don't have the time to teach tools like Emacs in class and since it is a mechanical skill, it can be offloaded to a video. The video has the ancillary benefit of living on and being discoverable and viewable by the public at large. This is a good thing. Videos are tech and tech scales. Unfortunately, good education doesn't.

Videos are tech and tech is the rage. Lots of people are working hard to get more tech in front of our kids - usually at the expense of having a great teacher. This is something we don't need. Technology is nice but I'd rather have my kids in a small class with a knowledgable teacher and a piece of chalk than all the tech in the world.

As a computer science guy and a computer science teacher I think it's good to remind myself that tech is cool but a good teacher is way cooler.

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