Sunday, September 28, 2008

Everything I Learned About Teaching, I Learned From My Field

I talk a lot here about how teaching is really just a special case of game design, and how so many skills transfer over from one to the other. I changed my mind. Sort of.

At a recent teaching workshop, I witnessed about twenty fellow teachers give short presentations on teaching (and they all taught different subjects, everything from English to Calculus to Welding to Phlebotomy) and I was able to learn something from each of them.

Afterwards, I talked to someone who taught Comedy Writing and realized that she could easily give a workshop on "how to use comedy in the classroom" -- after all, comedy is a great icebreaker, it engages students, and it gets them to relax and enjoy the material. It's broadly applicable to any subject, so any teacher should be able to learn something about this field and take it with them back to their classes to make them more engaging. Of course, I've said the same thing about using game design in a classroom. How many other subjects could you say this about?

And as I thought some more, I realized the answer is probably all of them. Every subject has its own specialized knowledge that could be useful in a broader context. Consider:
  • Welders and carpenters and machinists learn about safety first, before they even get to touch any power tools. These people could easily walk into a class and point out any number of safety issues that would be invisible to the rest of us. Making sure your students don't hurt themselves in your class by, say, tripping and falling over a poorly-placed wire is certainly something that would be useful. (Not to mention the importance of planning before you begin any project, such as a lesson plan.)
  • Statisticians and mathematicians can draw a lot of really cool inferences from numbers, like taking the mean, median and standard deviation of test scores and using the information to figure out where the class is having the most trouble. Wouldn't it be great for any teacher to know, after an exam (if not before!), what topics their students are struggling with... without having to even ask?
  • Computer programmers and engineers are great at taking a complex task and breaking it down into simple tasks... the same way that a teacher developing a new course needs to take overarching course goals and learning objectives and break them down into day-by-day sub-goals and mini-objectives.
  • Medical technicians have to deal with people in a friendly yet professional manner. So do teachers, except we call our customers students instead of patients. (Some of our other customers, we call deans and department chairs. It's useful to deal with them friendly and professionally as well.)
  • Businesspeople and managers have to monitor, predict and direct the behavior of a lot of people at once. So do teachers.

It seems to me that any field has something to bring to the table.

So, I no longer see education and game design as inherently linked. Instead, I see education as a field that overlaps with and touches every other field. Including game design. And since games are my field, that one particular overlap is the one that I'll happily continue to blog and write and speak about. But in the meantime, I would be perfectly happy if folks from other fields would follow suit and let me know what I can learn about teaching from them.


Anonymous said...

One of your best comments; if not the best..........something everyone should keep in mind when dealing with people.....outstanding.

ocho ball

Anonymous said...

me too like designing games and i used to play many games and all these are very exciting and it linked with my profession too..Friends&Neighbors