Friday, September 07, 2012

To be engaged with

Thomas' post Can We Get Real About Genealogy Conference Numbers? really sparked my interest, as I also have long felt conference promoters get caught up in the "hype" and aren't honest about their numbers. In reply, Kim Cotton speaks of attendees who would:

"rather spend it [money] on something more worthwhile than gas to drive them to a class to be spoken at, not engaged with." [emphasis added.]

To this I'd say "Let's get out from behind the podium ~ it's not just about PowerPoint anymore."

Last March, I presented at the Fairfax Genealogical Society's annual conference, where I received complaints from the next room that my session participants were too noisy before we closed the door.

Ol' Myrt here wants her classes to be noisy for it means students are busy and involved.

I want people to question my logic, ask for clarification, bristle at change but be willing to explore.

This doesn't mean chaos. A great instructor can always bring people back on task and move the conversation forward. Becoming that sort of teacher is my goal.

If we are ever to overcome complacency with ill-conceived compiled genealogies, it is this active questioning that must be developed in genealogists -- inquiring minds on steroids.

Many of the computer lab instructors at our local vo-tech sat at their desks while students slogged through workbooks, but I couldn't stand that method of "teaching". Instead, working with corporate clients, I'd have my advanced Excel students bring their work to class for 50% of their assignments. The thinking here was that we may as well learn the 10-15 concepts applicable to their work assignments, rather than some random choices offered in our manuals.

Each student would work through a problem, come up with a worksheet and present it to the class using our computer projector. I'd then take the same scenario and develop my own Excel worksheet in real time, citing my logic for each part of my worksheet design. Sometimes, after all was said and done, I'd have to admit that the methods employed by a student were better suited to accurately resolving a problem on a timely basis. And though I was a qualified instructor, there were many times when I learned about an obscure Excel "function" or "short cut" from my very creative students. Though I guided our discussions, it is impossible to know everything. 

In the process, we thought through the concepts twice, honing and refining our understanding of how to expedite our work.

In an open, collaborative environment, real learning can take place.

Can't the same active learning be a component of genealogy conferences? I've attended workshops with Elizabeth Shown Mills where this sort of learning worked quite effectively. Tom Jones holds great workshops like this as well.

Let's engage in conversations, rather than lecturing.

Happy family tree climbing! 
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Twitter: @DearMYRTLE
G+: +Pat Richley-Erickson
Second Life: Clarise Beaumont