Dr. Emdin’s “Teach Teachers How To Create Magic”

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Dr. Christopher Emdin‘s hook got me.  He tells the story of an aspiring teacher writing a 60-page paper about a super old education theory developed by a long-dead man and wondering what in the world that paper has to do with her future career goals and aspirations.

As a graduate student AND a full time teacher, this is something I’ve too often experienced.  I’ve found that research-based universities (the big universities such as the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida) are concerned with just that: research.  Teaching duties are secondary to research and publication, conferences and journals.  Research-based universities employ scholars: the thinkers, philosophers, and inventors of our day.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have learning-centered institutions (formerly community colleges, now state colleges, such as Valencia College or Seminole State College).  These colleges are concerned with teaching and learning.  Check out Valencia’s learning-centered mission statement here.  As opposed to research, faculty members at learning-centered institutions are expected to be strong teachers.  Teaching is the primary goal, not the means to an end.

As Dr. Edmin’s introduction continues (watch him continue this train of thought until 1:30), he asks us to focus on this research-based university system which, from personal experience I can agree, trains students how to become scholars and researchers.  Teachers aren’t focused on engaging students or on creating magic in the classroom to inspire learning.  And Dr. Edmin thinks that is a bad thing.

You may be wondering who Dr. Emdin is.  A professor at Columbia University and a Director of Science Education for the Center for Health Equity and Urban Science Education, Dr. Emdin is a superteacher.  He is the creator of the Hip Hop Ed social movement and has also collaborated with Wu Tang Clan’s GZA and the website Rap Genius on an initiative designed to engage students in science through hip hop battles.  Watch Dr. Emdin’s TEDx Talk below:

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His argument is that superteachers aren’t often found in the classroom.  We know from people like Dr. John Medina, Garr Reynolds, and Nancy Duarte that great presenters (and great teachers) are storytellers, engaging presenters who focus on delivering content in an audience-centered fashion.  Superteachers and super-presenters are bound, linked, tied together, and this is a huge reason why I live and breathe public speaking and presentation.  Dr. Emdin says teachers are educated on theories and standards, but they have no idea how to develop that magic in the classroom, and that magic comes from careful study of effective communication and presentation techniques.  If we ditched education curriculum and replaced it with books like Brain RulesPresentation Zen, and Resonate, imagine the classrooms filled with students on the edge of their seats, excited and ready to learn.

Just like Sir Ken Robinson, Dr. Christopher Emdin sees that the system of education is broken.  His solution: teaching teachers how to develop “that magic” (as he calls it).  Dr. Emdin’s solution is that we should study effective presentation content and delivery, and I wholeheartedly agree.

What advice or suggestions would you give a new teacher to help her become a superteacher?

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One thought on “Dr. Emdin’s “Teach Teachers How To Create Magic”

  1. Gary Bisaga

    Alex, I would say watch this great video I found that really brings out using Zen-type presentations from a teacher’s point of view:

    You can not only see how the pinwheel illustration cemented the idea for her students, but it also cements the idea in MY mind for how much more powerful this kind of slide is than the traditional format.

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