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Thursday, December 11, 2014

How to become a better teacher (not)

Here's a video by Dr. Lodge McCammon. He has a website: Here are his credentials.
Dr. Lodge McCammon is an educational innovator. His career began in 2003 at Wakefield High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he taught Civics and AP Economics. McCammon received a Ph.D. from NC State University in 2008 and continued his work by developing innovative practices and sharing them with students, teachers and schools across the world. McCammon is a musician who spends much of his time in the recording studio composing curriculum-based music. His songs and related materials can be found in Discovery Education Streaming. He is also an education consultant who provides professional services, including keynote speeches, presentations, curriculum development, and a variety of training programs.
Watch the video and discuss. I think you can guess what I think. I reject one of the basic premise; namely that online courses are taught by the very best teachers. How do we know who is the best teacher just by watching videos?

Here's a question for your consideration. It concerns "reflective teaching." Imagine that you record yourself teaching an incorrect version of the citric acid cycle or a flawed version of the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology. How many times do you have to watch that video to recognize that what you are teaching is wrong? Is it more than three? Less than ten?


  1. Best could refer to any of a number of qualities: accuracy, completeness, or enthusiasm.

    In most subjects, correctness and accuracy are not well defined. I suppose in the hardest of the hard sciences, and in math, correctness trumps everything else.

    1. So, in the humanities it doesn't matter if what you teach is incorrect?

    2. In the humanities there is precious little consensus about what is correct or incorrect. You can recite kings and dates, but not much agreement in the arena of values and causes.

      I will give just one small and trivial example. When I was in high school, the book To Kill a Mockingbird was regarded as an important work. For at least a generation it defined acceptable attitudes about race, power and truth telling.

      Now it is being questioned as a model, because it questions the motives and sincerity of rape victims.

      The humanities are always in flux. This is a different kind of change than Newtonian gravity evolving into general relativity. It is not a refining of things.

  2. I think what you think (or more exactly, I think what I think you think). How to spend 2 minutes and 28 seconds saying nothing very much, and saying it over and over again.

  3. Yes, and showing a graphic that is utterly useless.
    Seriously, any form of teaching, any method used requires a good teacher. Youtube is no better than any university for that matter. There are a few very good teachers who thought out their lecture, seminar, or course, used the appropriate media to teach, and - perhaps most importantly - are passionate about teaching. All the other ones are just doing it and are often the ones that complain the loudest about the students that 'don't get it'.
    My problem is that especially university teaching is never explicitly taught (even worse on YouTube - everybody does it). Usually no instructor/lecturer/professor took any comprehensive training in teaching similar to school teachers. The only hope for university and college students is that they actually like teaching.
    As for this video's claim of learning from the best, to me there remains the big questions - how does anyone knows who is the best. The best researcher of a given field might be a lousy teacher, so that's the wrong criteria.

  4. Yes. All the way through I was expecting the graphic to be used for something, but all it showed is that the genius is unable to design a decent graphic.

  5. Can you refund me my two-and-a-half minutes please?

  6. You might want to see more about what Lodge's work is all about.
    Check out this page about his FIZZ method. You might find out a bit more about what he's going for here. One big thing is that standards for NC teachers include "reflecting on your practice". He's simply providing one more advantage to recording yourself giving lessons (see the others at the link), that it allows one to reflect on the practice of teaching.
    I'll come back to comment later, I had a great post written then hit "Publish" (forgetting to save my text first) and all was lost. Blogger and I just do not get along! I was falling asleep grading papers and need to go to bed now!

    1. In an ideal student-centered learning environment you become a discussion group leader with a class of about 20 students. You can be sitting in a circle with them or you can be moving around the classroom interacting with various groups at different times. The important part of the learning experience is the contribution of the students and whether the instructor is able to stimulate critical thinking. It's important that students be guided toward correct and important concepts and that they address their misunderstandings.

      It's not clear to me that a YouTube video of such a classroom—assuming it could be done—would be terribly informative. On the other hand, if you think that the typical sage-on-a-stage performance is the best way to teach and that style is more important than substance, then, by all means, listen to Dr. Lodge McCammon. He'll tell you how to set up your phone to take a video of you standing in front of the class. This is a way of perpetuating old-fashioned teaching methods.

      Or, if you prefer, you could find movies and TV programs from the 1960s that made the same case using film and television. Even the basic concept—viewing your performance to improve your style—is old-fashioned.

    2. Again, I'm not sure you understand what Lodge advocates. He definitely isn't promoting a "sage on a stage" method of teaching, he's simply providing a method of delivering lessons and modeling note taking for students.

      Video taping lessons is also a required part of teacher education and reflective practice, at least here in NC. He's just trying to tell teachers how easy it can be with the technology many of us have in our pockets.

      You may not agree with his ideas, but I don't think you understand his overall method. The short (10 min) videos are an efficient way to deliver content so the rest of class time can be devoted to providing the learning experience you describe above. Teachers can be better facilitators in their students learning when less class time is used to deliver content.

      One more thing that impresses me about his method, is that the simple video set up can be used by students to create their own lessons and "teach" what they have learned. This is also an excellent way to have them show mastery and to assess student understanding.

  7. He is right how youtube is and will increase knowledge and general intellience in our time.
    it really does bring to the people, at their ease, fantastic information.
    I have used youtube so much for so many subjects its been a beautiful invention for me. I just started a few years ago.
    i'm smarter. (of coarse its relative).
    He goes wrong in saying we are our own best teachers. nope. teaching is a real skill.
    Its more then knowing your subject.
    This other stuff seems offbeat.
    The more complicated the subject the more competent the teacher is needed. to pick and choose priorities of info relative to the place the student is in learning it.
    Its a skill is teaching.
    its like telling a stranger how to get to a place a few miles away.
    Three people know it by heart but one fails to articulate, the second is average and best easily leads the stranger there by directions. this last is a skilled teacher.
    So teaching oneself will come up short in complicated subjects save by the smartest.
    Tricks won't work.

  8. Lynn Wilhelm: You might want to see more about what Lodge's work is all about.

    What would be the point? If he can't get his message over in a short video why would one suppose he could do better?