Sometimes you have to overcome a situation which is difficult, one that you would have preferred to avoid. However, once you have succeed in overcoming the problem, you are happy to have faced and solved this.
More or less this is what happened to me when I was told to teach on databases about 6 years ago. Now, I realize that -thanks to that- I have learned a lot of database, specially during the first course, but also in all of them.
This has benefits and drawbacks. One of the benefits was that I enjoyed learning, so I made my students enjoy. One drawback was that I had to teach on some things without being very confident. Nevertheless, the result of this “experiment” was that I learned and taught at the same time, which is quite interesting. As a consequence, I became quite sympathetic with those who -as me- were learning: my students.
The first term was a bit crazy and risky, although the result was frankly good. The following years it went from good to better, and I had the opportunity to explore new areas and continue learning. However, as years passed away, I turned less sympathetic. I realized that last course, when I faced a new challenge: teaching the same subject to younger learners. Then I had to think deeper in how to make explanations plainer. This also made me learn. Now I use those revised explanations with young and not so young students.
Therefore, my own experience lead me to share several points of view with both Richardson –Teachers as master learners– and Siemens –Teaching in social and technological networks. Learning is a lifelong task, which has to be taught to students. It also consist on a attitude that has to be inspired and fostered in the early years of school. In fact, I like not a bit the title that Richardson uses: Master Learners.
This fits with an idea that was discussed before: A learning community can only be shaped from inside, as a member. However, many of us understand that the teacher is not just another one. Siemens makes an excellent description of 7 different roles that the teacher has to develop among the students. I also see them as different ways to shape a learning community. Used from time to time, then one role, then another, the set serves the teacher as modeling technique. Teaching turn into something like conducting an orchestra. The master learner has to decide the best moment to introduce one instrument or another. What I’m not so sure about is whether all of them are necessary or not. I would say that a teacher need a transition for freely trying out the tools that best fits to his/her classes. In other words, s/he has to learn how-to, and it’s up to him/her to decide which instruments want to employ.
On the other hand, I can hardly agree -because I fail to see- is how social networks or virtual worlds like Second Life can be of help in learning. I agree with the need of active exploration and being way-finding, but I hesitate over relying on social networks for sense-making.
In regards to the balance between self-development and teaching, I would say that each task necessarily implies the other: I teach as I learn, and I learn when I teach. And finally, in order to achieve this, I would say to anyone, as well as to myself: start moving, start active exploration, start looking for ideas, opinions and peers’ experiences, start trying out new ways of teaching every year. In other words, be a student, again, and become a learner. Stop using established teaching tools or manners that stop improving, like many textbooks, dictation, etc. Instead of them, look for material never used in a classroom before.