05 Feb 2015 06:00

Last year in December, Veritasium (Derek Muller) uploaded an interesting video explaining both the importance of human teachers and why the educational system has remained mostly unchanged over the past centuries. The video, This Will Revolutionize Education, puts to words many of the same thoughts I have personally had about the true role of teachers and the mechanism behind learning. If you have not, I definitely recommend seeing what Muller has to say.

In summary, Muller first demonstrates that throughout the centuries, the educational process has remained largely unchanged despite the various revolutions in other fields (like computing). Though teacher-student interactions may now include video and social media, classrooms are still mainly comprised of a sole teacher and a body of students. This is due to two things:

  • First, the process of learning is determined not by the media of instruction, but by the way students form connections in their brains.
  • Second, teachers are not obsoleted by video or online classrooms because their actual role has not yet been fulfilled by any other means. That is, teachers are to inspire more than they convey information.

I, personally, found this video very encouraging, especially as an aspiring teacher. Before having seen the video, I wrote on my About page that "my life's mission to teach by inspiration through the development of creativity", and to see confirmation of this by other educators, in fact, inspires me to achieve this mission.

But, what does it mean to teach by inspiration? Muller summarizes it very nicely in the following quote:

The job of a teacher is to inspire, to challenge, to excite their students to want to learn…The most important thing a teacher does is make the student feel like they are important, to make them feel accountable for doing the work of learning.

This is exactly what I believe teaching by inspiration entails. Ultimately, we as teachers cannot force information into the minds of students. In fact, more often than not, the content taught in the classroom is lost and forgotten once the corresponding test has been taken. Despite this, students still learn a very wide variety of skills and knowledge, whether that knowledge be how to perform impossible bicycle stunts, or how to draw photorealistic art, or even how to best build characters in a video game.

The point is that learning happens, regardless of whether a student is making an A or an F in school. Their time is going somewhere, and where that time is going depends mostly on their curiosities. The primary driver for human learning is in fact this notion of curiosity, the desire to know more, the desire to push beyond in order to discover.

But, learning also depends on outside influences, and therefore, as teachers, we need incite this desire and stimulate it so that the students acquire a drive to learn. This is done by inspiration, showing how our dreams have manifested so that they can wish their own dreams into reality.