Why Teach With WisdomMaps?
Many teachers will agree that the best way to learn something is to teach it, however badly at first. It’s also true that students generally learn as much from each other as they do from their teachers. WisdomMaps enables both learners and teachers to teach each other, and an astonishing learning process begins to unfold.
Learning works best in face-to-face contact where the teacher. This is where he directly elicits the curiosity of the student. But there’s no way for this to happen in online courses as they are presently constituted. This leaves many students isolated and thinking to themselves, “Okay, I’ll pretend to learn, and you pretend to teach.” When online discussions become sterile and dissociated, they deprive students and teachers of the kind of engagement that could be had with a different approach.
Here’s how I do it. I have my students develop weekly journal presentations (using PowerPoint or the equivalent) on their choice of several topics. These can come from any of the maps in the map sets (China, ancient Egypt, the Inca) that are assigned for the week. This makes for a big sandbox for them to rummage through and ruminate in. They have complete freedom to focus on and develop whichever interests capture their fancy. I then have them post their journals in a weekly online forum so that their classmates can review them and post their reviews. With their journal, each student contributes several topics to the weekly mix. The result is that the class is exposed to a large range of topics that together provide a comprehensive and lively view of the subject(s) of the week.
While some students draw upon more scholarly media for their journals, others come up with things that are more, shall we say, viscerally engaging. (I had never heard of “Drunk History” before.) Each student contributes at their own level and in their own voice, and that makes for a very sociable learning process that everyone enjoys. They enjoy learning by teaching each other in their own words, however humble. They especially enjoy seeing each other’s work. This is where an unexpected dynamic kicks in. A social competition of sorts soon arises among students in showcasing their journals in the forums for all their classmates to see. Learners learn best what they enjoy the most, and with this approach, the learner enthusiasm and the learning itself are genuine.
An Antidote to the Phone?
Could this be an antidote to the Phone? Perhaps. Many students report getting happily lost til the early hours, uncovering all kinds of new interests. If this is the kind of engagement that you believe history deserves, consider bringing the maps into your orbit.
WisdomMaps work well as a stand-alone alternative to a text. And they work even better when paired with a text (which for some students serves as their anchor to windward, so to speak). The text helps students keep to the straight-and-narrow of the historical narrative, while the maps encourage them to delve into the many new interests they uncover in the multimedia. This whets their appetite for the subject and hopefully spawns an enduring interest. After all, any proper engagement with history deserves a lifetime, not 16 weeks. So perhaps this answers to the highest pedagogical purpose of all. We need to instill a lifelong love for learning. As Socrates said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”