Tactical Media/Tactical Teaching?

I spent some time over the summer reading about Tactical Media – hit and run type events that challenge status quo or pose questions to the public. This tactic is not limited to just a political action, as we’ve seen with flash mobs or other spontaneous actions. The more I read about tactical media, the more I think about tactical teaching.

I suppose that a lot of teaching is tactical – short term events leading to a long term outcome – however a lot of current online learning doesn’t really touch on these ideas of spontaneity or in-the-moment teaching. Those are the things I remember most from my own education. Throughout my life I’ve been a bit of a questioner – in high school this tendency could lead my teachers off track so often when the lecture part of class was boring I would ask a question that would eat at an issue that was related but would be sure to railroad the teacher into a monologue that would either be a) entertaining or b) take up a lot of time.

In grade 11 history, we could get Mr. Whyte off track really quickly by mentioning Quebec, French language privilege and the Meech Lake Accord. I’ll never forget those rants – impassioned pleas of “Haven’t the French had enough accomodations from Canada?” and throwing chalk at the board. It didn’t change my view of Quebec (in fact it’s probably made my view of Quebec much more sympathetic), but it did leave a mark.  I’m sure you have those moments where teaching has left an indelible mark on you – otherwise you probably wouldn’t be in the field.

Another related event that struck me was whenever a teacher would stop the lesson mid-stream to either go off on a tangent, or to review something in the moment. It happened in my Math classes in high school (the ones where I was asked if I was planning on taking math higher than grade 12, to which I said no, and the teacher said good) often – talking about a higher algebraic concept then re-teaching the rules of some other concept. The act, stuck with me; the content, well, not so much.

More recently, in CCK08 (hard to believe it’s been four years), Stephen Downes force subscribed everyone to a discussion thread, to illustrate a power dynamic in groups and networks. While a constructed event and not serendipitous, it was brilliant teaching. I’ll remember that for a long, long time.

I often wonder if these moments in time, my personal aha! moments, could be what really are interesting about teaching and learning. More importantly, they may be what I’m missing with the whole Coursera, Udacity, Content Driven MOOT (Massive Online Open Training) thing. Those moments when learning really happens, the moments that stick, they don’t happen in these training events that are out there under the guises of MOOCs. There is no connection between myself and the instructor from Udacity (Dave? I forget his name, nor frankly do I care) for the course I took. I was just a number. There was no tactical teaching that occurred – they may argue that the weekly questions were somewhat tactical, I suppose they might be – perhaps I would feel different if one of my questions were answered. Not that I had questions, I understood the content well enough.  And for the course, that’s the measure of success.

Success shouldn’t be so simple, because success is not a simple condition – it’s complex and situational. Which brings me back to tactical media. Tactical media arises, creates an event as a response to an idea, and then leaves an artifact to ponder. Doesn’t that sound like good teaching?