In a recent article is presented the most “most influential foreign figure” of the year in China – it is a professor, a political philosopher. It is worth to read this material in the The New York Times to understand what makes him so popular in Asia and at home. He is not using Twitter and Facebook to teach, he is not making a consistent reference to online resources or his online courses, but – as you can see below – he is talking about ideas and he is addressing human mind. This professor is also teaching in one of the most prestigious universities in the world, but his teaching methods may seem obsolete in some obscure corners of the vast field of tertiary education.
Michael J. Sandel, the Harvard University political philosopher is an example of good learning and teaching: he is engaging students’ imaginations to make them think and discover. It is there a constant appeal to the beauty and joy of learning, to curiosity and the awe of discovery. Learning is again an adventurous journey where the aim is not to be confusingly entertained as a “customer”, which is subtly replaced with the perspective of joining what Max Weber called to be the aristocracy of the intellect. It is an example to see that we truly honor the students if we do not deceive them with entertaining tricks and no substance. The pursuit of knowledge takes here a different route than what is promoted now by corporations turning universities into marketable and profitable factories; here is learning and teaching at work in a beautiful form. It is great to see a different model becoming visible as a good reminder to education that we should stop to think more before we take the online utopia as a solution and dogmatically accept that an electronic gadget will make it more efficient.
This example is a perfect metaphor for education: new technologies are useful if used as a tool for dissemination and open access. However, the model of learning and great teaching is attractive here, not the medium to make it accessible. Here is a video to watch: