I've been teaching for 20+ years and the degree to which teaching paradigms have changed in the last decade continually amazes me. The old paradigm I learned as a fresh, red-cheeked grad student was that students were like blank sheets of paper, waiting to be filled with a teacher's wisdom/words/ideas/information. Students were passive and much of their knowledge was gained by simply memorizing or repeating information. This was what made a successful student—one who fit into the paradigm, meeting its requirements. I was such a student and so, taught this way.
But today, due to the influence of technology and its (seemingly) limitless capabilities for creativity, information and problem solving, teaching has become a whole new animal. Students learn by actively seeking new information and teachers facilitate that process. We've gone from passive learners to active ones, from formal education—the old paradigm of reading and taking notes, within a classroom—to peer interaction and collaborative efforts to develop individual talents.
Teaching journalism, as I am this week at the University of Groningen, reminds me of how beautiful the new teaching paradigm is . Journalists are expected to think on their feet, chase after information, collaborate with colleagues and be creative in processing and producing information---all this fits beautifully into new ways of teaching. This week my students are creating their own online magazine with limited input from me. This is the beauty of it. I am here to facilitate and guide, to pass on my experience-gained wisdom, but the best path to wisdom is just that: experience. This entire week is about letting students run the show, make their own decisions and learn from "mistakes" (which I don't want to call mistakes, rather unfruitful actions) and basically, get out of the damn class room. The world is really our classroom, non?
I find this a highly satisfying process and am happy that I've been able to grow with this new paradigm. I am sometimes jealous I didn't get to experience this myself growing up; however the joy of teaching is being able to enable future generations to do an even better job of it.