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Teaching: What is relevant?

Lisa Galarneau's weblog relevancy is focused on the issue of how to make the world a more relevant place: "To be relevant means that you are adapting to the needs and wants of the people you interact with. It means listening, customizing, personalizing, anticipating , understanding, sympathizing, adapting, responding, cooperating, conversing, collaborating, empathizing, tolerating, respecting..." Providing relevant experiences is a key issue for designers, educators and trainers alike, and in a more generalized sense we are all seeking greater relevance in our lives...

"We are so beyond needing to train people for subservience. The world is crying out for functional, thinking adults who can solve problems, think critically, take initiative and live their lives with a philosophy of personal responsibility. Telling them that teachers know everything and they know nothing is not the way to accomplish this." [Lisa Galarneau]

In my own experience as a teacher and administrator, it seemed that the basic question being asked about relevancy was something along the lines of this, "How can we [the educators] make our content [the curriculum] more relevant [acceptable] for the students [receivers]?" This question was often tacitly implied in instructional design, a process that is sometimes not too distant from sales and marketing. In other words, one important purpose of a learning activity was to manufacture relevance.

My experiences in the corporate world reveal little difference to the school setting. The source of design for learning in a corporate environment originates in the curriculum of profitability. Out of necessity, training programs and instructional design methodologies originate from this underlying ground. The employee is quite similar to a student in this respect - they can question the relevance of what they are "learning" to a point, then the rest goes to the water cooler. The most insightful and thoughtful line of thinking developed along these lines I have read remains Edward Hall's The Silent Language.]

If something is relevant to me then it is something that I selfishly feel is important in my life. Not selfish as in "I want, I want..." but selfish as in preserving my own identity. Being selfish is not always a negative thing. In Relevancy as Sanctuary Lisa refers to a wonderful article in the Christian Science Monitor called E-serenity, Now! The article states:

"The information age, it seems, is data-contaminated. And it's not just the volume of information that's worrisome; it's the lack of context in which it's delivered.

At least that is the argument of a new and growing group of people some call "information environmentalists." Their aim: to reclaim quiet mental space from the chirping persistence of cellphones, personal digital assistants, instant messaging, niche cable channels, and a virtual landscape littered with news, entertainment, and sales pitches."

Relevance must have some connection to this need for a "quiet mental space." It may be that the care of our own quiet mental space is essential to the development of more relevant ways of adapting to the needs and wants of people we interact with. As with many things in life, it is a question of finding personal equilibrium.

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