This guide has a particular audience in mind. This is for instructors – but not just any instructors. This is for instructors who know IT, like IT, and who wish to share IT skills with others. Also, this guide is offered primarily to instructors in adult education programs, most specifically for the community and technical college levels. That being said, quite a bit of the content here reflects generally valid teaching practices that can work and have worked for multiple content areas, in different settings, with diverse types and ages of students. But IT is taking center stage here, let there be no doubt. Among other things, the guide assumes its readers have a comfort level with systems terminology like “component”, “level”, “stack”, “network”, “node”, “protocol”, “interface” and so forth. The guide takes advantage of that prior knowledge by making liberal use of systems metaphors in just about every situation. The idea is to start with what you know well (IT) and work towards a deeper understanding of what you might not know quite as well (the ins and outs of managing and instructing diverse students in a classroom – or in an online program).
This instructors guide is a companion piece to “Making Connections: A Study Guide for Information Technology”. That study guide aims at helping students understand power-learning approaches to mastering IT. The student guide is not afraid to innovate and disrupt! The student guide assumes that students show up with all sorts of stale, outmoded ideas about what education is all about and it aims to shake them up and get them going in new directions! For openers, it claims that the students themselves (specifically their brains and nervous systems) are the ultimate IT and they need to be optimizing their own mental processes, memory, input/output and other components. But in today’s IT world, impressive as a well-trained human is, without the right digital technology, that human will not get much accomplished. So the study guide trains students, in effect, how to become dance partners with their tech and how to split the workload between human and electronic systems in a way that leverages the best features of both the human and the non-human. For example, one of the ideas in the student guide is to “learn as little as you can get away with to get the most out of your systems”. That’s efficiency talking! Human brains should not be wasted on things you can just look up. There’s more to the student guide than that (recommend you read it!), but the point here is that for maximum IT learning, doing some 20th century or earlier version of what “school” is supposed to be is pretty much a waste of everybody’s time. “School”, in general, has never interested me much. “Learning”, on the other hand, is a passion that knows no limits. If you can turn your class into a shop floor or studio for learning, you will have done well!
A reader trained in IT will want a scope of work including requirements specifications before taking on a project like teaching a class, so let’s outline some of these key elements:
- There will be content or learning objectives specified in documents such as college catalog, syllabus, master course outline, or class schedule.
- You are accountable to both the students and the school to deliver instruction aimed at helping students master this content.
- Beyond that, there is a less well-documented obligation to share information with students that will help them become more valuable in the world of work. Future employers are key stakeholders, although IT employment standards have always been a moving target, so some element of your personal judgement will be required to help students prepare themselves in the best way.
- You need to administer one or more assessments that generate grades at the end of the quarter. You need to file those grades on a schedule. You must be able to defend your grading decisions in the event of a dispute.
That is the bare bones of an adult education IT instructor’s scope of work. There will be other school rules, policies, and so forth, so learn those, but none of that will be found here. This is more about the teaching strategies you need to implement a scope of work like the one above. As an IT instructor, you have considerable choice and freedom in how you conduct instructional business. But your choices will land differently with different types of students. What follows will present some ideas about how to meet as many student needs as possible, while keeping the overall instructional system well-defined, manageable, and conservative with the time and resources of everyone involved.