Listening, then watching, and creating awe

On Saturday morning, while walking Lucy, I had an interesting experience. I listened to a TED-talk podcast for a TED talk that turned out to be very visually oriented – “Rob Legato: The art of creating awe.” I so enjoyed imagining what was happening that I could not yet see. Because I was familiar with the histories and the films being shared, I am certain that I could see in my mind’s eye what was happening on that TED-stage screen.

When I got home, I could not wait to watch the TED talk, so that I could compare my pre-visualization with the reality. In some cases, I was pretty close. In other cases, Legato shows slides that he does not explain in words, so I had completely missed some screen jokes and key lines that I had guessed completely wrong. The auditory experience and the visual experience were both important and fun, and I am glad that I was able to have both.

Of course, I thought of some other things as well…

  1. Why do some of us teachers say that we are not in the entertainment business? Why are some teachers so resistant to being thought of as entertainers? Think of what the world spends on movie entertainment. Think of how we could learn to create awe from being artistic in our teaching and learning environments.
  2. I love the idea of using simulations, matched with reality, to place the brain in a fully real-world perception. That seems to have educational legs!
  3. Isn’t it cool to think about what we remember as our most powerful, important learning moments? How might we re-imagine school to mimic what we remember about those moments? For creating awe seems to be more about what we remember than what actually is happening in many cases.

4 thoughts on “Listening, then watching, and creating awe

  1. Hi Bo. I saw and enjoyed that TED Talk, but I’m fascinated by your experience of hearing it first and then seeing it. Thanks for sharing that!

    I’m one of those teachers who is quite resistant to being thought of as an “entertainer.” Maybe it’s from reading Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death” … I often do think of what the world spends on movie entertainment, and that figure troubles me — particularly since movie theaters are in much better shape than most of our schools (and they’re unused during much of the day, which might eventually lead to their adoption as a learning space).

    I agree that we educators need to “learn to create awe” and need to be more artistic in our teaching and learning environments. My videos, for example, would be more effective if they were more technically sound in ways you’ve suggested.

    However, once we engage students, I think we then have to model for students how to do some heavy intellectual lifting so that they are not just wowed by a scene from Titanic, but moved to write about (or make a podcast about or a video or what have you) the movie and why it’s so compelling. The trick is to inspire students to engage in a deep way and follow through with various projects that they care passionately about.

    An entertainer’s job is done when the performance ends; an educator’s job is, IMHO, more about helping students create enduring works (and understandings) of their own.

    Thanks for making me think!

    • Steve,

      Thanks for your thoughtfulness in sharing this comment. I totally understand what you are saying. I’ve been thinking all day about what you have said. At this moment, though, I think I disagree. I don’t think we have to be either an entertainer OR an educator. I believe we can be both. I believe, in many ways, that the vocabulary creates a labeled dichotomy that does not necessarily need to exist. Many products of entertainment are lasting – enduring even. Some teaching is fleeting – easily forgotten.

      Would it be so bad if we educators used skills and resources akin to entertainment – to produce entertainment – in such a way as to invite and inspire students learners to get curious, to stay curious, to find flow in exploring and discovering…traceable back to that moment of “entertainment?” In so many ways, I am an advocate of “Whatever It Takes.” Why we would stop short of entertaining if it lights the fires of captivated attention, invigorated investigation, and sustained engagement?

      I wonder why we react so strongly to “edu-tainment?” If poor education is disguised with cheap entertainment to “help the medicine go down,” then I completely agree with you. But quality entertainment and quality education can coexist. In fact, they may be symbiotic.

      • Hi Bo — I’m not sure we do disagree, because I think we’re saying the same thing, albeit in slightly different ways.

        I’m not saying I *don’t* want to entertain — I agree with you that there’s a symbiosis when cool learning is happening. Learning is fun — I particularly find that making new and unexpected connections is fun and enlivening.

        What I’m bristling about is the idea that I’d be *primarily* an entertainer, rather than an educator. I don’t think you’re saying that…

        I’m with you on “whatever it takes,” and I’m fine with entertaining here and there — but once we find a way to engage students, I think (and I think you’d agree) that we then have to model for students how to do some heavy intellectual lifting as they engage in a deep and meaningful way with the world. That’s not always quite so entertaining as the initial spark of interest (though it can be).

        I don’t have access to the OED, but I seem to remember that education comes from the root educare, which means “to draw out” as in to bring forth a student’s potential. If I’m entertaining, I don’t feel like I’m doing much educare-ing. If the entertainment serves as the spark, that’s fine… but I think we’re both saying that the quality education has to be there.

    • Yes, and…

      For me, entertainment lives within the notion of the Latin educare. I think of art as entertainment, drama as entertainment, music as entertainment, running as entertainment. These things touch me deeply and draw out foundational passions and emotions in me. These entertainments make me want to dig in and engage at more emotionally connected levels. Moreover, I think the best entertainers model that the “show” only represents 10% or less of the actual time spent working on the art, music, drama, etc. It’s the practice time, rehearsal time, studio time that additively result in success and new innovations. For me, entertainment includes all of this – not just the show on a stage. Entertainment does draw out my core. I see entertainment and education as truly integrated possibilities.

      Thanks for the conversation! I am learning what I think by the exchange. Very grateful to you and for you.

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