I have been doing quite a bit of presentations/webinars lately on a variety of topics revolving around electronic resources/digital collections/primary and secondary source materials/information literacy and other online tools of the trade.
The audiences have been quite diverse as well, both geographically and professionally. Some have been older (faculty), some younger (secondary school) and some plain uninterested. All have been worthwhile.
When I taught before, I would never question the paradigm, the structure of my authority. I pushed along the discussion, facilitated the learning, but at the end of the day, I was still the authority, the arbiter. For some reason when the learning switched to its current context, that of a trainer for an online resource(s)then for some reason I began to question my authority. Authority not as a disciplinary figure, but an authority on the subject matter.
I literally gave a presentation to Princeton University faculty (African interdisciplinary group) on online African resources of the cultural heritage variety (Timbuktu, Djenne, Elmina, etc.) and felt empowered. They knew the material inside and outside. I knew where it was and how to manipulate it. We each brought something to the table. And that, in essence, is collaborative learning. Sharing your strength in the hope to improve your weakness.
So that has become my mantra for training. The temporary suspension of disbelief that I, Michael Gallagher of Youngstown, Ohio, have nothing to offer these experts/these authority figures. That is not the case. I just needed to identify my value. I do that now for each and every presentation I do. What can I give them now that they don’t know, however unorthodox. People like to be wowed, dazzled with something they don’t know. The trick is to pay proper tribute to their authority without diminishing your value. It is a perfect partnership, a natural collaboration.
It almost feels Zen-like. Repeat before presentation.
I will learn from you and be better for the experience.
I will teach you and you will be better for the experience.
We will grow. We will strengthen. We shall flourish in these common spaces of curiosity.