Online Learning Conference, Part II

The funniest thing at the conference was a comment made by a woman from the audience. There were so many questions and comments, so many raised hands in the audience, and so much interest from so many people that everybody tried to be brief. Not this person, though.

“My brother and I are very different,” she began. “Our mother decided to redesign her kitchen because, I mean, in a house that was built back in the 1950s, you’ve got to be ready to do some redecorating at least every half-century or so, if you know what I mean. So my brother decided to build a counter top for her, and he went to Home Depot. . .”

As she rambled on and on and on about the counter top, we sat there in astonishment trying to figure out how the story related to the subject of online learning.

Details about the counter top-building efforts of her brother poured out of the woman for a while longer. Some people looked like they were starting to doze off. 

“But there was, of course, one thing my brother forgot to do,” the speaker declared triumphantly, and we all perked up, hoping she was about to tell us that her brother had forgotten to submit homework in his online course on counter tops. “He forgot to ask our mother what color she preferred! Seriously, my brother is somewhat challenged in the sociability department, if you know what I mean. He just never knows what’s appropriate in the way he relates to people.”

The speaker guffawed loudly, finally giving the moderator an opportunity to come in with a desperately loud, “Thank you! And now for the next question, please!”

The next question was from my colleague who asked whether we were bothered by the possibility that online learning would make good communication skills even more rare.


7 thoughts on “Online Learning Conference, Part II

  1. I’m assuming she had some kind of southern accent.

    If that is the case, she was making the perfectly clear point that all the fancy debate on online learning is ignoring whether people actually want it or not. I’m sure a fair number of people (including you) were making exactly that point) but the more ways a thing is said the more likely it is that people will understand at least one of them.


    1. No, no Southern accent. The colleague whose talk I admired has the Southern accent but he was very precise with time. The long-winded lady seemed Californian.


  2. Or maybe she had run out of people to tell the fascinating “my-brother-forgot-to-check-the-color-of-the-counter-tops” story and simply felt she had to share it with as many people as possible, since everyone else’s voice was boring (to her) and she needed to keep herself awake. :p
    If she were trying to draw a metaphor between a home decorating shaggy dog story and online learning wouldn’t she need to tie it back in with a throwaway sentence? In my experience, most people don’t seem to draw conclusions you want unless you lay them out on a plate for them.


  3. I don’t understand how one can teach by topic. Can one be a lit teacher, a math teacher and second-language teacher at once? (Add geography, history, lit, etc. too).

    Somebody commented:

    “I was a secondary teacher now retired and we were doing this topic based teaching at least 40 years ago. It was called team teaching and it lasted a few years until a new fad came in. If anyone knows anything about teaching they know that progress in education in circular. If you are in the job long enough the samer thing comes around again”


    1. Forget 40 years ago. This was all tried, tested and discarded back in the XIXth century. This is precisely how governesses taught. “Today’s topic is fish. Fish lives in the sea. Let’s see the seas filled with fish on the map. And now let’s draw a fish. And now let’s sing a song about fish. And now let’s embroider a fish on a handkerchief.”


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