We Can’t Teach As Fast As Things Change

donotlimitchild-fiWe Can’t Teach As Fast As Things Change

by Terry Heick

We can’t teach as fast as things change.

By things I mean information. Perspectives. Ideologies. What’s socially acceptable and what’s not. Our collective cultural biases and intellectual prejudices.

Educultural views on homosexuality, edtech equity, homeschooling, bullying, accountability, and academic standards.

Edtech views of big data, cybersecurity, YouTube, social media, texting, smartphones, and the cloud.

How students see “school.”

How the world sees itself.

What we read, and why.

Sentences fragments become sentences, tweets become paragraphs, and headlines become content. The expiration date for information has moved from months to minutes. Among other things, this affects how we think of information itself. It becomes an inconspicuous note in a symphony; the symphony is the performance while the notes disappear.

Exceptional thinking is less arresting than it’s been in the past because thinking, in a digital and social age, is designed and packaged from the ground-up to be alarming or it doesn’t stand a chance.

Among other effects, this can reduce our dwell-time with ideas. There is less of a tendency to sit and wrestle with an idea when that idea is characterized less by its truth than its change—or the change it represents.

And note–there is zero chance that the age of information hasn’t been a catalyst for this. Consider for a moment that this is an age of information–and that’s not as flattering as it sounds. Information isn’t wisdom. There is so much access to so many people and so many networks sharing so much data that we necessarily adjust everything else to fit the urgency of it all.

What devices we use to access what kinds of data and what times of the day.

What we save and why.

What we share and why.

What causes real change in our behavior, and what we smile at and move on. What we dismiss, and how easily we learn to do so.

Think of how this impacts teaching and learning. It discredits knowing, for one—which inherently undermines systems based on knowing.

Even how we, as teachers, package content is silently judged by students compared to the information they see on a daily basis.

Education trends are a microcosm of the shifting, fluid, and murky mess it all is. These trends–coding, Maker Movements, flipped classrooms, MOOCs, digital literacy, digital citizenship, digital footprints—amalgamate themselves into a digital fluid that only reveals itself in brief snapshots.

When networks represent knowledge and connectivity is a kind of intellectual potential, the ripples move outwards at the speed of sound, distorting everything.

We can’t teach as fast as things change. This implies, among other things, that we perhaps we should teach less so that we–and they–might know more.

Written By

Founder and Director at TeachThought, author, and former classroom teacher interested in how and why people learn.


  • This does not make sense, sorry, you can absolutely teach change, as long as A) change is planned and B) your willing to accept it may be extra work.

    Twitter does teach change, its in the core foundation of Twitter is that people are bored with reading and writing lengthy responses, it is it’s own change and because it is intuitive, people caught on fast

  • For me, the message is unclear because it is obscured by the authors prejudice and bias. Thank goodness of the flexible and change supportive pedagogical processes of today’s teaching and learning. Without it, docs would still be using drills to relieve the internal pressure of headaches. Access, quality and costs are improved by todays distance
    (e & m) & blended learning.
    The only problem is finding people with the experience and imagination to improve the A//Q/C.

  • Well, this is really not new, Terry. We in Higher Ed have been wrestling with this issue for some time now. It is clear to the majority of us that trying to teach merely content is a losing cause & so we also need to focus on problem solving & critical thinking skills. Of course, one cannot teach a course based merely on skills with no content. The blend of the two is the hard part. Perhaps you would consider a more vexing, and perhaps more difficult, question for your next article: “Can we LEARN as Fast as Things Change?” To me, that is the greater issue.

  • I love your last lines of critical thought. Human thought is in all cultures around the world and by sharing thoughts we can solve many issues. Our children are the future and I thank you for writing and sharing your questions and reflections. A true teacher!

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