When does the content we as teachers know start to decay? If I were to think of academic content as a rock and society as water, I could draw a great many comparisons. Academic content, like rocks have three choices when they face water.
Choice 1: Rocks can sit in one place with no moving water around it. In order for that to happen our content is solid and doesn’t erode with time. It is seen as a hard truth that doesn’t change with time or society. The problem is that after a while, the water becomes stagnant. Society can’t become stagnant. So, this non-eroding content possibility, while highly desired, is also highly unlikely.
Choice 2: Rocks can sit in one place and let the water wash over it. However, it slowly erodes overtime until almost nothing of the original stone remains. If we were to step back and objectively look at academic content, we see when society in the form of societal norms, politics, and religions bombard our content. It slowly dissects the original form into many simpler pieces that slowly begin to look less and less like the original content. For example, think of online courses. The content is specifically dissected and diagramed out for easy consumption, with sometimes little collaboration or relevancy. The average mind attempts to cope by sticking to the simple facts, which is nothing more than a collection of pebbles that looks nothing like a large rock. And so, we are left with only knowing the specifics (the systematic) parts that require only rote memorization for ease of plug and play (multiple choice) problems.
Choice 3: Rocks can roll with the water. However, when rocks are carried on a current, they quickly erode, bouncing off other rocks, until they reach their optimal core essence. Sometimes the content loses a jagged edge that made it difficult to grasp, or too cutting to understand. This erosion helps the content and makes it more attractive to students. For example, a course that meets face-to-face, and yet still optimizes the learning potential through hybridizing the course with online content via iTunes University, eTexts, projects, etc.. The grouped experience adds to the relevancy and meta-cognition. The average passer is then more likely to pick up the shiny smooth rock and pocket it, thus removing it from the water altogether.
So the Koan of the day is simple. When is educational content decay not relevant?