Asking for Help the Modern Way

A few days ago I was preparing for a course on teaching. (Believe it or not, they don’t teach professors how to teach). One of the assignments is to prepare a ten minute “mini-teach” session to practice teaching with a group of fellow professors. The assignment requires that the participant select a topic that wasn’t “discipline specific”.  Examples included how to tie a tie, and how to conduct a japanese tea ceremony.

I was stuck.  I couldn’t think of a thing. So, I posted a request for help on Facebook. And my friends came through.  I had nine comments and at least three private emails within an hour.  Thank you to all of my friends who took a few minutes to brainstorm ideas with me.

Research shows that brainstorming is actually more effective online, where you can’t see the person.  So the use of Facebook, or Linked In is a great way to spark your creativity. 

What did I eventually decide to do?  As a purple-stripe belt in shorinji ryu karate, I decided to teach two very simple self-defense moves, to illustrate a couple of the basic principles of self-defense. It’s a bit scary, because this could go wrong in so many ways. But that’s how we learn.  To quote Aristotle (Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 14th ed., 197): “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them”.

Recently I came across a study from Yahoo Research (Economic and Social Systems Group) that shows that we are using microblogging services such as Twitter to collect information.  Looking for a good coffee shop in downtown Toronto?  Just tweet. Need help finding the latest news? Tweet. What’s the latest hot band?  Check the twitter trends.

What did I learn today? When you get stuck, ask for help, the modern way.


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