How do you teach digital media?

Posted on 17/02/2015

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Cat's cradle - hands

Let’s give this some context. I’ve been asked by friends and acquaintances a few times how to become an expert in digital. And every time I question 1) if it’s possible to teach this and 2) if I’m the right person to be giving them advice.

Tackling 2) first, some of it comes down to modesty. Digital is both my job and my passion, so at the very least I could pass on a bit of my excitement.

But on this topic I’m always wary of giving advice. There are many other, more qualified people who know far more than I do. Surely they’re the best people to ask on to how to become an expert.

Maybe this is one of the defining characteristics of someone who knows at least something about a topic. They already know their limits, that there other more knowledgeable people. Knowing the limits to your knowledge at least partly indicates that you know *something*.

Another question I struggle with is knowing where to start them off. Perhaps that’s the biggest challenge with knowledge: you rarely begin your journey from the same place. Maybe you can’t arrive at it through traditional or direct routes: it’s a combination of experience, tangential knowledge and (in some cases) training. In a way it’s the same as Tim Brown and David Guest‘s theory on becoming t-shaped.

Mr T; learning how to become T Shaped

So how do we tackle these issues:

  1. You can’t arrive at expertise directly
  2. There are many more levels to being an expert than people think. (Many so-called “experts” are another person’s “junior practitioner”)

I don’t hold the answers, but I have a few thoughts.

If there are many routes to expertise, then finding what you’re interested in is a great place to start. From there you can make your own path through available experience, training and information.

If you’re not that familiar with an area, then you need to know where to start your path. Demystifying an area is a good way to start someone off, giving someone a good idea of the topography so they can understand where they might want to spend time.

Secondly, knowledge and expertise is relative. There’s nothing wrong with asking someone nearby who knows more and there’s nothing wrong with giving advice if you’re perceived as an expert. The “student” in this scenario will soon learn the range and focus of what they need to know. If you’re not the person to further that knowledge, then the least you can do is give them the chance to learn that. So don’t hesitate, share what you know.

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