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Saturday, October 20, 2012

I Googled "Tutor" and Nothing Came Up


Okay, so I didn’t do that literally, but a tutor in a session that I observed a few days ago practically did.

I want to very briefly talk about the effects of using a search engine in the tutoring process.

While it can be an effective and convenient tool for pulling up a source that escapes you or an example that you think the writer will benefit from, Google can quickly turn into an enhanced distraction that isolates the writer and turns her against you.

In the session I observed, this is exactly what happened. A writer came in to buff up her resume. The tutor turned to Google and showed her examples. This was great, but he kept returning to the screen. Sometimes she started to talk, and he would immediately turn to the search bar. With his eyes on the screen and his fingers on the keyboard, he seemed like he wasn’t listening. I wasn’t the only one picking up on this– the writer did as well. As the session went on (with more and more treks to Google), the writer began to “fight” for attention by sliding her paper across the table and pointing to examples. It was clear that she was aching for some kind of guidance that she wasn’t getting. This gradually accelerated into some alienating arguments where the student left looking unsatisifed.

Why did this happen? Let’s break down what seems obvious here.

First of all, the tutor was unaware of the aura in the session– he wasn’t able to feel the kairos of the situation, and he was oblivious to his actions. He continued to use turning to Google as a teaching method. When you, as a tutor, start to use a searchbar to answer one question, you may unconsciously start using it to answer all questions, fix all problems, and find what’s missing in the session. This can be seen as a metaphysical paradigm: ultimately, the computer screen becomes the writer you should be helping.

But wait, the session can get worse. This screen can very quickly become not only another focus, but a wedge between you and the writer. If you constantly refer to Google (even while the writer voices a concern or says something about her assignment), an automatic sense sets into the writer. Her brain starts operating on the principle that you probably don’t really care.

In our daily lives, we may not realize that all of the screens we attach ourselves to become escapes from a current moment in reality. I would like to posit that, in the session, it is our responsibility to have our feet grounded firmly in the reality of the moment the writer brings to us. There are great learning tools in technology, but the caveat to our Googles and iPads and is that the writer must always be the center of the session.

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