Tuesday, February 24, 2015

#WeirdEd Week 45- Magic

Teaching is magic.

No, this isn't the Harry Potter #WeirdEd. We're going to get to that, I promise. But not tonight.

Magic is all tricks and slight of hand. My three favorite magicians, four really, are Ricky Jay, The Amazing Jonathan, and Penn & Teller.

Ricky Jay is a master slight of hand magician. He is the most skilled card manipulator in the world. Someday soon take an hour and watch this video. It's family friendly and will blow your mind. Everything from the ease with which he does the impossible to his perfect patter inspires me

The Amazing Jonathan is a completely different kind of magician. Where Ricky makes everything look ease Johnathan goes for laughs. His tricks go wrong. He claims the reason he went into comedy is because he was never a good magician, but by not doing his tricks well he pulls off tricks perfectly. He's barely a magician and the guys on either side of him on this list would probably kill me for putting him here. I don't care, he's hilarious and the Windex joke is one of my favorite gags. Language warning goes here.

And then there's Penn & Teller. The most famous bay boys of magic. The big noisy one and the small quiet one. The ones who have absolutely no regard for any of the rules of magic, and barely any regard for the rules of society. They are brilliantly talented, amazingly funny, and brutally honest.  And I could post their videos all day, but I won't. One here, and one at the end. The one here explains how much they don't care about the rules of magic. And the one at the end is a trick you'll never figure out.

Teaching is magic. Teaching is misdirection and showmanship. Teaching is practicing a skill until it becomes second nature. Not only are we manipulating the audience's expectations, but we are also subverting it to gain their attention. Often the audience sees us as a kind of magician. This isn't exactly the goal, we don't want our kids to think we know what we know because magic. But Penn & Teller show us that it doesn't matter if we know it's a trick or not. The joy is in the trick itself.

Think again about the cups and balls trick in the first video. Ricky Jay shows us a few ways that exact same trick has been done over the centuries. Think about some of the skills we are teaching in class. These are not new skills, no matter how much rhetoric we hear about training kids for the 21st century. Critical thinking skills haven't actually changed, just what we're thinking about, the way we're absorbing data and the amount of it that we're absorbing has changed.

Think about how entertaining all three of these videos were, for different ways. Some teachers might be drier, closer to Ricky Jay. Some of us might be a little more insane, like Jonathan. And some of us might be sneering at the system while working within it to make our own points, like Penn & Teller. Seriously, find some of their talks from The Amazing Meetings, where they (Penn) talk about truth and magic. It's great stuff. And you don't even have to agree with everything he says. You probably shouldn't.

Let's talk about teaching and about magic. Let's have some fun.

Now watch this.

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