The term “guru” is bandied about all too often these days. But how apt is the term? I think for a person to be described as an education technology guru, the following criteria have to be satisfied. I’m basing these on my understanding of the role of a guru in traditional meditation practices. The guru there is an enlightened person who is helping others to achieve the same state of consciousness. So here is my set of criteria of ed tech gurudom.
The ‘guru’ should have a great deal of specialist knowledge
This should go without saying, but I’m not convinced that many so-called gurus have much specialist knowledge at all. By ‘'”specialist”, I mean more than you might know simply from common-sense. For me, an educational guru of any kind should be able to cite research, case studies, and be able to speak with authority based on that, not merely on charisma. But when I hear the talks of some ‘gurus’, I mostly hear anecdotes. I think there is a place for anecdotal evidence, but for me an ed tech guru needs to have a bit more than that.
The guru should be able to help others achieve the same level
In other words, as well as being visionary and inspiring, a true guru would be able to identify a problem, state the cause of the problem, and then say, “and so now you need to do X in order to progress.” But when I listen to so-called gurus, quite often their talk may be summarised as:
“There’s a problem with education and someone needs to do something about it.”
The guru should actually want to help others achieve the same level of knowledge
Knowledge is power, knowledge is money, potentially. I don’t get the overwhelming impression that many of the ed tech gurus actually want other people to know as much as them. If they did, they would satisfy the preceding criterion. I don’t blame them: why risk reducing or even losing a source of income? All I’m saying is that if that is the case, we shouldn’t call them gurus.
The guru should have humility
There are couple of people I know who are regarded as gurus, and fortunately that appellation hasn’t gone to their head and made them obnoxious. I wish I could say the same about others who, when I have gone up to them after a presentation and thanked them for a thought-provoking and inspiring talk have either grunted or looked straight past me. Again, if they feel that that is appropriate behaviour then good luck to them, but I can’t honestly regard them as a guru in the sense that I am using the term.