One of the fascinating challenges of online teaching is finding ways to convey ideas and information to somebody on the other side of the Internet connection - which may of course be anywhere between next door and the other side of the Earth.

An essential aspect of any form of teaching is effective communication, but the means may well be different depending on the situation. In a face-to-face teaching situation for example, it's easy just to reach over and gently nudge a finger into a better position, or to demonstrate briefly something about the plectrum. This sort of possibility obviously doesn't exist with the Internet (at least yet!), but I have often been delighted to find alternative ways of influencing what students experience - and I am still finding new ones.

All teachers have their own style and their own methods of teaching - their own "box of tricks" - and all good teachers know that each student is unique anyway, and requires individual and personal ways of approaching certain subjects. Teaching is different from buying sox; there is just no "one-size-fits-all". What works for one student doesn't necessarily make sense to another. There are many teaching techniques which are especially effective in the online situation, and these range from high-tech methods like sound and pdf files to verbal skills. Putting things in the right words - words that make sense to the student - is course essential in traditional teaching anyway.

In my particular case, I am also very happy that I can refer students to my book, "The Mandolin Game" (TB 2010 in English or TB 2009 in German, from Trekel of Hamburg). The book contains very detailed information about many fundamental matters, and it has often been very convenient for me to say to a student: "Have a look at page 37" or whatever.

The book is written in such a way that students go through sequences of activities leading up to a particular goal.
Students are encouraged to try out various things, experience them physically, to think and observe. As a teacher, I don't want people to do things just because I say they should do them; I want them to be convinced themselves. I want my students to be critical, and to ask and discuss whenever they feel the need.

Of course, if necessary I sometimes say : "Well, look - you don't really know enough at the moment to tackle that particular matter, but please ask me again later on." My students usually trust my judgement enough to accept this sort of answer.

I have tried in "The Mandolin Game" to present things systematically, to lay the building blocks in the appropriate order, so that students are correctly prepared for the next respective step. The book has proven invaluable to my students, regardless of whether the lessons are face-to-face or online, and has also saved me lots of time and breath during lessons. I particularly liked the comment of an excellent Dutch colleague and sometime student shortly after the book appeared. She said: "I can hear your voice in my mind when I use the book".

I certainly enjoyed writing the book, and tried to make it pleasant to use as well. Of course it is subjective - written from my point of view, which is pretty non-standard.

This sort of blog is the wrong place to publish extracts. If you are interested, get a copy and work through it. It's a "hands-on" book, suitable neither for sleep-learning nor reading in the train on the way to work. If you read through it - even from cover to cover - without following all the suggestions slowly, carefully and thoughtfully on the instrument, you are missing the
point. I know a number of people in that category, and you would probably know some of their names as well. Oh well, you can't please everybody...

I thought it might be fun to publish a few sentences or ideas of a general nature though. Perhaps you might smile at the occasional quotation, or even disagree strongly with something. I sometimes chuckle myself at some things I wrote a decade ago.