Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘teaching

One might take a simple observation (like the one tweeted below) and turn it into a teaching moment.

At first glance, you might see nothing wrong with the set up and leave it at that.

As the Twitter personality points out human foibles like laziness or oversight, you might look for something wrong. So a second look might reveal how the rolled up screen cannot be lowered past the projector.

Even so, anyone who has used a short-throw projector knows that 1) it is typically used with a wall-mounted whiteboard (like the one in the same photo), and 2) the projection on the board is often interactive. The second point means that the presenter can tap or write on the board — this requires a stationary surface, not a dangling one.

Still, someone whose job was to install the projector could have also removed the old screen. But even that is not nuanced enough. Why replace one type of projector with another?

Administrators and policymakers have bought into the sales pitches of vendors who say that such interactive projections are the next big thing. They are not. They leave the teacher squarely at the front of the classroom, with little involvement of the learners.

To teach is the learn twice.

If the adage that “To teach is to learn twice” is true, then we understand why teachers become content experts. They are constantly unpacking and repacking content for others.

How about the learners? Would they not benefit from teaching one another more often than not?

If teachers have just one critical job (for the record, they have many), it is to ensure that students learn effectively and meaningfully. Presentations on screen do not ensure learning; performance using the new knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes do.

Learning is not a spectator sport. --Chickering and Ehrmann

I process most things from an educator’s perspective. So when this talented artiste performed Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody 42 ways, I thought about teaching.


Video source

Are we one-trick ponies? Or can we switch strategies and use different tools when the context and learning need dictate?

Teaching is not as glamorous or flashy as the video performance, but we can still learn from it. The video is a result of much practice, application of creativity, correcting mistakes, and persisting when there is resistance.

What are we doing to build up our teaching repertoires?

The end of every semester gives me time to reflect. Even though I am no longer a full time faculty member, I do this because I am still an educator of future educators.

Most times I take notes — literally in macOS Notes — of what to do differently the next semester. This semester a conversation with one future faculty member reminded me to stay the course.

A graduate student I had just evaluated on student-centred pedagogy stayed back and asked me why I insisted that higher order thinking be challenged to and attempted by groups of learners.

The simple answer was the same as what that student recalled from workshop sessions — getting students to work with one another was more engaging. I did not give that answer because I know that empowerment is more effective than engagement.

I provided a broader answer. I replied that getting students to think deeply was important individually, particularly in a university context. However, we also have a civic responsibility to prepare students for the work place.

These are the same work places that have to deal with ill-structured problems. Often workers operate in teams or groups to find or devise solutions.

Universities have to play catch-up with the work place. Faculty who claim to prepare students for the work place need to operate accordingly. That is why higher order thinking, like peer teaching and cooperative learning, are critical.

To teach is the learn twice.

I helped that learner connect dots that he did not realise went that broad and that deep. I realise that I do not do this often enough. This reflection is a reminder for me to not just take these teachable moments, but also to make them.

I watched this two-part video report how mandarin is taught now. It featured a journalist who revisited a classroom and immersed herself in the student experience.


Video source


Video source

The intended message seemed to be that the methods were more progressive now compared to, say, the time of the kids’ parents. Given the examples and strategies, you might agree.

But I wonder about how the narrative was crafted.

Was three days enough to gauge how the teaching of mandarin had changed? Pragmatically speaking, a journalist is not a researcher and it is tough to get permission and time to record the classroom. That said, three days was not representative compared to three months or three terms.

The class comprised a group of a Secondary 2 Higher Chinese students. These were the minority of students and they enjoyed a smaller class size. How was the class representative of the larger population of students?

That said, the teaching of mandarin, like most other content areas, has changed with the incorporation of various technologies and curricular interventions. Perhaps both were too difficult to show.

I am not referring to the journalist’s toting an iPad. It could have been her own and it did not feature prominently. White boards dominated and this could indicate more a change of medium (from blackboards) and of methods (peer instruction).

An example of a curricular change is the different levels of mandarin in Primary school — foundation, standard, and higher — for students with different abilities. Instead of one size curriculum fits all, it was three sizes fits all.

Perhaps even more insidious is how the type of teachers of mandarin has changed. They are younger, more open to different strategies, and effectively bilingual. If mindset and cultural circumstance have any influence, the way these teachers practice their craft is different from their teachers.

The changes on how content is taught is more nuanced than two videos can reveal. Perhaps a focus on the type of teacher might have been a better narrative.


Video source

Hank Green described how one group of students were directed to make a “perfect pot” out of clay while another group was told to make as many as possible.

Spoiler: The perfect group could not find or make their pot while other group was messy but made many good pots.

If I were to show this video to a group of teachers and educators, I am certain to get many different responses. I have my own: The first process is one modelled on the expert teaching model, while the second reflects the messiness of learning.

Teaching is neat. Learning is messy.

This tweet claimed that some people over complicate teaching.

I think that it oversimplified teaching by eschewing nuance. The statement might be equivalent to saying that surgery was knocking someone out, cutting them open, and removing offending bits.

If teaching was that simple, we would not need to have teacher education and professional development programmes. If teaching was that straightforward, anyone could do it.

No. It takes special people, careful nurturing, and meaningful professional development to shape teachers and change what they do.

Trying to distill the complexity of teaching is not wrong if you are an experienced professional, but it also does a disservice when it misrepresents that work to outsiders.

Tags:

 
Processing the tweeted statement below at face value, my immediate response was: And, not or.

Pragmatic and theoretically-grounded educators should be doing all three, with an emphasis on the latter two. If you read the resource linked from the tweet, the author seems to agree with me.

I would add that there are more Ts: Titillating (activating with hooks, creating of dissonance, motivating), Tinkering (experimenting, learning from failure), Thinking (strategising, reflecting), Trailblazing (troubling Trouble before it troubles you).


http://edublogawards.com/files/2012/11/finalistlifetime-1lds82x.png
http://edublogawards.com/2010awards/best-elearning-corporate-education-edublog-2010/

Click to see all the nominees!

QR code


Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

Archives

Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: