Friday, March 17, 2006

picking through the debris

As annoyed as I am about this course I think there are very valuable lessons to be learned from this debacle.

1. Computers are boring. Yes, they are very, very boring things. Then again, so are car engines for people not interested in mechanics. But who does not enjoy the freedom and possibilities a car (or vespa) offers ? So, we have to focus on the fun things computers can do for us as much as possible and keep the "mechanics " to a minimum.

2 Many people "don't get" computers, either because of the technical goobledegook or because they consider them the preserve of geeky teenage boys. As a teacher you have to give them a glimpse of how computers can actually be useful to them personally. I doubt that most of yearn to use Excel or Word better, but who doesn't want to chat to far away friends, have access to the music they love, see their photos instantly etc. ?

3 Architecture (not biology) is destiny. The organisation of the classroom defines the lesson and style of learning. The layout of the classroom (similar to the photo above) meant that we were stuck with a lock-step kind of teaching which fails a large number of students either because they can't keep up or they're bored silly. It also reduces the chance for students to work with each other to a minimum. It's little like a medieval monastery in which each monk sits alone in his cell.

4 The more you do as teacher, the less the students will learn. I know that sounds counter-intuitive but it is absolutely true. By taking responsibility for learning out of the student's hands, you drastically reduce their opportunities to learn. You can't learn to ride a bike, play a sport, master a musical instrument etc. just by watching somebody else do it.

5 Group work, group work, goup work. We did virtually nothing in pairs or groups during the three week course and as a result the instructors ignored the fact that some of the more knowledgeable students could have helped the others. This would have have created a more personalised learning situation in which each students' weaknesses could have been dealt with more effectively. A wonderful by-product of this is that it helps create a great feeling of team spirit which can make a huge difference in how enthusiastic people are about the lesson.

6 Learning is doing. It's not enough to present people with knowledge, you have to give them a context/excuse/reason etc. in which to use it. Again we did very little in our course apart from "learn". With the exception of a couple of handouts which had to copied using Word and Excel we didn't actually do anything with all the stuff we were taught. Meaning, of course, that within a few weeks we will have forgotten most of it.

7 Sometimes teaching is not the opposite of learning but the antithesis.

I know all of this most sound like teaching 101 to many of you but sometimes we must remind ourselves of why basic principles are so important. The course has really helped me in my teaching since it reaffirms my faith in my own personal teaching style. Now I've seen the alternative with my own eyes and it just doesn't work.

1 comment:

The SeaWitch said...

I pay for my son to go to computer classes every week too. I'm fortunate that the frontistirio we chose is in a very relaxed setting where kids are encouraged to "do" as they learn. My son loves it so much, he always stays for an extra half hour practicing the things he's learned in the class and the teachers there encourage it. He never complains about going, in fact, he tries to get me to take him earlier. I totally agree with all the points you've made because I see the difference between the two systems with my own son's progress.