computers, classroom, climbing, etc.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Watch out!

From "Teach Paperless" a little while back...

I do think that teachers and schools in general would be wise to learn something from the example of what has happened over the past ten years in the music industry. Or face a similar irrelevance.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The significance of furniture

I'm beginning to think that furniture is key, especially in a 1:1 classroom. The layout of my classroom is beginning to irritate me.

So, recently, I've moved from this:

To this:

This is perhaps the biggest eureka-moment of my teaching career (or is that "halleluya-moment"?).

First off, just look at how crowded the first classroom looks, and how much space there is in the second one. I get thirty desks in the classroom with enough space to dance in the middle. Most important is how easy it is to get to the pupils. Look at the first picture and imagine helping a pupil with her work. How do you get to the one in the middle? Or the ones sitting by the window? In the second classroom, the teacher can easily get to every pupil, stand beside them, see their work and help. The second classroom also makes a clear division between activities. When the pupils are working alone, they face away from each other. When the teacher wants their attention, they must turn away from their work. In the first classroom, a teacher standing at the front of the classroom has to compete with what the students have in front of them for attention. This typically requires closing computers every time the teacher wants to say something. In a class discussion, the pupils cannot see each other well, while in the second classroom, the pupils can easily see each other when they turn to the center of the room.
There are other advantages, as well. In the first classroom, the pupils at the back of the room often end up staring at 30 computer screens, and get frequently distracted. The second classroom makes it easy to arrange spontaneous group work by getting the outer circle to swivel. And so on. I'm just starting this, but it seems to work.
A couple of points.
1. You need to have swivel chairs.
Swivel chairs are probably a necessity in a 1:1 classroom, anyway, and a great thing in any classroom.

2. The pupils find this weird. They are used to a passive role, and this classroom expects them to be doing something school-related during all class time. Many of them have become comfortable
with their computers as an alternative to school and this set-up makes this more difficult. In one class this week when I did not have time to remodel the classroom, a pupil asked why, saying she liked my new lay-out. Variations are probably due to differences in motivation and to level of distraction, since the new lay-out provides for fewer distractions.
3. This is not a good lay-out for long talks from the teacher, particularly if they have to take notes from the board. On second thought, I'm not sure if this is a weakness, or a strength...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Technology, anyone?

Sociology class. 12th years. Each pupil gets one of the key terms we have been working on and is to explain it on a short Mp3. The Mp3s go into a bank that pupils can download for help and repetition. I also want to get everyone familiar with Audacity and exporting to Mp3 so that I can get up to speed with a class podcast and other projects. As well as fun and variation, the effect that different media have on social interaction will be a topic for a later unit - so I want to use varied media in class before that.

One pupil complains:" Why all the technology? Why can't we just talk? Why do things always have to be so complicated? I'm not a technical person and I don't like to use technical methods to communicate. I'd prefer to talk face-to-face, in front of people."

I notice that she has two (2!) different chat pages up on her computer while she is saying this. She has also downloaded Skype (among other things) to her laptop.

Not quite sure what's going on here. Does technology become invisible when you are using it for a meaningful goal, and take all your attention when the goals are external or meaningless? (the claims of this pupil to not be a 'technical person' are particularly weird - in her daily life she does more complicated things than what I was asking her to do) Has technology become an easy place to hang one's general dissatisfaction with school? Do teenagers feel invaded when we use 'their' stuff in school? Or has school suddenly become an irritating 'geeks-only' zone?


Photo credit: eBuddy CC

Monday, September 7, 2009

Glogster, anyone?

Monday morning. Posters. Every pupil has a city and is to make a quick poster. No paper, but, hey, it's 2009. "Log onto Glogster, everyone and you can all make a Glog on your topic."

One pupil looks at me disdainfully. "I don't glog."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How I do it now.


School year has begun, enough existential angst. Now it's time for some practical, pedagogical thinking. For a while, the goal is to give this blog a practical slant by blogging about what I do and what I'm trying.

First, what is it that I already do? Who am I as a teacher? I started with the thing I have probably taught the most, the figure-8 tie-in knot for rock-climbing. I tried to video myself and learned the following things:

  • Video is difficult (hence the lack of video here - maybe one day)

  • I rely greatly on feedback from students - modifying as I go along.
  • I rarely talk for more than a few seconds before getting the students to do something. That surprised me, actually. I thought I talked for minutes at a time. I do when I teach something I don't know so well, but in the things I really can do - I get the students going quickly.
  • I don't move on until each pupil has mastered each step. The quick automatically become helpers for the slow.
  • I start with the known and work to the unknown - demonstrating to the students that they already know the basics here, even if they think they don't.
  • My approach takes about twice as long as the simple 'follow-me' instruction that most people seem to use to teach this knot. I do it my way because I feel I get better retention. On day 2, most people remember.

Now - how can I use this approach in, say, Sociology class?