Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Fingers Do the Walking on Teacher Appreciation Day

Tonight I had the most amazing experience.  For an hour, I got to walk in the shoes of my students by emulating their social media habit.


Well, let's try it another way.

My computer froze, and upon reboot, my personal firewall locked access to Twitter.  I had 10 minutes until I was to help moderate a Twitter chat on what #teachingis (in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week).  My efforts to unlock the firewall failed.

I text my partner-in-crime to tell her that I was having internet issues.

I see a message pop up on Google Hangouts, asking from another co-leader, very nicely,  what the hold up was.

I open my Twitter app on my phone, and blindly introduce myself to the chat, tagging the chat with our #hashtag.

My computer unlocks enough to allow me to open my Google Chat script of questions and I hand-type the first question on my cell phone app.   The app also has a search feature that allows me to reply to questions.

I realize that each time I have a new question, my search window disappears.  And so more multitasking ensures.  A few spelling errors as well.

But the tweets fly, fast and furious.

8:05 We are all having a great time, and new people join our chat.
Welcoming them back knocks me out of the saved topic chat on my phone.


In the middle of the chat, I realize that this is how my students do most of their typing and communicating.   Most of them can knock a paper out on their phones as easily as I can type on a traditional keyboard.   I was raised on Smith and Wesson, they are part of the Samsung Galaxy or Apple-verse.  It appears to work well enough for then.

8:07  Back to the chat, and ideas are flying.  Humor and a surge of information moves the conversation and splits it several ways.

8:09 #thankateacher crosses over to #teachingis, which is a great fusion.  #thankateacher reflects the impact of the profession and #teachingis crosses over to visioning new ways to leverage the complex work that is being done.

8:30  The chat is almost done.   Everyone one looks at what we have accomplished.   I realize that a Storify is going to need to be pulled from the tweets, but I will do that in the morning.

With my computer.  Not a smart phone app.   At least for now.

And I am left with a nagging question.  What happens when we let the user decide the technology?  Perhaps what I see as a concession (yes, you can use the phone) is really a necessity (I can do it faster with my phone)

For me, I have fingers that are unaccustomed to rapid-fire texting.   At the end of the hour, my fingers felt stiff.  For others, that feeling of exhilaration and synergy may flow better from a phone than a keyboard.

But the great thing is that both of us, whoever we are, are right.  That's part of why #teachingis complex, rewarding, and worth pursuing.

photo credit: Johan Larsson via photopin cc

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

News Flash! Use your Teacher Skills

In the last three days, I have been reminded of a crucial thought.

I don't have to know everything.   What a great and freeing piece that is!  

I might break into Handel's chorus, but it's Lent, so I won't.

Case 1:  A close family friend is struggling with physics and has an upcoming test.   "I'm going to Kahn Academy, but I just don't get what they are saying.  Help!"

Don't you just hate it when that happens? The problem: this student lives 160 miles away, so coming over for a tutoring session was not a possibility.  He had gone to every physics class and study session and it just did not make sense.  The homework examples he had didn't match the samples from past tests.

What do you do when a kid doesn't understand a concept?
Good question.  That's why we need  teachers to reteach, differentiate, personalize.  And that is what I could offer.

First, I located some Paul Hewitt video clips.  Hands-down, when a student doesn't understand physics, it is because it lacks relevance to their personal experience.  Comics, xkcd discussions, targeted discussions all can help, but it will look different for different individuals

Second, I skyped with this student in 15 minute intervals over four days, answering specific questions.  She even identified a problem on an archived test that was missing a variable (and was later thrown out).  This is one of the best teaching moments--working to uncover misconceptions and then making a difference with some small detail that makes the light bulbs come on.

photo credit: zetson via photopin cc

Case 2:  My class is working on trusses in principles of engineering, a Project Lead The Way.   I can do trusses myself, but presenting on them makes me nervous.  I had already flipped the powerpoint, so students had it as a reference, and we had worked through the worksheet, which was confusing to them.

Time for a new resource.  Again, it is not possible to know everything.

Admitting that led me to the web, where I found a fabulous resource on youtube.  I'm much more likely to use youtube videos than professional production, mostly because the teachers who do make them are well-organized and the pedagogy for doing things seems more in line with my beliefs of how a student can learn.  This, for example, had the students working along with the teacher to do a problem..  Now, I did not require students to do work with this video.  They could use the worksheet, or keep working with the powerpoint.  It was a matter of choice....their choice.

Teacher skills:  flexibility, adaptability, working with others, respecting students, honoring the potential of all students to learn, making sure there is more than ONE right way, and understanding where to find resources that can help.

Fountain of all knowledge? Omnipotent?  Not even worth worrying about..