Thursday, October 04, 2007

Teacher Trix

So I went to this 2.5 hour training session last night at PSU, for both current and wannabe Saturday Academy instructors.

Our trainers were mostly from the public sector and wanted to coach us regarding various pedagogical ploys they'd mastered, perhaps invented, perhaps adapted from some other educator / guru.

One lady had a "talking chair" where kids got to sit if they broke the silence with uncalled for chatter, got the idea from somewhere. Another teacher had an invariably affirmative response even for completely bogus answers, a feature some rascals might enjoy exploiting in darkly comical ways.

It seemed to me that many of these teachers still harbored that myth of an "undivided attention" i.e. had what Fuller branded a "never mind what you think, we're trying to teach you" attitude.

In contrast, we geeks relish the freedom to multi-task, and I tell my students to go ahead and divide their attention in ways they feel optimizes their productivity, maximizes the value they get from my class.

If that means checking email while the presenter is talking, no problem. Adult geeks do that all the time, and it's not considered disrespectful. Quoting from an earlier blog post:
Highly technical talks may be sampled on many levels. I appreciate the freedom to not give my undivided attention to the C# code being discussed on the big screen right now, even though it's really cool.
On the other hand, the presentation may be riveting and/or have cost you time/energy to attend, whereas you can check your email from just about any mom & pop coffee shop in this our fair town.

So my advice is: don't squander the opportunity.

Also, the freedom to multi-task doesn't mean you don't also have the freedom to concentrate your entire being on a single point (belly button?) if you want to and/or still have that childhood ability (some lose it early, with some using medications to address their deficit).

It's just that we don't expect our students to have to always wear that "look and act attentive while thinking of something else" mask, as if completely ignoring their own thought process, denying they even have one.

That's an unwanted holdover behavior from Old Europe or something, detracts from developing one's true potentials (which was maybe the point?).

Shades of Pink Floyd.