I had a great conversation with a fellow small-Minnesota-school-physics-professor today that I wanted to store here so I don’t lose it. He was asking about how my students use screencasts to turn in assessments, and he specifically wondered whether he could make use of the document camera in the lab room to help facilitate that.
I wanted to know a little more, so I asked whether he was thinking that the doc cam would capture their work (from a blank page), or whether it would be used for a static image of their finished work. This got us talking about what would be best from an assessment point of view.
I shared with him that I much prefer to see a page with all the students completed work on it, and to have them walk me through it, adding in all kinds of observations about how they came to each point. I also shared that I don’t overly look forward to the screencasts that start as blank screens. It seems that they’re tedious, sometimes, and I find that I fast forward, often, until I can see where they’re going.
We talked about whether that was lazyness on my part or whether there was something to having students complete their thoughts before we are given a window into their process. I shared that watching students go down blind alleys is useful, if only to count how often they do it. But, in the end, I want to know if they’ve found the right (or one right) path.
He pointed out that he starts from scratch often when demonstrating how to solve certain types of problems. Sometimes this is in class, in front of the students, and sometimes its via some form of screencast. We talked a little about Ken Heller’s research contrasting novice and expert problem solvers. Basically, I figure that we don’t make nearly as many mistakes, and when we do, we often see a teaching opportunity.
What do you think? If you had all the time in the world, would you like to be a fly on the wall watching a student start from scratch when solving a new problem? Or would you get all the assessment information you’d need by letting them futz around, then produce a clean document, and then walk you through it? Some of this reminds me, by the way, of the great talk that Joss Ives gave at AAPT about giving his students time to think during oral exams.
Another thought I had is related to what I just got back from. I play in the Hamline student Jazz Ensemble and tonight we sight-read a piece by Oliver Nelson. Here’s what it’s supposed to sound like:
Trust me, not only did we not sound like that, but I don’t think you would have learned much about our eventual potential as a band by hearing what we did tonight.