I was part of a great twitter conversation tonight that really got me thinking. This tweet was the first that caught my eye
It then led to a conversation where Alice talked about how she’s challenged herself to never address the whole class, instead focusing on small groups or even individual conversations with students during class. She makes sure the instructions for what to work on are available (she uses Google Classroom quite a bit, I know) and creates a culture where the students come in and get to work right away.
This got me thinking about my general physics class coming up this semester (first day is this Wednesday!). We spend quite a bit of class time working in groups, using whiteboards, trying to figure out approaches, apply ideas, predict what’ll happen in demos etc. I spend a lot of my time walking around engaging with groups and individuals. So far, so good, and I can see how Alice’s ideas could help me get to that faster. I could make sure that the questions/issues/content/demos are laid out on some web site or projected handout or whatever and have them get right to the groups right away. I like thinking about how I could save time by not re-explaining the instructions to the whole class even when only one group or individual has the question. It would mean having some pretty explicit instructions but I don’t think that bothers me.
But I see another way that would save time and make the learning better. Here’s the scenario that I think could be improved:
Student (or group): … but when we do that, we get this?!
me: ooh, cool! HANG ON EVERYBODY, THIS GROUP HAS SOMETHING YOU SHOULD SEE
Of course I’m happy to use live group work to help others learn. However, the big problem with that scenario is the “HANG ON” part. I’m forcing everyone else to freeze their thought process and try to focus on something that’s not hitting them in stride. There’s all kinds of variations to that scenario, ranging from “we don’t get why this matters” through “We googled this and . . .” to “ours seems to be different than everyone else’s.” All of those can often lead to learning for everyone if everyone could give some attention to it. But forcing when that focusing happens causes problems.
So what if I used technology to allow those moments to be captured (probably a photo of their work along with a caption from either me or them (assuming I encouraged them to do it)) and added to a streaming slide show that they can all access and look at. Alice says it well:
In other words, when people are ready to focus on something that another group has done, they can access the slide show, pause it on the appropriate slide, and learn!
I think I’d still like something of a board meeting (borrowing from the Modeling community) in there somewhere so that different groups could interact, but this idea could really foster some great conversation.
What I would need:
- A website (sounds easiest) that could display the instructions and the evolving slideshow
- The ability for anyone in class (including me) to add to the slide show with both photos and captions
- Repeat with a fresh (empty) slide show for each class
I’m sure I could build that into my homebuilt LMS but I’ll likely look around for something first. Maybe Flickr could do it? Maybe a google folder? I’m happy to take suggestions below.
Questions/thoughts/ideas/anecdotes/complaints? Here are some starters for you:
- This is Alice and I like how you’ve captured this idea. Here’s a bunch of other resources along these lines …
- This is Alice and you’ve totally screwed up this idea. I really hope no one’s reading this comment because that means they’ve scrolled through this whole stupid post.
- Why do you think that students reading instructions is better than you giving a (nuanced?) explanation at the beginning of class?
- I hate it when I interrupt students to give them something new to think about. I like this approach, though I worry they won’t attend to the slide show. Here’s how I’d fix that . . .
- I love it when I interrupt students to give them something new to think about. It usually brings back the groups that have gone off the rails and later they can discuss with other groups better because they’ve all thought about the same things. I think you should do this to fix this idea . . .
- I’m in your general physics class this semester and I’m excited about some of the ideas in this post. Mostly I’m excited to . . .
- I’m in this class this semester. Where can I get a drop card?