Sunday, March 20, 2011

Red Cross Pedagogy

Yesterday I had the privilege of spending 8 hours in the hands of the Red Cross, freshening up my adult and child CPR and first aid and meeting AEDs for the first time.

Here are the pedagogical approaches they used that I learned from in a way I might remember if an emergency actually hit:
  • hands on practice in moving a choking friend back and forth between back blows and abdominal thrusts
  • hands on using the plastic torsos to practice CPR for a decent chunk of time - half an hour maybe? (I could also feel some muscle memory from the last time I did this in approximately 1998)
  • hands on using the plastic torsos to simulate using the AED
  • hands on tying a bandage on my friend and having him tie a sling on me.
Here are the pedagogical approaches they used that I learned from for just long enough to pass their test end of they day multiple choice test:
  • lecture
  • reading
  • demonstration of one student rolling another student
  • videos
  • last minute pre-test cramming of needed information into our head ("teaching to the test" in the purest form I've ever seen)
It's always good to be forced to spend a day in a situation I'm not particularly intrinsically motivated for, just to see how most of my students feel most days.

I think what surprises me the most is how little the demonstration did for me -- it was a purely visual flow of information that wasn't really much more engaging than a video. I tend to try to substitute demos for hands-on experiences in my lesson planning because it's so much more efficient in limited time, and I guess this says I need to try to squeeze my efficiencies out some other way -- like cutting down the lecture even more.

Something that was surprisingly effective for me was the continual stream of verbal directions and reinforcement of critical information as I was doing the hands-on work. Maybe that should be my main method of information transfer rather than lecture.

I wish we'd done more writing in this class -- I'm wondering whether that would have fallen into the "doing something" category for me (resulting in some effective learning because I'd actually mentally had to process something and use it) or the "seeing / hearing something" category. Maybe it depends a lot on the kind of writing.

Overall, I think I need to learn to be more zen about teaching. I know that "doing" is almost always better than "seeing" and "hearing", but I also know that giving my students time to "do" always (a) takes more time than I expect and (b) is the fastest way I know to spread out my fast learners from my slow learners (maybe because they're actually learning!). I need to learn to accept a slower overall pace and the need for basic / crticial and extension levels of any meaningful assignment. And more "doing".

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Things I Learned at MACUL11

So, today I got to go to the MACUL Conference, courtesy of our Teaching with Technology class. Here are some things I learned:

  1. You can do really individualized, project-based, interdisciplinary learning that is driven by each student's interests, meets the state standards, and reaches kids who would otherwise drop out physically and / or mentally. But you may have to blow up the traditional school structure to do it.
  2. Using the annotate feature in YouTube lets you and/or your students put commentary on videos and make interactive "choose your own adventure" video sequences. Also, youtube is fun, and making youtube videos can make school more fun. And sometimes it can be educational too.
  3. Universal design for learning (UDL) is about giving kids access to the topics in multiple ways, giving them multiple ways to demonstrate their learning, and giving them choices so they can use the ways to learn that work best for them. There are lots of resources on the CAST site.
  4. Project-based learning is cool, and there are lots of resources for it here and here.
  5. You can use a combination of Google Sites and Google Docs to enable your students to collect their work over time in an e-portfolio and to enable you and your colleagues to share and collaborate on curriculum resources. There are resources and how-to's here, and it looks reasonably straightforward.
If there was a theme to my day, it was how to use technology to engage students in individualized, self-motivated, creative, project-based learning, and thinking about what constraints need to be shifted within the traditional model of school to make it work.

It seems like the most critical element is team-based teaching or some other way of solving the problem of "I want to study the Gulf of Mexico oil spill from a scientific, mathematical, political, literary, and foreign language points of view but my students all have five different teachers for each of those subjects, and that's a lot of cats to herd teachers to coordinate."

Also helpful: One-to-one computers. So your students can access your UDL-based electronic texts and interactive assignments, collaborate with each other even when they're at home, and get to their project and e-portfolio sites whenever they need to, regardless of their family's economic resources.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Epsilon Greater-Than Vi Hart

This, and everything else on her site, are among the most wonderful math things I have encountered: