Saturday, January 26, 2013

Technology is programmed but Teaching isn't. Can't Fix That.

Dan Meyer mentions Pattern Matching In Khan Academy, quoting Stephanie H. Chang, one of Khan Academy's software engineers:
I observed how some students made progress in exercises without necessarily demonstrating understanding of the underlying concepts. The practice of “pattern matching” is something that Ben Eater and Sal had mentioned on several occasions, but seeing some of it happening firsthand made a deeper impression on me.
I find these kinds of errors showing up often on the gray, blurry line between teaching and computing/programming.

Those who teach don’t necessarily understand programming so they tend to not be able to specify what works in a classroom and the processes or habits that the software is meant to address.

Those who program have never taught so they don’t know how to write the code that solves the problem because they fundamentally don’t understand the problem - or more problematically, don't understand the math they are "teaching" well enough to actually teach it. (That wisc-online tutorial about radians is still there 10 years on, still unchanged, still displaying the same problems I talked about in 2008.)

Unfortunately, those who have done both to a sufficient level aren’t writing the programs that most of us need.  Sometimes, the incompetence is on both sides, but ...

You see this in:
-- grading programs that ignore the ways teachers operate and get in the way instead of making life truly easier ... I just need to enter grades and I don't need a "Wizard" to do it. Why do I have to put this number here and why can't I delete it later?  Why does the thing insist on showing the entire gradebook at all times - I'd like to allow a sub or a student aide to enter attendance. Why does the program not allow me to copy and paste the progress report into an email? Why do I have to use a "wizard" to enter a note to student?

-- Moodle courses that purport to teach but contain things like this gem from a graduate-credit bearing course being "taught" by our "curriculum coordinator":
Google Apps Tutorial:
Watch this online tutorial introduction for Google Apps. (Hints: your screen may not be large enough, so scroll down to see the next button. Playback controls are near the bottom of the page in the center--a very small tab above the line.) Some things on this tutorial will look a little different. Don't let that throw you.
That's it.  That's the sum total of her "teaching". "Follow this link and learn from it".  Must be nice to earn that much money doing so little.

Isosceles has a new definition in SKOOL.
--- software that doesn’t work or fails in bizarre ways ... did you know that Greece is an island? or that a 45-45-90 triangle can have sides 252-325-403? SKOOL says it does and anything named must be correct, right?  It came with the SmartBoard, so it must be Smart.

 --- Tools and software that include limitations and drawbacks unnecessarily. One of the most puzzling is TI-SmartView, which allows the teacher to project on a IWB a very realistic, working version of the TI-84. The simulation has been deliberately slowed down to mimic the time that the actual calculator takes to graph a complicated function ... WTF? ... I have a quad-core machine and it takes seconds to do this graph? As a result, I use the thing only to show the students key locations and methods -  it's too damned slow and cumbersome ... I use things like Graph 4.4 instead -- better graphics, higher resolution, more colors, faster interface, free. Anyway ...

“I observed how some students made progress in exercises without necessarily demonstrating understanding of the underlying concepts.”
Yeah, like the people who made and those who take the at wisc-online tutorial about radians.

We’ve come a long way but not nearly far enough to allow the replacement of teachers; like one other of Dan Meyer's commenters, I see the best use of Khan as taking the rote memorization out of the hands of the teacher-in-class (though Flash Cards is the Number ONE “really cool idea” promoted by the parents I talk to, especially the home-schoolers).

Let them practice outside of class and bring basic skills to automaticity so that we can do some real work together in our limited time together.

1 comment:

  1. "Let them practice outside of class and bring basic skills to automaticity so that we can do some real work together in our limited time together."

    Yes! Two things that are SO right about this passage.

    One, a focus on skills. Not content. Not forcing content into short term memory for regurgitation. Time for experimentation and exploration of a concept or mental model through REPEAT practice and feedback to build fundamental skills and REAL meaning.

    Two, a focus on the strengths of a medium. If the self-paced stuff + homework + reading + demonstrations + practice can help everyone catch on to the fundamentals -- THIS can help to level the playing field for the real work of intense development and coaching in the classroom.

    The most adaptable environment is in the classroom, in the presence of a coach that can tune the experience and offer nudges where nudges are required.

    Getting everyone up to the same fundamental level is a choke point. It's a speed bump that may be helped with smartly designed and implemented technology.