Friday 11/4/2011

B Lippitt (my University Coordinator) came by today and we had a good chat. Had a chance to go over the two classes I was doing today, the “Science Behind CSI” elective on chromatography, and the “Introduction to Computer Programming” elective (a one-time only thing). Here my reflection on each of those.

For “CSI” I started off with a “mock crime” of a suicide note written, but we couldn’t find the pen. After setting up that general problem and what else could have happened to the victim. I displayed some results I had gotten from some paper chromatography experiments that I had been running. I resolved in this class period to do a lot of questioning, to do a lot of cross-referencing from one student to another, and to not let anyone tune out. I wish I could say I was successful getting student-student interaction instead of student-teacher interaction, but I don’t think so. I think the video will show that there was student voice, but I sometimes probably drowned it out. Meanwhile, I think at least a few people in the class were tracking with my quick introduction to experimental variables, hypothesis and some basics of the scientific method. Once I was clear that students understood the pre-arranged chromatographs, I had them pick a strip with 1 unknown and three other test dots. They also had to pick the solvent that they wanted to use. Most picked alcohol, but one group bravely decided to go with water. The experiments all ran beautifully, and we were all able to make some key conclusions. I was very proud of them, and let them go a little early to lunch.

But then, something was nagging at me that all efforts to teach without a real assessment is like a loop without any feedback in it. I should know better. I am missing out on the real satisfaction that a lesson has been painstakingly prepared, carefully and conscientiously delivered, and the learning has been verified and reinforced (by an assessment of some sort).

The next class today was the elective on computer programming. The goal was to show middle schoolers of various backgrounds that they could do programming. First problem was that they were all 15-20 minutes late to the 60 minute class. Next problem was that it was harder than I thought to find the PDF file which contained programming examples, and the actual programming environment (sb.exe) that was needed to run the samples. I was astounded to see that this “most digital generation” does not know some basic Windows UI paradigms. But, the best thing was a student L. whose face absolutely shone when she took a simple “Hello World” program and customized it to be “Hello L.” That was actually the goal for the whole venture, to find someone who would be impressed by the sheer potential of it all. A more motivated student R. was already hacking away, since he was more experienced, and couldn’t believe anyone would copy and paste code that they didn’t understand in depth. Ahh, a purist! It will be interesting to see if anything comes of this one-off course, I think students today still have a ways to go when it comes to computer savvy.

My student C. who was supposed to come by in the afternoon for a computer literacy one-on-one session had gotten into a fight earlier in the day with another student that I know, and they both were sent home. Darn!

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