Saturday, September 11, 2010
Teach 'Em To Fish
ARIS makes creating class lists a breeze. All you have to do is open the page, click on the little export in the corner, save the file on an Excel spread sheet, delete the stuff you don't need and auto fit or change the column sizes to what you want and then save the document in a place and with a name you will remember. It sounds complicated but it really is not. Everything is menu driven, easy to follow. (When you are taught correctly.)
I didn't realize until this week how computer illiterate some of my colleagues are. My poor friend almost had a heart attack when she found out she would need to do this for one of her classes. I said, "Never fear, you too shall be an expert in only a few minutes."
Unfortunately, on the day of the lesson, several cackling cronies were in the audience and their snarky comments and giggles unnerved her, but she persevered nevertheless. I refused to touch the keyboard as I gently pointed out the menus she needed to use and the places her mouse had to glide. Before long, she was the one laughing and her hecklers were looking mighty sad.
When we finished the spread sheet, we had to attach it to a file and e-mail it to the person in charge. My poor colleague did not know about the little paper clip and the fact that the file had to be closed before it could be attached. Again, once this was pointed out, she became an attaching fool.
We've had countless staff developments on ARIS and e-mails. We've been shown templates and files and other stuff that are relevant only to the application we are reviewing at that moment. No one ever bothered to go through a menu and to explain the why and how things work.
Attaching a file or exporting a document are easy if you've been around computers for a while. Many teachers have not. To get them proficient, they need basics. They need to be taught the same way we teach children. They need to understand and be able to explore concepts on their own. Only this way will they be able to fully use the wonderful technology available.
I had the same problem trying to learn the Smart Board and the graphing calculator. Instead of menus, I was shown templates and given long written sets of instructions. It was only when I found a friend willing to go through each application was I able to fully understand and apply. By doing this together, I even helped this friend increase her basic knowledge.
This all gets down to one thing. We need to not learn by rote, we need to understand. When I teach a new math concept, I try to get the kids to understand why things work the way they do, introduce common sense rather than memorization. I started doing this years ago when I first started teaching calculus. The AP test is designed to test thinking and applications, not concepts memorized from a book. Over the years I have tried to incorporate these same skills into every class, even the special education ones I taught years ago. Surprisingly, it works pretty well.
If you give a man a fish, he has dinner for the night but if you teach him to fish, he has dinner for life. We all need life long nourishment.