TITLE: Learning About Classroom Teaching from Teaching On-Line AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 30, 2012 4:11 PM DESC: ----- BODY: In his blog entry Recording a Class at Udacity, John Regehr offers some initial impressions on the process. For example, he liked the bird's eye view he had of the course as a whole over the compressed production schedule:
Recording for 8-12 hours a day was intense and left me fried, but on the other hand this has advantages. When spreading course prep across an entire semester, it's sometimes hard to see the big picture and there are often some unfortunate compromises due to work travel and paper deadlines.
But the following lesson stood out to me, due to my own experience learning how to teach:
... it became clear that designing good programming quizzes is one of the keys to turning lecture material into actual learning.
I think this is also true of traditional classroom teaching! In the classroom, though, there are so many ways for us to fool ourselves. We tell a good story and feel good about it. Students seems to be paying attention, nodding their heads knowingly at what seem to be appropriate moments. That makes us feel good, too. Surely they are learning what we are teaching. Right? In all honesty, we don't know. But we all feel good about the lecture, so we leave the room thinking learning has taken place. On-line teaching has the advantage of not providing the same cues. Students may be sitting in their dorm rooms nodding their heads enthusiastically, or not. We may be connecting with everyone, or not. We can't see any of that, so it becomes necessary to punctuate our lecture -- now a sequence of mini-lectures -- and demos with quizzes. And the data speak truth. The folks at Udacity have figured out that they can improve student learning by integrating listening and doing. Hurray! Regehr suggests:
Tight integration between listening and hacking is one of the reasons that online learning will -- in some cases -- end up being superior to sitting in class.
I'll suggest something else: We should be doing that in our classrooms, too. Rather than lecturing for fifty minutes and assuming (or hoping) that students are learning only by listening, we should spend time designing good programming activities and quizzes that lead students through the material and then integrate these tightly into a cycle of listening and doing. This is an example of how teaching on-line may help some instructors become better classroom teachers. The constraints it imposes on teacher-student interaction cause us to pay closer attention to what is really happening with our students. That's a good thing. As more courses move on-line, I think that we will all be re-learning and re-discovering many pedagogical patterns, instantiated in a new teaching environment. If that helps us to improve our classroom teaching, too, all the better. -----