August 01, 2013

New tag in Evernote: Show-to-students

I have a new tag in Evernote  I called it Show-to-students. I have tagged everything clipped recently from the web that I want my students in the Fall (and semesters after) to read. These are articles, essays and blog posts which highlight ideas I think are important for the learning process. I'm sure I found all of these via my twitter stream, so I want to thank you all for posting them to twitter, whoever you were.

So far, I have five items to share with my classes.

The most recent one that I found is the excellent post on ConvergeDiverge about the teaching philosophy that Maxwell had. I think Heather has a great insight that we as instructors have a struggle with some (or many) of our students between how deeply they want to think about the topics we would like them to think about. As my comment (and Heather's reply) indicate, I think it could be helpful to address this issue at the start of the class as a part of setting the tone and expectations for the class early.

Another article that I'd like to share with my class is the article from Slate on the inability of students to effectively multitask. The article includes this nugget:
During the first meeting of his courses, Rosen makes a practice of calling on a student who is busy with his phone. “I ask him, ‘What was on the slide I just showed to the class?’ The student always pulls a blank,” Rosen reports. “Young people have a wildly inflated idea of how many things they can attend to at once, and this demonstration helps drive the point home: If you’re paying attention to your phone, you’re not paying attention to what’s going on in class.” 
I don't know if I could execute that move in class unless I've told the class to read this article in advance. I'd also consider using Patrick Len's excellent approach to cell phone / social media use in class: poll the class and use the class discussion to set the cell phone / social media policy.  But really, I just want students to be thinking about how much they can actually learn while they are trying to multitask.

When I looked at my tagged articles, there was a surprising pattern I had not expected: three of the five articles were about the role of failure in learning. I must have been channeling a certain skateboarding physicist when I was tagging these articles. "Failures, Mistakes and Other Learning Tools" was a blog post that sat in one of my browser tabs for MONTHS last year. I was really inspired by how this teacher handled his student's confrontation with failure for the first time. The blog post on Scientific American which told the story of Feynman's attitude toward being wrong in science should be mandatory reading for all future scientists. Then there is this incredibly honest piece on Slate by a math teacher on what it was like for him to have been "bad at math" and how that experience ultimately made him a better teacher. I'd like to connect that idea to the growth mindset that Dweck writes about in her book.

I saw a question on Quora that also connected failure with learning.  It was good, but I'm not sure if I'm going to add it to the list. I might just leave my students with Adam Savage's catch phrase: Failure is always an option.

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