Embracing Eccentricity

I’m an eccentric person. It’s taken a bit for me to recognise this about myself, but it has become something I am now comfortable with. It has not, however, been a big part of my teaching. To be honest I’ve probably tried to keep the crazy to a minimum, partly for concern that students will go silly themselves, partly as a lingering uncertainty about how students would take it.

But these past few days, my guard has been down. I’ve been battling to get along to school with a nasty cold and probably should have had yesterday off bar the fact that I really needed to see a few kids to make sure their interim report had them up to date if possible. As a result, the filter that would normally stop the stupid, dorky things coming out of my mouth was turned off. For example:

  • I apologised for almost sending my Strepsil sailing across the room.
  • I remarked that having taken a cold and flu tablet I was feeling a bit dopey today, to which a girl remarked under her breath “just today”. I almost wet myself.
  • Caught myself raving about how wonderful my wife is on more than three separate occasions in the one day.
  • Started singing a student’s name to the tune of the Blues Brothers theme when just calling his name couldn’t get his attention.

The scary part was, it worked. I keep forgetting that when I let students know that I’m a person, and see that I’m a person, they’re able to connect with that. And sure I’ll get the looks that have my students wondering about the sanity/stability of their IT teacher, but who cares?

Plus I know which teachers I remember: the craziest ones.

Pretty Pictures for the Classroom

Don’t know how many of the fellow associates who were in the tutorial the other day will actually find this, but the conversation came up about finding useful pictures and graphs for demonstrating how to read graphs, etc to students. You might want to be a bit careful about some of these, because some of them are a little bit looser than others on the conventions of graph writing, and the majority of the sites flit between being “acceptable” for the classroom and decidedly unacceptable, so I’d also be careful of not recommending too many of these sites to your students.

With the disclaimers out of the way though: here’s some of the best places I’ve found:

xkcd.com

From xkcd - relation between bacon and health

Be very careful not to recommend this one to your students, but it’s got some fantastic stuff mixed in with some very very nerdy stuff and some jokes that are downright crass. Don’t worry if you don’t understand lots of the jokes there: it just means you have a life.

informationisbeautiful.net

Good information design

This is a much safer site to recommend: though at times it can get slightly political (can’t we all), Information is Beautiful has an incredible collection of infographics which can communicate complex information usually in simple, easy to understand ways. My wife is a graphic designer and she is in love with this site.

graphjam.com

This is a much less definitive recommendation: graphjam’s stuff is all about user-contribution so the quality varies from putrid to fantastic. But if you do manage to get a hold of the good ones, they are usually pretty cool/funny. The whole thing is graphs and Venn diagrams, so you should at least be able to find something useful if you look long enough. They’re certainly not as pretty though.

thisisindexed.com

Indexed is a fantastic little blog I’ve been following for ages: the cute hand-drawn Venn diagrams and graphs are always good for a laugh.

Hope these have been helpful. If nothing else they’ve helped me to procrastinate a little more rather than working properly on my lesson planning assignments.

Is there any point teaching recall in the 21st Century?

Fascinating discussion over at “Dangerously Irrelevant”, in the context of a discussion with a Biology teacher about whether students needed to memorise the parts of a neuron. From the post:

“In an era of near-instant Internet search, it’s possible that knowing the parts of a neuron isn’t really that important. For example, if I don’t know what the parts of a neuron are, I probably can find a couple dozen images of neurons – with parts labeled – in about 5 seconds using an online image search engine. It seems to me that what’s more important is generally knowing what neurons are, how they work, why I should care about them, how they impact my health and well-being, how current cutting-edge neurological research may impact me in the future, and so on.

Will I need to learn the parts of a neuron in the short term so that I can understand these bigger issues? Yes, most likely. Six weeks from now, will it be important if I still remember the parts of a neuron? Probably not, because I always can look it up again. But the bigger-picture understandings about neurons and how they impact me? That’s what I need to remember six weeks from now – and six years from now. That’s the stuff that’s important. Assess on what’s important.”

“Knowing the parts of a neuron isn’t really what’s important” – Dangerously Irrelevant

This ties in with some of the things that have frustrated me already, specifically in the IT curriculum: from University down. With fact-based information being so readily available – what could the point be in me requiring students to recite facts back on their assessment? And information accessibility is only going to improve: where does that leave educators? Asking the bigger questions, or refusing to take the outside world seriously.

One of the commenters on the post thought that this video was relevant: hard to argue.

and then suddenly, in a flash of light…

… our previously unmotivated associate IT teacher did receive a call from a damsel in distress (who the teacher would like to point out was not as beautiful as his wife, but still a lovely person) and our hero did rescue the poor damsel’s essay which had been lost in the dark and murky marsh of the dragon Internet Explorer’s Temporary Internet Files. The damsel did rejoice at the return of her poor, lost essay and there was much rejoicing in the village of University College. With that our hero was rejuvenated, and reminded that in his hands lay the opportunity to raise the next generation of heroes: for who else would recover lost emails, download codecs and slay the Internet Explorer dragon once and for all if not for his IT students?

And there was much rejoicing in the land.

(although my motivation was also helped out by this fantastic article on Teach for America and their research into what makes a good teacher)