Dec 1, 2009

Anti-Patterns - Avoid Focusing on the Tool

(This post the fifth in a series commenting on Kathy Sierra's presentation about creating passionate users.) 
How many tool based workshops or training seminars have you attended? How much of what you learn do you retain? How much of what you learn is easily translatable into students learning about your subject matter and methods? Focusing on the tool instead of focusing on the thing the user wants to do with the tool is common among technology companies and professional developers. Over the past years we have tried to spend less time on the tools and more on pedagogy, content, and the balance among the three. We try to put the direct instruction bits into problem-solving activities, exploration and self-teaching, and a few examples of what students can do with the tools in their classroom.

Yet, many teachers WANT, I mean demand, direct instruction in the step by step manner where they can write it down step by step. Are there ways to move teachers away from such a limiting habit? After all, how often does something occur in the exact same set of steps versus some variation on those steps? How will these teachers move on by themselves without the trainer their to hold their hand?

What will it take for the majority of teachers to get to the point where many of their students already are, comfortable with exploring the tool, using trial and error or other methods of problem-solving, or if all else fails asking a peer or searching Google for a screencast or tutorial?

As a half-way step. How can we get most teachers to at least see that their favored form of "learning" doesn't fit most of their students' favored forms of learning? This limits the possible growth of their students tremendously. Students' learning ends up happening far more outside of the classroom.

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