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Showing posts from December, 2009

instant polling tools for the classroom

Earlier I wrote about the problem with hindsight bias and how it hinders meta cognition in students--big words that mean students don't know what they don't know and think they know what they don't know. When reviewing for an exam, many activities enable this mess by encouraging weaker students to passively observe the more accomplished students demonstrate their competence. The truth will come out in the exam, but wouldn't we all be happier if this truth revealed itself to all parties in the review process?

This is why I love pollanywhere.com. Rather than review by asking questions, I can quickly set up a series of poll questions in pollanywhere.com and project them on the screen in the front of class. Here's an example of a Hamlet identification question.

Rather than one student volunteering to answer the question, all students are required to submit their answers either by sms text message or through the web on their laptop, smartphone, or mobile internet device…

The 12th Century Classroom

Some of my favorite moments teaching have been when we've decided to take class outside. Get away from the desks and technology and simply have a conversation. When the weather's right, I find that I'm able to reach my students in a different way. However (as I'm sure you know) there are drawbacks, even beyond weather. If the class is too big, it's difficult to hear each other. Distractions are enormous.



I feel that there is a need for a space where I could take my class that would be like going outside, but protected and sacred. I'm all for teaching in a 21st century classroom, but I'd also like to spend some time in a classroom with 12th century technology. A Yurt. A simple structure with just meditation pillows where a class could sit together and share a conversation and a cup of tea. It could create the equivalent of having class outside--a place where being thoughtful triumphs over being fast. A place (like our school's chapel) where the silence i…

Balloon boy, hindsight bias, and the problem with raised hands

My Sociology 101 professor taught me something over ten years ago that has stuck with me ever since. I struggled in that class, and once again I raised my hand and expressed my confusion. "Kevin, you know the secret to academic success." Really? I was fighting for my B+ at the time. "You know what you don't know." Later I would learn that he was referring to meta cognition--thinking about thinking--knowing what you know and don't know. Fast forward to fall 2009. I'm reviewing for a Hamlet identification test in which I supply a series of passages from the play and my students would be required to identify the speaker and the significance. Typically I would read a quotation and ask the class to volunteer an answer. When I'm at my laziest, I call on Student A, the one who raises a hand. She responds with the correct answer. When I think about it, this accomplishes very little for any of my students. The girl with the raised hand already knows the answe…