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Messy Standards

October 22, 2012

Recently I came across a comment on teaching that suggested that the teaching of standard lessons was inappropriate, that an institution must use variety from lesson to lesson. Every teacher must address their lesson plans, there was too much PowerPoint, not enough group work, too much performance not enough independent. This was slightly contradicted by a comment from another direction that suggested that there was no correct style for teaching, contradicted why? I don’t hear you ask – well because your style maybe standard, and your style may work – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!

And if you haven’t checked my little PowerPoint Pointers page – feel free – click on the image.

However the comments have a point, students in Sixth Form and lower down, no doubt receive the same style of lesson every time, a quick (or slow) powerpoint to either note down or get the handout from, an exercise to do in pairs, in groups or individually and a summary of what they’ve learned, job done, next lesson, round again.

The problem is…..powerpoint is safe and by that I mean, it has paper back up, it does not rely on the internet and you have snuck it past the firewall, it may even animate or play sound without complication.

There is no doubt we should be varying our lessons, but some of the bells and whistles of an exciting VLE are so much better suited to science, maths, geography, even media everything but an essay based, read a book, do some independent research based subject.

The internet can’t

  • read the book for them
  • write the essay for them
  • mark the essay for them (effectively)
  • do the research for them

The internet can

  • provide a summary of the book
  • provide a ready marked essay for them
  • give them research

Sending students off to wander the internet, on their phones or computers in the classroom, or at home is fraught with difficulty, particularly if your subject doesn’t lend itself to online quizzes, and automatically marked formulas. Right in front of you, in the classroom, they can conjure an essay they haven’t written – not really anyway.

The powerpoint paper lesson has its advantages – but, granted it is boring.


For essays

  • Use Turnitin (if your organisation subscribes), or another plagiarism finder – they’re not exhaustive, but the threat is a deterrent
  • Provide the websites they should visit
  • Use the progressive lesson on Moodle, and no doubt other VLE’s, I have found this very successful, for the student but, that being said the submission system is unreliable, students can lose work – so get them to back up in Word
  • Use an online, journal with them – this works better than a forum, you can see it and so can they, but no one else can – students seem to be reticent to use forums
  • Use flow charts – try to use them in lessons on a smart board (again, if things are not working this can be complicated – orientation of the board is the worst nightmare)
  • Be messy on the smart board, too much time is spent trying to be neat to keep, in the old days (about a decade ago) you couldn’t keep the chalk notes you put on the board, so make a mess with smart board. Scribble up your annotations, don’t expect to keep them or  print them out – make the mess the objective, the messier the board, the more contributions made by the class…. result – the messier the merrier

In my ideal world, each student would have a tablet, a wifi connection and I would have a chat connection to them, I would set up quizzes, essay progressions, interactive polls, appropriate access to the internet and use youtube lectures and resources. But…. for now it’s smart board charts and powerpoint.

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