Red follower of seven blue sisters,
bloodied horn of Taurus’s battle
with Orion, one of winter’s masters:
you bestow honor, riches and cattle.
‘Tis your ancient office to rise with Spring,
and make Royal progress across the sky
with ministering Hyades, who sing
for ever the majesty of the High.
Great Aldebaran, mighty red Titan,
from pharaohs to rockets your light has shined.
Enthrone us, and bring us able advice;
send wealth our way, but also enlighten
the best road to reach it that you’ve divined —
since opportunity rarely knocks twice.
9 January 2012
9 January 2012
A few weeks ago, before Christmas, I attended a BostonPHP event on Paper Prototyping. The idea behind paper prototyping is that one builds a model of a piece of software you want to build, out of paper and office supplies, first. Before one does any programming at all, the goal is to make a rough model of the thing you want to build, and then refine that model through testing and refinement until you have a very specific and clear model of the computer program. And then you build it.
My kids built the paper prototype. They were ready to go. So I took them into the computer lab and got them to download the software. Now we’re building the computer program, using Scratch.
And suddenly, I’m teaching computer programming.
I’ve never even learned computer programming. How do you teach something you’ve never learned?
Part of it is coming up with suitable challenges, which the students then have to solve. Here were my first several:
- I’d like you to design a software routine that moves the figure on the screen around when you start the program.
- I’d like you to design a software routine that moves the figure forward when you hit the ‘d’ key on the keyboard.
- I’d like you to design a figure so it will move forward, backward, up and down on the screen.
- I’d like you to program a routine onto the figure so it turns around and runs away.
- Please design a single figure that is capable of doing all the things I just named.
As I walked around the room, I looked over their shoulders to see what they were doing, and I discovered that my classes in logic all those years ago in college were serving me pretty well in predicting which programs were going to work, and which ones weren’t. I also saw that kids were teaching each other — rather than treating the challenge as a competition, they treated it as a joint effort. This is something we want to encourage in our design program, so I was OK with it.
But ultimately, it’s clear that I need to learn a lot more about programming, and not just in Scratch. what resources are out there for teachers? Particularly teachers who are starting a program almost from level 0?
9 January 2012
This year, I’ve been teaching Latin three days a week. One day is our “drop day”, and the other day is a refresher course for my students to keep up to date in Spanish. This means that once a week, I get to watch a masterful Spanish teacher work her magic on this class.
This has been amazing. I mean this in a complimentary way, but I also think it has important lessons for teaching and administering teachers, generally. For seventeen weeks, I’ve been able to observe this teacher strut her stuff in front of students! Once a week. Here’s what I’ve observed and tried to incorporate into my own teaching:
- She asks a huge number of questions.
- She makes students answer in complete sentences.
- She references specific places in the textbook.
- She makes students read aloud
- She makes them read, speak, write, and listen to the language.
- She corrects pronunciation frequently.
- She gives very little general praise.
- She directs praise to specific people for specific deeds.
- She uses music and art to teach
- She makes kids do a lot for themselves
- She demands correct spelling
- She encourages playful language while keeping strict classroom discipline
But I wouldn’t have seen all these very positive classroom behaviors if I’d only come into her room once. The fact that I’ve had a large series of experiences in her classroom leads me to a generally positive feeling about how she teaches, and how kids in her classes learn.
I’ve also learned a lot from her. I think my teaching has improved greatly as a result of exposure to her methods, and a rough imitation of them.
The take-away, though, is that a lot of schools don’t put enough priority on observations, they don’t give administrators enough time to see the same teacher often enough, nor enough time for teachers to see each other and learn from each other. If we want quality instruction, we not only have to identify great teachers, we also have to give them time to observe each other, over a long time. Only then can the lessons really be integrated into the school’s practice. Only then do the students really benefit from observations.
9 January 2012
Thou wandering priest, son of a widow,
With glowing armbone to help you to write,
lead us to your well in snowy meadow;
Lash us head first in the splash of your font.
They say, thus, are any madnesses cured;
thus, are demons of delusion cast down.
Treatment of mental illness has matured;
maybe you also have evolved and grown.
Guide us, Fillan, to break through illusion,
and bathe us in waters where health resides
So we’ll stand clean and shining in Christ’s sight.
Make our brains free from troubled division,
and help us find that peace which long abides:
White and Red dancing into God’s own light.
Ok. Saint Fillan, not my favorite. Hard to get overjoyed about a monk whose followers practiced water boarding as a cure for mental illness. According to this book, Fillan had a glowing arm-bone that allowed him to write in the dark. His monastery let people with mental illnesses take a bath in his sacred well, but then you had to be bound to awooden frame in the church with your face deep in the baptismal font’s water. Hmm.