Sunday, December 11, 2016

Teaching then and now

Computers have changed all aspects of life, including in Israel.  It is hard to imagine how people coped without instant, mobile and powerful computing devices.  After finishing a lesson a few days ago, I thought remembered how I used to prepare and teach a lesson when I began my career, some 30 years ago. The comparison with today really brought that message home.

I recall how careful I had to be organizing the materials in those days (for high school).  Photocopying had to be organized a few days in advance.  My teacher's briefcase was very wide and filled with numerous nylon bags, each with its handout, my "kit" if things went wrong as well as for that day's lesson. In a sandwich bag, I kept my chalk, which had almost been replaced by markers but not yet. At the start of the lesson, I checked role and confirmed that each student had brought his/her book or pamphlet (without which they could not participate in the lesson). Any change in the lesson required me to write on the board, preferably legibly, quite a challenge for me since I have the great ability to write illegibly in three alphabets, Latin, Hebrew and Russian. Of course, teaching was always in the framework of the book chosen by the staff. In other words, the material was not always relevant or up-to-date nor were the exercises exactly what I wanted. Bringing auto-visual materials to class was such an administrative hassle that I never did. At the end of the lesson, students handed in their homework handwritten on paper, adding to the paper load In other words, lessons were heavy, teacher centered and very structured.

My lesson this week was quite different. I walked in some five minutes early with a very thin portfolio bag, almost empty, basically containing attendance lists, pens and my glasses (the last change is not positive).  I downloaded the word texts from the Moodle site and turned on the overhead project and setup the YouTube video I wanted to show. I began the lesson by showing the students (college this time) a video on public speaking technique. After a short discussion, I had the students discuss in groups the organization of an article, which they downloaded from that same Moodle site, followed by the writing in pairs of a summary based on that discussion in class, of course in Word. I reminded them to use spell-check before sending it to my email and told them that I would return their graded summary by email with all editing clearly marked in track changes. One of the students had a question about sentence syntax. I opened up a blank Word document and wrote several versions to help explain my point.  My feeling was that we, or at least I, had had a stressless lesson.

It should be noted that the changes are truly fine and dandy as long as the computer and Internet work properly. If not, we are back to good old days, without the chalk of course. Still, to paraphrase, teaching sure ain't what it used to be.

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