This morning, I watched a MacSparky screencast, from David Sparks, called “OmniFocus Ninja Tricks (Part 2 of 3).” OmniFocus is a high-powered project-management app that synchronizes among my Mac, my iPad, and my iPhone. I am a low-powered user, and I want to get better with this tool. (Since I was a middle schooler myself, I also always wanted to be a ninja. I had throwing stars, nun-chucks, etc.) A colleague referred me to the screencasts, and they are great.
Here is what makes this mundane news “post-worthy,” in my opinion, on a blog about learning. This morning was the second time I had watched the 52 minute screencast. I saw things that I had not even noticed were there the first time. Huge chunks of 8-12 minutes of features, and I missed them. What made the difference this time? In the interim between viewing-one and viewing-two, I had been using OmniFocus, so my scaffolding and “need to know” was better this time around. From using the app as a novice user, though, I was at a boundary of learning, and I was experiencing some frustrations. So I returned to a resource to learn more. As Vygotsky might say, I had reached a different ZPD (zone of proximal development). I needed some support to get to the next level, but now I wanted to get to the next level – I knew there was more to know, I wanted to know it, and I could not know it without help. Now, I have climbed the next rung of the user ladder for OmniFocus. “So what?,” you might say. Or “Why is Bo writing about OmniFocus?”
How many times are our students in such a situation? We teach something, but they are not really ready to learn it yet. Their scaffolding or “need to know” is not primed for learning yet, like a dry pump that cannot pull water. Yet the typical, traditional routine is to “teach, test, hope for the best.” We assign a grade and move on to the next unit or chapter. Time has been the constant, and learning has been the variable. Just look at the variation of grades as evidence (assuming grades are really measures of learning). Support has been a relative constant, too.
I am not disparaging any particular teaching method or assessment practice. I am merely realizing, from being a learner myself, what my students must feel almost everyday. I am glad that I have developed the sense of self-assessing my current ability with a tool like OmniFocus and seeking help, and I am glad that nobody tested me for a permanent grade after my first viewing of the show and my early forays into using the app. I am glad I got a second chance.
Our faculty is switching from Toshiba Tablets (PCs) to MacBook Pros and Airs. How many of them are experiencing this cycle of:
introduced to new –>
try new thing –>
experience some success, some frustration –>
want to know more –>
seek help and support –>
learn it better after practice and a different “need to know” –>
realize that the lessons were there from the start, but I was not ready then.
Learning is the constant…time and support are the variables. It’s been the other way around for far too long. It’s about learning!
Given the pace and number of students all at varying zones of proximal development, how does a teacher manage to “hit” each student at the correct spot, with the correct content, at the correct time? Many of the teachers in this community of ours know and understand quite well (with major and minor revelations coming to us in our own ZPDs) the most effective teaching methods, but I’m always left wondering how to fit it all in in the classroom…I’ve figured out how and why do teach in certain ways, but I haven’t figured out how to have the time to do it correctly…and it doesn’t do any good if you only teach that way half the time and then say, “ok it’s test time, whether you’re ready or not!” That just ruins what you and the kids have been doing in the classroom up to that point. What to do…?
It’s true that, given the pace of instruction, we don’t often give our students a second or third look at new information. Great post.
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