I was stuck in Chicago the last couple of days and one of the items in my carry-on case was a copy of “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. It seems to be written for a wide range of people and professions but there seem to be some good ideas for teachers in it. After all, teachers are in the business of communicating ideas and getting them to “stick” in student’s brains.
One of the steps to making things stick is putting them into a story. An example in the book is a number of copy machine repairmen sharing a story about a particularly tricky repair problem. By going through the steps that were taken to find the problem and fix it the friends hearing the story are much more likely to remember this particular issue when they run into it. You’ve probably run into the same thing in your live of work no matter what it is.
I’ve heard teachers in the faculty lounge talk about problem students and how they handled them. I’ve heard stories of teachers who surprised a class with multiple versions of the same test to catch cheaters. I’ve heard stories of special lessons that just seemed to work so much better than average. These stories are one of the ways I learned a huge about about being a teacher. And not just in the early years either. I like to think that as time went on some of my stories were helpful to others but I never stopped learning from other teachers. The stories made the ideas stick far better than a dry recitation of steps to follow.
Leigh Ann Sudol, CSTA Publications Chair, wrote asking teachers to share their ideas with each other in the CSTA (Computer Science Teachers Association) blog last week. Leigh Ann talked about learning some interesting things over the summer and posted some links. Then she said
Well, I hope that you found my links useful, now how about one of your own? It could be your personal web page if you have some nifty lessons, it could be a site you visit often for information, or it could just be an activity or an idea that you use in your classrooms that you think others might find useful.
The Internet is a great place to share stories of projects, techniques and other things that work. Because stories work, they make ideas stick, they are great teaching tools. I think it would really be great if more teachers shared their stories via blogs, comments in blogs, personal web pages and the more traditional workshops and conferences. Give it some thought. Share what you know with others.