Same and Different

I learn a lot from blogs. For example this morning I read a post at the CSTA blog by Myra Deister who shares a great idea under the heading An Effective ELL Strategy for Computer Science Classes. For me one of the challenges in teaching, especially computer science, is to get students discussing things in ways where they discover things for themselves. Really they seem to retain things better that way than if I just try to spoon feed them information.

Myra had the great idea to borrow a technique from a workshop on English Language Learning and adapt it to her computer science class. She created two methods that were a little different in the way they passed information – one used parameters and the other used a return code – and had her students discuss what was different and what was the same about them. The students themselves found this a useful learning tool.

I think we, all people, sometimes attend things labeled as learning opportunities and thing the ideas presented are for “other people.” But I think the smart people, certainly the best teachers, look beyond the obvious or the narrow focus and try to find ways to apply techniques to new or different circumstances. That’s one of the reasons I follow teacher blogs by people who are not computer science focused. It would have been easy for Myra to assume that the workshop she attended was just for the new teachers she mentors and even easier to assume that the techniques would only work for ELL students/classes. But being able to see ways to use things and being willing to try new things is what makes the difference between a teacher with x years of experience and a teacher with one year of experience x times. Same and Different.

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