Weathering the storm

My students hate my right now.  Okay, I’m probably exaggerating.  They don’t hate me.  But they’re definitely frustrated with me.  In my instructional technology course this week, the students have a screencasting assignment where they examine an assigned technology from the perspective of an elementary teacher.  They evaluate the site’s ease of use and outline how the tool fosters collaboration, creativity and problem solving with younger students.  The screencasting component is actually part of a multiweek examination of classroom technologies.  The students will slowly expand their lens as they start to look at privacy issues (with CIPPA, COPPA and FERPA) and different models of technology integration.  The screencasting component was step one of the larger activity and the students were clearly frustrated.  I could see the frustration as some of the students entered class and I could hear it in their voices as they tried to explain the challenges they were facing in my class.

The students were frustrated because they’re struggling and I’m not saving them.  I’m not trying to be a bad guy (or a bad teacher) but I’m trying to help them become better problem solvers.  I want them to troubleshoot technological issues and try to come up with solutions on their own.  When they email me with their problems, I’ll send them links to helpful sites or give them guidance on Google searches to conduct.  What I won’t do is simply say to them “Click here and do this and then do this.”  Some of the students clearly want this level of support but I can’t bring myself to do it.  And that’s why they hate me.

In Jan Chappuis’ book on Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning, she outlines the importance of effective feedback for students.  “Effective feedback,” she writes “does not do the thinking for the students.”  Think about it.  If you’ve ever graded papers and marked off all of the grammar or spelling errors you found, you were do the thinking for your students.  The students would correct those specific errors but would not learn to avoid these mistakes or how to correct these errors on their own.  Instead of circling every spelling and grammar mistake, make a mark next to the sentence in which an error occurs.  This will alert students to where to find their mistakes but not fix the mistake for them.  It’s the classroom version of “Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day.  Teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.”

While this may sound logical for grading papers or fishing, my students probably won’t be able to translate this reasoning to the world of technology.  They see the technical hurdles and are frustrated at my unwillingness to save them.  But I’m looking at the bigger picture.  If they navigate the technical challenges today on their own, they are better equipped to fix the problems they’ll face down the road.  They have to weather the storm on their own today to be better prepared for the ones they’ll face in the future.  It’s frustrating, no doubt.  While I’m happy to provide them with support, guidance and words of encouragement, the storm is theirs to navigate alone.  That might make me a bad teacher. Or a really good one.  I really don’t know.

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One thought on “Weathering the storm

  1. I’m glad you posted this! I’m currently in a similar situation as I ask my students to work independently on a field project. I want them to learn through multiple trials, but they want more from me as their professor.

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