Most teachers make mistakes in class. I know that I do. Sometimes it is a typo. Or a slip of the tongue. Sometimes it is because we forget something and sometimes it is because we
foolishly bravely try to do something we haven't tried before. I did both of those last two yesterday. sigh I tweeted about one instance.
and had a useful reply.
Note to self: The middle of a live demo is not the time to think "Hey I've never done it this way before but it looks like it should work."— Alfred Thompson (@alfredtwo) December 19, 2013
@alfredtwo If this was live coding for students, I disagree. Having them see you work through the problem solving process is INVALUABLE!— Ria Galanos (@cscheerleader) December 19, 2013
This got me thinking. In many ways Ria is quite right. This is especially true if the problem shows up right away. Errors during a demo let a teacher reinforce points they are trying to make. The appearance of the error message and the steps the teacher follows to fix the problem can be very informative and instructive to students.
It can, at times, be embarrassing for the teacher but I find that for the most part students are willing to cut me some slack especially if I am patient and understanding when students run into their own problems.
Mistakes often make great learning experiences. With programming languages being so picky and people being so human anyone writing code is going to run into errors. I try to reassure students that their errors, mistakes, typos and struggles with concepts are common and not unique to them. A simple “I knew how to fix this because I have made the same mistake” can go a long way to helping a student not lose confidence. I can’t remember ever having to lie to say this either.
I don’t try to make mistakes in class. Especially not during a demo. I may deliberately leave things out so that I can build a piece of code is steps and that may look like an error. But real errors are, thankfully, fairly rare. I try hard to prepare and practice my demos several times before showing them to a class. Every so often I decide to “wing it” or to use a demo I haven’t done in a while and that increases the chances for errors. When it does happen I try to see it as a learning opportunity. And occasionally pretend I did it on purpose to see who was paying attention.
*Yes I know the word “mistakes” is misspelled in the title. I did it on purpose. Honest I did.