Friday, December 20, 2013

Misteaks During Classroom Demos

imageMost 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.

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. Smile

*Yes I know the word “mistakes” is misspelled in the title. I did it on purpose. Honest I did.


Garth said...

If a presentation is too canned it looks too easy. The people watching the presentation often think it must therefore be easy or they think they are idiots. Making mistakes in something like this adds humanity, and often a lot of humor.

Anonymous said...

I actually write the code as an algorithm (without much attention to syntax) before the demo. Then as I write the code line by line and compile, errors show up and we brainstorm the problems and come up with a collective solution.