Thursday, April 10, 2014

My Students Are Not Me

Sometime in elementary school a teacher taught number bases. I was fascinated. It was interesting. It was fun. It made perfect sense to me. I spent hours converting numbers from one base to another. For some reason base 5 and base 7 struck me as a lot of fun. I played with Binary and Octal as well. It just came easy. Lately I have been teaching (or trying) Binary to my students in our Explorations in Computer Science class. My students are not (to no ones surprise) me.

Some of them get it quickly. Some of the get it after a bit. And some of them just seem to think I am crazy. I have to remind myself that not everyone sees things the same. I have a lot of Resources For Teaching Binary Numbers (that is one of my most read posts BTW) and I am using a number of them. There is no one right way that works for everyone. I think I’ll keep trying.

I’m teaching classes and objects to my programming class these days and seeing the same sort of thing. Some people get it right away while others struggle.

Honestly I struggled with some of the concepts for a while myself. This is a big topic and I find that different people struggle with difference aspects of it. Why do we send messages for example. (see Don’t Just Grab the Wheel, Ask the Driver to Turn) The difference between getting methods and setting methods for an other. Again what was easy for me may be hard for others. And what was hard for me may come easy for others. I have to remind myself of that. It’s not all me and it is not all them.

There is never one right way to introduce a concepts to students. This is seldom more true than with computer science topics. So many of them are very far outside of a student’s previous experience. They often don’t have a good context to start with. It is up to me as a teacher to provide some context, some purpose, and to try and find enough ways to explain things that most (shooting for all) of my students to “get it.”

This as much as anything else is why teaching is so hard for some many people. It is easy to fall into the trap of saying “This explanation worked for me so it should work for everyone.” Well I think I’ll go now. I’m going to look at a video that may help some of my students.

1 comment:

Michael S. Kirkpatrick said...

I love this. It reminds me of a conversation that I had recently with someone. I was arguing that teachers are not treated as professionals in this country, partially because most people don't know what teaching actually is. This person, in particular, was making points that fall into a view that I summarize as "teaching is tutoring at scale." That is, if you are a good tutor, you will be a good teacher; the only difference is that multiple students here your perfectly clear explanation instead of one at a time. I find this fundamentally flawed perspective to be very widespread among those who have never taught in a classroom. And you have presented the counterargument quite beautifully. My students are not me.

P.S. I discovered your blog via Mark Guzdial's, and I am glad to have found it.