January 17, 2012

Tried and True Tricks of the Trade

This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

What pearls of wisdom does one pass along to a young colleague just getting started? Is information technology included in your collection of valuable tricks of the trade?

Experience teaches us to foresee pedagogical situations and react to them. Sometimes a few simple pointers can make a big difference in the classroom.

An important first suggestion – Take a look at what your college provides! I would start with the pedagogical learning platform, a resource in constant evolution. Sometimes, even an old hand “evolves” as new educational needs arise. Far from a yoke around our necks, educational platforms liberate us from the tyranny of e-mail and are powerful allies online, outside the classroom and especially in the laboratory.

Why? The possibilities for supervision are limitless;

  • To track the activities of any one of your students (Are they involved?).
  • To receive perfectly organized homework saving time when you correct.
  • To establish a more personal connection with your students (Have you been sick?).
  • To mark the significance of an event or content element (Please note!).

After experimenting with the platform, some of the activities of online courses such as webquests, forums and televideo conferencing (after experiencing your first learning platform, one gets a taste for the medium and plunges into another) may even be available. Should your students be exchanging information or continuing a classroom debate? IT features on a pedagogical learning platform work wonders for the right situation! Maybe, a complete site filled with appropriate resources should be on this year’s agenda.

A second effective pedagogical strategy is to choose resources that lighten your teaching load!

I opted for the software CCDMD plans to develop a web version of open source software during the next year), a relative of the wiki, which is also designed for classroom presentations. Most teachers rely on PowerPoint which is a great way to communicate theoretical material in class and to build on past achievements. One week, we might present some pages of an online document. Another day, perhaps, an entire document will be online. Finally, all the course material will be online.

Obviously, when possible, involve students in the process of their own learning! This strategy produces incredible results from surprisingly simple activities:

A last piece of advice is to make the most of what you’ve already got!

An important asset is yourself. Be your own mentor! You will see that this strategy has several benefits:

  • Allow adequate time to present theory (Is twenty minutes a reasonable period for this kind of module?).
  • Have clear reminders at hand before starting teaching.
  • Note key moments, highlights or low points (Did it work or did it bomb?).
  • Recognize your strengths (That poem reads really well – I teach literature. Nothing galvanizes me more than a masterpiece of literature brought to life by the rhythms of the spoken word).
  • Archive your own material! (What a great resource! What is your own opinion of what you presented? – Think about suggesting this to a colleague!).

To help you recognize and play up to your strengths, I suggest recording a course of yours or at least its main points. I do this from time to time with a voice recorder or video capture software (ScreenFlow software is really effective for editing an iPhone version). It’s worth the effort!

Don’t forget Profweb’s features which offer the following advantages:

  • profweb’s resource listings (On the French side, there are over 1000 in French literature!)
  • stimulating development activities in the Events section of our website
  • a community of practice through a subscription to Profweb’s publications.

These are my pedagogical tricks! What are your venerable tricks of the trade?

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