doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts


I finished my Computer Science teachable class at the Faculty of Education last night.  I had yet another amazing group of teacher candidates in the class which ran from 5-8 on Tuesday nights since September.

It had been a couple of years since I taught the course for scheduling reasons and when I put the course together this time, I changed a couple of things.  After all, computing and the internet has changed significantly over the past couple of years as well.

I don’t have an office for folks to drop in when they have questions so the course had always been run via a website and email serves as the method of communication between meetings.  This time, I dropped the concept of the website and created a private wiki for the course.  I used pbwiki and had their accounts set up before the first lesson using the “my students don’t have email accounts” option.  Starting from the first night, the class was participatory.  We used the wiki for everything from the lesson for the evening to sign up for presentations and topics.  We used the comments section as a way to comment on things and happenings between classes.  Everyone caught on nicely and the end result was far more than what we started with or what I had expected.  All students were encouraged to share their presentations, documents, programs, etc.  The logic in my mind was to have graduates walks away with a classload of ideas so that their teaching careers don’t start with blank slates.

Everyone seemed to go in and out doing the various tasks and staying together as a group for the course.  One of the major assignments in the course is creating an electronic portfolio.  Over the time of the course, we talked about carving out and staking your personal identity on the web.

Many used the wiki as a way to publish their portfolio and, in the process, latched onto a personal identifier for themselves!  A few even registered a domain in their name for the purpose.  I can’t help but think that universities should offer *.ca domains as part of the registration fee so that we get serious about web use.

A second major change was the dropping of one particular assignment and they each had to research and teach the rest of the class one application of the participatory, read/write web.  I thought this was particularly helpful because we don’t teach a particular language.  Students come with programming skills so there are some Java,

Image via Wikipedia

Python, PHP, Turing, Visual Basic programmers from the get go.  However, in this case, they all were thrown into a level of discomfort and had to learn the ins and outs of a particular web based application and then teach the rest of us.  All teachers know that there’s nothing like having to teach something to get you to learn it in depth.  The whole process was great and I learned aspects of web tools that I’ve been using myself for quite some time.

A couple of things came forth last night that I’m interpreting as success.  Of course, I’m still amused by BB and PC’s video, but a couple of the students used Prezi instead of the required Powerpoint in another class for another presentation.  Thankfully, the registration on Prezi had been processed in time.  The other thing that happened was I got queried as to where I find all this stuff and would I continue to post it to the wiki.

Well, I fully intend to reuse the wiki domain because it’s course specific so they’ll be shut out if I have the opportunity to teach the course again.  However, I did remind them that they’re welcome to subscribe to my Delicious account.  After all, that’s what it’s all about.  We also talked about the Ministry’s concept of tagging resources with ICSXX to support the implementation of the new Computer Science curriculum.  It was a great discussion.  I loved it.

It’s always good to reflect upon the conclusion of things and I had a long drive after class to think about it.  It’s amazing how they’ve transformed from students to colleagues over 17 weeks.  I wish them all the very best.  I’m wondering if the course is really “done”.  Hopefully, we’ll use the tools to continue to learn together.

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