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Teaching should be easy – Learning should seem effortless

28/03/2012

A reason to learn

This post is indirectly related to teaching in Second Life. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t really have much to do with Second Life but the idea is quite relevant. (I think so anyway).

Yesterday, I walked into my class, only to see tired-looking faces, almost begging to go home & sleep the afternoon off. Coincidently, this kind of practice is permitted in some countries after lunch – it’s even encouraged! For a few minutes, I’d wished I was in one of those countries as I didn’t know how to motivate the students, let alone teach them.

So I made up an excuse to get them outdoors – I said we needed to take a class photo as few new students have joined the class this week. We found a shady area, got together around a bench and took some shots. Serious shots, funny shots and some in between. Well, it worked 🙂 They were energised and ready to take on the writing task! The trouble was, going back to the classroom where everyone looked sleepy in the first place.

Slight diversion – we went to the library instead. This time it wasn’t to find some books or magazines but to log onto the available PCs. Some students knew the process, some were new to the process and some were slightly reluctant. But we all got there at the end.

The task involved posting a forum and responding to others’. Simple request – Write 3 things about yourself, but one of them must be a lie. See if anyone can pick your lie! They really got into it! Making up a lie, reading others’ lies, responding to those lies, back and forth with lots of laughter!

A number of things were achieved with this task:

  • students learned a bit (more) about each other, especially the new students
  • new vocabulary, spelling, structure – which I wanted to cover in the writing class
  • engagement – they were all on task, even those who were reluctant writers.

All in all, most students managed to finish the task (despite being introduced to the Moodle platform for the first time). They started venturing into other areas – like updating their profile photos. Some even managed to translate into other languages represented in the class (using the Web 2.0 tools) and made everyone else laugh. One student, who openly admits that he ‘hates writing’, was the only one to finish the second task of posting on another forum to discuss another topic. This forum was somewhat more ‘serious’ than making up a lie about oneself and required more thinking and organising. Previously, it had taken him 4 weeks to submit the first writing task of the term!

The moral of this story? Well, no, it’s not “Don’t have classes scheduled after lunch”! but give your students a reason to learn. My students needed to learn about each other, about the new technology and about writing short paragraphs.

I hope that they felt their time spent in the class was worthwhile and that they’ll be back for some more. Ahh, and yes, the class photo was uploaded to Facebook to share with friends 🙂

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