In honor of Computer Science Education Week, I’d like to frame this assignment with a quote from computing pioneer Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (as cited in Engel, 2013):
“One of the most damaging phrases in the language is ‘We’ve always done it this way!’”
Now while Hopper may have been referring to data processing and computing innovations, I don’t think any of us would challenge the applicability of this statement to education. We are creatures of habit, and education (in practice and policy) can be slow to change. There are certainly solid 20th century pedagogical theories that come into play in our classrooms, necessary moments of behaviorism and cognitivism. And many of us find that our modern teaching styles align well with constructivism and its role in active student learning (Ally, 2008, p.30). But I also want to keep an eye on the horizon for new, innovative discourse about education. It’s important to play around with new pedagogical ideas, throw them against the wall and see what sticks; remembering that part of our job as academics is to promote progress in our field. As I move forward in my career, I believe I should be striving for flexibility of thought in everything from my pedagogy to the layout of classroom seating.
Being open to change has been especially important in my realm of Career & Technical Education. Preparing students for ever-evolving industries is a moving target that requires reflection and the constant revision of content. The assessment model that fits neatly into CTE, and most appeals to me, is Fink’s (2003) educative assessment, specifically the development of forward-looking assessments. With contextualized and authentic assessment strategies, students put their skills and knowledge to use in a way that is realistic to how they would do so in the real-world (Fink, 2003, p.84). Committing to the educative model assists in making my curriculum relevant and applicable to the modern work environment.
I hope that my willingness to try new things is an attribute that rubs off on my students as well: that they will jump right into a new programming language, or say “okay” when I suddenly enroll them in Canvas with 10 days left in the semester. It’s all gravy, but only because we’ve built a class culture where they feel comfortable stepping out of routine. A strong understanding of the class’s situational factors certainly helps achieve this goal as it’s essential to the development of a curriculum and environment tailored to their needs and personalities (Fink, 2003, p.68). If I weren’t meeting their needs in this way, then I would have no right asking them to jump into something challenging.
I wholeheartedly believe that blending my classes was the best teaching decision I’ve made to date. Implementing online education tools in my classroom more accurately reflects the possibilities of modern learning even if it’s on a small scale. I love the flexibility of having course shells hosted in an LMS, both for me and for students. Going blended has also recently pushed me to try more self-paced lesson plans, in which I’ve tried to give more opportunities for student control over learning and self-reflection (U.S. Department of Education, 2010, p.xvi) Students have become more internally motivation and engaged with the content as I’ve given up some control.
I’ll wrap this up with another Grace Hopper quote that I may like even more than the first one; remembering her time teaching students in a classroom she said, “They come to me, you know, and say, ‘Do you think we can do this?’ I say, ‘Try it.’ And I back ’em up” (as cited by Engel, 2013). Yes, this is exactly the student attitude we want to foster in our own classrooms: active, engaged and curious. But I think the real take away from this interaction is that, sometimes, students just need someone to “back ‘em up.”
Ally, M. (2008). Foundations of educational theory for online learning. In Anderson, T., & Elloumi, F. (Eds.). The theory and practice of online learning. (2nd ed.) (pp. 15–44). Athabasca, AB, Canada: Athabasca University.
Engel, K. (2013). Admiral “Amazing Grace” Hopper, pioneering computer programmer. AWH. Retrived from: http://www.amazingwomeninhistory.com/amazing-grace-hopper-computer-programmer/
Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. (2010). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: a meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. Retrieved from: https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf