Well, perhaps that's not strictly true: anyone who knows me much at all knows that I hardly know the first thing about manufacturing technology, much less how to teach it effectively.
So how, then, can we account for the spot-on work a group of Year 11 students--newcomers to CAD--produced in the morning class I took in place of Frank, our gifted CAD/MTech teacher?
Frank was sick today and Gavin and Robin (our other MTech teachers) were full up with other classes and duties to take care of. I had a break first up and slotted in for Frank. The usual process in this situation is that I--as a Literacy teacher--would deliver an extra Literacy class in place of the scheduled MTech class.
Not today. The group in question already had a Literacy lesson scheduled for later in the day. First lesson, as per their schedules, they did MTech. And they did it very well indeed.
This very pleasant little miracle came about as a result of careful planning and the production of top-class screencasts targeting specific CAD skills prepared well in advance. The results are extremely exciting in terms of the potential for flexible teaching arrangements, independent learning and blended classroom-based online lessons informing the viability for a course to become more distance-based.
Here's how it basically went down...
I started the class and asked them to open their MTech course pages in Moodle. I pointed them to an early/beginner unit and asked them to download the worksheet presented there. The worksheet is one of my own design which applies what I call the 'DIPA' instructional model (Discover-Instruct-Practice-Apply), and it began by asking them to predict--based on the assignment/unit title--what they were about to learn or be shown.
Here's a student sample response for this section:
Once the students have made an effort to predict what the lesson is going to be about, they then watch the screencast tutorial (Task B), in this case:
Based on this video tutorial, the learners complete Task C, which is a summary of important information, processes, or techniques explained or demonstrated in the tutorial. Somewhat unsurprisingly, this requires most students to re-watch the video, pause at intervals and in some cases replay information in order to catch it effectively.
The result is a summary that looks like this:
So far, so good.
Task D in the worksheet sequence then asks students to apply some critical thinking and propose some conclusions about how and why the information in the tutorial might be important or useful. The example below hasn't been done as well as it might have been, but it's a positive start:
Next comes the 'hands on' stage. In Task E the learners are asked to apply the skills/techniques from the tutorial themselves and create and insert a screenshot to show what they've managed to come up with:
Excellent... students have managed to use the AutoDesk Inventor software to replicate the shape in the drawing so that it matches the one produced by the teacher in the video tutorial.
A few students struggled here and there with the summary of instructions and the actual Inventor work...so how did I--the non-MTech teacher--help them out?
I looked over the instructions and directions they'd documented and informed them whether they were useful and logical to me, as someone as new to Inventor as they are. When they were applying Inventor and got stuck, I encouraged them to brainstorm, try things out and assist each other as a group.
Everybody got there without too much fuss, and the result was a handy little two-sided assignment sheet which they uploaded for Frank or one of the other MTech teachers to check, grade and respond to in the MTech Moodle course page:
Each at their own pace, they all then went on to try out the next worksheet and screencast in the tutorial sequence on Moodle, which built on the one already completed here and extended their skills in some way.
What really fascinates and excites me about this is that Gavin was in two places at once during this lesson. He was out in the corridor, getting new students organised and making calendar and schedule adjustments for students whose work placements or trade school arrangements were causing the usual start of week headaches.
He was also in my classroom, teaching my students MTech skills.
Likewise, Frank was at home not feeling very well, but MTech work was facilitated and completed for him, uploaded into a repository from where he can view and respond to it later, and he was then the teacher presenting new skills in the very next screencast tutorial.
Well I was a facilitator and classroom manager. I wasn't the MTech teacher, but I was a teacher in the MTech classroom.
I don't for a second want to imply that pre-bottling your curriculum in the form of screencasts can completely replace the specialist teacher here-and-now in the classroom.
But gosh it can help, and make potentially chaotic rainy Monday mornings run as smooth as clockwork, irrespective of who happens to be available to host a classroom learning space.
I also think this is a foundation and a positive process for developing blended distance programs for applied learning that might actually work.