Friday, March 10, 2006
Learn to walk before you try running
OmegaMom is plum tuckered out. The fuddy duddy short course on connecting databases to websites is over and done. I came home from the class Monday night and Wednesday night and just fell dead asleep when shepherding the dotter into her sleep. Now it's time to rehash things. Always before, when I've taught a short course on website programming, it's been using a prepared curriculum and aimed at techie types. So there turned out to be an awful lot of things that I "ass"umed. These students had had (maybe) one programming course before. And maybe one website design course. They had amazing and awesome ideas about their research projects. It was grand fun to listen to their first description, then, as the weeks passed, showing them how to approach each little special "enhancement" they needed to make their project work. But the shortness of the course and the lack of programming background conspired to make it more and more frustrating to me as the weeks passed. I had to keep scaling back my Grand Plan further and further, because we weren't moving forward as fast as I had planned at the start. But. The good aspect is that the students who were at the last class (which, unfortunately, was at the same time as an unexpected championship game for Mountain University, thus, only half the students showed up!) all seemed very psyched with how it had gone, and felt they had learned something. The best indicator was that they all asked if the course (an experiment) were going to be offered again in the fall semester, and all of them agreed it would be better as a full semester course. So there ya have it. It was great, it was fun, it was exhausting, and, boy, did it eat into my spare time! And it was interesting for me to see how teaching people without the background is so very different from teaching those who do have the background. It makes you realize that, when you have become proficient at some task, a lot of it becomes subconscious. When you walk as an adult, for instance, you don't consciously stop and think, "Now I put my right foot out, then shift my weight so it's balanced over that foot; now I put my left foot out, etc." But when you look at a toddler just learning to walk, you realize that there's a great deal of mechanical, physical stuff going on that has become deeply ingrained in your brain. It's a major accomplishment for a toddler to reach the point where he can walk without thinking about it. My linguistics fuddy duddies needed to learn to walk before they could try running. Something for me to remember if I decide to teach the course again.