Did you ever have someone point out what was in front of your face all along and, metaphorically, kick yourself for being so stupid?
Or, is that just me?
Last week I was at the Best of Out of School Time (BOOST) conference and went to a session by Sam Gliksman – he wrote iPad in education for Dummies.
One myth about having a technology program in your school is that you need one device per student.
In one breath we say we need individual devices and in the second we talk about collaborative learning. It occurred to me that whenever I saw kids sharing a computer to play our games, I may have been thinking of it completely the wrong way.
I learned in graduate school that when students tutor classmates, the tutor benefits as much academically as the tutored student. To anyone who has ever taught anything, from math to judo, this makes sense. Why IS multicollinearity a problem? Why do you put your leg there? How DO you do long division? When you explain something, you need to think about how you came to a solution. Not only does that reinforce the knowledge you have, by making you go over it again, but it may make some things clearer to you as you think about your own reasoning.
When we pair up students on computers, one of them may be better at the math part of the games where another is better at the actual game play, jumping over pits, canoeing down rapids, shooting buffalo.
I’ve stood behind students as they played and heard them talk about the problems. One inputs the answer and casually says to his partner, 6 times 8 is 48. You take that away from 51 and you have 3 left over, that’s the remainder, so 3 of the hunters are left out. For the student who is watching, and probably not as good at math, this is both role modeling and direct teaching, all without the teacher’s involvement – and no teacher has the time to individually teach every student in her class.
It’s also a little bit of added prestige for the kid who is good at math, because people want to pair up with him or her, and adding cool to being smart is always a good thing, especially in middle school.
Only have 12 computers and 20 kids in your class? Go ahead and pair them up. See what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised.