Copyright © 2016 Stephen Hawley, all rights reserved.
Two jobs ago, I was a teacher in the smallest school district in Massachusetts. I came in from “industry” as a software engineer and tried to be a quick study in terms of technique used in the art. The district’s low-budget computers routinely had issues and one of my many jobs was to bounce between classrooms fixing them. During these times, while I was waiting for machines to reboot, run diagnostics, or install software, I made a point of observing techniques that the teachers used and to steal what worked and do my best to avoid what didn’t. One thing that I saw was how teachers modified curricula on the fly for students with different skills.
When Alice gets any kind of homework assignment, I look it over to see if there are modifications built in and then given the assignment, I try to find a way that meet the goals of the assignment with the greatest educational benefit to Alice while minimizing roadblocks.
Alice had an assignment to create a travel brochure for the Latin-American country assigned, and in her case, Mexico. The teacher had made a fine rubric built into the assignment sheet which indicated the parts for which Alice was responsible. Yay! I looked at the overall goal (make a travel brochure) and broke it down to the actual goal: learn some information about Mexico and communicate it in a way that might entice someone to go to Mexico. My solution was that instead of making a brochure (which would involve Alice spending most of her time figuring out how to make a brochure) to making a series of web pages about Mexico, which instead would involve Alice spending most of her time transcribing her notes about Mexico into web content. This, in my opinion, would honor the real goal of the assignment by giving Alice a chance to read and repeat the facts several times and practice typing instead of trying to put together a brochure. I did the “hard” parts of putting in the images that Alice picked and ensuring that the pages all linked up.
Alice liked the process for the most part, although at the time of day we were working on this, she was clearly struggling to maintain her attention and required a fair amount of redirection. And then instead of killing trees, we emailed in a link to Alice’s work.