There are plenty of days when I teach about how you would expect: powerpoint, lecturing, asking periodic questions, peppering in some (corny) humor to keep students’ attention, etc. I take pride in my powerpoints: they rarely have much text, they are very illustration-heavy, they have numbered pages for easy reference. Also, they’re not actually powerpoint but keynote, and they’re all PDFd anyway. Powerpoint is evil

Point is, that can be effective but it’s not exciting. It’s not innovative. It’s the same-old, same-old. Earlier this week, through a combination of necessity, inspiration, and luck, I had an uncommon class session.

The setup:
I had to cover the driest material of the semester in my 200 level planning class: explaining the Rational Comprehensive Plan. This means that slides would be counterproductive, as it’s not really a visual topic (unlike most other classes I teach) and that keeping students’ attention would be VERY challenging.

The projector in my classroom was malfunctioning in any case, so slides were definitely out. So, what to do? Well, I’ve had good luck with metaphors in the past, so I decided to use this to my advantage. I compared the RCP to MarioKart, in particular to my favorite character, Wario.

I drew Wario – or at least my feeble attempt at his portrait – on the board. I kept referring back to the game throughout class. And I had an old-school ask-questions-involve-students-use-the-board-no-tech-required kind of class.

At this point you’re probably thinking: (1) how could MarioKart possibly be related to Rational Comprehensive Planning?!? and (2) what does this have to do with DoOO anyway?

Wario - irl

Wario the way he’s supposed to look

In response to (1), here are two questions of my own: don’t you wish you had been in my classroom? And don’t you think the session will stick in students’ heads much longer than the same-old same-old?

sketch of Wario

My rendition of Wario

In response to (2), I think it is very relevant to DoOO and what we’ve been addressing in the sessions. I didn’t use technology directly at all in this class. However, I liberally used the tech-related knowledge that I thought my students had. In fact, when I asked, only one student out of 52 in my two sections hadn’t played the game before. The main response I got was “this was the game of my childhood.” So by using it, I plugged into knowledge the students are very, very familiar with. And with that familiarity comes confidence instead of fear of the subject matter.

The second way I think this is relevant is in the other side of the coin: technology isn’t necessarily the answer. We know this, but it still bears repeating. Powerpoints can be good, but they’re not always best. When I was in college, not that long ago, a class with slides (and I mean SLIDES) was exciting and different. Today, a class with slides is just the status quo. Having a class with actual board use is now the new hotness. It’s the Ciiiiiircle of Liiiiiiife.
the Circle of Life from Lion King

2 thoughts on Old-school

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  1. What an awesome post! I love this because it underscores a great point in the scholarship of teaching and learning too- that too much of any one thing is bad and variety is good. And the old-school connection to technology and personal experience is powerful. You should keep this in your files and do it *on purpose* the next time you teach this.

  2. Andi,

    What a great “teaching moment”–for us–not to mention your students! You not only stated but also demonstrated the point so effectively that technology isn’t the goal, better teaching is the goal. Current technology allows us to think and teach lightyears outside the stand-in-front-of-the-class-and-talk box so that our students learn in richer, multifaceted ways. Your creative use of a pre-existing technology combined with a well-chosen (because it acknowledges and puts to use your students’ own experience) and fun abstraction made a very effective lesson for your students and is a model for us. Thanks!

    (in Martha’s cohort–we’re number 1, we’re number 1, we’re . . . . ) :)