Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Pupil put-downs you wish you'd thought of...

# 287 [for students sending text messages under their desks] ' There only two things you could be doing with your hand under that desk and neither of them are appropriate for my lesson'

Death by PowerPoint

I have recently delivered 9 hours of in-house PowerPoint training. And it was very, very satisfying...

Since projectors arrived in classrooms, all teachers have been forced to consider whether to let PowerPoint into their lessons. And like some creature from an alien dimension, it can take over a lesson and convert everything it touches into bullet points. Some students now waft between lessons, watching endless identical presentations using that funky design template (you know, the one with the fireworks at the top. Yes, that one. The one that your boss used at her last INSET to tell you how we needed a five point action plan to implement the post-inspection strategy.)

PowerPoint is a poor master. My favourite PowerPoint bashing site is the Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation; the beginning of Absolute PowerPoint is also very funny.

However, if you see PowerPoint as a tool for producing animated teaching aids, it is very, very powerful indeed. It was delightful watching teachers get excited about the possibility of making animated maps of the Berlin Airlift, interactive quizzes for MLD kids on life skills and flow charts that appeared one arrow at a time. Think of PowerPoint as a replacement for all those irritating drawings you always do year after year, the ones that you think are amusing and the students think are sad...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The offside rule

OK, this is doing the rounds of my girlfriends' inboxes at the moment. And this is so obviously a girl's explanation of the offside rule, and it really helped me understand.

Explaining the offside rule to women
You're in a shoe shop, second in the queue for the till. Behind the shop assistant on the till is a pair of shoes which you have seen and which you must have.
The female shopper in front of you has seen them also and is eyeing them with desire.
Both of you have forgotten your purses.
It would be totally rude to push in front of the first woman if you had no money to pay for the shoes.
The shop assistant remains at the till waiting.
Your friend is trying on another pair of shoes at the back of the shop and sees your dilemma.
She prepares to throw her purse to you.
If she does so, you can catch the purse, then walk round the other shopper and buy the shoes.
At a pinch she could throw the purse ahead of the other shopper and, whilst it is in flight you could nip around the other shopper, catch the purse and buy the shoes.
Always remembering that until the purse had actually been thrown it would be plain wrong to be forward of the other shopper.

I've horrified you, haven't I...charmed by a faintly patronising whimsy involving shoes. Before you think I am a complete idiot, obviously I understand the offside rule! I'm not stupid, you know! It's very straightforward. Read it! None of the words are difficult!

However, the bit I don't understand is why it's there. What's the point? I don't understand the offside rule; I've never played football and only been to four matches in my life, I can't see why you need a complex rule to allow and disallow goals in what is, up to that point, a brilliantly simple game. Therefore the whole business remains completely opaque to me. But whenever I ask a man to explain the offside rule, they always do the same thing... they grab the nearest collection of small objects and start to act out the positions of the players.

[In fact, listen to this week's 'Heresy' on BBC Radio 4 from about 13 minutes in ... my favourite quote 'I've tried for a long time to explain the offside rule to my wife ...now she thinks the offside rule is when a man puts a tomato sauce bottle between a salt and a pepper pot' ]

The point of all this is that what I need from an explanation is so different from what I get. This is a fascinating exercise in teaching and learning. An explanation given in terms of physical positions as opposed to one given in terms of purpose and meaning - due to differences in gender, in experiences, in motivation and so on.