Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Observation 1: Switching Applications

There are at least two questions about technology use in classrooms that I need to observe. How the teacher uses technology and how the students uses it. In the first visit I noticed something that I had never taught my teachers but that really got in the way of what the teacher was trying to do with the class. I never taught them to quickly switch applications.

Students are fantastic at switching applications. I think it comes as second nature to them. However this might be something new to teachers. In this class the teacher started with a photo, which was open in Preview. She then moved to a Word document (that she actually downloaded from our moodle site, like the students would). From the Word document she moved into the web with Firefox. We use this browser because we like it but also because in WYSIWYG interface for text does not work in Safari.

The teacher I was observing would grab a window and drag it down until she could see the window she wanted. The she would click on that window and drag it up. If you only had one transition in the class period this might work fine. It got in the way during this class because there were many switches back and forth. It made me pause and think if I had ever taught my teachers how to efficiently switch applications. It is these simple things that will make lessons better and improve learning.

On our macs you can go several directions.

If you are working from the computer itself many pop to mind. Command-Tab on the keyboard would have worked well in her case. Also F9 shows every open window and you can select the one you want. You can also mouse over to the dock and switch apps. For this to be effective you should trim the entries in you dock to only the few things you really use.

I have Bluetooth tablet that I wander around the room with when teaching. This limits a bit how easily you can switch applications. I use the dock method almost exclusively. I also could program my buttons on my tablet to emulate either F9 or Command-Tab. Anyway around it teachers should think about what they use to present a lesson and how, if they choose to make switches, those transitions are going to occur.

Teachers should also work to make as few transitions as possible.

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