Saturday, April 19, 2008

Rote memorization

My students have been learning by the rote memorization method since they entered school 13 years ago. It is a tough obstacle to overcome in my classroom. Computer Studies is not a topic that goes hand in hand with rote memorization.

My students want to learn the memorized way to do something and then do that same thing over and over again. And in some instances, that can work. However, in most it is a failure. A big one for me right now is that my students have memorized that the way to save a file in Microsoft Word is to do the following:

1. Go to File>Save As
2. Click on My Documents
3. Give the file their name
4. Click save

This can only really work one time. After that they are trying to save new files over the old file, since they want all their files to be in the same place with the same name.

Another problem with rote memorization is there is no analysis. My students cannot read a paragraph on a topic and from the information in the paragraph create their own definition. For example, in the Microsoft Word textbook I created for my students, the section on WYSIWYG looks like this:

The programs in this handout are easy to use for many reasons. One reason is the programs are WYSIWYG. WYSIWYG is pronounced whiz-ee-wig and stands for What You See Is What You Get. This means that as a person works on a document on a computer what the person sees on the screen is the same as what the person will have when they print the file.
Many of my students simply put that first sentence as the definition of WYSIWYG. So their worksheet looks like this:
Define these word-processing terms:
    a. WYSIWYG
       The programs in this handout are easy to use for many reasons.
That is obviously not an answer. If there was any analysis at all, I don't believe they would put that sentence as the definition. But it is what they memorized, so it is what they write.

>From my classroom I can frequently hear the class next door in session. Often I will listen as a teacher says a word or phrase over and over again and the entire class repeats the word or phrase over and over again.

Sometimes I wonder if I am doing my students a disservice by not teaching to the method that they have "learned" with all their lives. Here I am expecting them to read handouts and pull their own answers from the handout, something they have simply not been prepared to do. On the other hand, I wasn't sent here to do the same things that have always been done before.

It is tough because change doesn't occur overnight (or over 40 years I guess, since that is how long Peace Corps has been in Sāmoa). It also doesn't happen in just one place. I cannot step into my school, teach my Year 13 students in a dramatically different way than they have ever been taught before and expect something to magically happen from that. Change has to be systematic and system-wide. I worry that when I leave my school two years from now all I will have done is confuse two year's worth of computer studies students and then things can go back to the way they were before. I guess that is my job though, to figure out how to keep that from happening.

— Sara

1 comment:

annette said...

we never really know the far reaching effects that we have on others lives. while in the near future it may seem to have a small impact, there will be at least one student - probably more- that will carry with them this different approach to gaining knowledge. you may never see it your self, but you can be sure that it will happen. you are a good teacher , trust your yourself on how you are guided to approach your students. i have a feeling the spirits are whispering in your ear, keep listening .....