Thursday, January 05, 2012

individualized vs. group learning...

Shop teacher Richard Bazeley asked about the modification of sleds to enable a class to learn machine box making using a table saw. He suggested a plexiglass shield over the area where the blade cuts to prevent chips from flying, stops to prevent the sled from pushing too far, and a blade cover at the back to prevent the blade from being exposed at the back side of the sled as it is pushed forward. These are three very good suggestions particularly for those inexperienced in table saw use, and for those teaching in a classroom setting. In fact these are the three modifications we make to my sleds at Marc Adams School when I tech classes of up to 18 students at a time. When you teach, minds fade in or out, students are distracted in side conversations, or by internal dialog, or even by the rumblings of their stomachs, and can miss essential bits of information that might have kept them out of danger. Also students who have very little familiarity with other cutting instruments may not even know the dangers they face or the careful placement of the hands necessary to do woodworking with safety.

The world is safer than it has ever been, but students sheltered from risk can do stupid or careless things. The best reason for that plexiglass over the cut is not to protect from sawdust, but rather to keep students from dropping things on the blade as it spins.

With younger students these days it is a struggle to get their attention, and I believe this is in part because they are so deeply engaged in other forms of learning. For instance computers offer individualized learning, whereas getting a number of students' attentions focused as a class on the same issues with equal understanding has grown nearly impossible, I  think because students brains are actually adapting to computerized learning styles.

So what is taught to an individual in which a relationship in which teacher and student each have each other's undivided attention is best, but when you are not in that situation but instead must share learning with a class, extra precautions are required.

This morning I did a radio interview for Ozarks Harvest Radio Hour that will be broadcast at a later date. I wanted to talk about community and craftsmanship. But as all things go, the finished interview may be more like a  shaggy dog story. Who knows where all things will end up? I will let you know when the interview will be aired and will provide a link for a podcast.

This is the year I passed the age at which my father passed away, and when men reach that age we begin thinking of ways our lives and who we are might live on in some way. Making things with lasting value is one way. Using tools that have lasting value and that will express that lasting value through the hands of other craftsmen is another. Can you pick up a tool and feel the life force of another inside? Or do you think you might consciously put your own creative force within some simple tool? Realizing the illusory nature of individualism, and that in essence we are all expressions of a common humanity is another way we can see our own lives as being greater than self alone. Caring for our children is but one more. Teaching children is one of the most powerful. The list goes on and on. The ironic thing is that we may get to the point at which our own identity might be so strongly integrated with that of the whole of humanity that we might not be that concerned of frightened when the moment of death arrives. I am reminded of the zen monk who on his death bed heard his disciples gathered around wailing, "Master, master, don't leave us!" He answered, "Don't be silly. Where in the world would I go?"

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:24 PM

    Precautions are a great thing, but guards on the machines are no match for the lack of them among those using them.
    I am now two years past the age when my father died, and it does inspire all sorts of thought. I understand that I have lived longer because of better health care, and also, I was not tortured.