Friday, January 19, 2018

Find the right tool for the right task

I have a student who was struggling with map tests. Don't ask me whether I think students need to memorize maps nowadays but...anyway, he had to. He was very frustrated, but at least thought the whole thing was over. It's important to establish rationale-or the presence of pointless work that nonetheless is required and might develop our skills and strategies- I had to break it to him that many more map tests await.

He showed me that the recommended study guide was Quizlet, which he was using via a matching task:


Now don't get me wrong, Quizlet is GREAT, and I'd recommend it for many tasks such as reviewing vocab or even literary elements of novels, etc. It's also excellent that they have evolved to include visual elements. But in this case, you can probably see immediately why this might not be the best tool for this task. Studying a map requires literally and figuratively a "big picture." This is just one stack but the images of the countries are small and it's hard to relate part to whole.

I showed him an old standby, Sheppard Software, a website built in Flash so it must be used on a laptop or chromebook. He liked it much better, and here's where curriculum contexts can always be blended with a strategic focus. Reviewing a region in "Learn" mode (via big picture), we made up a silly sentence cueing the country names roughly from north to south. Anyone remember the old BrainCogs program? I loved that. In any case, the verbal mediation was meaningful to him. In Quiz mode we also practiced strategies based in language, helping to make the blob of countries have a meaning, "Oh, French Guiana is closer to France than Guyana is. Ecuador is literally on the Equator."


The experience of tackling this task reinforced a few things for me. Rationale. Tool Selection. Strategic Focus.

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