The importance of managing time in the classroom

The other day I spent a very long day sitting in the Texas Concealed Handgun Instructor certification renewal class. It was a very long day (class officially started at 8:00 AM and I didn’t leave until 7:00 PM). There were a few things that stood out to me about the class, but one thing in particular.

Classroom time management.

When you have a particular set of material that you must cover, you must be aware of how you present that material in a manner that is not only effective but also sensitive to time constraints.

There are a few big time killers.

First, anecdotes. There’s no question anecdotes aid learning. It gives real-world perspective to what is being taught, and the impact of the story can  aid in retention of the material. But anecdotes must be used sparingly. If every bullet-point on the slide is accompanied by a story, everything will drag out. Furthermore, a heavy amount of stories lessens the impact of those stories, both from overload and the restlessness of the audience with “Oh boy, another war story”. Sometimes as well, it expends further time because now others want to chime in with their stories. And the time-wasting grows.

What can make this worse is when you have multiple instructors (e.g. co-teaching) and everyone feels a need to chime in. Yes, we all like to make our pet points, yes we all have things to say. But all instructors must be mindful of keeping on time and on track, and sometimes that means shutting up. This isn’t to say the other instructors must remain in silence, but that the entire teaching team must have their watches synchronized and do their part in keeping the classroom on track and on time.

Second, and this isn’t so much a time-killer as a morale one, but setting time-expectations. When you start off saying this next section should only take 20 minutes to do, then it winds up taking 45 — because of so many anecdotes — people are going to be annoyed. When the invitation says class should be done by 6:00 PM then you start going on about how we’re going to run over because time’s being wasted, but then you’re the one wasting the time? Um… doesn’t sit well with folks.

Furthermore, when you know Q&A is an important part of the reason for holding the classroom session, then there’s almost no time alloted for Q&A because all the time was used up by stories and other time-wasters, that’s a problem — especially when you set the expectation that part of the reason we’re there is to have open lines of communication between the students and instructors.

Third, underpromise and overdeliver. This goes back to the time issues. If you say “this is going to take 20 minutes” then you take 45, people are going to be upset. When you say we’ll be out by 6PM then we’re not out until 7PM, people are going to be upset. Instead, you should say it’ll take 45 and deliver it in 30, or that we’ll be out by 6PM but we’re actually done by 5. Be more realistic in setting your expectations, overestimate a little bit, and that way if you run up to that time then at worst you did what you said; if you still go over, hopefully then it won’t be by much; and if you go under, everyone will love you.

Finally, realize that it’s your classroom. You are the one in charge. If you set rules for classroom procedure, you need to follow and enforce those rules. Furthermore, you should not chastise the students for being the time-wasters, because if the students are wasting time it’s only because you are the one allowing them to waste the time. If you set rules that questions should be held until a particular point of the presentation, you should not be acknowledging hands raised at other times during the presentation (other than perhaps to say “I see you, we’ll take questions at the end”… do that a few times and everyone will get it and things will flow better). But of course, you must ensure to allot and then preserve that Q&A time — it cannot be sacrificed because you failed in other areas of time management. If the classroom fails to run smoothly and on time, it’s not the fault of the students, it’s the fault of the instructor.

I do understand how this goes. I have to run classrooms, I assist in classrooms. I’ve been there, done that. I know I have my own things to work on, and that’s probably why these things stood out to me because these are things I see in myself and my own classrooms. Things we’ve worked on, things we still need to improve upon. I don’t say this to be ugly to the instructors of my CHL-I class, but rather as feedback from one instructor to another on how we can all work to make our classrooms better, more productive, and more conducive to successful learning.

Lone Star Medics – Field & Tactical Medicine Conference 2014

Lone Star Medics is hosting a Field & Tactical Medicine Conference in Dallas, Texas on March 29-30, 2014.

Alas, I won’t be able to attend, but I wish I could. The lineup of presenters is impressive, and there’s no such thing as having too much knowledge about first aid and medicine.

 

More stuff for learning to program

A few days ago I wrote about Scratch, a nifty way to help my kids learn how to program.

I forgot a couple other things I found.

Stencyl. This looks neat. It I haven’t used it, but from what I read it looks like it follows the same sort of drag and drop “block” programming structure and logic that Scratch does. But it can be used to actually make iOS and Android products that you can actually ship and sell. So maybe after Scratch, this would be something to try. It would take the knowledge they had before, but now they have to actually make something polished and ship. A good “bridge” between the two worlds, so to speak.

There’s also GameSalad, which is made right here in Austin.

I still would want them to learn “real” languages (e.g. Objective-C, C++, Python, Ruby, Java, JavaScript, and maybe even new funky languages like Scala). Who knows. I think tho it needs to start with a desire to do it, and to really gain a love for it. If things like Scratch or Stencyl take off for them, then we’ll go there.

Who knows. 🙂

 

Learning to program

Youngest walks up to me about a month ago and asks how you program (write software for computers).

Oh joy! 🙂

Now I’ve talked about learning to program before and even a second time. I always come back to Karel the Robot as a great way to learn how to program. Why? Because you get to learn the constructs of programming without being burden by the constructs of programming. You can learn about loops and conditionals and variables and logic and flow, but you don’t have to spend 3 hours debugging a problem to find out it was because you misplaced a comma. And it doesn’t matter if you really do anything useful or not at this stage, in terms of gaining some employable skill (no job listings for Karel knowledge); once you learn how to program, then languages are just languages and toolsets are just toolsets.

Back when I looked at the LEGO Heavy Weapons book, No Starch Press offered other books to me to review. I asked about the Python for Kids book because it looked like it might be a great way to start the kids into programming. They sent me a copy, but I have yet to go through it. Mostly inertia on my part. Daughter asked me about it, but just a passing interest. And I must admit, while I think the book is well done for what it is, I still think it’s not a perfect start because there’s issues of language that get in the way. You have to get bogged down by syntax of Python. It’s not horrible of course, but I know things can be simpler. I think this book would make a good “phase 2”.

When Youngest asked me again, I went looking around. I found Scratch from MIT.

I think I’ve found what I’ve been looking for.

Youngest and I played around with this for a bit, doing the tutorial. I saw how Scratch gave you all the language, all the logic, even some advanced things like variables, lists, and inter-object messaging. It’s actually pretty cool. I liked the way you just drag and drop to make logic go. It also is able to give you direct feedback, which I think is good for capturing a child’s interest in the topic. I encouraged Youngest to “just try it”. What would happen if? Just try it and see! The environment is very forgiving, but even still, you can make mistakes and have to learn to debug.

I also really dig that all Scratch projects are “open source”. You can look at what others have done, and then you can look at the “source code” to see how they did it. I was able to find a simple game on the site, then show everyone how they made it happen and how neat that was.

So I’m working on this with Youngest. I told him a simple project he could start with would be reinventing comics. We all love Pearls Before Swine and I told him he could start by taking a simple Pearls comic (maybe just Pig and Rat talking to each other) and recreating it in Scratch. It’s a simple project, simple goals, but challenging enough to get your feet wet with.

And we joke… with Youngest programming… Daughter creating artwork and music… Oldest creating artwork, music, and overall design work… they all like to make movies, do voice work. Oh geez… I’ve got an in-house dev shop now!

Man, I wonder how far this ball will roll. 🙂

How to lose friends and alienate people

So long as you deny our humanity, so long as you malign our dignity, intelligence and wisdom, so long as you seek to shade us under a cloud of evil that we do not partake in or support, so long as you tell us that because we own guns we are terrible people, you will prove yourselves absolutely right in that we won’t come to the table to talk with you.

This. So very much, this.

Read the full article. It’s long, but well-written. (h/t Jon Thomas)

They want to have a “national conversation on guns”, but there’s no conversation. It’s just a lecture, a scolding. Who wants to listen to that? When someone dresses you down, how much do you listen to them? How much do you want to cooperate with them? If they call you names, tell you you’re evil, put words in your mouth… do you really want to listen to what they have to say? Are you going to be receptive to anything they propose? It has nothing to do with guns; that’s just a human reaction.

Here’s a PDF from Dale Carnegie.  Just about every rule gets violated in this “conversation”, and so we’re losing friends and alienating people.

To be fair, it’s not just the anti-gun folk that are like this. I see pro-gun folk that are this way as well. I cannot stand looking at my Twitter feed because I see so much  … well… asshole-ish behavior going on. Conversations in less than 140 characters is not a conversation. I see name-calling, baiting, and just general rudeness. I mean, there’s assholes in every crowd, alas they tend to be the ones creating the most jibber-jabber, thus they create the perception. This sort of behavior won’t win anyone over to our cause. There’s no attempt to educate, just more violations of Dale’s rules. Really, what Mr. Snell’s article concludes cuts both ways: that so long as pro-gun folks treat anti-gun folk in a bad way (denying humanity, maligning their dignity, intelligence and wisdom, etc.), well… they won’t come talk to us either.

We can even step back from guns. Look at abortion, LGBT equality, environment (e.g. global warming), food (GMO, etc.), race, religion (including a-religion), whatever. Ever notice how divisive things are today? How the media no longer maintains a facade of neutrality but now blatantly takes and panders to “sides”? How politicians hammer on “the other side” for being in the way of progress, instead of they themselves trying to progress? How there’s so much spitting of venom and hate? There’s so much talk of tolerance, but little is given, especially to those that don’t agree with me. It doesn’t matter the topic. So long as we deny humanity, malign dignity, shade “the other side” under a cloud of evil… we’ll never come to the table and break bread together.

If united we stand and divided we fall… then it looks like we’ve fallen, and at this rate, we’re not going to get back up. Because while our humanity is crumpled on the ground crying for help, you’d rather Instagram ‘dat shit’ and walk away laughing at the ‘dumb bitch’. We need people to put their smartphones away, give our collective humanity a humble look in the eyes, and offer it a helping hand.

Fun Family Day

If you look down on “rednecks”, both the people and the things they do, then you should stop reading now because this post will probably offend you. 🙂

Had a wonderful day with the family today. Originally we were to do this during my Christmas vacation, but since I was down with the flu it didn’t happen. Fortunately the heavens saw fit to give us today, so the opportunity was taken.

The main thing? Going to the gun range and shooting. Some work, some recreation. Thank you, Karl, for letting us use the range.

It started off with me doing some live fire pistol skills work, because of my desire to start shooting IDPA. Details on this elsewhere. Meanwhile, Wife and Kiddos were inside the range house doing schoolwork (the joys of homeschooling).

When I finished my work, I took Wife out for a little work with the shotgun. She wants to improve her proficiency with the shotgun, so we did some work there. Alas, a 12 gauge, even with low-recoil rounds, just isn’t in the cards for her (Karl, if you find her shoulder, please let me know). She’s just fine with the 20 gauge. I just wish … oh wait! It looks like Federal now has a 20 gauge buckshot with FLITECONTROL wad (PD256). Holy crap! This is awesome. Of course, as I look around right now, everyone’s out of stock. But wow, this is great. I’m there and it’s pretty much removed my reserves about the 20 gauge. Sure it’d be nice to standardize on 12 gauge, but oh well. At least now I don’t have to put up with sub-optimal 20 gauge buckshot.

After that, Wife was done for the day. With the wet weather and the temps in the 40’s, it was just too cold for her to keep going. But the Kiddos were ready.

I recently purchased a new shotgun and needed to break it in and ensure function. I ran a bunch of 12 gauge target loads through it, then some full-power buckshot (of course, the Federal FLITECONTROL), and some slugs (Brenneke low-recoil slugs). The slugs didn’t want to go into the mag tube easily for some reason, looks like the brass was hanging up on the retainer clips, but no big deal really. Everything functioned great. I did put a 12″ Hogue Short Shot stock on it (shorter LOP makes for easier shouldering) and while 12″ LOP is a little too short for me, it worked out alright and I didn’t smack my thumb into my face as much as I expected I would. 🙂  I consider the shotgun functional and able to be pressed into service.

Oldest has never shot a 12 gauge before — he’s always been a bit recoil shy. But today he stepped right up to the plate and fired it like a champ. We’ll work on speeding up his shot recovery, but he really did a great job with it.

Youngest has never fired a “big gun” before, just .22’s. But he wanted to try the shotgun. 12 gauge was too much tho, so I pulled out the 20 gauge (a Mossberg 500 Bantam youth model) and let him try it with some light target loads (which are still kinda stout). He handled it well, tho was taken aback a bit because it was a big boom — again, it’s the most gun he’s ever fired. But he did come back for a second shot, but that was enough. 🙂

We put the shotguns away and took out an AR-15. I originally didn’t plan on bringing out an AR, but when packing up this morning, Oldest expressed interest in shooting it and I wasn’t going to say no. Again, he’s been very recoil shy in the past, only wanting to shoot .22’s. So for him to want to step up is great in my book. I mean, I know he can handle it, after having shot that 255# feral hog a couple years ago with a .308 bolt-action. Oldest got to learn what “giggle factor” is. 🙂  He was having WAY too much fun with that rifle — I should have brought more ammo. Daughter shot it for a bit, but she tweaked something in one of her arms the other day and so it was kinda painful to hold up the rifle. Youngest tried the AR as well, and was quite pleased that the recoil was far less than the shotgun — tho it was a heavier gun to hold up.

We put the long-guns away, and pulled out everyone’s favorite: the Buck Mark Camper. All 3 kiddos shot at the steel targets with this, and it’s just fun to plink with such a low-recoil gun — tho Youngest did get bit by the slide. Daughter showed some good improvement on trigger control. She asked how you get to shoot faster, so I explained a bit and I guess something clicked because she was shooting a little faster by the time we wrapped up.

While a lot of today was about having fun, it also was with purpose. I want my kids to be self-sufficient and able to take care of themselves. Yes, that means being able to shoot a gun proficiently. You may not understand why that’s the case, and if you don’t understand I’d be happy to discuss it with you; even if you don’t agree with it, I hope you are willing to have an open mind and come to listen and understand. The guns shot, the things we did, all done with purpose, even if I was the only one that knew what the purpose was.

Alas, we had to wrap it up before everyone was tired of it, but that’s ok — always leave them wanting more.

We headed to the Elm Creek Cafe for a delicious lunch (everyone loves that place), then back home.

Oh… and the Buc-ee’s in Bastrop is finally open. Yes, we stopped in. Finally my family came to understand why I adore Buc-ee’s.

We had a great day. Smiles all around. Happy family. I can’t wait to do it again.

Instructor – follow up

My prior article on instructors was primarily aimed at those that wished to be instructors and the path to get there. However, in examining the path one might follow on the road to becoming an instructor, it sheds a lot of light for those that wish to be students — how can you pick a good instructor.

While the context might be different — weightlifting/physical training — the principles remain the same. Dave Tate lists 4 ways to tell if your coach has a clue:

  1. Who did they learn from?
  2. Who did they train with and/or under?
  3. What have they done?
  4. Who have they trained and have made better than themselves?

Doesn’t matter the context or the specific type of instructor. These pretty much hold for any instructor be it martial arts, lifting, cooking, painting, whatever.