This is the latest in a series of blogs from the teacher cohort.
By Lee Cristofano
This past Spring, I was invited to co-facilitate a workshop for some colleagues regarding a piece of technology that teachers might use in their classrooms: a camera that captures 360° photos and videos. I received my camera courtesy of the Carnegie Mellon CREATE Lab’s Fluency Project two years ago. I remember leaving that meeting and running all over the campus of CMU, taking dozens of pictures with this new camera like a tourist in a strange land. I couldn’t wait to get home to download all the pictures to my computer and explore. Struggling through typical Parkway West traffic would be especially bothersome.
I have used this camera for quite some time both at home and in the classroom, so I had no hesitation in accepting the offer to facilitate. The CREATE Lab team set up a time for a conference call so we might review the expectations for the workshop. In the days preceding, I did what I thought any responsible teacher should do: I planned to prepare lessons, make some handouts, anticipate technical issues and create several final products to show my colleagues.
And then we had the conference call. The objective of this workshop was, in fact, not to have every participant be proficient with the camera after an hour-long session. Rather, the objective of this workshop was somewhat the opposite: Let the participants play! Let them be curious as to what this strange piece of technology is. What does it do? Where do I even turn it on? What would happen if I push this button? Why is it blinking? What does this flashing icon mean? How do you take a picture, and where does the picture go? Now what? And ultimately, where might I use this in my teaching? In education speak, we would be taking a constructivist approach to learning.
Reflecting on our conversations, I had two new thoughts: First, a favorite book by Richard Feynman titled The Pleasure of Finding Things Out popped in my head. About winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, Feynman wrote, “The prize is the pleasure of finding the thing out, the kick in the discovery…” Secondly, I remembered all the fun I had running around campus, taking pictures, rushing home to get them downloaded to the computer to see exactly what I managed to create.
Had I followed through on my original plan, demonstrating the camera’s workflow, showing my own work and implementing a rubric of what a satisfactory, good or excellent finished product should look like, I would have denied my colleagues the pleasure of finding things out. The joy of figuring out how something works on your own. The intrinsic joy we all feel when we master a monumental task, and the joy of learning how to use a new tool in your own way, not just the way someone else thinks is the “proper” way to use it.
After teaching for 25 years, I wonder… Have I designed my classroom instruction for optimal efficiency, delivering maximum content in minimum time? Have I spoon-fed my students all the knowledge they would need just so they could meet curriculum goals and pass assessments? Have there been times where I denied my students the pleasure of finding things out?