In December as I was starting to get ready for the looming January job hunt, I started thinking about how to set up a digital portfolio and settled upon a program that I thought would help me showcase my work perfectly. The only problem was that it wouldn’t embed into the site as I wanted it to. Instead of having a picture of the program to click on, it just gave me a hyperlink! Not very aesthetically pleasing at all! I could have easily run to my brother (computer programmer) or the internet to help me solve my problem but instead I decided to give it time and think about it. Although it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind as the days turned into a week and two weeks, I kept brainstorming ways to solve the problem. I had no luck until yesterday when I sat down and a moment of inspiration struck and I tried out my solution and it worked!
This little anecdote about my tech problem solving incident may seem a bit silly but it really got me thinking about how students might need the same space and time to think when they are problem solving. In a classroom there is constantly the pressure of time on our backs. Only so much time is a available for the period, only so much time is allotted for a test and there are only so many days in the school year! If a student needs more time to figure out a problem what happens then? They may look to another student, the teacher or other resources for help. But is this instantaneous answer seeking always the best way to solve a problem? It doesn’t challenge a students thinking but it does help to show them how to solve the problem and perhaps will help them solve a similar problem the next time they encounter one.
But what if like me and they want to take the time to do it themselves? A student may be lucky enough to be given a bit of extra time at the end of a test to give their problem another go or perhaps they could stay in at recess and work on it. Or who knows they may take it home to work on it on their own time. But more than likely the problem will fall by the wayside only to get lost in the blur of the school day and be forgotten about, another brain stretching opportunity lost.
So what does all this mean in practice?
To me it would mean to always keep in mind that on demand is not always best. Although speed is something that will be needed as students grow up, in the early years classroom it is more about developing the skill sets needed to solve problems effectively and accurately. As a teacher I should aim to guide students through the problem solving process and not always give away answers the instant a question is asked. A student who does not instantly get a problem may just need to be given the space and time to think about how to get to the solution. They may need to be shown the appropriate tools or strategies related to the problem. When teaching I should make time to revisit problems in class, later that day or the next to give students a chance to look at them with a new set of eyes and perhaps have their own lightbulb moments! Problems in life aren’t often so cut and dry that they can be solved instantly but rather they take time to solve. There is nothing quite as satisfying as solving a problem you have struggled with for a long time, self efficacy is a powerful motivator and empowering feeling!
*In the next few weeks I should have my digital portfolio up and running on this site, so keep checking back!*