This is the second in a series of posts on teaching technology quickly so the focus of technology-based learning activities can be not on technology, but rather on the curriculum.
“Just in Time,” not “Just In Case”
The mistake the Health teacher from the recent post made wasn’t doing mini lessons before letting students start their project. Her mistake was doing too many mini lessons. Teachers, often simply because they want students to succeed, try to show students everything they might need in order to complete a project.
The problem with this approach to education, according to Roger Schank (1995 – print book or hyperbook), is that it gives students information they might need before they perceive they need it, or answers questions students don’t have yet. This is “Just in Case” education. We teach students knowledge and skills just in case they will need it later. The problem is that because students don’t yet perceive they need it, it doesn’t get filed effectively in student memory and we end up re-teaching it later.
“Just in Time” education is either teaching knowledge and skills when students recognize they need them, or working to create a sense of need or to generate interest before teaching them. In terms of technology mini lessons, it means identifying the 3 to 5 skills students need right away to get started on the project, and doing other mini lessons only as the need arises.
For the Health public service announcements, it would mean teaching how to import video clips, how to build the video by sequencing the clips, and how to crop and edit clips. It would also mean not showing students how to put in titles or transitions or how to export their final project, because those are skills students will need near the end of their work, not when they are getting started. Those mini lessons might still be taught, but only days later, when and if students need them. Further, “Just in Time” education means that the teacher does not take time to teach those skills if students figure them out on their own. Although it might be a good idea to plan a minilesson because students might need it, that does not mean that it has to be taught.