August 30, 2011

Lessons from Pagemaker..

As a health professional, teaching Pagemaker 7 to a group of ten young students in a community college, I had to use all the ingenuity and caution. Pagemaker could be compared to a tropical forest full of options, commands, work-arounds, short-cuts and whatnot. So, number one task for me was to find out well used trails passing through this forest; walking them, getting used to the changing landscape and becoming familiar with the destinations of these intermingling trails..

Next task was to make sure that we approached each session in a well structured way- so that no one got lost in the forest. So, I would develop a task, a project, and write down the steps on a chart paper- rehearse these steps before hand and then, in the class: I will ask the students to replicate steps exactly as they are, one by one: dont race ahead or lag behind or stray. e
These structured projects began to bear results; the group became quite familiar with the commands, options, plug-ins and their use to deliver a complete product. We moved from simple concepts to complex ones through these series of structured exrcises: from visiting cards (5*8 cm) to news-letters to a book, consisting of more than one publication, with Table of content and Index!
Now, the next challnege was: Complacence. The group began to feel that they know everything about Pagemaker! Wow! A teacher has to be ahead of the students but not too far ahead: otherwise there is no "engagement". Like a carrot, he should dangle just in front of the student- within reach but ever out of reach!
So, I decided to throw in a cat among the pigeons: I gave the group a folded card "Get well soon" to create in Pagemaker. The folded half had some text and graphic upside down obviously. Some students flipped it and some rotated it by 180 degree- with unexpected results! Quadrant 3 became quadrant 4- so forth and so on. Super-confusion! It was challenging for everyone!
Then, next challenge was when I asked them to make a map of the computer lab, its surroundings and the road leading to it. Everyone realized that they had been seeing their surroundings all these days through "unseeing" eyes. Is the Eye department next to Medical store or opposite it? etc. No one had made a North arrow- in other words the map could not be oriented to north.. What use is such a map? Finally the group realized that the REAL world extends much beyond their computer monitor..
And what have I realized in the bargain? I have learned a lot about lateral thinking and problem solving, understanding where a particular student is coming from, how to engage them- how to make them feel good and a little frustrated as well (=challenged)- and through all this, how to keep myself motivated and challenged constantly!
I think these insights are pretty generalizable to TISA SHGs.. Are we "engaging"?

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