The Möbius band is a shape which only has one side. You can make one by simply taking a long strip of paper and joining it together with a single twist. If you draw a line along the band on one side, you will see that it joins up with the point at which you began without turning the paper strip over. Topographically there is only one continuous side. I first came across it as a teenager, and it fascinated me. I imagined that if space was curved in the shape of a Möbius band, then you would always end up at the point at which you started, no matter what direction you set out in. To my mind the Möbius effect rendered the paradox of the direction of time irrelevant and made time travel a certainty.
I am much more circumspect now, but the Möbius Effect is something which has guided my perceptions of the world. To me it indicates that whatever you do contains unlimited possibilities as long as you apply a simple twist to it. This is especially true of teaching. To my mind nothing defines good teaching as much as the passion and commitment brought to it by the teacher, what Prahbu called the sense of Plausibility.
One aspect of passionate engagement by the teacher is the propensity to put a twist on common tasks so that they are seen in a new light. The use of digital media often accomplishes this in, and of itself – initially at any rate. But we need to make sure that today’s wow factor doesn’t become tomorrow’s ho-hum! Here are a few ideas.
- Polling. Instead of creating a poll yourself, get the students to create polls as part of their feedback to a class.
- PowerPoint. Get students to edit a PowerPoint which has a combination of good and bad content. Students should need to summarise entries which are too long, or edit out incorrect entries. Pictures might have the wrong caption, etc.
- Twitter. If your class is using a twitter search to comment or ask questions about a piece of literature, create a fake account for the author of the piece (eg. William Shakespeare) and create fake tweets from the author. See how long it takes the class to figure out that it’s you!
- Using a Forum. If you are using a Forum (Bulletin Board) to encourage discussion about a topic, don’t call it a discussion, call it a “war” – tell students they have to persuade the others their point of view is right.
- Moodle. Instead of using Moodle just for viewing course content, and uploading assignments, allow students to create courses on Moodle.
- Wikis. If you have a class Wiki, instead of getting a class to author content, use a wiki created by another class, and get the students to turn the information into a PowerPoint Presentation.
- Vodcasts. Get students to create their own vodcasts on a topic, but limit the time to 30 seconds!
- The Electronic Whiteboard. Instead of displaying your content on the board, get students to use the board when they make report-backs on discussions. This usually forces a group to create a digital feedback in some form or other.
- Pen and Paper. Not very new technology I know – but get students to start their web page designs or to plan PowerPoint Presentations on paper before they touch a computer. This encourages design aspects that computers sometimes stifle.
- Podcasts. Create a mute PowerPoint. Students can use Audacity or simply the sound recorder to create a voice-over for the presentation or video.