Ideally, a checklist should be numbered -- unlike the one shown here!
One of the simplest tools at a teacher's disposal is the humble checklist. Checklists have been instrumental in saving lives in hospitals, averting disasters in planes and, less dramatically perhaps, ensured pain-free software installation in schools.
The value of the checklist was brought to a wider audience by Atul Gawande in The Checklist Manifesto.
Please note: that is an Amazon affiliate link.
However, they were a staple part of the Framework for ICT Support (FITS) scheme some years ago, in which those managing technical suport in schools were encouraged to use checklists to govern trouble-shooting, software installation and other processes.
What a checklist is, isn't and should be
A checklist is not the same as a shopping list, because the order of things is important. Neither is it the same as a to-do list. That is partly for the same reason and also because, if I'm anything to go by, to-do lists can be too long. You can avoid that by omitting any extraneous or non-essential details.
So a checklist should:
- err on the side of being short...
- ... but not so short as to leave out crucial steps
- list items in order of execution...
- ... and therefore consist of a numbered list...
- ... which could be in the form of questions.
Uses for checklists in education technology
The following could also be used in the context of Computing, ICT or related subjects. Some of them can also obviously be used in other subjects.
Writing computer code
The checklist might start like this:
- Have you identified the problem you want to solve?
- Have you identified the underlying problem, ie is this the same as another problem you've encountered, in a different guise?
- Have you written out in pseudocode what you'd like the program or app to do?
Clearly, you will wish to expand on that and put it into child-speak, but that's the general idea. You could even use it as a rubric for marking pupils' work, or as a checklist for discussions with pupils on a one-to-one basis.
The same suggestions apply to other checklists suggested in this article.
Trouble-shooting a program
- Have you come across this type of problem before?
- What exactly is going wrong, or giving unexpected results?
- Have you identified what you think might be the rogue code?
- Have you checked whether the program runs ok when you disable that snippet of code?
- Have you made a list of the tasks you wish to accomplish this lesson?
- Have you backed up your work before making radical changes?
- Have you made notes on what you've done (eg in a program) and why?
Software installation (and other changes)
- Have you backed up essential data?
- Have you created a restore point (or similar)?
- Have you told people that the system will be out of use for a specific period of time (if it will be)?
- Have you tested the new installation?
I don't wish to labour the point, so I'll just list a few other potential uses for checklists without going into any detail:
- Proofreading your work
- Printing out work
- Testing your program or app
- Annotating your work
- Preparing your work for an e-portfolio (or similar).
I hope you will agree with me that a well-written, ie short and precise, checklist can be extremely useful in the ed tech environment.
Tweeters do it online!
One of the items on my ever-expanding to-do list is to find out the details of all the educational chats going on in Twitter.
I've relegated that task even further down the list since discovering that Simon Johnson has done much of the work already. His article, It's all about the hashtag, lists more than 25 "ed chats", including subject-specific ones. It's not definitive in the sense of listing every single ed chat in the world (which would be worthy of a Nobel Prize, I should think), but it's a pretty good place to start.
Looking back over the past week. Photo by Allef Vinicius
Here are the articles I published on my own blogs last week, just in case you missed them.
Is writing advice any use?
Although this article is concerned with advice about writing specifically, I think the general conclusion can be applied more generally. Basically, it's a plea to not suffer paralysis from analysis.
Are MAs in Creative Writing any use?
Again, this article has wider applicability than just writing. In a nutshell, it speaks to the fact that the benefits of doing something, such as studying on a course, can have farther reaching, wider and unforeseen benefits than simply the obvious.
5 minute tip: how to generate random text in Latin
If you want to see how a particular layout will look, you can test it using the sort of text you see in books, namely Lorem etc. This article describes how to do that in Word.
5 ways that blogging can help your business
At the risk of sounding like a broken record (I wonder if anyone under the age of 30 understands that reference), the principles discussed in this article can be applied more widely than to business.
Hubris in the world of education technology
Lastly, this article was my answer to the seemingly growing phenomenon of people singing their own praises and self-promoting all over the place. I thought it would attract a load of flack, but it has proved to be fairly popular. Perhaps I'm not the only person who finds it all rather tedious and boring.
I suppose one must guard against hubris in any field, but as my main area of activity is in education technology, that's where I tend to come across it.
Hubris = excessive pride and self-confidence, according to the Oxford dictionary.
I try to guard against it myself by following three "rules".
First, no matter how brilliant I think I am at something, I doubt that many people would like to be subjected to my views on the matter. It's much better to adopt the adage beloved of many writers, and this is my first rule:
Show, don't tell.
In other words, don't tell me you're the country's expert on teaching spreadsheet modelling, show me -- in books, blog posts, YouTube videos etc. If you really are the expert you think you are, I'll figure that out for myself eventually.
Secondly, although it's a hard rule to abide by in this day and age, in which everyone has to shout louder than the rest to get people's attention (or, at least, they think they do), I like the observation by Lao Tzu in The Tao Te Ching:
Those who know do not talk, and talkers do not know.
Thirdly, I've said this before but I do love this comment by Salvator Rosa, a painter and poet who lived in the 17th century:
Be silent, unless what you have to say is better than silence.
Incidentally, if you like "rules", you'll probably enjoy reading these articles:
21 rules for computer users
7 rules for ICT teachers, co-ordinators and leaders
Free when you subscribe to Digital Education: 70 kinds of blog posts. If you want to shake up your blog or your school’s blog, this report is just the thing for you!
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