Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Five benefits of learning with a friend


Learning with a friend
Throughout this year, I have been undertaking small learning projects with my friend and colleague, Steven Francis. I find our learning sessions invigorating and a large part of what I like about my workplace. In this post, I share some advantages of learning with a friend.

(c) Can Stock Photo
Steven and I have established a weekly ritual that has turned Friday afternoon from a draining time of the week into an enjoyable one:
Every Friday after school, we pack up our our weekend corrections and head to a close-by eatery. We indulge in vegetarian pastries, soft drinks and some potato chips as we have a casual and, at times, cathartic chat (yes, men have those too!). After about 30 minutes, we head back to school and work on a learning project for about two hours. The common thread of our projects this year has been computer programming.
Here are some of the things we have done over the last three terms:
  • Built a calculator APP that may help some senior students with transposing linear equations;
  • Solved a few Maths problems from ProjectEuler.net; and
  • Started learning how to use Django to build a dynamic website.
Working together, we have developed many technical skills but the benefits we have derived from this ritual transcend any specific skill. Here are five benefits our collaboration brings to each of us:
  1. Motivation for learning
    It is easy to feel overwhelmed by work and to feel that you couldn't possibly fit in any learning projects. Doing the project with a friend adds social and team dynamics: You can have a laugh and push toward a common goal.

  2. Clarity
    Learning implies thinking deeply and clearly. I find that explaining my thoughts to someone else is the best way to clarify them in my own mind. Apparently, explaining to someone what you are trying to do is one way to help yourself reach an insight.

  3. Two heads / two perspectives
    I have lost count of the number of times when Steven and I have brought complementary skills to a problem we were trying to solve.

  4. A way to engage with our teaching disciplines
    English teachers at our school often discuss literary works. Science teachers discuss some of the latest discoveries they have read about in scientific magazines. I wasn't going to spend my weekends working through the left hand side of an exercise in the maths textbook! Working collaboratively on these projects has given me a great way to do Mathematics.

  5. A way to model learning to students
    Steven has undertaken to help me with the APP Group and we have occasionally combined our Year 7 Maths classes for some team teaching. During these teaching sessions, the students get to see us discussing the subject matter, asking each other questions and suggesting different approaches to some problems. It is important for students to see their teachers in the process of learning. "Modelling" is a misnomer when our students never witness us learning.
Working on these projects has not limited either of us in what we would like to pursue individually. It has invigorated us to keep learning by ourselves. Taking Project Euler problems as an example, we have each solved some more problems by ourselves: I have enjoyed my success with about 10 problems while Steven was solving his 90. It is just as well that I do not have a competitive nature!

2 comments:

Celia

said...

What a great story.
Your enthusiasm and passion for your work is tangible and exciting. You both appear to be living the concept that learning is best when it is self-directed, inquiry based and Social (Richard Olsen referring to on-line learning but it still works)
Thanks for sharing!

Rambling Teacher

said...

Thank you for the comment, Celia. I love the work you're doing with the TeachMeets. It inspires us teachers to keep learning and sharing.