I didn't really intend to use it!

At the outset of my introductory courses I would explain to my students that during our meetings I would teach certain skills, and then we would perform exercises that utilized those skills. But I also emphasized that I expected that my students would practice those same skills at home as well. I handed out diskettes with exercises on them, and at the end of each class I'd tell them what exercises I expected them to perform during the week between classes. Once they had also learned, more or less, to use e-mail, I would also send them exercises via the mail and would respond to anything they would send me during the week. To me this made sense. After all, the objective, as I understood it, was to learn to use these tools, so for each skill taught I developed exercises that put them to use.

It was honestly surprising to me to discover that perhaps 15% of the people who attended these classes over the years didn't have a computer at home, and that they readily admitted to this fact, basically as a way of letting me know that they couldn't do the homework assignments. My response to this revelation wasn't consternation that the homework assignments wouldn't get done, but instead confusion - why would someone spend four hours a week at an introductory internet course when they weren't able to use, and apparently had little or no intention of using, the skills learned. It was only with experience that I learned that teachers sign up for courses of this sort less to learn the material than to get credit for taking a course which then shows up as an addition to their salaries.

But even the fact that teachers enrolled in my classes without any real intention of using the skills they were supposed to be learning didn't prepare me for one more experience of this sort. At the opening session of one of these courses I was surprised to find that one of the participants was someone who had been in the same course the previous year (and had even done a passable job of learning something). I explained to him that there really wasn't much reason for him to take the course since it would basically be a repeat of what he studied (and hopefully learned) the year before. "Oh, that's okay", came the reply, "I really enjoyed the course last year and I'm sure that I'll enjoy it this year as well".

Go to: You mean you teach this stuff?