I teach Electrical pre-apprentices the fundamental trade-skills, and trade-knowledge that they will need to go out and work successfully on job-sites. I’ve been an electrician for 17 years and am also an avid yogi. I’m pursuing the Provincial Instructor’s Diploma as a way to become a better, more qualified instructor and to also enhance my career.
In my previous job as a service electrician I used Internet resources, on a daily and even hourly basis. I kept in close touch with my employer, checked inventory at the electrical wholesaler, kept track of my hours and materials and consulted electrical forums for questions about installations. Sometimes the use of these tools actually seemed to take up more time than I actually spent performing electrical work! All in all, it was highly functional and I kept abreast of trends, code changes and new projects.
It was a massive culture shock for me to move off of the tools and into the classroom. Students seemed fixated by their smart-phones in a way that took them away and even disengaged them from the curriculum. At first I fought back! I banned phones from the classroom and the shop. Needless to say, this didn’t foster a sense of engagement or community. So I reconsidered and I thought about interactive tools that would help me connect with my class. I thought about building what will hopefully be long-standing learning communities. I created closed Facebook groups for each class and encouraged a safe learning environment where there are no stupid questions and their is support and quality feedback.
I want my students to use the Internet skillfully, to know what are trusted and relevant sources and when to look elsewhere. I want then when to know not to use the Internet and rather to rely on their own trade knowledge, texts, personal contacts and their personal ability to problem solve and rationalize challenging situations.
Smartphones are still used in a way that is frequently distracting, but they have become a valuable tool for communication and interaction in my classroom.