Friday, February 15, 2013

The 3-day rule

My husband and I studied Japanese together and then lived in Japan for 12 years studying Japanese music and language (and of course teaching.)  While we were there, we had what we called the "Three-day rule."  That was, whenever we learned a new, useful word or pharse, within three days, we would suddenly hear someone using it.

What was amazing about this was that of course people had been using those phrases all along, but since they weren't in our active vocabulary, we weren't hearing them. As second-language learners, we clung to what we could recognize, took in body language and context, to glean much of our information. And then suddenly, HEY!! Everyone has been saying this phase to me that I just couldn't hear because there was no context. After I had learned the phrase, I was able to scaffold it into my active listening ears and mind.

We are both optimists, and didn't let the fact that the endless learning of new phrases was, well...endless.  As soon as one three-day rule phrase popped up, we'd learn another one, again and again.  We persevered with our learning, enjoying the process. When you take on something as big as a language and culture, the journey never ends.

Recently I've revised that three-day rule to apply to the  language and culture of the internet.  During winter break I went to my neighbors' annual New Year's party and she told me she was taking a Coursera course in contemporary poetry. She's a nurse.  "What's that?" I asked, and she explained what a MOOC was. When I got back to my work computer, I signed up for a Coursea course (I was in the one that crashed) and also suddenly noticed the email titles with MOOC in them. I know they were there before. I just had no context for them.

The same has been true for OER (such an incredible concept that many teachers are just getting a grasp of), and the many offerings of Google. (Have you tried a hangout? Amazing.) The challenge is to stay on top, keeping  my ears and eyes open for the most useful, developing skills to see how they can be used, and make effective use of it as an educator.  

It makes Japanese look easy.

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