Friday, August 04, 2017

Name That Learner

The first time I purchased a digital camera, it was with professional-development funds from my college. I made the case that the camera would help me to learn student names, because it would make it easy for me to take "mug shots" at the beginning of the semester and put the photos into a spreadsheet.

In most of my larger classes, I have announced on the first day that the next class meeting would be "picture day." When possible, I have used wall maps as my "studio" background. I have found the process of cropping and inserting the photos to be a good way to start learning names, and calling roll from the photo-spreadsheet has made me much better -- though still far from great -- at learning names throughout the semester.
"Yes, you there."

I started the spreadsheet approach when I was in my 30s, and eventually started using it in my smaller classes. Whenever I have failed to do so, I have ended the semester being unsure of at least a few names. And even with this help, I am sometimes at a loss to name the student in front of me. I learned that for a person over 50, this becomes increasingly common, even with long-time acquaintances. So I will continue to whatever help I can get.

Much of that help can be found in Maryellen Weimer's recent article, The Importance of Learning Students' Names, in which she describes a number of additional techniques that I plan to try. More importantly, she makes a convincing case for involving students more directly in the process. Networking, after all, is an important benefit of education at all levels, and it is worth spending a little bit of class time to facilitate connections.

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