Interruptions happen. They surprise us with their timing: by definition--look at the roots of the word--they come between ("inter") and break apart ("rupt") our plans for a stretch of time.
|Photo, George Mason Memorial, by KellarW|
So, as any teacher (or parent) who has been in it for the long haul can tell you, it's probably wise to plan for some interruptions--to expect to be interrupted, and plan for more time than you need to get something done. O'Grady calls it creating a buffer, or planning a margin. We might also call it being realistic. (I didn't say I was good at it.)
As I reflect on what I've learned this week in our pedagogy seminar, one of the standout reminders is this: expect the unexpected. For me as a student, that means planning some extra study time to allow for interruptions. For me as a teacher, it means that I should expect students will need to stop and start, often for great reasons. Instead of complaining about it, I should anticipate this reality and help bolster their ability and desire to keep coming back to their learning and moving forward in their studies.
Robin Smith (2008) puts it this way: "...interruptions become part of the expectations of Web-based learning, and they require your course content to have these components": chunkability, repeatability, pausability, and understandability. (Conquering the Content, pp. 64-65).
That's great advice. It makes sense for writers as a way to help readers. (Look at those little chunks of content on this screen--manageable paragraphs make a difference! And notice the pauses that you get with headers and occasional boldface or bullets--places to rest your eyes, thanks to contrast!)
Expecting the unexpected also makes sense as a way for teachers to plan course design with the goal of helping students. For online videos, if we can make higher quality screencasts by recording in short bursts AND our students are more likely to watch them (because they can commit to smaller chunks at a time, in case they need to pause), it's a win-win. I'm excited to try this out with some screen casting.
I also want to think about how we might apply this to written texts, so that we can assign some sustained reading of longer texts while also helping students with some chunking. Chapters are a start (wondering if my students will buy it if I tell them to read chunk 1?), but we can occasionally take this to another level.
Interruptions are as old as time. Best to plan for them!