It wasn’t the memory, it wasn’t the processor (sorry, were you expecting me to talk about languages instead of computers?), so it’s probably the motherboard, so it’s going to take longer – although there’s still a chance we’ll be reunited by the end of this afternoon.
In the meantime, it’s just you, me and this temperamental tablet.
[Disclaimer: Catrin thinks the tablet is just fine, and I’m the temperamental one].
But I’m not just posting because I desperately need company (Tweet! Facebook! Comment! It might just keep me sane!) – oh, no, I actually have something of relevance to say.
When I wrote the first script for SSiWelsh, I wanted to praise our learners. It was something I always did as a teacher, it’s something I try to do as a parent, and it just felt important. I was a bit self-conscious about it, though – I was worried that general positive statements would sound a bit empty. I imagined a dialogue that went something like:
Aran: You’re doing great!
Learner: How the hell do YOU know? You can’t even hear me, you fraud!
Aran: No, seriously, you’re doing really, really well.
Learner: You’re not listening to a word I’m saying, are you, you bare-faced liar?! Why, when I get my hands on YOU…
But as I scripted the intros, outros and links for the lessons, it started to become clear to me that there were certain things I knew about our individual learners. I knew which lesson they were grappling with – and I knew that they must have achieved a certain level of proficiency with the earlier lessons, or they wouldn’t even be able to attempt the one they were on – and so I felt increasingly confident in making statements about what reaching/finishing a certain lesson implied for their level of Welsh.
Imagine my pleasure, then, as I carry on through another book by David Rock, to find this little gem:
‘People get, on average, a couple of minutes of positive feedback each year, versus thousands of hours of negative feedback.’
He’s including your own internal commentary in that – but even so! A couple of minutes of positive feedback a YEAR? As an average?!
No wonder that the positive feedback in SSiWelsh comes as a refreshing change – for many people, it may actually be the only positive feedback they hear all month. Now, that’s obviously a good thing in general terms (I mean, it’s good that SSiW provides some positive feelings, not that it’s good that we all live in a positive feedback desert!), but there’s more. This may not just be touchy-feely nice stuff – it might be very important neurologically speaking.
A neuroscientist called John Ratey has, as David Rock puts it, a theory that ‘our neurons have limits to the amount of electrical signals they can process, and can therefore go into overload fairly easily. When we experience anxiety, fear, self-consciousness or any strong emotion, our neurons get flooded with electrical signals.’
In other words, if we are (as we are) awash in negative feedback, our neurological capacity may be limited, which means our learning capacity may be as well.
So those little snippets of positive feedback may be giving our learners an actual neurological boost to their capacity to learn, which is a rather lovely thought.
It leaves us with an important question, though – how can we design MORE positive feedback into the course, without it becoming insincere and not based in reality? One of the most marvellous things about the forum is the huge amount of positive feedback fellow learners give each other – so it may be that time spent on the forum gives learners a real neurological advantage (it’s certainly the best excuse I’ve heard so far for spending time on the forum!) – but is there anything else we could be doing?
That’s not a rhetorical question. Until I get my computer back, I’m going to be hungry for conversation…;-)