Today, one student is making a presentation on the technological innovations of the Mesopotamian civilizations, and he has a quite impressive digital presentation featuring images organized in an outlined version of the key innovations. As he presents, his classmates ask him good, sophisticated questions– if the Assyrians were the first to employ horse-drawn chariots, then what about the Egyptians’ experience of attack by the Hyskos? Our presenter argues that we may be mistaken in not appreciating the possibility that the Hysksos were themselves related to the Assyrians. This is great stuff. I love seeing how much our presenter himself is learning even as he presents, in thinking about and thoughtfully responding to his interrogators. I am not alway sure his answers to their good questions are accurate, but you know what– they are still prompting him to think harder, and analyze, and consider possibilities. In observing it, I know I much prefer to see this kind of speculation (though he might do better in acknowledging the speculative nature of his answers) that to hear him say he just doesn’t have any idea (or recite some flat affect minimal answer that he read somewhere and remembered without really understanding it, even it if was more accurate). We need to employ this learning technique more often– so much of good teaching, and good learning, is about good questioning. Our student-teacher also goes out of his way to make repeated links from his ancient Mesopotamian studies to significance for our society today, which, though a bit forced and quite a bit distant, is still valuable. Now he makes a homework assignment to the class– having learned about how the Mesopotamians invented the wheel, our students here are assigned to re-invent the wheel, and are provided a two page hand-out spelling out the details. It is not just an assignment, he adds, it is a competition for who can make the best, and he gives us fairly clear criteria for his evaluation of the wheel. To these eyes, the assignment looks very challenging, but I love it– problem-solving, creativity, a challenge and competition. Good stuff.

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