White Rabbit teaching method

The White Rabbit from Alice in WonderlandThere are instructors that want to have the course lesson completely planned out so they know exactly what to say at what time.  I’m not really one of those instructors.  There are definite objectives that need to be reached during a class session but the path doesn’t need to be that prescribed.  I’d rather let the class be a discussion with the students and let them help drive the direction of some the class.  If there is students’ desire to slow down to really explore a topic in depth, then by all means the instructor needs to do it.  The instructor is there to teach the student.  Interest by the students needs to be taken hold by the instructor and promoted.  Ignoring students’ interest is a great way to spend two hours hearing your voice bounce off the back wall uninterrupted.

I describe my teaching style as following the White Rabbit.  Chase the White Rabbit to see where the path leads.  When I’m on my game, we can chase the White Rabbit yet still direct that character to get us to the royal Hearts in the end.  Is there any other way to explain how I can be teaching a lesson on GIS, but split off and explore sexagesimal numeric systems?

Here’s a rabbit hole that we’ll “randomly” fall into during my GIS lesson…

I’m sure that all this talk about degrees, minutes and seconds has made you wonder why there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an degree and 360 degrees in a circle.  We have the Babylonians to thank for that.  They used a base-60 numeric system (sexagesimal) that is used in both time measurements and angles.  You are familiar with a based-10 numeric system (denary), and maybe a base-16 (hexadecimal) if you program computers.  Latitude and longitude are minutes of an arc that originates in the middle of the Earth.

Sexagesimal numbers would name each place past the point in Latin: primus, seconde, tierce, etc.  Minutes are the first position.  Second position is 1/60th of a minute, or seconds as we call them.

While we are off topic, there are 24 hours in a day because the ancient Egyptians used sundials that showed 10 parts day, 10 parts night, 1 part morning twilight, and 1 part evening twilight.

Has anyone ever come up to me in a disaster and asked why our time is a base-60 numbering sequence?  Well, no.  But it is handy knowledge where you’re at a cocktail party, the conversation is in an uncomfortable silence, and you have nothing else to say.

Back to the class.

And here we are.  The students have another peice of trivia stuck in their head.  Some will never think of it again.  Some will keep it as curious trivia to help understand.  A few will think it is the best thing shared all night.