Friday, February 3, 2012

Hiding clues in lectures

I find a singular pleasure in occasionally hiding clues in lectures, when I have time to think about it in advance. Using 5773 in a numerical example at Rosh Hashanna, quoting some book without attribution, having a pictorial reference to my favorite children's picture book, etc. Then, if a student catches on, it is as if we were sharing a secret in plain daylight. We know the hidden meaning the others are unaware of. We may exchange a glance, and then we know: I know that he or she understood me, and they know that it wasn't chance, and that I know that they know. We understand one another.

What is the point?

There is no point as far as I can tell. It's just nonsense. Most of the time it has no pedagogical value. But it is delightful.


  1. This is very commendable, I'd love to find such a clue someday in somebody's lecture!

  2. That's nice! (: I may do it in the future too.

    I wouldn't say it is nonsense, even though it may appear as not serving any evident and explicit purpose. But many things we do in life is not serving any direct purpose as well, but we do them and we feel joy by doing them. Examples are reading stories, having sex for fun (and not reproduction), eating cheesecake, gossiping, etc.

    But in another level of analysis, these things may actually serve a particular, but indirect, purpose. I imagine this is true for your particular example as well. Its indirect purpose might be to add some extra fun, excitement, feeling of beloning to a particular group, etc. to the act of teaching. This makes teaching (and learning) more sustainable.

  3. he he...i love sharing those moments, its quite marvelous i must say :)

  4. "quoting some book without attribution" could be seen as plagiarism

  5. Well. Imagine I say: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times", without saying where it comes from or even that it comes form somewhere. But that's not plagiarism, is it?

  6. Hello Claire! I'm sure there are many reasons to do this. It's not adding some sort of extra fun to your lectures (because if students know to look for these "easter eggs" - if they are too "institutionalized" - then they lose their spontaneity, and you risk distracting from the actual points you're trying to make), but it's helping you connect with your students. I've always felt that is very important, perhaps even crucial - at least to some approaches to teaching.