Danger, Will Robinson!

The courses on our campus are offered in eight-week terms, so those of us who teach the same courses each term begin to feel as though we are caught up in the real-life version of the 1993 movie Groundhog Day. Spoiler alert: The main conceit of the film is that Bill Murray’s character is trapped in a strange time warp that forces him to repeat the same day over and over until (surprise!) he makes enough improvements in his selfish behavior to warrant release.

Cover of "Groundhog Day (15th Anniversary...

Cover via Amazon

Just as Murray, a.k.a. Phil Connors, gradually realizes where the booby traps are on his path toward redemption, we instructors come to know where class after class of students becomes confused or makes errors.

The problem: how to effectively warn our learners.   Assuming my nagging mom voice and intoning, “Now, a lot of students mess this up; don’t be one of them” doesn’t work any better than that delivery did with my teenagers.   I need something to grab students’ attention so that I can guide them around the potholes into which they are about to tumble.  My current tactic: WARNING slides.

1. Will Robinson.  I wondered about using this one, since the series Lost in Space left the airwaves long before my students were born.  Surprisingly, most were at least aware of the show, and I do a pretty good robot imitation.  The line “Danger, Will Robinson” has become a shibboleth in my classes.

danger

2. The Snake Sign. I snapped this picture at an I-95 rest stop in Florida in early January.  ‘Nuff said.

snake sign

3. The Incongruent Picture. A challenge in A&P is learning to use…and frequently to pronounce…common English words in totally different contexts.  Here’s an example:

tropic

tropic2

4. Peeking at the Monster. This one precedes a slide that shows a dauntingly complex diagram.

peek

5. The Confused Kitten. No slide show is complete without a LOL cats slide.  This one is a favorite.

puzzlecat

Are these effective?  Maybe.  I often overhear students warning one another with “Danger, Will Robinson!” during peer-to-peer activities, and someone often says it while I’m writing something challenging on the board.

Do you have favorite “Hazard Signs”? Or do you use another technique to help students dodge known obstacles?  Please share!

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