Dec 012016
 

We are starting to gear up for TMC17, which will be at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School  in Atlanta, GA (map is here) from July 27-30, 2017. We are looking forward to a great event! Part of what makes TMC special is the wonderful presentations we have from math teachers who are facing the same challenges that we all are.

To get an idea of what the community is interested in hearing about and/or learning about we set up a Google Doc (http://bit.ly/TMC17-1). It’s a GDoc for people to list their interests and someone who might be good to present that topic. The form is still open for editing, so if you have an idea of what you’d like to see someone else present as you’re writing your own proposal, feel free to add it!

This conference is by teachers, for teachers. That means we need you to present. Yes, you! In the past everyone who submitted on time was accepted, however, this year we cannot guarantee that everyone who submits a proposal will be accepted. We do know that we need 10-12 morning sessions (these sessions are held 3 consecutive mornings for 2 hours each morning) and 12 sessions at each afternoon slot (12 half hour sessions that will be on Thursday, July 27 and 48 one hour sessions that will be either Thursday, July 27, Friday, July 28, or Saturday, July 29). That means we are looking for somewhere around 70 sessions for TMC17.

What can you share that you do in your classroom that others can learn from? Presentations can be anything from a strategy you use to how you organize your entire curriculum. Anything someone has ever asked you about is something worth sharing. And that thing that no one has asked about but you wish they would? That’s worth sharing too. Once you’ve decided on a topic, come up with a title and description and submit the form. The description you submit now is the one that will go into the program, so make sure it is clear and enticing. Please make sure that people can tell the difference between your session and one that may be similar. For example, is your session an Intro to Desmos session or one for power users? This helps us build a better schedule and helps you pick the sessions that will be most helpful to you!

If you have an idea for something short (between 5 and 15 minutes) to share, plan on doing a My Favorite. Those will be submitted at a later date.

The deadline for submitting your TMC Speaker Proposal is January 16, 2017 at 11:59 pm Eastern time. This is a firm deadline since we will reserve spots for all presenters before we begin to open registration on February 1st.

Thank you for your interest!

Team TMC17 – Lisa Henry, Lead Organizer, Mary Bourassa, Tina Cardone, James Cleveland, Daniel Forrester, Megan Hayes-Golding, Cortni Muir, Jami Packer, Sam Shah, and Glenn Waddell

Nov 062016
 

In my last post, Why I won’t use Direct Instruction, I was provocative and challenged some of the typical thinking about math instruction. The post generated some terrific conversation, both here and on Twitter, and although I have not changed my mind for my own classroom use, I do admit there may be times when DI has a function and purpose.

The grad class I am in has moved on, which is how classes work, and we are discussion Cooperative teaching this week. The textbook is very focused on English and Social Studies, which leaves the math and science people out a bit, but it does discuss the Jigsaw lesson plan at some length. The Jigsaw is a good strategy, and it is useful in math class for sure, but there are so many others!

To create a better list, I asked the #MTBoS for their favorites. I won’t embed all the tweets, but will give attribution to every person who submitted and idea or link in the idea. I want to feature the lesson plan ideas and the links to them. I have not used all of these. Heck, I don’t think I have used half of these! But the collection is amazing, and although some of the ideas don’t have details, you can figure out the idea from the names of some.

The really nice thing is that these are all cooperative lesson strategies from math teachers for math teachers. If you want some ideas on how to incorporate these well tested strategies, here you go:

  1. Speed dating: Me! @gwaddellnvhs, Mary-Ellen @MathSparkles; This was one of the two I suggested. I really like this method of getting learners collaborating with a purpose.
  2. Add it up or Placemats or 4Sum or Add ’em up: Me! @gwaddellnvhs; Heather Kohn @heather_kohn; S @reilly1041; Kate Nowak@k8nowak; This is another strategy I offered in my original question. I think I got it from Kate originally, forgot the name, and then called it Placemats because of a way to set it up using butcher paper. Same idea, different names.
  3. Participation Quiz or Partner Quizzes: Martin Joyce @martinsean; Rachel @Seestur ; Used these often. Very engaging way to get everyone focused. The tricky part is creating the teams for the quiz, but that is achievable.
  4. Clipboard of quotes & actions that support each other. Update whiteboard, then go over: Martin Joyce @martinsean
  5. Whiteboard Game: Lisa Bejarano @lisabej_manitou
  6. Problems around the room: Lisa Bejarano @lisabej_manitou
  7. Also a big fan of whiteboards where students keep answers secret and then they All “flash” at the same time: Mary-Ellen @MathSparkles
  8. Pass the Pen: Madelyne Bettis @Mrs_Bettis
  9. Work on the Wall: Madelyne Bettis @Mrs_Bettis
  10. Ss work prob on board while 2nd Ss “calls” it like a baseball announcer: Mary Williams @merryfwilliams, The boys get into it with the Bob Costas enthusiastic voice, “and he is STRIKING OUT LADIES AND GENTLEMAN!!” Most of the time they are really positive though – all the sports enthusiasts enjoy announcing 🙂
  11. Ghosts in the Graveyard: Mary Williams @merryfwilliams
  12. Sage and Scribe: Briana Guzman @brianalguzman
  13. Quiz Quiz Trade: Briana Guzman @brianalguzman
  14. There can be only one (marker): Nathaniel Highstein @nhighstein
  15. Having round tables in the classroom: Rachel @Seestur Rachel really enjoys having the round tables so learners have to look at each other while working. It makes total sense to me!
  16. Tarsia Puzzles: Sheri Walker @SheriWalker72; Paula Torres @Lohstorres1; In case you don’t know what Tarsia puzzles are, Tarsia is a FREE software package to make puzzles out of sets of problems. They are really cool, and when you require them to be worked in partners, can be a great way to incorporate cooperative learning in a different way.
  17. Card Sorts: Beth Ferguson @algebrasfriend; Card sorts have been around a while, and they are highly effective. I used them in AP Stats as well as algebra. Desmos recently incorporated card sorts into the Activity builder, so you can get awesome electronic card sorts now too!
  18. Row Games: Kate Nowak  @k8nowak; Beth Ferguson @algebrasfriend; I have used Row Games too. The best part is the link takes you to a folder owned by Kate that has 3 pages of mostly word docs of teacher created games. This means you can edit and change them to make them better for your class! Also, it would be awesome if you shared back your creations to help others.

Additionally, David Wees tweeted out the following people, but didn’t give more info. I suggest contacting them directly for more information.


David later did followup with this link to TEDD (Teacher Education by Design). I poked around their site. Looks promising!


Amy Lucenta also was kind enough to let us know her ideas are found in her book from Heinemann Publishers.

I hope this helps, and if you have any other cooperative learning ideas, drop them in the comments please!

Oct 162016
 

This post is born out of a PhD class I am taking called “Models of Teaching.” It is a great class, but one of the requirements early in the semester was to write how I would use direct instruction in my classroom. I refused. I wrote a lengthy screed against DI. I attacked it, aggressively. What you have here is an edited, cleaned up, and less aggressive post born out of that assignment.

——-

As a first year teacher, I was explicitly told by a principal to use direct instruction. He very carefully outlined what he expected any class to look like, and what the learners should be doing at every stage, every minute.

When that year was over, I left that school without a second thought. To deprofessionalize teaching to such a degree that someone could outline any class, any day, any lesson to the minute is reprehensible and borders on educational malpractice.

If you get the sense from this that I do not value direct instruction very highly; good.

I mean, really. Look at the way people think about education and specifically math ed. I think using comics as indicators is a great idea, because comics take a shared experience and pokes fun at it. Comics make us laugh through the pain, and there is a lot of pain in education.

Baldo, I cant believe school starts tomorrow

At the younger grades, we definitely see excitement for learning, but at some point, we beat that excitement out of kids. Why? This is a question I have asked repeatedly here, but I think DI has a lot to do with it. I mean, DI is a common way to teach math, as well as other subjects. Can we blame learners if they are bored, frustrated, and unexcited about classrooms that are taught through DI? And they are all 3.

math class is like a 40 foot long colon

Really? The punch line in this Baby Blues makes me cry. Literally. This is what the general public finds funny about math class?! But it isn’t just these comics. It goes on. And on.

calvin-hobbes-memorizing-is-boring

The common theme of memorizing is so frustrating.

calvin-hobbes-school-is-not-about-interest

I am not advocating for “learn what you want” or unschooling, but certainly we can figure out ways to build in learner interests, right?

calvin-and-hobbes-paying-attention-in-class

And DI just take us to the point repeatedly. “Oh, you weren’t paying attention while I was sharing what you were supposed to be learning? That is your problem, not mine.”

dennis-the-menace-back-to-the-salt-mines  dennis-the-menace-principal-not-warden

Yea, nothing more needs to be said here. Sigh. These were published in October. Of 2016. These are current. It makes it just that much more sad.

zits-consume-hold-regurgitate

This Zits comic pretty much sums up the idea of Direct Instruction for me. It is clear that Jeremy (the teenager) has teachers who use DI pretty much the entire day. He is just consuming the knowledge of the teacher, puking it back for the test, and starting over each day.

foxtrot-learning-math-at-the-last-minute-b4-finals

And this focus on memorizing, and storing the teacher’s knowledge leaves learners doing what Paige Fox is doing here. Focus on the test, not learning. As long as the test comes out okay at the end, then all is good. Same issue Calvin had above.

But my objection to DI goes beyond the fact that it creates a horrible perception of classrooms. The philosophical underpinnings of direct instruction follow from Behaviorism and the work of B.F. Skinner.  Skinner, in his book “The Technology of Teaching” introduced wonderful machines that replaced teachers. In the behaviorist world, teaching is only necessary to introduce proper conditioning, and you do not need professionals to create those behaviors. Machines, called appropriately enough, “Teaching Machines” can replace teachers wholesale.

teaching machines by skinnerJust read the question, mark the response, check the response to the key, move a lever left if correct and right if wrong. Finish the lesson and repeat until they are all correct. This is the legitimate end result of behaviorism and the deprofessionalization of teaching. We see it in such sites as Con, er, Khan Academy, where the boring and mistake prone  lectures are used to give a false impression of learning. This kind of approach to teaching and learning is why at least one US Senator has suggested doing away with college professors and just have students watch Ken Burns videos to learn about the Civil War. Not joking. This is real. This is the direct benefactor of behaviorism.

In short, there is not enough alcohol to burn this chapter from my memory. [I leave this sentence in here from the assignment for a reason. Yes, I really did turn this sentence in, but also because it shows just how strongly I feel about this issue.]

These are harsh words. I freely admit that. I have very few, if any, kind things to say about direct instruction. I stopped teaching this way after my second year in the mathematics classroom. I would never go back, nor would I ever try to teach this way again.

It is painfully boring for the learners, and it is equally painful for the teacher. The fact it is completely ineffective to teach or learn higher order processes and skills makes it doubly not worth using.

Direct Instruction is the worst of all teaching methods, and continuing to use it just reinforces the boring nature of what learning can be. It doesn’t have to be that way! It really doesn’t.

When I write lessons, whether it was for high school or for the college classes I am teaching now, I start each lesson with these questions (replacing math with teaching now):

Am I:

–Assisting learners in creating THEIR own math understanding?

or

Forcing learners to curate and consume MY math understanding?

My goal is clear. I want every learner to move beyond my understanding quickly and efficiently. That can’t happen with DI. DI is a way to force learners to store my knowledge and understanding.

And, we need to figure out ways to stop asking learners to store our knowledge and instead celebrate their own. There are many constructivist teaching models. We need to use them. Find two or three that resonate with you and practice them. And then, celebrate the accomplishments of learning for more than 2 seconds.

Calvin is sad for a reason.

calvin-and-hobbes-is-this-why-learners-are-unmotivated

Oct 122016
 

I had the opportunity to read a preprint edition of Malke Rosenfeld’s new book, Math on the Move, and here are my thoughts.

First off, let me start off with what this book is not. As educators we have probably sat through a professional development where someone told us that in math class, we can appeal to the “kinesthetic learning style” by having the learners up and moving around the classroom. We can appeal to “kinesthetic learners” by having them move their arms, or by doing gallery walks. I have sat through several of these. [yes, I put that phrase in quotes on purpose. I do not believe in ‘learning styles’. Multiple Intelligences, yes, learning styles, no.]

Rosenfeld’s book is not this. No where near this. This book is not about “kinesthetic learning” this is about making connections in mathematics through motion, body, and dance for elementary school learners. It is an amazing concept to think about. I really appreciate that on page 2, she says, “not all of dance is mathematical and not all math is danceable.” That sets the tone for the entire book. Rosenfeld looks for the strengths in using movement, and using the body as a thinking tool. This is a powerful idea, and the first chapter of the book is about what doesn’t and does count as using the body as a thinking tool. I loved the deep thinking this chapter provoked, because it made really think about dance and movement with respect to math.

And, let me be honest. My knowledge of math through motion is very limited. My idea of dancing is more aligned with this guy than anything that someone else would consider “dancing.” Honestly, I wondered for a moment if someone had recorded me actually dancing when I saw this gif.

dancing-gif via

But, despite the fact I am both musically and rhythmically challenged, I have always thought there was opportunity to connect math and movement. I have never figured out how, but I have been intrigued by the idea. After reading the table on page 17 I realized why.

table of nouns and verbs about math movement

The verbs of math are aligned with the verbs of dancing. The nouns of math are also aligned in large part. Looking at the list, and knowing, intellectually, about the ideas of dance, it is easy to understand how strong the connection is. Through examples of learner work, QR codes showing video of learners moving, multiple lesson examples, pictures, role playing examples, and well developed explanations, Rosenfeld shows me how to implement dance in a very constructive way in the elementary classroom. By the end of chapter 3, I was willing to try it with elementary kids tomorrow. That takes a lot for me to say, because I am secondary through and through. Little kids scare me. But I am so excited by the opportunity I see after the first three chapters of lessons that I am willing to try them. They are so interesting!

I think the real power comes later in the book when the 6 stages are developed further.

  1. Understand
  2. Experiment
  3. Create
  4. Combine
  5. Transform
  6. Communicate

These stages allow learners to move from the understanding of a concept and goal to the creation of a multi-step dance pattern and ending with the discussion and communication of the idea through a presentation of the dance. The last half of the book has QR Codes on almost every single page with video link examples. The depth of knowledge these can provide is stunning.

All in all, the more I read and find the joy in mathematical dancing, the more opportunity I see to push this into the upper levels. There is so much more that can be done with this idea beyond the boring and basic. It might even make me a better dancer! Well, no. It isn’t a miracle book, just a really good math book. It is authentic movement, not the usual fake stuff we see.

I think it is time to bring real motion in to math class, get learners moving in purposeful, meaningful ways, and leverage that motion into strong mathematical knowledge.

If you want to read a chapter for yourself, check it out on Heinemann’s website.

rosenfeld_cover_web

Sep 092016
 

To my last post, “No more broccoli ice creamDavid Griswold challenged me with a very serious and thoughtful reply.

The phrase, “No more broccoli ice cream” came from this meme that I saved. I collect these memes, just because the provide interesting fodder for conversations about math in class.

textbook math is like broccoli ice cream

So who is Denise Gaskins? She is a home school parent who specializes in K-6 math (I am inferring this from her website and the books / content she talks about. I could be wrong about the grade levels.) She tweets and has a FaceBook page under the name “Lets Play Math.” It is clear she has a focus on making math fun, interesting, and engaging. At that age, my experience is that learners are very much into mathematics. I saw this bulletin board in a hallway last year.

2015-09-28 12.56.29

If you zoom in, you will see that almost every single one of those 4th graders said their favorite subject was math, or they enjoyed math, or they were good at math. 2 out of the 15 had no positive mention of math. A bulletin board next door to it had a similar proportion. When I saw this board, I wrote a post called “Where does the joy go?” This issue is one that I have been struggling with for a while. Why are young children excited about math, but junior or high school learners typically are not?

I believe it is because at some point, I and my fellow teachers stop thinking about math as joyful, and start thinking about it as “serious work.” We can’t have fun solving these equations, this is “serious business.” But that is true of all subjects in high school. It isn’t just math teachers, but English teachers, history teachers, and other teachers. We turn our subjects into these “serious business” topics that must be “mastered” and “assessed.” If you don’t pass the classes, then you can’t graduate, you can’t be successful in life without knowing “algebra.”

[yes, I used a lot of scare quotes in that paragraph because I do not want anyone to infer that there is an agreed upon meaning of those terms.]

Here is what David said in his questioning of my post:

I’m not sure I completely agree with this, or Lockhart for that matter. There are a lot of people who find joy and beauty in the curriculum, and there are lots of ways to encourage and celebrate that joyousness without throwing too much out. Will some people hate it? Sure. I didn’t like AP US History very much, though I liked my teacher. But I had friends who thrived there. And I’m okay with that.

Personally, I don’t think the ice cream metaphor is realistic. Math isn’t ice cream. Nothing is ice cream. No field or subject is as universally loved and delicious as ice cream, certainly nothing with any practical application. Math isn’t ice cream, it’s vegetables! So maybe “textbook math” is steamed broccoli and it’s up to us to add peas and roasted cauliflower and sweet potatoes (maybe even with some marshmallows on top) and even pickles, but the fact is some people don’t like ANY vegetables and some people like simple steamed broccoli the best and some people like ALL vegetables and, importantly, all of them are part of a well balanced diet. So our job is to be a math nutritionist.

The first paragraph I will not reply to, because it is his personal feelings and I don’t think there is anything there to discuss. It is real.

The second paragraph is the challenge. “No field or subject is as universally loved and delicious as ice cream.” But … I don’t like ice cream. I eat it maybe one time every four or five months, because my wife wants to share something.

And, guess what? Yes, math is as loved as ice cream at the lower grades. I have observed 4th and 5th grade classrooms where the learners are excited, joyful, and enthusiastic about math. The bulletin board above is anecdotal evidence.

I think we need to stop saying it is the subject that is like vegetables, and accept the fact that it is the way we teach the subject that turns it into vegetables.

Watch this video (it is 5 minutes) of these middle school learners struggle and succeed in math.

There is honest to goodness joy there.

They ate some yummy ice cream in that lesson. Why can’t we do that every day?

To answer David. Is math like vegetables? I think it can be. Is math like ice cream? I think it can be. The choice is mine.

If I get to choose whether math is more like vegetables or like ice cream in my classroom, I will choose ice cream (even though I don’t like ice cream).

I choose this not for myself, but for my learners. And David is right. Not everyone will love every subject. I am okay with that. But if I choose to present math like brussel sprouts instead of chocolate fudge peanut butter ripple, then I have denied some learners even the ability to choose whether or not they enjoy math.

And then, how do I make my pre-service teachers understand that it is a choice they can make too? [Wow, that is a whole different can of worms.]

So, is math like ice cream? For my classroom, for my pre-service teachers, the answer must be Yes.


David responded on Twitter with these series of tweets. I think they add a great deal to the conversation.

 

Thank you David for making me think.

Sep 072016
 

The struggle to understand why we teach K-12 mathematics in the order we do, and the content we do is real. I have wondered about this for a long time, and really have never found a good answer.

I threw out the idea of teaching y=mx+b as the only way to write lines (even though the district materials at the time said it was all we needed). I took a lot of heat for that decision from some people. I was told I was completely wrong; by teachers. I stuck to my guns because y=mx+b is a stupid way to teach lines. And in the end, I was told by other teachers that I influenced them to change too.

But really, K-12 mathematics education is nothing like this:

Mathematics as human pursuit

Think of Lockhart’s Lament.  You read Paul’s words, and you are hit by the poetry he sees in math. It is also 25 pages long. I read somewhere that Lockhart’s Lament is the the most powerful and often cited mathematics education document that is never acted upon. What does that say about us, as educators, who cite it?

Lockhart is passionate about math education, and he feels that the current state (in 2002) of math education is in trouble. His words may be as apt today as it was then. On page 2 he writes,

In fact, if I had to design a mechanism for the express purpose of destroying a child’s natural curiosity and love of pattern-making, I couldn’t possibly do as good a job as is currently being done— I simply wouldn’t have the imagination to come up with the kind of senseless, soul-crushing ideas that constitute contemporary mathematics education.

How much impact has Lockhart had on mathematics education? Often cited, rarely used or implemented. And yet, my Twitter feed and Facebook still have things like this pop up regularly.

Mathmatician is like a painter G H Hardy

What beautiful words representing fantastic ideals. Are you starting to see the cognitive dissonance I am feeling today? Too bad none of these ideals are found in our textbooks or our standards (and don’t get me wrong, I am not hating on the CCSS-M here). In fact, much of school mathematics is exactly how Seymour Papert described it here.

Papert - outwitting teachers as school goal

It is mindless, repetitive, and dissociated.

So as I was thinking of the question of “Why?”, I stumbled upon this article. Why We Learn Math Lessons That Date Back 500 Years? on NPR. To find out the answer is pretty much, “Because we always have,” is sad, disappointing and frustrating. We have taught it this way for the last 500 years, so we will continue to teach it this way for the foreseeable future.

I call B.S.

Seriously. We need to rethink how we teach math in a substantive manner.

We are part of a system that is not allowing learners to find the joy of mathematics, but the drudgery of mathematics and of learning. And this is not new. Not by any means. Edward Cubberly, Dean of the Stanford University School of Education around 1900) said,

Our schools are, in a sense, factories, in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life. The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of twentieth-century civilization, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down.

The fact that the specifications of education haven’t changed in hundreds of years is a problem (see the NPR article). It may even be THE problem. I am not so confident to claim that for sure, but it is definitely A problem.

At what point do we, as teacher leaders, rise up and demand this change. We see the damage. We see the issues. We must start demanding the curriculum be changed to meet the needs of our learners. I am not sure that the CCSS-M is that change. It seems like it is codifying the 500 year old problems that we are currently doing.

But it doesn’t not have to.

The Modeling Standard is gold. It is also 1 single page in the entire document.

I will just end this rant with that thought. Oh, and this thought. No more broccoli flavored ice cream.

textbook math is like broccoli ice cream

Aug 312016
 

The last #BlAugust post this year, and I wanted to end on some good things.

MTBOSBlaugust2016

Monday was a banner day for me, full of firsts. I hit “Finalize” on my very first ever NSF grant. It is a Robert Noyce Scholarship grant that, if we get it, would be a $1.1 million dollar grant for scholarships for learners in the program I teach in. This is huge. 63 scholarships over 5 years of $10,000 each, as well as travel and other programs for the Noyce Scholars. It is in the feedback process at the school, but on 6 September the “Submit” button gets pressed. So exciting.

I also received notice on Monday that Megan Schmidt’s and my proposal for “Statistics & Social Justice” was accepted at the NCTM 2017 National Conference. This means that we are not speakers at both NCSM and NCTM 2017 Nationals. This is my first national speaking opportunity. I am very excited that I get to work with Megan on this.

I also taught the first section of Knowing & Learning in Mathematics & Science on Monday. This was the first 3 credit course that I have been able to teach at the University. Even more special, is the fact that I was allowed to plan the course from the beginning. So, as a doc student, my CV now says that I built a University course. How cool it that!

Then, walking across campus yesterday, 3 amazing young women ran up to me and gave me hugs. These were juniors in high school when they were my learners, and they had just finished their first day of college. Their excitement and wanting to tell me about it was so amazing to experience. And then, a former learner who is in her senior year of high school at a community college program messaged me this:

Hey Mr. Waddell! I hope that you are doing well! I just wanted to let you know that I am taking a Math 122 class (for Elementary Education Majors) and our professor today reminded me of you and some of your classroom policies but also your view on math that still sticks with me and that is that there is no one way to do a problem…because of this, our professor does not use the word ‘step.’ Instead, he says ‘move.’ So like, “what’s the next move you are going to take?” Anyways, I know I’ve said it a million times, but thank you again for being such an awesome math teacher and helping me love math again.

Having experiences like this just reinforces the fact that it is about connections, not content. It is about people, not math. The math will come, the learners will want to learn math when we teach them as people and make connections with them.

Finally, the we are starting off the year with a new member of the team at UNR. We have a third Master Teacher with us, and we are all working together very well. The hiccups that come with a new member joining a team have been small and inconsequential. Working with terrific people is such a rewarding experience, and it will make this year go by quickly.

But I hope not too fast. I want to enjoy this for a while.

An remember, Be Awesome to One Another! Always.

Aug 292016
 

One of the last #BlAugust posts this year. Not the last post this year for sure, however.

MTBOSBlaugust2016

Today is kind of a big day. I have to submit a NSF grant proposal today. That is a big deal. So much work and effort goes into this proposal, and then the chances of getting it are slim.

So there is that, but the biggest thing today is it is the first day of classes in my second semester at UNR. Oh, AND I am teaching a 3 credit class I have been working on half the summer, and it is the first time this course has been taught at UNR.

That is why I am a little nervous. There is a lot going on, lots of moving parts in the class. It is a survey course of ed theory called Knowing and Learning in Mathematics and Science, and there area ton of readings, interviews, and projects.

I haven’t been nervous about teaching anything for 10 years. This is kind of a new feeling all over again, and …. it is different.

I guess the fact I am nervous means that I care how the class develops. That is a good thing to realize.

Oh, and if these reasons to be nervous aren’t enough, I also got the email from NCTM this morning saying my proposal for Statistics and Social Justice with Megan Schmidt was accepted. This means I will be presenting at both NCSM and NCTM on this topic.

So, nervousness, celebrations, a little excitement thrown into the mix.

Yea, I am a mess today. I need a nice cup of coffee and some relaxing music I think.

Aug 242016
 

#BlAugust is going strong so far. I am digging the morning writing for sure.

MTBOSBlaugust2016

Yesterday I was taking a moment after work to look at my Twitter feed and I saw this hashtag #ObserveMe with a picture of a sign outside a classroom. It was this pic.  (you can click on any picture to make embiggen them if you want to see the details.)

observeme pic 1

I know it was this picture, because it is without a number in my folder. I got excited! How powerful is this one simple sign. It tells every person walking in the room that you WANT their feedback. You want them to come into your room. You want them to talk to learners, to watch their interaction, and to give you feedback.

How amazingly powerful.

I followed the hashtag, and found out it was started by Robert Kaplinsky. I am not surprised. It is a powerful statement of changing classroom culture.  Here are some more examples I thought were just amazing.

ObserveMe 3  ObserveMe 5  ObserveMe 7

Notice the statement of what classes are taught when. That way any teacher can chose what topic to watch, or they know what topic to expect as they walk in. I also love the QR code connected to a google form. I scanned them. They work. Finally, the third picture has both a QR code for electronic data collection as well as the forms right there next to the code for ease of use. There is no excuse not to give feedback in Ms. Rani’s classroom.

But how does this change culture?

You cannot be a teacher who shuts their door and ignores the world with this hanging outside your room. You are inviting the world in.

But you are not just inviting the world in, you are asking the world to look for specific things; questioning techniques, understanding, engagement, interaction, problem solving, and ‘teacher as facilitator’ are all things mentioned.

You are asking the world to talk to your learners. You are asking the world to thoughtfully think about the classroom environment, and to evaluate what is going on in your classroom.

How powerful.

But, flip this around. What does it tell the LEARNERS who are passing this sign on the way into your room?

The learners know that at anytime, anyone could be walking in to look for these things. It tells the learners that these are activities or behaviors that you think are important. It tells the learners that you value being a “facilitator” not a “lecturer” and that you are holding yourself accountable for those values. (Yes, Ms. Garner I am calling you out on that because I love it so much.)

We also should not be stagnant on what we look for. As the semester continues, the ‘look fors’ must change and adapt as well. The #ObserveMe flyer in the window below makes that explicit.

ObserveMe 6  ObserveMe 4

Okay, I am in love with this idea and am sharing it widely.

BUT, how can I apply this to my work at the University?

If I just talk about it in class, then who cares. With that in mind, I have put together draft 1 of my sign.

ObserveMeUNR

It will definitely get the QR code treatment. I will have to remember to put it up and take it down every class. Wouldn’t that really freak out some professor who didn’t see it there and someone walks into their room to observe them.

I also have two other Master Teachers in the program to sell in the idea who will be in the room with me. I don’t mind throwing myself under the bus, but I won’t throw them without their permission.

I just figure, if I am going to talk about this at the University level to my preservice teachers, I better be willing to walk the walk if I am going to talk the talk.

What do you think? Are my goals reasonable?

Aug 232016
 

#BlAugust Continues with my Knowing and Learning posts

MTBOSBlaugust2016

I was sitting down this morning at 7:30 to do today’s post, and I was stymied. What to write, what to write? So I opened Twitter for inspiration and Christopher Danielson had re-tweeted this:

 

Okay, it is on. I read the article (found here) and immediately thought of my Knowing and Learning readings (week 4) on B.F. Skinner and his “Teaching Machines.”

If you need a refresher on Skinner’s ideas, you can read the book in it’s entirety (please don’t, gag) or you can just read this one picture that sums up the entire chapter in a gut wrenching caption.

teaching machines by skinner

That’s right! There is your video that Sen. Ron Johnson referred to! You see, this isn’t a new idea to replace teachers with that “one good teacher” and have the learners then rewind and redo the material until they get it right.

On the Nature v. Nuture discussion, Skinner falls on the nurture side, but it is a nurture grounded firmly in behaviorism. While educators of the constructivist philosophy threw up a little in their mouths upon reading the words of Mr. Johnson, the behaviorists celebrated. They have been saying this since 1957, and the philosophical underpinnings of the approach are as solid as Piaget or Pappert.

We can see this thread of education going strong in Mr. Johnson’s remarks, but also in the gobs of money thrown at Kahn Academy. His original, poorly done, math videos were celebrated as the pinnacle of education. Well, the pinnacle of behaviorist teaching machines, at least. “Look, when the learner doesn’t understand something, the response is not correct, and they can just work around the disk again, er, I mean, they can rewind the video.”

I think it is very important for teachers to come out of college knowing that these statements by people like Mr. Johnson, and movements like Kahn’s have a history. A history of failure, but also of enough success that they just won’t die.

And there is a time and place for behaviorism in teaching math. But the extremes that Skinner, Kahn, Mr. Johnson, and others take it to is ridiculous.

 

[And, as an aside, yes. these are my opinions. This blog has my name in the URL, and I am unabashedly a constructivist teacher. This wasn’t always true, but I learned better.]