Sep 042017
 

I am all fired up and angry about a new graphing calculator app today. Not that the app exists, but the way they are selling it.

Reason number 1:

I don’t know what to say about this other than express my complete and utter revulsion at the ideas expressed by this new graphing calculator app called Graphlock. From the video on the site, “Want to save thousands of dollars on calculators while also helping to reducing distractions in the classroom?” That is the first sentence of the video.

Their solution? Charge students $4.99 a YEAR for a graphing calculator app that also locks down the phone so that learners can only do math. That’s right. Don’t trust the learners, don’t create better, more engaging lessons. Don’t actually do something that is better, just lock down devices so learners can’t use them for anything else.

And it gets better. The “don’t trust learners” statement? It is literally true. The video says that if a learner tries to do something else on their phone, it alerts the teacher so the learner can be punished for being bored and distracted during the boring lesson.

 

Reason number 2:

According to the article in Inc magazine, the “Real Problem” of math education is that,

There is an even bigger problem underneath the seemingly big problem of the rising cost of school supplies and it’s kind of shocking: when students can’t afford the supplies they need to finish their schooling, oftentimes, they give up or drop out. Mallory pointed out that she watched this happen repeatedly while in college at Central Arizona to become a professor of mathematics. Students in her Algebra class would realize they needed this graphing calculator that costs around $100, couldn’t afford it, and would give up.

That’s right. The real problem of math education is it is too expensive to learn math.

What?

No challenge of the assumption of the college to require learner to purchase a TI calculator. No, goodness sake, we can’t challenge that. We can’t show the college she taught at all the wonderful, free math learning software like Wolfram Alpha, Google (have you tried typing an equation into Google’s search bar?), or Desmos.

Nope, the requirement is inviolate. And besides, those other things that definitely help learning? They also allow the learner to do other things besides math.

 

How does this create punishment?

The assumption throughout the articles is that when learning math, the teacher is the absolute authority, and must be listened too at all times. The teacher knows all, and must be in full control of every aspect of the learners thought, actions, and technology. If the learner does something contrary to the teacher’s instructions, the learner must be corrected.

Math class, becomes a class of punishment and …. not sure about the reward. Certainly punishment. Some teachers will reward, but this software absolutely entrenches the observation state and punishment in the class.

It is the Panopticon on steroids, except instead of the observation state being built into the building, it is built right into the learners’ devices. Besides, from the award she won, it isn’t about math education at all. It is about winning seed money for a business. The Real Problem is companies making education more expensive through the corporatization of education.

This horrible software feeds into the reasons for the US failing behind in mathematics. Math class is one of memorization and regurgitation, not thinking, creativity, or joy.

Just so that I don’t leave this post angry and hostile, I will leave this here. “Math for Human Flourishing.” This article from Quanta Magazine about a talk given by Francis Su restores my soul a little bit.

 

As an aside:

Here is a college professor named Mallory Dyer. She is the creator and inventor of the calculator.

Yes, she has a name. You wouldn’t know it by the headlines about the software. Here are the two that came up in my reader and made .

Coolidge woman develops app to make studying math affordable (Casa Grande News, a local newspaper)

and

How one woman is making math affordable (Inc magazine, a national business magazine)

They wouldn’t even name her in the headline? No mention of her academic credential. She is just “a woman.” How about, “Professor at Coolidge develops app to make studying math more affordable.” Those 7 extra characters going to kill them? Or “How one professor is making math more affordable.” This isn’t an issue with software (more on that below) but the way this professional was treated. Stop the sexism, already.

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

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 222016
 

A late in the day #BlAugust post.

MTBOSBlaugust2016

Yesterday Jennifer tweeted this at me, and I teared up a little.

And the tweet it refers to is this one:

You see, the High Fives post is one of the most popular posts I have ever written. It was a spur of the moment, almost didn’t do it speech (kind of like the TMC16 speech on overcoming your fears) that has resonated through so many people.

For a long time, I kept track of the people tweeting and blogging about High Fives. I know I missed some. I counted over 20 different individual who tried the High Fiving, and said it changed their classroom culture for the better.

Jennifer tweeted and wrote about it a full year! after I wrote about it. How often does that happen? To me at least, not very often.

To say I am embarrassed and honored by the mentions is an understatement.

To say I am overjoyed by the fact that learners in over 20 classrooms are experiencing something different because I spoke up is exciting and amazing. We need to spread the high five energy.

So, to help more teachers and to spread the power of the high five, I wanted to revisit the video:

My original post: http://blog.mrwaddell.net/archives/1431. The video is short, only 4 minutes. In fact the last 20 seconds can be ignored as it was an announcement for the conference.

You are doing something awesome. You are walking in my classroom. Be awesome. Connect with your learners. Give them energy, and receive the energy in return.

High five to you all!


Edits added:

After I posted this article Lisa Henry posts about All The Stuff I’ve Stolen From The MTBoS. High Fives are the first thing on her list, and she explains why in a different post.