Monday, February 14, 2011

Blurring the lines

Today’s post will have some movie references in it, because I love movies. In case you do too, you might recognize references to Madagascar, Ben-Hur, and Jerry McGuire. There is a point to this....

The brainy thing floating around in my head today:

These days, the best things happening in my class are happening outside of my class.

Some of those things are happening because I have insisted on them, like commenting on voicethreads, posting on our classblog, commenting on those posts, and responding to articles on our discussion board. All of these are evidence that someone, maybe only one person mind you, but someone is thinking about math when there is no math class going on. And that’s a great thing to know! At the very least, that means a little less time needs to be spent in the next math class getting everyone back up to ramming speed. At best, these extra-curricular math-tivities are having an impact on what happens when we do get together again, because then we have something to talk about besides homework. We talk about what one of them did, and what we all thought about it!

But then there are things happening that I didn’t insist on, or even suggest to anyone to do. I’m getting emails like “I figured out the answer to the bonus question – is this right”, “Can I use what we did in class today in my project because I think it fits in”, “ I didn’t understand this part of that article so I tried to work it out – please tell me if this is right”. Not from everyone, mind you, still from a small group that I pretty much had at hello, but it is an improvement over previous years, when the number of emails that I got like this was approximately zero. At the very least, these kids are getting to sink their teeth into something fun.

At any rate, for some kids, there is no longer a clear line separating the time they’re learning math from the time they’re not learning math. It’s no longer a digital situation – a one or a zero – it’s more analog, a little of this, a little of that!

Maybe this is a glimpse of what customized education would look like? They are choosing what they will learn, when they will learn it, and how long they will spend on it. And of course, the most manageable time and place for this to happen is between classes, otherwise I would have to manage potentially 30 different kids learning 30 different things during a one-hour math class. How to get this kind of thing happening with the not-so-motivated-and capable? Don't know yet. How might one manage the goings-on between classes...well, maybe blogs?

However education looks in the years to come, I suspect blogging will become a major player. It is an uber-customizable activity! It just might be the ideal tool for anyone who is looking to blur the lines between, say, math and art, or between school and fun, or even between learning and living. For example, just by blogging, I am showing the world who I am, that is, not just a math teacher but a student, a photographer, a music lover, a gardener, a film buff, (there it is!) etc etc, and so it is anyone’s guess where the teacher ends and the student begins. Would the same thing happen when students blog about their lessons? Well, today, as we were processing Andrew's blog, Steve commented that Andrew's sense of humour was all over it! You can't help but imprint yourself in your writing, no matter who you are!

Other brainy things:

Things I want to share:

I received "37 Interesting Ideas for Classblogs" from my fabulous principal, Dianne Conrod, about classblogs, and it is the reason I was inspired to try voki.

A free handbook of math class activities, with the theory behind it, "Improving Learning in Mathematics" thanks to Dan Meyer.

And finally a video, "Nature by numbers" that is the best imaginable example of the blurring of lines between math, art, science, and music! Many thanks to Darren Kuropatwa for the tweet about this beautiful video!

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