EDU 6655: Final Meta-Reflection

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EDU 6655: Math Skills

How do we calculate? How do we learn math in a different way than we learn reading? Why are some people “readers” and some people “math” people? Or is that even true? These are the questions which lead me to explore chapter 19 of The Brain and Learning. (Jossey/Bass, 2008)

In reading Math Skills by James P. Byrnes (ch19, Jossey Bass), I learned that the neuroscience behind math achievement is far behind the psychological research in that area. The author suggests that because of this we should base our instructional choices on the psychological perspective until more neuroscience studies have been conducted. (p. 324) Byrnes goes on to make several suggestions for instructional choices. A few especially stood out to me and warrant mention.

The first is that “instruction at all levels should be consistent with the “Math 2000″ recommendations of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (1998).” (p. 324) I was curious if there was an updated recommendation by the NCTM and in reviewing their website I was correct in my assumption that they are now recommending the Common Core State Standards in math. In a comparison paper by Achieve.org, they outline the similarities of the CCSS and the NCTM Focal Points. Their conclusion was this -

Overall, the CCSS are well aligned to the Focal Points. Policymakers can be assured that in adopting the CCSS, they will be setting learning expectations for students that are similar to those set by the Focal Points. There are, however, a number of important differences in the placement and priority of topics as detailed in this document. These differences will require careful consideration in building curriculum, planning instruction, providing professional development and developing assessments during the implementation of the CCSS in states. The CCSS, like the Focal Points, place a priority on focus and coherence, seeking to set forth rigorous learning outcomes that will prepare students for later success. (www.achieve.org/files/CCSSandFocalPoints.pdf)

The next point Byrne makes is that “one of the best ways to instill knowledge in students is to have them solve structurally similar problems and consider how these problems are similar (Gick & Holyoak, 1983: Sweller & Cooper, 1985)(p. 324) In addition he states, “exercises should be designed to promote an accurate meta-cognitive understanding of when an answer is sensible and correct, and when it is not.” (p. 324) This is key in my instruction with my students and something I am constantly encouraging them to ask themselves. We practice ways to approach problems, underline the key numbers and words in word problems, and ask ourselves “what am I trying to solve for in this problem?”. After solving, students ask themselves, “does my answer make sense?” and “how can I check my answer?”. They then use strategies such as estimation and/or checking their answer with the opposite operation to be able to be sure they are correct and their answer is reasonable. For my struggling math students this is very difficult. They struggle to determine and explain if their answer is reasonable much in the same way my struggle readers have difficulty accurately answering comprehension questions or finding text evidence to support their answers.

Finally, Byrne concludes that “there is no substitute for extensive practice”. (p. 324) Students need as much practice as possible both in problem solving and to overcome making “a variety of procedural errors”. He sums it up saying, “the best approach involves embedding practice within meaningful, goal-directed activities.” (p. 325) I achieve practice in my classroom in many ways including; early work, problem of the day, morning question, math groups, practice, math games, Reflex, and IXL. We use the idea of coming back to the concept again and again throughout the day so that by the time they sit down with homework at night it is the fourth or fifth time they have seen that type of problem that day. Hopefully, this is working to help the students build a schema on how to solve similar problems consistently.

 

The Jossey-Bass Reader on the Brain and Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008. Print.

http://www.nctm.org/standards/default.aspx?id=58

www.achieve.org/files/CCSSandFocalPoints.pdf

EDTC 6433: Creativity

This week we filmed “A Day in the Life” of ourselves. Simply by using my phone I was able to capture video all through the week. It was advised that we capture about 10 minutes of video in order to edit it down to 3-5 minutes. The theme this week being “creativity” I felt the pressure to be very creative. That was very hard! I felt like my life was quite boring and didn’t lend itself well to being creative. Yet, I captured the videos and went on with my week.

Today we brought our video clips in and used http://www.WeVideo.com to publish them. This was a very intuitive site to use and offered great editing options including themes with music already built in. Once I uploaded my videos it was easy to edit them down and place them in the order I wanted. Then I hit play and my “Day in the Life” began. Little did I know that when set to music my life wasn’t boring anymore! It was great to watch and I found myself wanting to go back and and add certain shots that I missed in my day. I loved seeing my kids, husband, and co-workers in this way.

I immediately thought of how I could use this tool in my classroom. It is very motivating and engaging. I know my students would love to create videos of themselves or “a day in the life of Lakeview”. My creative wheels are turning and I can’t wait to try this with them this year.

Here is a link to an article with other great ideas for using video in the classroom – http://educationaltechnology.ca/couros/2127

EDTC 6433: Collaboration

This week we worked in an online forum on a collaborative project. After each doing our own research, we posted to a wiki to share our findings. Overall, I found this to be a great tool and way to engage with others without having to be physically present. However, I had some trouble along the way as well.

The wiki assignment itself was very engaging and I would love to try something like this with my students. I know in Haiku we can create a wiki and I would like to pursue this further. I wish we would have learned a bit more about how to set up the wiki and what sites are free and work better than others. My only complaint in the site we used was it had technical issues today which made it hard to complete the project. I know this can be the case with any website and can’t be controlled completely, but knowing which sites are more stable and reliable would be great.

One issue I could see arising with a wiki when using it with students is the changing, stealing, or “messing with” someone else’s work. Since it is possible to go in and edit pages, there is a potential there for problems to occur. I believe this could be combated by teaching, modeling, and strictly enforcing good digital citizenship. As a teacher I would also be closely moderating the wiki to ensure that best practices were being followed.

The potential use of a wiki in a school wide setting is also a great idea to explore. Recently my school did our annual CIP (Continuous Improvement Plan) planning which required many face to face meetings and hours of collaboration. I believe a much better forum for this would be a wiki where we could collaborate, post, and edit our information without the need for a long meeting.

Finally this week we used Google Docs to post our final presentation in the form of a slide. This worked much like PowerPoint, but in a collaborative setting. I loved this! I want to use this in my growth plan project with my students. A key aspect of working with Google Docs is that is saves automatically and I have never had any technical issues with the site. I have only used it when someone else set up the page and I am very interested to explore it more myself and how I can use it in my classroom. One way I thought of was for field trip signups for parents. Using that tool would elevieate the many pieces of paper and emails needed to coordinate that. Parents could easily see if there is a spot available and sign up right then.

I leave this week feeling inspired and excited to try new technology in my classroom. I love the hands on approach to the learning and realize now with technology that it is something you just have to get in and try. Trial and error can be our best teachers and persevering through the sometimes frustrating times can lead to a great product and sense of accomplishment on the other side.