The Reflective Educator

Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

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Day: December 3, 2010


Today I had an interesting request come from a couple of my students. I just wanted to share. Is this how you would have handled it?

"Mr. Wees we have a problem," said a pair of my students.

"What’s the problem?" I responded while I was setting up my LCD projector for the brief video I wanted to share.

"Well, we we’re wondering if we could take class time to work on our Global Gathering presentation we are doing tonight. We promise that we will have our rough draft of our projects ready for Monday! We want to work on what is more important right now, since the presentation is happening tonight."

I thought about it. I mean, I understand their position. I want to work on more immediate deadlines too when I’m in a similar situation. I was just planning on giving them class time to work on their projects, after introducing the idea of flipping our classroom.

"Okay, so I’m listening."

The two girls said nothing. I hadn’t said something which sounded like a positive response, but it sound negative either, so they were confused.

"Look," I continued, "you’ve got an idea and I’m listening to the idea. This means we’ve entered into negotiation. You want to change my side of the equation, but remember our rules of algebra. Whatever we do to one side of the equation, we have to do to the other."

"Oh…well we can bring you in cookies or something," one of the girls offered.

"Don’t change the units. You’re asking me to give up class time so you can work on something you should have done yesterday or earlier this week. You have to negotiate in the same units."

"Okay." They thought about it. You could see the wheels turning as they tried to find an appropriate bargaining chip. "Well, we normally have a study block Tuesday mornings. Could we promise that we will come in and meet with you about math on Tuesday instead of now? That would be fair right?"

Well aside from the fact that I’ll have to supervise an extra class, yeah it’s pretty fair. I’ll sacrifice some of my time next week if it means our fund-raiser this evening for our Kipevu project goes smoother.

"That sounds fair. See, now you’ve both become better negotiators. So you promise that if I give you the time to work on your deadline for today now, that you’ll give me back some of your time later to work on math?" I clarified.

They nodded.

"Okay," I said, "deal."

Introduced “Flip Teaching” in my classroom today

Today I started flip teaching. This is a process where I put up videos of the content we are going to cover for the students to review at night, and use class time exclusively for practice and activities. To be honest, I’m pretty nervous about it. It will be one of the most radical changes in my teaching practice since I started collaborative learning in the classroom.

When I introduced the idea to the students, I talked about the structure of our class, and some problems with traditional homework. Basically, I said that if I send them home with exercises to do, then they’ll be doing needless practice or struggling needlessly, depending on whether they get it, or don’t get it respectively. Since our school requires that I give them homework, my compromise is that I will send them home to watch a short (I’m hoping I can keep the videos to under 8 minutes each) video tutorial that I’ve created myself on a topic.

I then shared an example I made with them, and asked them to be critical of the example, and look at ways I can improve the process. After all, if this works out as I hope it will, they will spend a lot of time at home watching these videos, so the videos should work for them.

Unfortunately, about half-way through the video, the audio died. Turns out that it was the speakers I was using and not the video itself, but their first piece of feedback was to fix the audio. They also asked me to add more colour, particularly when talking about the formulas and equations themselves, to make sure I took the time to define terms I use in the videos, and to add a "common questions" section at the end of the video.

I asked the students to be watching the videos "actively" as if they were participating in a lecture. I said, "If you get a text message from your friend while watching the video, either pause the video and get back to it later, including rewinding it if necessary, or ignore the text message." I also asked them to add comments underneath the videos, both to help me improve the creation of the videos itself, and to ask questions about what they are seeing. I also asked them to bring any questions they have to class.

Here is the video I shared. I’ve gotten feedback from the students about it. After watching it in class, I can see some other things I can do to improve it (in every sentence practically, I drop off in volume…) but I’m also looking for some feedback from other sources, so I’ve embedded the video below.

Simple and Compound Interest Review from David Wees on Vimeo.


Imagine you could eavesdrop on a conversation between Bruner and Piaget

This morning I watched part of a conversation about teaching practices, and application of constructivism to those teaching practices, between @teachpaperless and @drtimony. It started with a question put out by @teachpaperless to no one in particular, just to all of his Twitter followers.

Is distractedness a problem

@drtimony responded pretty quickly. I’d say from the way Shelly phrased the question, and the response from @drtimony, that these two gentlemen have a lot of agreement on this topic.

Response from Dr Timony. No.

Their conversation continued from there. This is in reverse order, since they how it can be viewed on Twitter, so I recommend starting from the bottom and then reading up.

Both of these people are deep thinkers. They actively deconstruct other people’s ideas and challenge contemporary models of viewing learning. In my opinion, they are both educational theorist leaders. While neither has the cultural authority and historical context of either Bruner or Piaget, maybe one day one or both of them might. I would not be surprised.

While I was watching the exchange, I felt compelled to jump in, and I did, and both of them responded to my query. The point is, Twitter enabled this conversation to happen, and allowed me to both be a passive observer, or an active participant. The choice was up to me. This is a lot like reading a series of letters between two great thinkers, but then being able to add to their conversation and ask questions. What a difference the technology here makes to the conversation itself!

What would a conversation between Bruner and Piaget looked like, if it had ever happened? Will future historians look back on conversations like these and wonder how ever survived without them?