Hitting the Pause button

Life has been hectic and with much thought and consideration, + a good dose of luck (or divine intervention), I have come to hit the Pause button on teaching maths….I was actually starting to enjoy it, too, but I’ll post on that another time.

Actually, I also hit the Stop button on one school so I can press Play on another school. (In my mind, play is the operative word).

In my new school, another private girls’ high school, I will take on the role of ICT integrator (a.k.a.-  ed tech).

A previous colleague asked, “Does this change means the death of this blog?” True, this blog has focused on my journey as a maths teacher.  However, the premise for this blog has always been around my passion for learning.

So, I hope to keep this blog alive. I think it will even be cross-curricular as I will work with different faculties. Just imagine the possibilities! WCYDWT comes to mind, in a bigger playground at that.  I’ve got to be a bit more clever with tags maybe.

Is this a wise thing or should I set up another blog and keep this maths-focused? Will the maths faculty there ‘play’ with me?

How has ICT affected your teaching?

I was fortunate enough to attend the recent AIS IT Managers Conference where Jeff Mao spoke about the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI). I got a lot from his keynote speeches (start and end) but I’d particularly like to focus on his framework for describing use of technology in one’s work.  He made a distinction that this framework is descriptive of practice rather than one-off tasks. In this sense, practice-based is better than ability-based (e.g. learner vs. high-skilled) view.

Jeff suitably attributed this to a Dr. something (sorry, I missed to note it down and my quick googling failed to give me the answer).

SAMR framework

Substitution – a good example is using projected digitised worksheet instead of printed ones. Using the Interactive Whiteboard as just a whiteboard – or projector screen – is another example.

Augmentation – technology added to your original work practice. For example, I mostly use the Mathsonline to augment my teaching as I direct my students to go there for revision and extra practice.

Modification – some change is done to the practice as a result of available technology. Putting my ICT integrator hat on in collaboration with the Year 9 Commerce teachers, we modified an assessment task on share trading to use a spreadsheet to keep track of their transactions and justification. The spreadsheet performed the calculations (as well as tell them how much more to invest, if any) and facilitated graphing. The task itself remained essentially the same, i.e. the spreadsheet was not part of the assessment criteria…it was a tool for learning, that’s all.

Redefinition – for me the easiest way to explain it is comparing it to the corporate industry’s Business Process Re-engineering as in redefining work practice itself as a result of available technology. Shifting from chalk-and-talk to facilitation is possibly another example (ok, not necessarily due to technology). Online (self-directed) learning is a good example: our Head Teacher designed an online-based unit on Fractions where students assess themselves on each skill before moving to the next.

Jeff Mao also made a point to say that this framework is more of a cycle rather than hierarchy. That is, once you’ve redefined your practice, you probably will shift around the substitution, augmentation or modification.

Web 2.0 and 1:1 computing (NSWDER) have perhaps raised the expectations on teaching practice towards redefinition. In reality, teachers are doing mostly substitution and augmentation. That is not necessarily a bad thing except for the expectations gap.  Also, if you’ve already redefined your practice (i.e. indulge your Connectionist and Constructivist leanings), you are more likely to not redefine again anyway.

The significance of this framework is just that – a framework for discussion, reflection, description. It is not meant to make judgements and should never be used as such.

Martin Levin also wrote about this in his blog. It’s worth a visit.

Truth is, I learned so much from this conference and should really blog more about them….next time.

Teaching Data (or ‘tools’, in general)

At our faculty day today, we had a guest speaker – Mr Stuart Palmer from PLC Croydon.

He was amazing in his passion, achievements, creativity and generosity with resources.

One of the things which really struck me is pretty obvious, i.e. teach tools in the context of their functionality. This is a philosophy I uphold with technology and, being a beginning maths teacher, have struggled with to apply in maths. It’s fantastic to be walked through a unit of work that applies this.

His unit of work (on Data) which, in essence, looks like this:

  1. Introduce the whole toolkit, e.g types of graphs (data display), measures, etc
  2. Introduce the language/jargon; a match-making activity with example-writing is a fun way to reinforce learning
  3. Work on a guided investigation using an article straight of the  news, preferably one  appealing or relevant to teens; his example was on diabetes and pregnancy
  4. Do some self-directed investigation with resources within a click away and accessible as often as possible

This is just a fraction behind the wonderful piece of work with built-in differentiation. However, this summary captures the point I’m trying to make.

With maths, quite often teaching and learning revolve around the concept and mechanics and not on real application (generally the fun bit). At least, not often enough. So his challenge to us was to think about how we can teach the concepts and mechanics within the context of the ‘fun bit’.

As mentioned, I already have this skill with regards to technology – I believe this has made me successful in my previous IT profession. Now, the challenge is on to transfer this skill in the educational context, within the classroom.

So today, not only have I learned, I’ve also been challenged. Then again, isn’t that what makes learning fun in the first place?