So I am absolutely in love with google for education, let me tell you why. I know this may not be new for many of you but I have just found one of the easiest ways to keep track of my students documents, give feedback and mark them all in the same time.
You can find all of my fraction research and resources on my site: Bit.ly/Soresources. Feel free to use anything you want.
I am writing this blog post as a documentation of a cool new inquiry project that my teaching partner Keri Ewart and myself (though more my teaching partner), called Water Craft. The purpose of this inquiry is to design new version of Minecraft called Water Craft. The students must include three of the big curriculum expectations:
- Assess ways in which the actions of humans have an impact on the quality of air and water, and ways in which the quality of air and water has an impact on living things
- investigate the characteristics of air and water and the visible/invisible effects of and changes to air and water in the environment
- demonstrate an understanding of the ways in which air and water are used by living things to help them meet their basic needs
So what does this project look like:
1) This project is first linked to our science curriculum. The learning goals of the game is to teach these three big ideas above
2) It is also linked to reading, writing and our language centers. Students will be researching within their centers about water usage, conservation and characteristics. Each center is based on building toward the future; designing a game.
3) Lots of exploration.
What was needed to get this type of project started:
1) Lots of planning and forward thinking. Even though we decided on it at the last minute, my teaching partner and I have had to rethink through our curriculum needs and figure out how to interconnect all of tech into the curriculum.
2) We also had to give our students a lot of exploring time. I have found that whenever you introduce something new for the first time, students just really want to explore, so we did just that. The first day was all about exploration. The students played with mindcraft, they read and played the center apps and discussed as they went. We were also very lucky to have some grad students in from York to help use problem solve and work through playing the game.
3) we gave time to ask questions and answer some of them. After the student explored on the game, we had them come up with a list of questions that they would have to explore. The hope was that this would spur more inquiry and make the children think about what they are working towards.
About a month ago a colleague of mine Kyle Pearce wrote a post “Does memorizing multiplication facts hurt more than help.” It was a very interesting read and I happen to agree with Kyle’s point of view. As many of my frequent readers of this blog know, I prescribe to the constructivist approach to learning mathematics. I believe that students through discovery and proper guidance will be able to understand a wide load of big ideas and theories. Not only do I believe this but I have witnessed this first hand with my students in every grade that I have taught.
However, this is not so for many people. In fact it was a discussion on Kyle’s blog post (feel free to read the thread) that has me thinking more and more about this topic. And not only thinking about it but trying to fix and insight thoughtful discussion around the ways in which we are teaching math.
Maybe a little background first. Math has been a hot topic for the past year, if not for the last century. For many countries, provinces, and states, math curriculum has undergone a significant change from what we grew up with as children. Some. like myself, believe that these changes are for the better, some have not. I was recently at the OAME and listening to Brent Davis a professor at University of Calgary. In his lecture he shared that the reason math curriculum was introduced was so we could have a work force to crunch numbers, nothing more and nothing less. As we have evolved beyond that (not saying fact crunching is not important) our skills have also changed and I think this is what we need to remember; we have evolved.
For this reason I and many others are proposing a more balanced approach to mathematics. Lets stop this war and needless debates and get to teaching good mathematical practises. One in which our students will push their thinking and really think about the numbers.
If it was up to me this is what I would include:
1) Math should be linked to Big Mathematical Ideas:
I think this is the first step to thinking about our students as mathematicians. Catherine Fosnot (2002) has some very interesting work around making our students mathematicians. One of the most interesting facts is there was a study done with so many mathematicians and they were asked to solve a problem. Not one of those mathematicians solved it the same way. I found this interesting because that is what I see math. Math is about the mathematics and there is not one way of doing things. We have to teach our students the understanding, the flexibility and the patience to be mathematicians.
2) Math is about real numbers:
Students need authentic experiences to learn. Let’s think about ourselves and how we learn. Now some do learn through reading and replication but if you honestly think about how you learn a concept the best; it is through trail and error and than guidance from a mentor. This is the same for our students. They need real experiences so that they can play and discover the mathematical concepts. In my personal experience both in tutoring high school students and teaching mathematics in the primary and junior divisions it’s the contexts that allow students to really understand what they are doing. It’s the context that helps them build models of representation. In my classroom, these are often done through social justice problems and real life contexts.
3) Students need time to explore:
This goes hand in hand with the above comment. As much as we need instruction, we also need exploration. Students need time to make mistakes, reflect, debate and discuss. These experiences allow students to make connections between concrete and abstract thinking. I was reminded at the OAME that every mistake makes a new synapse in the brain. We need these mistakes I order to solidify our learning.
4) Students need Mentors:
They have never been taught fractions from me before this and in fact as a class we haven’t even started the unit. However, that being said think about their learning and the role they play and the role that I play as a teacher. Where do my questions come from? Why did I ask them at the time I did?
6) Repeated Practise:
What are your thoughts? Don’t you think it is better to discuss and fix our problems rather than lay blame about which is better? Shouldn’t we think about our students first and their needs in their 21st century world? Love to here your thoughts.