To Structure or not to Structure?

As a general manager for a fitness company in Canada, my interview and hiring strategy for sales reps was always based on an investigation of a candidate’s social network. In doing so, my club would get way more membership sales. Even if I had other candidates who had a much stronger sales background, it didn’t matter. More connections meant more possibilities and it worked.

I recently received an email from a parent of one of my new Math students. By looking at her child’s standardized MAP test scores, she was curious of strategies we could use to improve her child’s abilities in skill areas where they were low.

This email was actually perfect timing since I have been questioning the structure of my class and course lately. It has become obvious to me over the past year, that the most unstructured (in relation to standards etc…) Math and Science activities I do in my classroom are the most engaging and promote the most interest to the students. This leads to a lot of discussion and questions from the student that would ‘normally’ continue this learning. Unfortunately, at times, this inquiry is cut short due to the curriculum that, more importantly, needs to be addressed and assessed.

Reading the articles for this week’s materials and researching more into George Siemen’s ideas has made think a lot more about implementing this type of ‘open learning’ connectivism idea. I really like it. The thought that this parent is is emailing me about helping her child is pretty obvious but, think about it. This parent and child is basically dependent on me and only me for enhancing their Math skills this entire year. Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy my job and see solid learning in my class, students enjoy my class, parents give me positive feedback and my colleagues and administrators seem to think that my pedagogy is relevant. Through technology and the idea of connectivism however, by me being the only influence towards enhancing this child’s math skills, are we inhibiting this child’s possibilities by inhibiting his connections in this academic area?

I’m just at the beginning of my COETAIL journey, but I am already realizing what a facilitator of learning really is. I’ve implemented new ideas in my class to attempt this shift but, I think it will be a very difficult task to do what teachers in the near future will be expected to do. The most effective skill teachers in the near future will have is to be able to develop the ‘Networked Student’ by guiding students towards more connections and possibilities. Now that I’m realizing just how fast this idea is approaching, I will be implementing an ‘open learning’ time in my Math and Science class and I already have a pretty good idea how I can set this up. Many of you out there have heard of the NESA Virtual Science Fair and I’m thinking that this will be a great way to begin this. It is a technology based Science fair where students have the ability to connect to amazing professors and college students in the US. As for the Math situation, could I use this students MAP data to help guide him towards technology and other connections to help him in these areas? More importantly, can I help guide him on a Mathematical journey towards what really interests him about the subject and encourage him to ‘dive in’ as far as he can? Even khanacademy is a great resource to allow students this opportunity if set up by the teacher effectively.

A question that I am really pondering at this point is, “will the best teachers of the future, be the best in their content areas, or will they be more effective as a ‘technology focused facilitator’ who can help students create networks and filter information appropriately?”

I guess the obvious answer is both. Any other thoughts?

My Initial Thoughts

After reading Jeff’s article ‘Reach’ I am already excited about how I can begin implementing some of the ideas involved with this technology. There were two big ideas that stood out to me in this article. First, was simply the analogy of newspaper vs online blogging. I never actually thought about how much online blogging provides us with unlimited conversation about issues and ideas we couldn’t have in everyday, school life.

An example of this lies within my own classroom. Ever since I have become a teacher, I have always encouraged my students to work together and have discussions to enhance their learning. Problem based learning in Math is an idea that I have been implementing into my classroom and I have witnessed some great results by doing so. By having students solve challenging problems in an unfamiliar context together, I have witnessed a large increase in mathematics discussion in my classroom; sometimes to the point of a large scale debate. Although this increase in engagement and discussion has made me feel victorious at times, we are still a “little collaborative math community”; and I’ve never thought about how our community is limited to within the classroom walls. After reading ‘Reach’ I’m realizing that there is an enormous online group of communities which my students could benefit from. Online, students have the ability to connect with others whose similar interests, ideas and explanations could allow them to learn at an entirely different level.

This brings me to idea number two which involves myself and the idea of connecting and networking with others with similar interests, and ideas from all around the world. This would do the same for enhancing my learning and professional skills. Have you ever brought an idea to your professional team and it was not as accepted as you thought? This is often disheartening; however online communities provide a huge network of other professionals. More than likely, there is someone else out there who would want to build off your idea, or maybe that very conversation has already begun! My goal now is to put myself out there, not as a “lurker” but, by really becoming involved with other online communities. To do this effectively I will need to become visible and active within the communities I become a part of.

Diving In!

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Welcome to my first ever blog!

I’ve been playing with the idea of having a blog for my classroom for a while now but, have hesitated for all the reasons Jeff mentioned in his article “Reach”. I do not consider myself a writer and I’m often not sure if my thoughts are interesting or relevant to others. This COETAIL journey will be the perfect way for me to get over these insecurities, which is why I had to jump at the chance to put myself in this situation.

Here we go!