The majority of these teachers teach classes in the arts, such as History or English. So they write about giving an open-ended question to the class and letting student groups deterimine the answer, with little guidance from the teacher. The teachers write of not recognizing answers as right or wrong. They emphasize the process, not the answer. Due to the phrasing used, these teacher-blogs can lead one to believe that the students are just dying to blog about the homework assignment, because all that is mentioned are those reactions to blogging from the students who are enthusiastic for blogging. Nobody, however, is giving an estimate on what percentage of the class is enjoying the blogging.
In my opinion, the ideas they put forth sound great for arts classes. But could you see a math teacher telling the class "we've seen average, mean, and mode. Now here is the equation for standard deviation. It is the average deviation of all data points from the average of the data points. Tell me why this equation makes sense." Or "your answer of the calculation is neither right or wrong, it's the process." I don't think so. There has to be more guidance from the math teacher. The lecture format will always have a place in math instruction. And there is the point of time--many curriculum expectations mandated to be taught in 1 semester allow for limited experimenting done by the students. Also, my experience tells me that there will always be students who don't give a damn about blogging or learning, they just want the credit to get into university.
These blogging teachers stress making the content relevant to the lives of the students. This is an excellent idea. I do want to make the math more relevant to the students, but that is very tough. For example, how does one make derivatives (from Calculus) relevant to students? It is possible, I'm sure, but this confidence is based more on gut feeling and my strong faith in my skills, than it is on evidence and experience. I teach Data Management, so I'm sure I could find some modern, in-the-news ideas on which I could produce problem-based lesson plans. I must try.
So...I must try to develop more open-ended questions or tasks, which are as student-relevant as possible, and which involve digital technology, all so that the students become better thinkers, and so that they will be more motivated to learn and become better writers, respectively.
I can use Bloom's Taxonomy, EQAO questions (for the grade 9s), newspapers' RSS feeds, and data from other countries . I hope to use Web 2.0 tools to motivate them and get them to practice their writing. I don't think I should expect myself to perfect the implementation of these ideas all in the next academic year. This will take time to do well. But I want to start this September.
Your thoughts? Any ideas?
Filed in: Reflections