Disrupt your Math Classroom with Blended Learning

I am currently preparing a resource booklet for my next BER seminar, “Enhance Your Mathematics Instruction Through Blended Learning (Grades 6-12)”. As I compile research about blended learning in general, I am adapting what I find based on my experience in the secondary mathematics classroom. One really great resource for this is “The Rise of K–12 Blended Learning: Profiles of emerging models“ by Heather Staker, which can be downloaded for free at this link: christenseninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/The-rise-of-K-12-blended-learning.emerging-models.pdf.

This publication concludes with a section titled “Steps for Success”, highlighting blended learning best practices that emerged from a research study of 40 schools from across the US that have implemented blended learning in a variety of formats. I immediately saw how each of these strategies can be effectively adapted for secondary math teachers.  Two of these steps are listed below with my recommendations for adaptation for the secondary mathematics classroom.

Beginning with Nonconsumption

According to the aforementioned text, “Blended-learning models have the greatest potential to follow a disruptive trajectory if they begin by offering online learning in brick-and-mortar settings to students who are non-consumers of mainstream schooling. When it goes head-to-head with the incumbent system by serving mainstream students first, blended learning is more likely to be crammed into the current classroom and sustain, rather than transform, the traditional classroom model.” Dropout recovery programs, alternative schools and self-blending programs for advanced students are offered as examples of this principle at work.

As math teachers, we have all dealt with varying forms of “nonconsumers” in our classrooms.  It may be the sleeper, who sits in the back of the room, totally disengaged with your teaching no matter what you try, or the super-advanced kid who is always underwhelmed by whatever new activity you introduce, as he or she is way ahead of whatever topic you are covering from the curriculum.  It could even be the teen mom/dad with a baby or a slew of younger siblings, and a job–which makes the student seem perpetually distracted or exhausted in your math class, when he she is not absent.

Whatever the case, giving students choices with regards to incorporating self-guided learning powered by technology could be an effective intervention.  Putting a student who previously checked-out of you class onto Khan Academy to “catch up” shows him or her that you really care enough to be flexible and offer them an alternative to (non-) participation in class as a way to learn.

If you want to try blended learning, consider starting with the kids that are not currently engaged in your lessons–perhaps this is just the jumpstart they need to get back on track. Additionally, as previously disengaged students get more interested in math as a result of self-blending, even your best students will be intrigued and want to try it for themselves!

Autonomous Zones

The writers present “autonomous zones” as schools within a district or charter network that are afforded greater control over things like class size and certification requirements in exchange for higher accountability around outcomes:

“Innovation stands the best chance of success if its leaders choose the right organization structure to manage it successfully. When an organization seeks to create deep changes around the economics
of its business model, the right organizational structure is an autonomous team. An autonomous team allows its participants to step away from their functional responsibilities in which agreeing with each other is difficult and become an independent team with its own set of purposes. In this new structure the team can rethink the organization’s resources, processes, and, importantly, its revenue formula. Thus, leaders at all levels seeking to transform the education system must establish autonomous spaces where they can deploy innovative models in the right context and create new funding models.”

Your classroom becomes an autonomous zone when you simply allow students make choices with regards to how they want to learn, using technology to augment your ability to differentiate based on each student’s expressed needs.  For example, setting up a rotation model where students can decide whether they want to stay with you and receive direct instruction or work with their peers (or individually) on practice problems on a computer or tablet gives students the freedom to do what they feel is best, which usually results in increased engagement.  Additionally, setting high standards for performance and behavior helps to keep students on task even when they are working on their own. My experience is that students like doing this so much, that they will stay on task to avoid having this option taken away!



3 easy ways to use iPads in Math class

Students do not need a whole lot of convincing to use iPads, but many teachers, including me, struggle to find meaningful ways to use them in math class. Here are 3 ways I use my iPads that really enhance my math instruction and get the kids excited about using technology. Continue reading 3 easy ways to use iPads in Math class

Our First Math Rap Video!

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I was about to start working on a video project with the kids involving writing and producing a math rap and video. It has turned out to be kind of a big deal. So much so, we decided to put out a “trailer” a few weeks ahead of the actual video, which we are entering into the LaCUE (state tech conference) student video contest next month. Continue reading Our First Math Rap Video!

iPads are Here! Setup, syncing and storage

After months of waiting and hoping I finally got my iPads!
Through a district “model technology classroom” grant, I received 15 iPads and a set of ActivExpressions (more about those later) to add to my existing collection of tech stuff. Most of my weekend was spent getting them set up, and there’s a lot to it, so I’ll share as much as I can in words and pics (with my new camera, yay!!!)

I took the advice of many iPad teachers on the internet and created custom numbered wallpapers for each unit. I left a lot of empty space at the edges–this is to allow the screen art to be visible in landscape and portrait mode:

I found an iPad wallpaper template online that I brought into Photoshop to make sure nothing was cut off. Here it is–feel free to use it how you wish!

Syncing was good and bad–good because iOS 5 allows wireless syncing, but bad because I still had to plug each iPad in for initial setup and to update them to iOS 5. Please don’t try to set up more than five iPads by yourself. My husband and daughter helped me with syncing, adding wallpapers and creating Gmail and Twitter accounts for each device.
After spending two days installing apps, creating Gmail and Twitter accounts (I had to use two different computers and three different phones to create and verify 15 Gmail accounts), setting up Parental Controls (no porn on my iPads!), syncing apps and books and emailing wallpapers, I now had to figure out how to store and transport these babies.
My principal has asked me to look into security options for the iPads, but until we get that taken care of, I need a cheap, compact way to transport them to and from school and the various trainings and conferences I present at. This Wednesday, I am going to North Louisiana to present at the state math teachers’ conference on iPad Apps for Secondary Math. I needed an easy way to carry the iPads around, so I went to my “super-cute storage headquarters”, AKA Target.
For about $25, I got a storage bin, a smaller one for cords and plugs, and two packs of bubble wrap sleeves to protect the iPads until I get some cases for them.

I’m pretty proud of the bubble wrap solution, although it was more of a “what-can-I-do-with-no-money” fix than a bright idea. The sleeves fit the iPads perfectly, and protect without adding too much bulk for compact storage.
The little container fits 15 power bricks perfectly, with room on top for the sync cords. I expect to only use this for charging, and I store the iPads in the bin upside down with the 30-pin connectors exposed for easy charging. All I need now are a couple of power strips and a luggage cart to roll these bad boys around, and I’m ready to go!

I couldn’t resist letting the kids get their hands on the iPads after all my hard work setting them up. So, today, I let my smallest class check them out. Hopefully, I’ll be able to implement them with all my classes next week after we handle getting them secured.