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!



Making Infographics with Glogster EDU

I am happy and proud to say that my students finally finished their first project of the new school year! I re-visited an oldie, but goodie, an online “infographic” all about functions. We used http://edu.glogster.com, a website where students can make fun, interactive online posters that I have used for several projects in past classes.

Check out my Flickr gallery of this and last’s year’s best function infographic projects.

I “polled everywhere” today!

Today, I did my first online poll with students using http://polleverywhere.com. I actually created it last week when I wrote my lesson plan and administered it today. It was awesome! The kids seemed to enjoy taking out their forbidden phones and actually using them to participate in class. Continue reading I “polled everywhere” today!

Why I

Kids love it. They are attached to their cell phones, video games, and social networks 24-7. Why not use this to your advantage as a teacher?
Kids need it. When they enter the workforce or higher education, they are expected to create and consume content via tech tools. It is my responsibility to prepare them for this reality.
It makes difficult tasks easy–i.e. grading papers, collecting and storing documents, sharing important dates, displaying student work, etc.
It reduces the amount of paper I have to deal with. ’nuff said.
It allows me to connect with awesome educators from all over the world. Lots of knowledge and experience is a tweet or Google search away. Many people are willing to share their expertise on a variety of subjects for free, on the web.
I have it, why not use it? I have been blessed to have access to a classroom full of tech tools. Am I going to use them? You bet I am!

OK, there’s my shortlist…(it’s a work in progress!) what’s yours?

All my edtech peeps and tweeps, why do you heart technology?

My 1st ISTE Part 2

Familiar Faces
One of the most fun things about ISTE is getting to meet the people you interact with online, face to face. If you are an edu-blogger or tweeter, then you may know Twitter personalities like @web20classroom, @mbteach, @bethstill, @gwynethjones (The Daring Librarian) and other prolific Tweeters in the edtech world. They were all at ISTE, presenting, participating in “tweet-ups” and hanging out in the Blogger’s Cafe. I had the chance to meet Shelly Terrell, AKA @shellterell, teacher leader and edtech tweep with over 15,000 followers. Although we have talked a few times on Twitter, we never met in person (she lives in Germany!) Being the EdTech Mecca that it is, ISTE is the perfect place to meet up with your teaching Tweeps, Facebook followers, Tumblrs or any other educator you’ve connected with virtually!

Sessions and Speakers
When I heard that THE Stephen Covey would be a keynote speaker at ISTE this year, I almost had a heart attack. Seriously. I read his most famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, years ago, and have lived according to its principles ever since. I was definitely disappointed when his face showed up on the big screen as opposed to his actually being there, but again, what would you expect from a tech conference? In spite of my initial disappointment, I was not disappointed by Dr. Covey’s presentation on his latest book, The Leader in Me. It is basically an overview of how the 7 Habits were successfully used to turn around failing schools. Muriel Summers, principal of A.B. Coombs Elementary, the first school to successfully implement the 7 Habits as a turnaround program, was there in person with two of her students, who impressed the crowd with their knowledge of the habits and their articulation of how their lives were changed by Dr. Covey’s principles. 

John Medina, author of Brain Rules, was the opening keynote speaker, and I was really intrigued by  what he had to say about how the human brain works.  A molecular biologist by trade, Dr. Medina spoke about the brain and its behavior from a sceintific point of view while offering implications for educators.  I was so impressed by his presentation, I bought the Kindle version of his book right away.  At the time, it was $3 on Amazon!  At this point, it’s $7, but still worth the buy/read.  Check out the ISTE channel on YouTube to see videos of the keynotes and many more highlights from the conference.

About Philadelphia
Philly, home to Ben Frankin, Rocky Balboa, and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, is a city steeped with history. I shared a small hotel room with fellow blogger/tweeter Paula Naugle right in the heart of downtown only a few blocks away from the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This was great, since everything I wanted to see was either a short walk or trolley ride away.  I’ve been to Philly a few times before, and already visited the Liberty Bell and a few other places of interest. This time, I made it my mission to run up the “Rocky Steps” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art before I left. It’s intense, but I did it! There’s also a Rocky statue in front of the museum that everyone takes photos with. Another must-see attraction in Philly is the Reading (pronounced “redding”) Market. It is adjacent to the Convention Center, and it’s a great place to grab lunch, or a book, or some herbs, or some jewelry, or fresh produce–I think you get it, they have everything! It looks like a train station or warehouse that has been turned into an awesome market with a wide variety of vendors. NCTM 2012 is in Philadelphia, so if you go, be sure to schedule some time to check out this awesome city and grab a Philly cheesesteak for me!

All in all, I truly enjoyed my 1st ISTE and cannot wait for ISTE 2012 in San Diego.  There’s something for everyone-vendors, bloggers, great presenters and keynoters, and above all, an opportunity to mingle and connect with other teachers who enjoy technology as much as I do!  I hope to present next year as well, so please wish me luck…I hope I’ll see you there!