Tag Archives: types of learners

A student reflects on upside down academy

Last week I had the opportunity to spend some time at Impact Academy. The students were deeply engrossed in their second round of video productions and their final lessons. The students had the opportunity to do their first video on an Algebra I concept of their choice. This was their chance to play around with the filming and editing techniques. Their teacher, Ms. Sudow reflected that in many cases the final products were well made videos that were lacking in math rigor. In some cases the math was even incorrect. This first round of reflection allowed the students to think about how to balance the draw of making an engaging video with the importance of focusing on actual teaching and learning, and not being seduced by an over emphasis on fun.

The students took this learning into their second round of video production, in which they focused on Functions. Here is an exemplary video:

 

This video demonstrates the students ability to create engaging material, supports a unique way of remembering the definition of a function, and provides examples.

In my visit to Impact Academy I had the opportunity to speak with the student about the process.

student interview

Tomorrow is the last day of the project. I will going to Impact to participate in the round of scoring and reviewing student work. The teachers have invited community members and stakeholders, and along with fellow classmates we will be providing students with feedback on their lessons. Visit UpsideDownAcademy to share your thoughts with the students.

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Upside Down Academy takes a trip to Hayward

I am in Hayward today sitting in the 9th grade academic numeracy class. Today is the roll-out for their end of the year project, which is going to take place in both this class and Algebra I. Both teachers have worked together to figure out how to balance the conceptual and the applied parts of the project, so that the students remain engaged and focused, and are able to reach a high level of rigor. To kick it off today the teacher had the students think about a memorable moment in learning that had occurred.

One student remembered “this thing called Project X. My teacher had some students sit in the corner and do pointless work, and other students got to do some meaningful work, and then others got to chill. It was like this for a whole week. Students got so upset, and rebelled, that it even became a problem outside of class. This really made me think” Yet another student reflected on how “our science teacher always sings and makes songs about what we are learning. She has so much energy”

Then some 10th graders came were invited in to talk about some science lessons that they had just taught. This group of students talked about what strategies worked well, which lessons were memorable, and what they would do differently next time. The 9th graders listened attentively and asked questions.

So what is in store for this lucky group of 9th graders? For the next week they will learn about teaching strategies, take learning styles inventories and discover their learning styles, they will watch and analyze video tutorials on Khan Academy, BrainGenie, and UpsideDown Academy. Yes, stay tuned for cross school commenting as the students at Impact Academy will be watching and providing feedback to the lessons created at Envision Academy.

Then the students will delve into flipping the teaching and learning cycle as they become teachers. This is Upside Down Exhibition II – Spartan Style (the Spartan is Impact Academy’s mascot)

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What Khan and Khan’t

About 10 days ago Mathalicious published an interesting post that asked readers to take a critical look at Khan Academy. This is not the first pundit publication that asks those who have consumed the Khan kool-aid to step back and look at the larger picture.

One aspect of this post that I really enjoyed was the reference to some of the collective knowledge that we have accumulated over the years on exactly these issues. For example, the writer cited the work of:

researcher S.H. Erlwanger [that] studied the effectiveness of the Individually Prescribed Instruction, a step-by-step curriculum in which students “proceed through sequences of objectives that are arranged in hierarchical order” (i.e. first this, then this). According to his description,

Because a large segment of the material in IPI is presented in programmed form, the questions often require filling in blanks or selecting a correct answer. Therefore, this mode of instruction places and emphasis on answers rather than on the mathematical processes involved.

In other words, students who used IPI may have identified that 1 + 1 = 2 on a multiple choice test, even without understanding the concept of addition.

This provides a nice foundation upon which to make the claim that Khan khan’t be pronounced the fix all in our current math crisis. There is one small flaw in this claim, however, and that is the distinction between what IPI referred to as ‘Instruction’ and what appears in Khan Academy as ‘Practice’. The argument that student’s khan’t learn through procedure alone is heavily support by research in the field (Arcavi 1994, Kooji 2002, Mayer 2010,).

Khan Academy’s video tutorials, as I have mentioned in previous posts, do not serve as instruction. In the context I am testing this, an urban high school, the students have indicated that they need a teacher or a peer to explain the problem and procedure to them in order for them to be able to ‘Practice’ independently.

Khan Academy khan provide practice. The question remains whether students get more practice on Khan Academy than they would in a paper and pencil environment? Practice is an important part of becoming proficient. Indeed the process of learning to play an instrument, Judo, writing an essay, reading, playing scrabble, all require practice. I can safely say that there is little objection to the motto “practice makes perfect.”

The Mathalicious author proceeded with the claim that the mere presence of Khan Academy was making it impossible for other options to be funded, developed, and consequently used. Because of Khan, we khan’t get anything else. I don’t want to stick my foot in my mouth but this seems like a stretch. I know Khan has received a lot of funding, and probably will continue to get funding, but in all fairness much of the work Sal Khan did on the videos and his ideas occurred prior to significant funding. As is usually the case with entrepreneurial work, a project may or may not get to the point where it can pick up funding and in the meantime one just figures it out.

While we are sitting around waiting for computer programmers to create the next thing that is going to convince us that it is going to fix all our problems in math education, let us save our pennies so we can purchase this future panacea. This is something we khan do. Our students khan access free software on the terribly slow computer at the local library. Our students khan be assigned to complete a module for homework rather than a page in the textbook. We khan assign specific tutorials and modules to struggling students and those students who advance quickly. We khan even completely individualized our classroom so that students are working to their own pace. We khan do all these things because Khan Academy is  cost-effective, requires limited tech support, and utilizes common technology.

Let us address one of the other thoughts that has been raised in response to this article. I have a personal commitment to better understanding why America, one of the most advanced countries on the globe by some measures, performs in a less than advanced fashion on mathematics assessments. There are other curriculum that seem to provide better foundations for mathematical constructs so that their students can progress in ways that further reenforce a deep understanding of math concepts. Curriculum such as the Dutch Realistic Mathematic Education (RME) and the consequent Mathematics in Context (MiC) are specifically designed to develop algebraic understanding using applied problem solving strategies and approaches. The results of these experiments have been positive. Why then are we not integrating and capitalizing on all that the world knows about how to best teach mathematics?
I regret to state the obvious but it is not because Khan Academy has taken all the funding for other viable options. My best guess, and I am by no means an expert in the matter, is that curriculum and resource producing companies and school districts are in business. Not always the business of teaching and learning, but business none the less.
What Khan Academy khan provide is an alternative to the costly partnership, which in the long run will dissolve the rigid alliance that currently dictates what we khan and khan’t do.

Thank You Karim and Mathalicious for instigating a thoughtful and exciting conversation. I have really appreciated the food for the brain.

I want to leave you with these questions, I can’t take credit for them, but I do feel inspired to engage in further conversations that seek to address them.

3 emergent questions:

1. What are we trying to achieve in these environments? How do we measure that success?

2. What tools seem to be working? Which ones may seem glamorous but aren’t effective?

3. What kind of support do teachers and students need–not just professional development, but functionality built into the tools themselves–to create a promising flipped or blended program?

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Project Design

The success of any project is largely due to how well it has been thought out.  In drivers ed. one of the few things I remember is the instructor telling me “to plan your route ahead of time, so that you are not making flash decisions while in a moving vehicle surrounded by other moving vehicles doing unpredictable things.”  Seemed like very sound advice to a nervous new driver, and a new teacher. 

Planning my route when it comes to curriculum is something that I have had to do in the past.  I did some curriculum planning as a general education teacher, but the majority of my teaching career has been spent working collaboratively with general education teachers as the learning specialist. I am really good at taking other people’s plans and finding ways to make it accessible for all types of learners. However, with this project I am taking the reins, drafting from scratch and going back to my roots as a general education teacher with the experience of a learning specialist. Next week I meet with the rest of the team and we will revise and finalize the plan.

As I begin the planning process, there are many questions running around in my brain.  What are the key elements that I need to include? How do I know if I have calendared the projects progression accurately? What should my essential question be? Will the student think that this project is as relevant as I do? What if they hate it? And so on.

In Design theory, the designer goes through a brainstorming process, develops a prototype that is tested with a trial audience, then goes through a revision process in which he or she iterates on the product until ….. well, until its done. In this case, the prototype and iterative process has to occur theoretically so that the best possible project can be rolled out to the students.

So here is what I have come up with so far, I feel like I have a long way to go and would love comments and feedback from my peers both at the school and from around the globe.

Project Working Title

Upside Down Exhibition: Where the students do the teaching

Essential Question (ideas):

  • What teaching strategies and methods best ensure my learning?
  • What makes a good teacher and a good student?
  • Can I teach someone something that they do not already know?
  • Does the current school and classroom structure best support student growth and learning?

Overview:
In this exhibition the student will spend 2 weeks reflecting on his/her learning style, and his/her teacher’s teaching styles. The student will blog about what helps and what hinders the learning process. The student will use this reflection to support the design and production of 2-3 short video lessons, to be uploaded to Upside Down Academy. During this time period the student will also provide feedback to his or her peers and engage in critique and reflection about the lessons. The student will then create a story-board and produce one final lesson that is a more polished product. The student will the present his or her video to small audiences on exhibition night, including a description of the process used to arrive at this final product.

Benchmarks:
Design and Iteration phase
2-3 video’s uploaded to Upside Down Academy…………Completed (date)
Blog style lesson reflections, ongoing……………………… # by date
watch and comment on peer videos………………………… # by date

Prototype phase
Story-board for final lesson……………. ……………………..Complete (date)
Final Video uploaded to Upside Down Academy……….Completed (date)
Note cards for presentation……………………………………..Complete (date)
Rehearsals ………………………………………………………….Completed (date)

Supporting Materials

  1. model video’s to show students different approaches, made using DMA skills that they have. eg. narrated PowerPoint / video of white board / flash animation / film trailer or skit /
  2. Guidelines for what needs to be addressed in the lessons.
  3. setting up blog for reflection.
  4. scaffold to support lesson reflection writing.
  5. identify which focus standards for math will be the concepts they teach, sample problems.
  6. explicit teaching of teaching styles and how to identify them.
  7. Time to watch each others videos and comment.
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