Monday, June 24, 2013

MOOCs: Passion Driven Learning

I think all teachers have a basic commonality in that we want to make a difference, empower our students, open their thinking to explore the what-ifs and how-'bouts, change our future by impacting our kids' present.  We signed up for this gig with a bigger vision.  We wanted to attach our life to something that we felt had meaning: kids.  According to Dr. Scott Garrigan of LeHigh University, you can reach and teach more kids in a semester online than you could ever teach at a traditional school setting in a lifetime... in fact, 5 lifetimes, provided you start when you're 20 and retire at 70?  If you were a teacher who taught 200 kids at a time, it would take 250 years to teach 100,000 students.  In Fall 2011 at Stanford University, the first MOOC enrolled 160,000 participants!!!!!
     I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Garrigan present this morning at #ISTE13.  His topic: How will the MOOC Explosion Effect K-12 Schools and Students?  Okay, I know this is a bit of a deviation from the this blog's norm, but it is Sch00lStuff and since I teach in a blended learning environment this MOOC stuff interests me.  Why? There is a lot to glean about teaching and learning from these online courses.
Let me back up...
What is a MOOC?  A MOOC is a massively open online course.  Basically, it's a class that is offered by a university at no charge and in which, participants are awarded no credit.
Where do you find a MOOC?  There are major providers of these free online courses: Coursera, edX, and Udacity
What kinds of classes are offered? Really, really hard ones covering a variety of topics...including my favorite, teacher pd

     So, why do so many people enroll in tough classes....for no credit?  Simply, they want to LEARN.  People are willing to challenge their thinking, master material, try hard classes, IF they think the topic is interesting and there is no risk.  In these courses, students are able to learn about what they WANT to study...for free with no risk of failing...since the courses are not for credit.  The classes are for real though...there are due dates, assessments, and opportunities for collaboration.
     My first thought was what if passion of interest drove learning in K-12?  Many of us are reading Dave Burgess' Teach Like a Pirate where we are exploring our own 'P'assion as teachers and thinking of ways to bring our whole self into the classroom, but WHaT iF the kids' 'P'assion drove instruction?  I know some are exploring the 20% time/ free time, but I am not sure this is even that.  I think it is bigger.  I think it is maybe like Utica Junior High's Teach Like a Pirate Day,
where Principal Ryan McLane asked, "If kids didn't have to go to class, would you be teaching to an empty room?" Except maybe, it is not just a day.  What do kids want to learn? What do kids need to try?  Maybe it is like Jane McGonigal's thoughts at the #ISTE13 Opening need a place to practice being an entrepreneur, become a published author, engage in meaningful activities with a purpose and goal in mind.  Maybe a school's goal could more closely align with Jane's vision, "where we make it as easy for our students to save the real world, as it is to save the world on online games."  Where are educators providing opportunities for kids to practice this?  
     In  Disrupting Class, Clay Christensen states that educators "teach all students in the same way."  My concern, being at a small private school with understandably limited course offerings (on a limited budget with limited number of faculty members) is that not only that we are teaching them all the same way, but we are teaching them all the same things.  The current structure of school is very complex and I am not sure how to allow more flexibility in learning while still meeting accountability standards.  It seems like if we could combine Jane McGonigal's idea of Gamefication with the course choice afforded through MOOCs, it would be an ideal online world, but then on the practical side...what about the kids that need to see a caring adult face-to-face everyday because they don't have that at home or those who need to hone social skills through interaction with their peers or even those who just need to eat and the classroom teacher is the one who brings bread and peanut butter each day to meet their physical needs?
     So, let's skip the virtual Utopia.  How do we offer passion driven courses at school? Do we offer an elective hour?  Saturday school? Summer camp?  Do we connect high school kids with the MOOC catalogs?  Let kids teach kids?  Let kids teach teachers?  Finally, how do we incorporate the 8 lessons learned from online teaching  to improve all teaching?  I do not propose to have the answers and I am not even sure I am asking the right questions (#tlap -Dave Burgess), but I am thinking.  Maybe, that is what being around so many inspiring #ISTE13 educators makes you do.
     So, help me all of you people in the blog-o-sphere...what is your school (or just you) doing to offer students passion driven learning opportunities?  

Monday, June 17, 2013

#Made4Math: Dice Game

Last week was a whirlwind for me.  I attended the Ron Clark Academy (RCA) 3-day National Conference and then our school's annual Curriculum Camp.  My mind is spinning and I have yet to process it all!  So, for this week's #Made4Math post, I opted to start with the simplest idea I heard this week which was shared by Adam Dovico of RCA, the dice game.  In the true spirit of #Made4Math, I hit the local dollar store this weekend to purchase 4 packs of dice and came up with one concrete concept with which to use them.  First, let me say that I normally DON't do worksheets ever, ever, ever, but I made an exception because I looooovvvved the Dice Game idea.  It works with any age and any subject!

What you need:
One die  per two students (or the Dice app downloaded to each student's phone), one pencil per two students, and one worksheet for each child

How to play:
1.  Divide students up into groups of two.  The goal of the game is to complete the worksheet before your opponent does.  Though, when described to our staff by Mr. Dovico, by design there is rarely, if ever, a winner.

2.  Give both students a worksheet (perfect for test review, multiplication review, factoring practice...literally, anything!!!).  Hand one student the die and give the other student the pencil.

3.  Count down for the game to begin.  When the game starts, one student grabs the pencil and begins work on the paper, while the other student begins rolling the die hoping for a "6".  The student rolls the die repeatedly until a "6" is rolled.

4.  After rolling a "6", students swap the die and the pencil.  The student with the pencil works on the independent practice worksheet until his opponent rolls a "6".

5.  Monitor students' progress as you walk about the classroom.  Allow the game to continue until students get close to completing the worksheet, count down for the game to end prior to anyone actually winning, so that there will be a sense of urgency next time you play.

For this activity, I focused on second semester's Trigonometry class, because my second semester could use an infusion of fun.
Word doc or pdf
 I created practice problems to review finding other trig functions given one value and the quadrant, but the idea could be used anytime and anywhere!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chatting It Up @ #TLAPMATH

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

#tlapMath: Passion and Immersion

Tonight was our first Teach Like a Pirate Math (#tlapmath) chat on Twitter and the excitement was contagious!  Our focus: passion and immersion.  My phone was buzzing like crazy as everyone shared their thoughts.  Here is a quick overview of the discussion: