Tuesday, May 26, 2009

21st Century Math

In a recent math workshop, teachers had time to share ideas and plans. Ideally in every PD session there is one special moment where I can learn something that is, for me, the ultimate practical strategy, or a new and easier way of conveying something complex. Well, I have to thank my colleague Leonard Gray for making my day last Friday. He described a challenging introduction to Grade 8 geometry (angle relationships) that I found very exciting. The students, in small groups, were given a long list of geometry angle terms to research (some of which were familiar, eg. obtuse angle). Then they had to take a camera, and go out around the school to find examples of these angles. They had only 20-25 minutes to capture the images. Then they headed to the computer lab to download the photos, load them into Paint, trace over the examples with a drawing tool, and add labels. What a fantastic way to get the students actively involved in their learning. But, the part I liked most is that Len did not stress out over providing equipment. He just told them the day before that one member of each group had to show up with a digital camera and USB cable. Done. I liked that he and the class took it for granted that they already had this technology and could incorporate it into the lesson. And also that they could use Paint, readily available and easy to run. A lot has been written by teachers concerned with 21st century literacy, promoting the advantages of accessing the students’ existing tech background knowledge and personal gadgets. I was so happy to see an example of this happening right in our little school. Way to go, Len! (And I am definitely taking your idea to use in my class….)

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