Monday, November 12, 2007

Fear and Uncertainty

Image: 'DSC00164.JPG'
I just finished attending an inservice all about the "Fosnot" math that I am using in my class this year. For those of you reading this for the first time Catherine Fosnot is the author of a series of books that puts the context into math investigations. These investigations would make David Warlick proud. Students are not mirroring information spouted by a teacher but amplifying ideas that they create themselves and in discussions with their classmates.

Every investigation is rooted in context. Kids understand what is being asked of them. Students then have a chance to conference with other groups and hear other groups with different of similar strategies. Students then have a congress or convention. The teacher has selected a certain set of finished products to be discussed at the congress. Students teach the class. The teacher has to be skillful to pull out the answers and ideas from the community of learners without giving the answers directly.

Bottom line. Kids love these investigations. I left an investigation with the sub that was in my class today. Kids do not misbehave they engage in learning.

The key ingredient in the investigations is a major shift in pedagogy. The teacher becomes the facilitator of learning. The teacher shifts the focus of learning to the students. Students are now responsible for their learning. Good bye silver spoon. These skills of asking questions and finding answers are so important when the students hit the credit system next year.

Since I have started this program in my class the at-risk students... you know them the 50%ers are doing better then ever. They are making tremendous gains. This is an exciting development. At least half of them are “getting it” where as before they would just sit around being lumps wanting to be spoon fed information. Spoon feeding does not enable learning. It distracts from it.

I love the challenge of using probing questions to allow students to come up with answers. I do not give the answers, the students come up with them from their own discoveries. How do you know it works? What strategy did you use... does it work every time? Students are discovering math and the infinite patterns that help us do this "difficult" subject.

Image: 'Terrore?'
All of this brings me back to the inservice today. The fear in the room. It was eerie. Some of the issues were that these activities (investigations) will not cover the curriculum. My students will never be able to do these activities. There will be disruptions in my room and .... the list goes on and on and on.

Fear is such a powerful emotion. Many of these same arguments are used when teachers are reluctant to use the tools of web 2.0 and 21st century learning.

Somehow we need to enable teachers to try these tools, and new(er) teaching ideas. Support their missteps and help them try again. For the math teachers I was with today all of these supports are in place. An entire team of support teachers at their service yet they still are reluctant to do something new. "Give me a textbook...." it hurts me when they say this. They want to see mirroring not amplifying.

Image: 'blink'

Be confident, take chances and your students will thank you.

Image: 'DSP 147: Thank You3 2007-10-11'

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