Great change begins with questioning and evaluation, turning the lens inward and beginning to look at things with a critical eye. Although I always do this as an educator, always looking for ways to enhance the learning in my classroom, taking the COETAILS program this year has really forced me to look critically at my teaching methods and delivery. In the first course, we’ve talked about how one of the first steps in the process of change is to do the same thing, but in a different way. I definitely feel like I’ve covered that step by shifting toward a technological and digital atmosphere in the classroom. It all started out with baby steps, remember? With some of my new found digital knowledge, I’ve created some great engaging lessons among the units in the three courses I’m teaching. This new found digital knowledge motivated me and got me excited because I felt like some doors had been opened or light had been shed on the seemingly dismal profession of teaching math traditionally. But, then as time, and life, crept up, I began and continue to ask myself, “how do you make this new arena an everyday occurrence?”
I believe that all of these ideas of discovery learning and reverse instruction seem to be the key to making that shift in the classroom: to hand the reigns over to the students and let them begin to take the lead in their learning. I was feeling like I was on the verge of jumping into this arena of engaging students in the digital world, on an academic level, handing the reigns over and letting all the great learning take place. But then I paused. “I have these new tools at my finger tips, but I’m not the best navigator.” I’m not a digital native, remember. So then it was suggested, “turn it over to the kids, let them worry about the noun, the tools and softwares that are out there, let them learn how to figure it out. And, I’ll be the verb and focus on what it is I want them to do. Create, Collaborate, Communicate, says Jeff Utecht. Turn it over and Give the students the purpose, the creativity, the autonomy, and ultimately (hopefully) the mastery.
Sounds great, right? Well, in theory at least. If only it were that simple. First I wonder, how do I structure this sort of discovery learning or reverse instruction in a math classroom? What sort of leading questions do you ask or how do you rework the procedure based-curriculum to fit more of a discovery atmosphere? And, on top of that, how do you narrow the topic or idea enough to send your students out there into cyber space to discover the concepts without getting side tracked or totally off track? Oh, and lastly, let’s not forget that time still passes, classes still need to be taught, and I still have to coach. How do I find time to start preparing these great, wonderful lessons on a daily basis? Oh, take the weekend, some say? Okay, wait, there’s a teacher conference, and a track meet, or heck, I don’t want to throw away 4-5 hours of my own personal, “me” time on the weekend to create ONE 85 minute masterpiece. And, that’s only ONE of THREE classes!!
So, then I think, am I not passionate about my job?? Because if I was, wouldn’t I be okay with digging away and sweating over this wonderful project for the sake of the brilliant learning that would take place because of it? No, the issue isn’t lack of passion. I definitely am passionate about educating my students in the best and most engaging way I know how and I definitely have dug and sweat for hours on end. But I still need some guidance. Where do my next steps need to be? And, what are some realistic goals to set? Is planning engaging, learning explosive lessons every day impossible? No, but it takes time. So, what should the timeline look like: one powerful lesson a week for each class? Or one to two lessons per unit and then adjust the levels accordingly for the higher and lower level courses? I’ll continue doing what I’m doing, slowly expanding my digital knowledge and research, among the time constraints, but I’d like to find some mentors. I want to fully tap into that community of educators who are making this shift (or are attempting it like me) and who are transforming the math classroom into a digital world.