I am working on a ton of interesting projects right now. Not least of these is my classroom teaching at the community college. My fingertips are sore from typing.
And yet there is always more to say. More to think about. More conversations to have. Here is a peek into one that is ongoing.
Malke Rosenfeld and I have been going back and forth about math, dance, Papert and learning for a few months now. I am learning a lot from the conversation. She asked some questions this morning.
Malke: A thought just entered my head — why are you offering TDI? Is it based on a question you are unsure of and want to see what others think? Or are you seeing a deficit in math teachers’ thinking that you want to shore up?
Me: When ranting on Twitter, I could see that some of my assumptions about baseline teacher knowledge about fraction/decimal relationships as they pertain to developing children’s thinking were unfounded. That is, I was assuming teachers knew a lot more than they seemed to. Which has implications for my Khan Academy critiques, and lots of other writing on my blog. Yet people were also curious. So I wanted to say more in a way that would draw from and build on a larger collective knowledge, so it’s not just my spouting off.
Malke: Is there a reason you offered it specifically as a course, and not a moderated discussion (which it sort of seems like right now)?
Me: When you view learning as a social process, you tend to think of courses AS moderated discussions. I mean this quite seriously. I know that it goes against the grain of online (and face-to-face) course design. But that’s not because I think of online instruction differently from others; it’s because I have a particular view of learning that runs much deeper than that. If I tell and quiz, you’re not learning very much. If I propose a set of ideas, listen to what you have to say, encourage you to interact with others and move the conversation in directions that seem useful based on those interactions, you’re probably going to learn a lot.
As long as I can keep you engaged in that process. Which is a different challenge online than in the classroom.
Malke: Is there a place you specifically want your students to get to by the end of the seven weeks? Or are you just curious to see what develops?
Me: I am curious to learn what I can about teaching at every opportunity. I want to produce “students” who can articulate important questions (see? learning as having new questions to ask?) about curricular approaches to decimals. Ideally, I would help them to develop a critical voice that speaks to/through them when they work with individual students, when they plan lessons and when they talk with their colleagues in a variety of settings. In short, I want to change the way teachers view the territory of decimals, fractions and children’s minds. Strange mix of lofty and specific there, huh?
“When you view learning as a social process, you tend to think of courses AS moderated discussions. I mean this quite seriously. I know that it goes against the grain of online (and face-to-face) course design.”
This is exactly what Math in Your Feet is — learning as a social process. I set the stage for my young students (much like you did with your big question for TDI), provide some framework for the inquiry (physical activity that spurs conversations between collaborators), and moderate the resulting activity (in both the physical realm and the mental/cognitive realm). So, with kids I’m totally there as an effective facilitator of learning. But, I would have never put it in the words you used — words which are actually very helpful in describing my work to others outside arts education.
However, I’ve not quite figured out how to do this in more meaningful way with educators. With teachers I have to start in the physical realm — you can’t know Math in Your Feet from the outside, you have to actually experience it personally — but there is so much more thinking and conversation to be done once participants have had the dance experience. It’s a need I identified some time ago, but have not yet satisfactorily figured out how to structure or facilitate. That’s where I am trying to grow my teaching now — it is interesting and extremely helpful to be observing how you work and hearing your thoughts about your teaching. Thank you!