Last week I started an online course in Geometry and Measurement run by the EDC (love them!) for my district and a neighboring one. Being a student in a different environment has me reflecting on how I would react to being a student in my own class.
We started the course with a face-to-face meeting. I'm not going to lie, I was a little resentful that I needed to attend since I was looking forward to taking the course from my couch at home on my own schedule. The resentment only grew as I was instructed on how to sign in (which we'd been asked to do ahead of time), use a forum (something I've been doing for years) and use GeoGebra (I teach my students to use it).
When I'm teaching I need to make sure not to rehash ideas that students already know. I hope that when we discuss homework students view it as an opportunity to check their answers, not just the class re-doing the work they already did. I try not to go over every little step but I need to make sure that when the class gets it, we get on to the challenging problems. Also, I need to explicitly ask students to be resources for each other when we study a topic some of them are familiar with. I would have been happy to share what I knew about GeoGebra- but being asked to draw a triangle was just boring.
Each session of the course starts on Wednesday. Last week I'd finished all the readings by Thursday night. This week? I finished all the readings and activities by 8 pm, Wednesday. I'm a nerd and am happy to own that label. But I'm also really efficient; I'd rather just take a couple hours to go through all the material with complete focus and no distractions than drag it out over a week. This is one of the reasons I signed up for an online course- it's very self-paced and allows me to be independent.
While there is opportunity for students to do their homework whenever they like within the 2-4 day gap between classes (block scheduling), there is very little room for self-pacing in the classes I teach. Each problem set I assign in class is low-threshold/high-ceiling, but there is no room to move on to the next unit until the whole class is ready. At this point it would be logistically a nightmare to allow students in geometry to move forward since we do so much experimentation and compiling of data to form conclusions. My basic algebra class does spent part of their time on fact practice and that portion of the course is entirely self-paced. I'd be interested to see if there was anything similar in geometry to allow students more control over at least part of the curriculum.
Finally, we are required to post in the discussion forums throughout the week. That's the one piece I haven't done yet, and may no do until Friday. I own my nerd status, but that doesn't mean I'm not hesitant to look like an overachiever. This is especially true since I don't know half of the people in the course (they're from another district). I will be an overachiever in the end (last week I posted more than twice as many comments as were required) but I won't totally stick my neck out there... yet.
It's really important that students feel comfortable in the classroom. By this point in the year I forget that this means not just trusting the teacher (me) but also their peers. I am shocked when a student is helping to return papers and doesn't know a classmate's name. All of them have a few people they are okay working with (I've shuffled pairs until everyone has a few partners they gravitate to) but participating and asking questions in front of the whole class means they need to know that the entire class will be respectful and supportive of them. And that includes not getting called a brown-noser (I really hate that term, it's just so gross).
I'm excited for the rest of this course as I continue to analyze my learning style, as well as the materials presented. So far we've looked at essential knowledge for students to arrive to geometry with and methods for examining student work. The technology components are coming up soon. They include: an iPad to use for the semester (to be grouped into a set teachers can reserve next year), a new desktop to use at school and my new smart board! I'd love to hear your suggestions for iPad apps and the smart board (applets, features, uses, anything- I've never used one before!).