Monday, October 27, 2014

When Learning is a Challenge: MOOC Week 4 Reflections

Example of MOOC question.
The Stanford Mathematical Thinking MOOC continues to challenge me in multiple ways, ways that are helping me become a better teacher.

First of all, I know the information is within my grasp, but the time and investment factors are the critical links separating me from proficiency with the course. I'm simply not giving the course the time it deserves. Then why participate, one may ask?

I continue to participate, because as I navigate this course and make multiple decisions about learning at every juncture, I am reminded of the student in my class who may not be fully invested and may need more time to learn the content well. For the MOOC, I'm that student, and if I were the teacher, what would I do?

First, scaffolding is imperative. Truly to do well on this MOOC, I would need to master a course at the step below--a course that helps me to remember all the symbols and number relationships at a grade 12 math level. I can do that easily with Khan Academy, but I don't want to put that time in now since I have other more important learning to do in order to teach my students at fifth grade well. But for my fifth graders who are having difficulty with concepts, I need to back up and help them to fill in the gaps with their math foundation in ways that draw their investment, interest, and readiness for deeper learning.

Next, I don't have the same level of investment for learning the material for the MOOC as I do for learning the material related to teaching grade five well. I want to learn all I can about the fifth grade standards and pedagogy because I'm invested in my learners. I want to learn about the MOOC mostly to give me a chance to step into the shoes of a learner in a challenging situation, and to gain the modeling and language for good mathematical thinking. Though I'm struggling with the specific content of the course, I'm gaining a lot of understanding about mathematical thinking, the use of precise language, and pedagogy related to teaching well--this is all beneficial which means that my ultimate score won't reflect the gains I'm making by taking the course.

One more gain I have received from the course is that it has whet my appetite for more math learning--learning which I'm accessing through a large number of online venues including videos, math blogs, online exercises, and more.

Therefore I won't give up, but I'll continue to be cognizant of how I use my time to best effect my current goals as well as to inform and lay a path for future goals related to math teaching.

I'll also think about this as I teach and coach my students. How do I use classroom time to effectively teach all students well? How do I coach my students with respect to investment and time? When and how do I scaffold in order to help every child achieve new learning, strengthen skill, and develop concept?  These are questions I'll continue to think about, and questions that I'll pose to colleagues too as we work together to effect a top-notch, student-friendly math program.