lim joe→∞

Teaching, Mathematics and Teaching Math.

Posts Tagged ‘Metadiscussion’

Steven Strogatz's Opinionator – NY Times

Posted by forumjoe on May 18, 2010

I’ve just spent an evening reading and re-reading Steven Strogatz series of Opinionator editorials in the new york times:

I’m absolutely amazed at Strogatz’s ability to explain complex mathematical topics in a way that is understandable by most adults.  The links he provides in his notes sections go to incredible websites that provide hours of enjoyable and informative perusing.  The sort that makes me feel happy about reading about Maths at 10pm at night.

I really wish I could find a way to make my kids read these articles and understand them, but I’ve realised that’s impossible.  By definition, if I show my students an article, they will think it’s boring maths and switch off straight away.  Maybe if I print them out and get the students to paste them to the back of the cereal packet?


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Disconnected Metablogging

Posted by forumjoe on January 7, 2010

I’m not big on New Years resolutions. I usually make some superficial ones that I know I’m going to achieve easily. Things like “I won’t drink any alcohol for all of January” or “I’ll do more gardening this year than I did last year”. Those two seem to be the main recurring ones, actually.This year, I’m doing it differently, and I’ve decided I’m going to improve myself in every way I can. I’m not calling it a New Year’s resolution, because that implies I’ll stick with it for a while until I decide I don’t want to any more. And the simple rule that I’m living by is that when I’m sick of it, that’s when I’ve got to start doing it differently. This happened with my running, it’s amazing how easy it is to do exercise when you’re not running up and down the same road, with the same thoughts in your head. Taking an iPod and a dog and going on different routes makes life so much more interesting (especially if it involves trespassing)!

So how will my teaching change? Hopefully, a lot, and hopefully, this blog will be a catalyst.

I’m about to start my second year of teaching. I read a lot of teaching blogs (both Maths specific and others) and I find them all amazing. Eye-opening, uplifting, crazy, intelligent, irrelevent, irreverent are all words that describe posts I’ve read over the last year. But even the ones with “early-career teachers” are still from teachers that have been in the profession for four years. I’ve been in it for one, and that one was so hectic, so crazy busy, that I hit the ground with both feet running and didn’t get time to pause. I read so many great things, so many things I want to do, but can’t even imagine having the time to implement in my life. And everyone says this is normal for a beginning teacher!

My three biggest excuses for not posting more are:
1) Dial-Up internet – Yeah, I know, it’s 2010 and no one is on Dial-Up anymore, right? Wrong. Well, as good as anyway. I have to turn the modem on whenever I want to read something on the internet (the first hassle) and I pay per megabyte. Apalling, I know, but what’s more apalling is that I let this be an excuse. Unless I stimulate my mind by reading things, it doesn’t get thinking and it doesn’t get writing. I feel my life is so severely crippled by a lack of always-on internet, and it depresses me that I rely on it so much. And yet, I need to accept that this is who I am. My mind needs stimulation, and the way I’m accustomed to getting that information is through blogs, political essays, theorems and white-papers. Even if I got the information from *ahem* BOOKS, it doesn’t have the immediacy to prompt me to jump on the computer and write about what I read.

2) I don’t have the time – This is stupid, I should stop playing computer games and spend the time writing. It’s amazing what a good “To-do” list does for your motivation to get things done. I’m one of many people who spend too much time saying “I should do something about x” when I could just get up and do x. This is the one area I’m focussing my improvement on this year. I will not make up excuses for putting something off (which is why I’m posting this blog at 1:05 am when I should be asleep)

3) I don’t have anything to write about – I know lots of people who cite this as a reason for not having a blog, and just as many more who carry on blogging regardless. How can I make my posts interesting and useful? Well, I’ve realised the first isn’t important. I don’t care that no one reads my blog, because this is now my journal. My personal journal that lets me document my life as a teacher. As long as this is useful to me, that’s all that matters. Throughout my teacher education at CSU, I was told the importance of Reflective Practice. That is, that everything you do as part of being a teacher gets reflected on and (hopefully) improved. This might be done with scientific method, but it doesn’t have to be. After every lesson, ask yourself what worked, what didn’t work. If you’re trying something new, ask why? What do you hope to achieve? A simpler term for this practice is “Looking at yourself with a critical eye” and there are plenty of resources, research papers, textbooks and tales on how to do this right, but no one can do it for you.

Already I feel crippled by my lack of internet. I’m doing this post as a rant, and haven’t yet referenced anything or anyone else, and I hate it. I could mention the blogposts that Maz and Taiters discussed (which I followed and read) because it really is mental stimulation and reading that creates a desire to write. And I probably should. But on the other hand, that would require going into the loungeroom, turning the modem on, finding the pages, making sure I reference them right etc. And having unrestricted net access just causes more distractions.

So this is the blogging I’ll do in January. Disconnected. Writing posts without looking at the internet, then just uploading them when I next check my email. It will be a challenge, but hopefully it will be useful. Maybe the following morning I’ll post a followup, finding the links, paying my dues. Maybe I won’t. But I am determined to keep this up. Even though I’m on summer holidays at the moment, I’ve got a lot of things to do with my teaching. All centre around the words of “Get organised”. So now I’ve begun to get my blog reading and writing organised, (in the manner of getting motivated and recognising the excuses I make), next step is around managing resources. I’ve got a pile of paper-resources and a drive of electronic ones, and they need to be sorted in a way that they can all be found quickly and easily when I need them. I might do a bit of reading, then a bit of planning, then put it into practice, then discuss my results online (including
self-reflection), and seek feedback from others. That seems like a good pattern, lets see if it works.

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So if a blog isn't a good CMS, what is?

Posted by forumjoe on August 27, 2009

I created this blog originally to collect useful teaching resources and links in one spot and I feel like I’m not doing a very good job.   The original plan was that when I find a good link I write a post about it, and include it in the static pages.  But then if I need to continually update the static pages, they don’t end up being very static.  This creates problems.   If the static pages don’t serve their purpose, they should be removed.  Or maintained more regularly.  I guess I’ll plan at the moment to make a blogpost whenever I find something useful for future reference, and then need to dedicate time at the end of the month to filter those into a static page, gradually building up the resource collection.  We’ll see.

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Teaching ICT? Or Teaching -WITH- ICT?

Posted by forumjoe on July 10, 2009

I guess this early point is the best time to clarify the distinction between Teaching ICT skills and teaching WITH ICT.

ICT Integration
ICT Integration into the regular classroom is something that every teacher should strive for. Teaching critical computer literacies like how to save documents, how to open files, how to browse the web, etc shouldn’t be restricted to the ICT classroom. They should be taught in English, SOSE, Maths, etc. IMHO students are much better off learning graphing and spreadsheets in their Maths and Science subjects than they are in a specific Computing subject. I’ll elaborate on this later.

Skills everyone needs to survive the modern world
So when looking at ICT Skills, I try to distinguish between the things that everyone needs in the modern world, and things that those people working in “computing” need. The former are things like wordprocessing, information parsing, how to run a spellchecker, how to backup documents. The latter are things like Programming, Photoshop, Databases, etc. I’m lucky in my current position as ICT Coordinator and the teacher of the Computing elective that I have some control over both these aspects, and can determine what goes where. It’s nice in theory.

The Dilemma
But then I get into my Computing elective class, and I find students who don’t have the basic computer literacies required to backup, to open a file, etc. Obviously, I’m responsible for teaching those skills too. So this becomes a dilemma.

Now what?
The point of this prose is just to clarify what I’m talking about in future posts on this blog. As an ICT Coordinator, I’m responsible for integrating ICT into the every day curriculum, to ensure that all our students leave the school with the basic computing skills they need to survive this world. And as an ICT Teacher, I’m directly responsible for teaching those more advanced students about the possibilities that extra computing skills will open up. So I will talk about both in this blog, because both are relevent to my current position.
However, teaching the Computing elective is what I struggle with more frequently, day-to-day. What do I teach? How do I teach it? What resources are available to help me? Those are the main questions that I created this blog to help answer. Anything else is bonus.

When I talk about “Teaching ICT” I’ll be referring to where the content is actually ICT related. When I talk about “Integrating ICT” I’m talking about teaching basic ICT Skills in other subjects. The blog will probably be much more about Teaching ICT, but I’m sure topics related to Integrating ICT will get touched as well.


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