“Guinea pigs are small fat rodents”

Monday is the real begining of #AoD.  I told my classes that they were guinea pigs. When I asked if they knew what that meant I got “Guinea pigs are small fat rodents”. This is true. My students did know what I meant, but they are a funny bunch and I like their humour. Another student pointed out that they could be another type of rodent too -a lab rat.

We discussed the goals of #AoD. We also talked about the initial chaos that we might have to be patient with until we find our mathematical learning groove.

This learning model is new to me and my small fat rodents of mathematics, so as well as being exciting I had some burning issues I needed to try and address from the beginning. Mainly how to use tutorials for learning and ensuring the learning pattern wasn’t too repetitive – which David Wees posted a comment about.

Today I will focus on my lesson on how to use tutorials. This will happen on Monday morning. Two classes in a row, so I will report on what actually happened soon after.

While I was gathering resources and reading blogs and trying to keep up with all the resources and ideas in tweet world I came across a blog that discussed the problem with students not actively watching tutorials. Lazy viewing. Because it’s not an interactive lecture as they would receive in a classroom, there is the possibility that students will watch, think that’s easy and consider themselves finished. I cannot for the life of me remember which blog it is in. If I do recall or stumble across it again, I’ll add it here.

With the teacher’s frustration in mind and also thinking about how we try and teach our kids to be good listeners I set about making a lesson to get the students to think about how they can make the best of this self paced unit.

This is the lesson and what I hope to achieve:

The wiki has the content of the lesson. There are three video tutorials that students will use. The goal, of course, is that students will be able to do what they saw in the tutorial. The three videos increase both in time and complexity.

Video One – lattice multiplication technique from mathtv.com

A short video which most students will watch and be able to do the mathematics afterwards. Some will forget.

Actually, both classes have done this. So I will give them a problem to do and see if they remember as a start up (after our brain break warm up). If they can’t recall, I can then see if they have any ingenius plans about how to see the method again. You know, stuff like ask if someone remembers, watch the video again… 

Video Two – longer and shows how to make an origami fox puppet

students watch and then attempt to make the fox having not made any notes (“close your books and tablets”) and not being able to watch the video again. The first instruction is to use a 16cm by 16cm square piece of paper. I don’t have this ready for them, on purpose. Lots of colourful paper, distracting their thoughts away to things like “oooh fluoro pink or yellow?”. By the time they have measured the square, then cut it out a few of the instructions might have ‘leaked’ from their minds.

Again, I ask what will make the task easier. I am hoping to make them see that watching isn’t always enough, not when processes, methods, ideas become more complex and they aren’t learnt immediately. Practice is sometimes needed, sometimes we won’t do it perfectly the first time.

Video Three – longer again and shows how to make origami fireworks

This is a complex task and requires combining 12 identical parts. This will be a group task, groups of three or four. Same ideas as before, but this will also focus on getting students helping each other and fostering a group atmosphere. They have to work as a team to make their fireworks. I want students to support each other in #AoD.

I think a few weeks down the track I will ask them to make a fox again. Should I tell them this will happen? Or should it be a surprise? hmmmm

oh yes, the origami idea came from a fabulous TED Talk, which made all of my students oooh and ahhhh. Robert Lang dazzles with mathematics and origami. I should tell my dad he has origami in his arteries.

I’ll report on what actually happened in the lessons next week. Hopefully some lessons learnt.