It's hard to believe that my undergraduate degree is a "with honors" designation in Mathematical Economics. You would not guess that if you had visited my house growing up: Sunday afternoons I could be found agonizing over some new math concept, or rolling my eyes with impatience as my PhD in applied mathematics dad told me he had to "take a moment to understand this 'new math'." I guess I had a leg up on the other struggling students whose dads did not have that "expert" designation; however, when he finally did explain it to me I found myself drowning in his over analysis and higher ed voice.

Earlier today I popped in to see what was going on in a 6th grade math classroom here at The Lovett School. Students were exploring the area of various shapes. The classroom has an IWB, the students each have laptops, and the teacher was in the back of the classroom. In fact, she was walking around the classroom--asking questions, sending students to the IWB to share what they knew, and digging to help them uncover the mystery of "pi r squared." Upon closer observation, I noticed a YouTube video on each laptop screen. No, the students weren't looking for Brittney's latest music video. The students had clicked on a link in a SMART notebook file and were following visual/auditory/text directions to convert a circle to a rectangle. The video was very well done and came from a UK teacher. It appealed to the learning styles of many in the classroom, and the tactile activity enabled others to deeply understand the new concept. A circle to a rectangle? Really? And a mathematical equation derived from there?

Before I left the classroom I noticed the following on the whiteboard:

Inquiring of the teacher I discovered that the students had been coming in with all kinds of cool games and resources for learning math. (Even some other videos!) Apparently the students collectively review the sites and then "vote in" the ones they think are helpful. After consulting with the teacher to encourage her to use the collaborative Wikispace (we had set up this summer) for students to post these sites and vet their worth (a lot easier than copying down URLs off a whiteboard), I turned around again and watched the students. They were engaged, often in conversation, often in discovery. The teacher was not "teaching." The students and the resources they were uncovering--online AND IN ONE ANOTHER--were the teachers.

How do you learn? Thanks to the explosion of the connected web and tools to harness that power, we all have the ability to "ask the PhD." Or, and sometimes better yet, we can give and take, ask and receive, and uncover the answer alongside other learners who have questions too. How will you learn now that the world and its people are at your fingertips?

I like your example here. By your description, it appears that the technology is embedded for the students to use to discover, share, and learn. The teacher walking about, guiding, helping, etc. Students helping / teaching each other. Connecting to "experts" outside the classroom. Demonstrating their learning using the IWB. Nice.

I'm curious though, how much direct instruction does the teacher provide. I found with my own kids (boys) who attended a self-directed high school that math was the toughest for them to self-direct their learning. Is your description here typical or was this a special day? Also, is the teacher guiding the students through a set curriculum?

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