This was before I started the technology in education course when I watched a TED talk titled "Math class needs a makeover". The talk is given by a high school mathematics teacher named Dan Meyer, who also happens to be an "edublogger", which you can pretty much guess what that means from the name. My favorite quote in the talk is right at the beginning when he says, "I sell a product to a market that doesn't want it but is forced by law to buy it. It's just a losing proposition" (http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_meyer_math_curriculum_makeover.html). He is describing his math class and the attitudes of his students towards math. This pretty much sums up one of the largest problems in education today. Students don't want to learn what we're trying to teach them.

He then goes on and talks about how students often expect or wish difficult problems to be solved quickly. He quickly responds to this notion by saying, "No problem worth solving is that simple" and mentions his concern regarding this attitude held by students because he's going to retire into a society that is maintained by the current students today. It was a really interesting thing to consider that what we teach and how we teach will ultimately impact our own future and the future of our children and their children. The rest of his talk is spent about the importance of using layered problems as opposed to problems that require just one equation and no thought process. He also talks about making connections of the content to practical concepts. I remember after watching his talk, I decided to take a look at his blog which can be found at: http://blog.mrmeyer.com/.

One of the most prominent aspects of his blog is the posting of several ideas of or actual lesson plans that he plans on using or has used in the past. The first thought that entered my mind when looking at one of these designs was that some of these concepts are really complex and are high school math students actually able to comprehend this material? I have never witnessed or experience any of the ideas presented by Mr. Meyer so it was hard for me to decide on the perceived difficulty of the tasks he presented. Another thing I noticed is that he incorporates a lot of graphs into his lessons. I'm not sure about the reasons behind this. Maybe giving students graphs helps them more visually? However, Mr. Meyer usually complements these graphs with a series of questions to engage the students in thinking. He presents the students with a practical problem they have to solve, and makes the connection between the problem and math.

The most interesting feature about Mr. Meyer's blog was that when he posted a lesson design or presented an idea for a lesson, he would ask for or include feedback on the post from other bloggers. There were also several posts where he included questions asking readers of his blog what they would change in his lesson or idea. I just thought it was an amazing idea how an educator as experienced and distinguished as he is, is constantly asking for criticism and different perspectives to improve his own practice. He is definitely what more teachers should strive to become like.

I'm glad that you checked out Meyer's blog and found it to be interesting, Jonathan. He's a thinker and a practitioner well worth paying attention to.

ReplyDeleteYour timing in mentioning his practice of putting lesson ideas out there and soliciting feedback from his readers (his "personal learning network") is splendid, though, because I just got word of a very recent posting of his to which a local MAC alum named Tom Ward replied *and* received a nice shout out. Tom teaches at Greenhills School here in Ann Arbor, and it turns out that he is a very active edublogger himself...check him out!

I like how you discuss the lesson plans included on this Edubloggers site. It seems like blogs would be a great framework for presenting these to other teachers, but I think your confusion about some aspects of them are natural. I think posting anything online doesn't always recreate how well a lesson might (or might not) have worked inside his particular class, but it's interesting that he's put them out there for people to comment on and provide feedback. I think that's a great thing about blogs: they can continue the educational conversation even with teachers in other states or countries. The pool of connections is so much bigger through the internet as teachers continually refine their practice. Great thoughts in this post!

ReplyDeleteJonathan,

ReplyDeleteI appreciate you pointing me to Dan Meyer's Edublog and I look forward to exploring it in the future! I found it very helpful that you pulled out and discussed his idea that most of what we are trying to teach our students today are things that they're not interested in buying. In reflecting upon myself as a student, I often took a similar stance about the learning required in high school. I mostly just had to get through it and move on. I wasn't learning for learning sake or because I found the topic inherently interesting... I am interested in investigating student motivation and how we can foster this and it sounds as though Dan Meyer has done some of that legwork already! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for pointing me to yet another exciting resource!

Laura