Today I was honoured to attend the UGDSB Learning Fair 2014 as both an attendee and a presenter. The day started with David Daniel speaking about the importance of balance and moderation in the classroom. More than just in our practices, David reminded us that the scientific research we are usually given it in a supportive, isolated environment, rather than a complex classroom.
After the keynote, I had the opportunity to see two good breakout sessions; one organized by Pamela Brown-Wass and Sandra Kritzer within UGDSB and the other session organized by Laura Gini-Newman. Here are my take-away thoughts and ideas from both of these sessions:
Inquiry-Based Projects that Engage Students – Link to Presentation
Knowledge Forum is a great place to start building the community research and collaboration. Students start with a series of questions and them use the prompts available to help them branch out off of each others contributions. Although Knowledge Forum looks like a great application, I can also see Google Drive’s Lucidchart Diagram. This Drive application allows students to create their own flow charts and, with a bit of set-up of sentence starters, this application would mimic some features of Knowledge Forum. Please note that I have never played around with Knowledge Forum, I am just going off the features I saw today in the session. I have also seen from the Knowledge Forum website that you can apply for a six-month trial and then there is a cost after that, and I am all about the ‘free’ alternatives.
#GenuisHour may be a great approach to the inquiry-based projects. Through social media, I have seen the hashtag come up, but never really knew what it was. I was really excited that someone could explain it to me and I love the idea. I see GeniusHour being a great way for teachers to give the student’s the opportunity to practice discipline/industry skills well developing their understanding of the content. So many times, I have given the students a project (or they have come up with a project) at the end of the unit or at the end of the semester where they need to use all of their knowledge in a few days or classes to complete the project. This works for some students, but most forget those skills that we talked about as they were not always used in those new and unseen circumstances. Through GeniusHour, students can practice and evaluate the discipline skills as they learn them and build on it from the previous lesson. I love it!
Finally, the challenge I have taken away from this session is applying these inquiry-based projects into the mathematics classroom which lead me to choosing my next session to hopefully give more of an insight into the specific subject.
Thank you Pamela and Sandy for a great session. The discussion developed throughout the session and the hands on examples were a great addition! I can’t wait to see how I can implement some of these ideas in the classroom
Using Inquiry in the Math Classroom
Creating relationships is important! As teachers, especially mathematics teachers, we need to create relationships between the concepts presented throughout the course. The students need to understanding WHY and HOW they connect to each other and the bigger picture. As my Grade 10 Applied class will be beginning September off with their Measurement unit, I look at this key aspect of a math classroom and see the following connections: area -> volume -> prisms -> pyramids & area -> surface area. This unit I can easily see how the concepts connect with each other. This will be one challenge for me to make sure that my lessons interact with one another and connect.
Inquiry is the balance between content knowledge and discipline knowledge. This statement that Laura made really stuck with me and gave me that new perspective on inquiry-based learning and how it is different from discovery or other methods we have learned about. (Yes, this was my light-bulb moment!) I am new, and have struggled with the implementation of teaching through problem-solving, discovery and inquiry-based learning. It could be that I have never had formal training on the ideas, or that I just couldn’t understand how to apply them to my classroom by Laura’s way of explaining clicked. In her classroom, Laura has students create questions they can think critically about. These questions will drive the student’s inquiry and their understanding. Then, through lessons and learning activities, students learn the content needed to be successful in answering their question. Students are not asked to discover the ideas or recreate the theorems, but use their knowledge and provide mathematical justification for their findings. When they have gained that content knowledge, students will then work through their question and think critically about the methods, ideas and conclusions they are providing in their solutions.
From Laura’s breakout session, I now have a better understanding of how GeniusHour could apply in a mathematics classroom. Why not have the students come up with their genuine question at the start of the unit and work through it as they gain knowledge from the lessons? Students use their knowledge, collaborate with one another to prove their conjecture or to disprove it? Why not use that discipline knowledge of problem-solving and proving in the classroom. Another way to implement this would be to have larger “big idea” question that students work on throughout their GeniusHour classes that use concepts and mathematical justification from each unit. What that question would look like, I am not sure, but it will come. This is a start on my thinking – more to come!
Thank you Laura for a great session, I wish we had more time to look further into examples as I am very much like the explicit classroom examples.
Finally, for the last breakout session, I had the opportunity to present. My topic was D2L (Desire2Learn – a learning management system) and how we can use blended learning to help foster student confidence and address mental health. I was quite happy with how the session went; a smaller crowd brought great discussion and many different perspectives. In the session we had educators who have never heard of D2L, ones that have used it for e-Learning and also administrators who have helped set up credit recovery and re-integration programs using the features of D2L.
Here is a copy of my presentation for your browsing interest – click here.
The biggest change I would make for this presentation is giving the audience the opportunity to provide me with feedback. Feedback is always happening in my classroom. Through check-ins (discussed a bit in the presentation) and student interaction, I get feedback everyday about the lesson and the student’s learning. Student’s receive oral and written feedback from me everyday as well – so how did I manage to forget the opportunity for feedback on my own presentation? I am going to say ‘summer brain’ but that is just my initial thoughts.
I am going to leave you with one last idea, that, I feel, will help every teacher out there that assists student’s in developing their collaboration skills. It is a thought from my first breakout session focusing on those inquiry-based projects.
Get your students to end off their journal entries [or whatever they are seeking feedback/assistance on] with a question to focus feedback and peer help
What a simple idea that is often overlooked. Students know what feedback they are looking for, but never really ask that question when using blogs, or journal entries or forms to seek collaboration and assistance. By incorporating a question at the end, now each response will be targeted to that question. Let’s see if it works!
How do you use inquiry in your classroom? What is your definition (or model) of inquiry?