Monday, March 26, 2012

Hybrid PD - Online Community Development Pt. 4 - Student Focused!

I am in the midst of the fourth online unit with my two teacher cohorts, part of the long-term Sketchpad PD we have been engaged in since December 2011. So far, we have had four face-to-face get-togethers and four online units, which have varied in their length. I have been sharing what I have noticed these past several months as well as the planning I have done based on the feedback and interactions from the online units(see the series listings at the end of this post).

What has really struck me, this month in particular, is the focus of all the participants on their students.  I know it seems obvious that a teacher would focus on their students, but what I mean is the actual thought behind what they are teaching, how they are teaching, and how that impacts student understanding. This long-term PD has  focused on technology activities, the math content, the pedagogy, and the Common Core standards, and how all of these components fit together to help students learn and, more importantly, understand the math concepts. I have noticed the teachers are really thinking about what their students need and how they can help address those needs using technology.  Thinking about possible misunderstandings or ways to help students who are struggling ahead of time.  There is a real focus on preparing lessons that challenge students, help them visualize and make connections, and dare I say it - even struggle to reach understanding.  Here are a few comments that exemplify what I am talking about:

"Right away I had thoughts of how if presented the opportunity to explore things like this in partnerships, kids would actually help each other correct things that don't work.  Working together to get through a difficult problem might actually lessen their frustration and help them persevere in solving it. I think as a classroom teacher its also important to have a set of clear classroom expectations and guiding questions ready because I also see kids getting off task from the objectives of the lesson if they become too frustrated. Asking questions that reflect on the objective of the lesson or asking them about using what they already know allows them to correct their own mistakes without telling them it didn't work."
 "I like the fact that Sketchpad allows for a lot of mistakes. If you don't like what you made, oh well, you open a new sketch, just like that. Students experience failure in a gentle way, and build their success little by little.I have noticed that students are not afraid to ask their peers for help, and peers are confident enough to walk to their peers' places and assist them."
" I have found that whenever you get away from the norm of instruction and into investigation and exploration, much more learning takes place. Students are allowed to make mistakes and fumble through the activities and that is where the learning takes place. The key for the students is the motivation to persevere the the mistakes and roadblocks to get to an answer."

 While the teachers have been learning Sketchpad and learning how to integrate the technology effectively and appropriately in their classes, I think where I am seeing the most eye opening change is in their learning about their students. They really focus on "what do my students need, where will they struggle, and how will I help them get past that struggle to true understanding?" They are not focused on giving students the algorithms or the answers, but rather on "how can I help them get to their own understanding?"  This alone seems to be a reason to promote long-term professional development with teachers. Time to learn, practice, reflect, analyze student work, and get feedback from peers seems to really provide teachers with insight into their own teaching and a willingness to try new things.

For the other posts in this series, click the following links:

Planning for Hybrid PD - Comfort Level and Confidence First
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD - Day 1 
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD - Day 2
Hybrid PD - Online Community Development Pt 1 
Planning for Hybrid PD (part 2) - Develop Community and Supportive Environment 
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD (Part 2) - F2F Feedback 
Hybrid PD - Online Community Development Pt. 2 
Planning for Hybrid PD (part 3) - Make it Relevant 
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD (part 3) - F2F feedback 
Hybrid PD - Online Community Development Pt. 3 
Planning for Hybrid PD (part 4) - Teacher Input  
Follow-up On Planning for Hybrid PD (part 4) - F2F Feedback

No comments: