Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Little Math...And a Big Change

This week's short video documents a Friday afternoon math lesson. It's another example of the high standards that Mr. Mitchell has for his students, both in terms of math and in terms of independent and collaborative learning. But there is an important change in this week's lessons that will have a significant effect on the nature of instruction in the classroom for the remainder of this year and in the future. Before reading on, watch the video and see if you can detect it.

In the meantime, here's a quick description of the afternoon's proceedings.

A few days ago, Mr. Mitchell introduced the Khan Academy to his students as a way to supplement and extend math instruction in his classroom. The students took to it quickly and enthusiastically. For the first few days, all students downloaded and viewed the same videos using the excellent Khan Academy app on their iPads. Next week, Mr. Mitchell plans to create accounts for his students and let them select videos on their own. In the video, you'll see students using some Khan videos along with some math drills and some worksheets from the district's math program. As usual, pairs of student partners have to plan their afternoon's activities and negotiate the use of the iPad and other materials with each other. Headphones with audio splitters allow two students to view the same video simultaneously. Results are emailed to Mr. Mitchell, who can instantly evaluate them and work with students who need extra help.

So, did you catch the difference in this week's instruction?

Notice the iPad that Mr. Mitchell is using to broadcast the lesson to the class. There are no cables connecting it to the projector. Earlier this week, the class acquired an Apple TV which, when connected to the existing projector using an HDMI-to-DVI converter, allows Mr. Mitchell (and his students) to wirelessly project content from their iPads. This provides Mr. Mitchell with the freedom to walk around his classroom rather than instructing from his desk at the front of the class. As a result, he has moved his desk off to the side of the classroom and rearranged the student tables in a central square facing each other. The effect is to further decentralize the classroom and emphasize interaction and learning rather than teacher-directed lessons. He is more free to move from table to table, monitoring students and providing help as needed.

It will be fun to see how this change affects the nature of instruction in this classroom.

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