Thursday, February 7, 2013

Disruptive math at the upcoming NCTM Annual Conference

Disruptive project?
In almost every school there is a teacher (or a bunch of  teachers) doing something down the hall that the students love and that the administration condones/tolerates/admires/makes excuses for despite the fact that the teachers are not following th school's protocol to the letter (i.e. not prepping enough for the tests.) Other teachers are aware of what these disrupters are doing, but for one reason or another are not replicating since its not part of the school curriculum and would be way "too much work." So the disruptive activity continues without much fanfare.

One form of what these disruptive teachers are doing can be called "project based learning" where students individually or in groups are exploring questions or solving problems that are intrinsically interesting to them. In these classes the students have bought into the "jobs" that the teachers are offering them to do.* For example, the teacher may take the students out in the playground to measure shadows to determine the length of a shadow when the sun is highest in the sky as part of what's called the Noon Day project where students with the help of other students from other parts of the world recreate the measurement of the circumference of the earth that Eratosthenes did over 2200 years ago to a high degree of accuracy. The measurements were inspired by a video on Youtube of Carl Sagan telling the story of the experiment in a  compelling way. One of the reasons why this can be considered disruptive is that students need to go out and do their measurements around noon time when the sun is highest in the sky. Not always something easy to do in tightly scheduled school day. But these "disruptive" teachers find a way.

Upcoming Annual NCTM Conference this April in Denver 
I received the NCTM 2013 Annual Meeting preview in the mail recently which always reminds to do my usual analysis of technology sessions. Last year in Philadelphia 33% of the sessions had a technology component which was an all time record. (I've been keeping track of sessions since 1987 when there were 14 sessions devoted to Logo.)  Since one of last year's themes was technology, I expected the bubble to burst and the number of tech sessions to drop off to the usual percentage which is in the teens. But to my surprise it only dropped off slightly. Approximately 28% of the 724 sessions posted have something to do with technology. That is, the sessions had at least one technology key word in its description.  Here's one of the sessions that grabbed my attention.

Session 141
Learning Online and Outdoors: Integrating Geocaching into the Mathematics Classroom
Lucy Bush and Jeffrey Hall
Grade Band Audience: General Interest/All Audiences
Mile High 1 E/F (Convention Center)

Description: Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt with many opportunities for mathematics education. From geospatial awareness to decryption, students use a variety of mathematical skills to find hidden treasures in the great outdoors. Alternatively, MathCaching websites award virtual treasures on the basis of content-specific capabilities.

It's amazing how easy it was to find more information about this presentation. I did a Google search using "Lucy Bush math" and discovered a 3 page article (see pages 20-22) written by the authors about this activity. Again as I did last year I'm asking speakers to provide updates to their talks that will be posted on the CLIME site.

You can see NCTM's listing of all 700+ sessions in Denver here.
Here is the list of the 200+ technology sessions.

If you are one of the speakers, please let me know so we can stay in touch and I can update your description with links, photos and whatever else you deem relevant. At the moment the NCTM listing only allows for attached downloads that you provide. CLIME's listing will be available for you to update right up and throughout the conference.

I'll be hunting for and reporting on other disruptive technology oriented activities that will be presented at the annual meeting in the next blog entry.

*Christensen, C., Horn, M., Johnson, C. Rethinking Student Motivation - Why Understanding the "Job" is Crucial for Improving Education