Thursday, November 01, 2007

Spring Teaching, 20 Percent Time and Podcasting

Right now we are in the midst of registration for spring 2008, so my mind has turned to syllabi for my courses. I know it's early, but I'm already thinking about new ways to engage my students. I'm considering two new ideas -- podcasting and 20% time.

Podcasting - The University of Richmond has had an iPod grant for a while. On a competitive basis, faculty can submit a grant proposal with their ideas on enhancing teaching and learning through the use of iPods. Faculty who win these grants receive a a 30GB video iPod and MicroMemo microphone. Students in the courses using the iPods are loaned a 30GB video iPod with a case and a MicroMemo microphone for the semester. I've long thought about applying for a grant, but was not motivated to do so until this year. I was so inspired by Mark Blevis' presentation at the Kidlit conference, that I finally got going and applied. Here's a portion of my proposal:
I have been disappointed in recent years with the quality of textbooks available for my course Foundations of Math Instruction. Most texts focus heavily on pedagogy, which is a major focus of class sessions, and very little on theory and development of mathematical ideas in children. I have been presenting short lectures on these topics and providing outside readings, but I would like to deliver more extensive lectures, and there simply isn't class time to do this. I propose to use the iPod to deliver a series of longer lectures. Initially, these are the topics I would like to focus on.
  • The Mathematical Knowledge Children Bring to School
    • counting and the origins of number concept
    • linguistic structure of number names
    • procedural fluency and counting
    • intuitive notions of magnitude and equivalence
    • intuitive notions of addition and subtraction
    • limitations of preschoolers' mathematical proficiency
  • Reading and Writing Basic Symbols
    • knowledge of written symbols
    • recognition and reading
    • writing numerals
    • reading and writing difficulties
  • Numbers and Number Systems
    • what are numbers?
    • what is a number system?
    • historical development of number systems – tally, additive, multiplicative
    • the idea of base
    • basic digits and place value
    • the role of zero
In addition to delivering course content using the iPod, I propose to have students generate a series of podcasts related to using children's literature to teach mathematical concepts. Currently students review books and write lessons that integrate children's literature, but this work does not reach beyond the boundaries of the classroom. I would like to make these ideas available to a wider audience (elementary teachers, homeschoolers, etc.) by making their podcasts available online. Student podcasts would include a booktalk, short reading of the text, ideas for instruction, and links to related books.
These are just initial ideas, but ones that I am excited about. Even if the grant isn't funded, I may try to find a way to do this on a small scale anyway.

20 Percent Time - 20 percent time is a well-known part of the Google work philosophy, enabling engineers to spend one day a week (or 20% of their time) working on projects that aren't necessarily in their job descriptions. This program keeps engineers engaged and excited about working on new projects while also providing an opportunity for them to grow both professionally and personally.

As I begin to think about required work for my classes, I'm seriously thinking that I might use 20% time as a required assignment and component of the final grade. I see this as a perfect opportunity for students to determine a project that is meaningful to them as they work to demonstrate their mastery of course material. This kind of choice could be highly motivating for students, and as a result, I could get all manner of creative pieces.

So, that's where I am today. Who knows where I'll be tomorrow? What new things are you trying in your classes?

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I'm flattered, humbled and excited at the same time.

    Good luck with the project and keep us posted.