Thoughts & Ramblings

Location: Tobaccoville, North Carolina

Monday, January 31, 2005

Coffee Percolator

I’m really enjoying the format of the course. At first I wasn’t sure how much interaction I would have with other classmates, but discussion has been great. I’m slow writing in my blog this week. I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s comments on Blackboard. In many ways I feel like a coffee percolator. (I love coffee!) The good kind of percolator where the coffee sits in the tray up top and the water slowly flows through as a rich, delicious aroma fills the room. The blackboard discussion is the water flowing through my brain. All of these thoughts about how everything affects a course design are running through my head. The infrastructure, students, classroom setup, material, textbook, etc. all matter when planning a course. So many elements that can all be used to create a rich and powerful learning environment.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Audience + Content + Structure = Instruction

This “equation” sums it up quite well for me. I’m going to take it piece by piece to give my opinion of the relationship to how I design infrastructure for my classes.

Audience: We have no control over who our audience is, but we need to spend time getting to know our audience. This information provides valuable insight into how course material needs to be designed. The design should meet the needs of the user not the designer!

Content: In the case of content, educators may have some control over what is presented. Educators need to know what the content is and reflect on the contents relation to the audience. As was evident in the Thich Nhat Hahn article, everything is related to everything else. The content may seem removed from the audience but a connection does exists. The idea is to make the content part of active knowledge rather than inert knowledge (Perkins).

Structure: This is the part that puts everything together. This is where the educator decides how to demonstrate the relationship between content & audience and how to make the content active not inert. Lot’s of decisions need to made in this area. This is the fun part.

For me one of the starting places of structure is determining wants and need, i.e. instructional goals. Content & audience determine my goals. Bransford states, “different kinds of learning goals require different approaches to instruction.” The different approaches are my design choices. Do I pick a design that is more learner centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered or community centered? Every lesson does not have the same design, because each lesson has a unique set of goals. Yet each design needs a little bit of learner, knowledge, assessment & community centering.

So what do I do now? Negotiation comes into play. I think about what my students may want, versus what I feel they need. The balance, what I pick, is somewhere in the middle. I like lessons that allow students to build knowledge by connecting topics and applying the connections to the “real world.” This is not always the correct design for every lesson. I tend to incorporate more knowledge and assessment centered than learner, or community centered. I like to play around with different presentations (graphical, numerical, analytical, verbal) that lead to better understanding. I make the presentation decision based more on the audience than material. This mean I do not necessarily present the same material in the same manner for two years in a row. Keeps things interesting for me.

Right now tools are a big aspect of my infrastructure. I am fascinated by the way technology affects my students. (I teach higher-level all female mathematics classes) Many of my students come in hesitant sometimes fearful of their calculators. I try to let them play and build confidence in using this tool and other tech tools such as Mimio (portable smart board device), PowerPoint, Excel, TI-connect, basically any tech tool I find and feel can be incorporated effectively and appropriately. With the way our society is changing and the typical hesitation many females feel in higher-level mathematics, I think technology use is a needed part of my classroom structure. I want my students to be confident in their technology use.

I like to use assessments to judge the effectiveness of certain lessons. I want to get at their understanding and not just their knowledge through summative assessments. The journals and review pages that my students keep give me insight into how they think and how they feel about a lesson. This helps me know what needs to be tweaked and what is pretty good. Allow of this plays into whether I keep, modify, or completely redesign the lesson for the next year. Feedback lets me know if my infrastructure works.

Instruction: If I am lucky it all comes together and my students (and myself) get it. I’ve taught the same courses for seven years now and haven’t gotten board because I’m constantly tweaking to make things close to perfect. Changes in my course are made when I learn more, find more tools, and get more feedback

Design Process

I see several steps in my personal design process.

1) Determine the need or want;
2) Making a list of what needs to done;
3) Taking a break to organize my thoughts and decide how to proceed;
4) Getting the details together;
5) Creating a diagram or diagrams which lays out what I need to do;
6) Deciding which diagram to use by talking to other people;
7) Putting the design in place;
8) Make changes as necessary.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Possible LIS Course project

I've journaled for a long time, the old-fashioned way with paper & ink. Recently I started typing my ideas and saving them on a disk. But this is my first time journalling on-line. I like it so far.

I've been thinking about a project I might take on for this course. I like the idea of making this project relevant to what we are doing in our lives. One idea I am playing with deals with a new course I'll be teaching in the fall. This course is called Advanced Functions & Modeling (AFM) and it will be the first time it is taught at the Academy.

AFM is going to replace a trig course we presently have as well incorporate some statistics & probability, and algebra review. I have the general outline of topics from the NC Department of Instruction, but have not layed out exactly what topics I want covered in the course. I would like to design some aspect of AFM for my course project. I'm not sure if I want to focus on a broad design of AFM (what topics to be covered, length spent of each topic, order of topics, course grading, procedures, etc.) or if I want to focus and do detail design on a particular unit of AFM (algebra review, trigonometry, statistics or probability).

This is just an idea I'm playing with, but I definately open to suggestions.