Thursday, July 26, 2007

Reflection: Workshop - WebLog as a Thinking Tool for Maths Learning

At the start... when it was first conceptualised - the very starting intent is to introduce "BLOGGING" to Maths teachers.

I thought it was just be my mindset.

But it's real - especially when we started to feature blog in our workshops!

The observation: The level of excitement, disbelief(???) and surprises reaffirmed what I thought the situation was. "Blogging" is a new entertainment, new toy to the Maths people. It remains as an alien to the Maths teaching and learning world! It generates a brand new learning experience - to the teachers!!!

Yes, who would have associate blog with Maths learning??? Very very few people!!! Blog has been well known and well-used in language learning. For Maths??? You must be joking!!! Maths people talk very little! We only solve problems!!! hahahaha..... Do you agree? Maths People out there! Alright, stop stereotyping the activities that Maths people do!

OK, to be fair, there were some teachers already started using Blogs for Maths lessons, however, in a very limited fashion - Most treat it like a normal website for information delivery or as an alternative channel for communication (FAQ-type).

Why "Blogging" to Maths learning?
I thought, in fact, I took a very bold step... The only thing I knew (last year... hm... sometime Term 3), after having much fun and exposure and use of the tool to facilitate workshop, I thought, hey, how about using the tool for Maths learning...

  • went on further when we found its potential in Maths journal writing, which is an alternative assessment mode that was sounded to teachers in recent years.
  • also because I bought those 2 books - Journal Writing in the Mathematics classroom, that I found the potential
  • of course, this was further reaffirmed when we conducted the 3h session with the 10 DDMers (Primary HODs/Maths) last year, when I first introduced blog to maths learning (as an alternative platform they could tap on). The level of excitement and the feedback from the participants had reaffirmed the signal - my thoughts are at the right track.

Like it or not... it's really experimentation - it's really trying out what's widely believed not possible, or unlikely... but I think this is really a big success - a breakthrough -

  • not just the way to use an 'unlikely' technology for Maths learning
  • but also a breakthrough of my mental model. Well Done ^.^

Challenges I face...

The challenge are really the words 'thinking tool' (that's reflected in the workshop title)!!! OK, now I suffer (the effect) from not have thought through deep and broad enough! The title of the workshop instead defines what I'm going to delivery! Oh no! That should not be the case!

What I had in mind initially was really very very narrow... for pupils to put up in the blog for reflection writing... and that's all! hahaha...

Anyway, managed to resolve this... with sheer hardwork and active thinking and digging... hahaha... It pays! When the response fo the workshop turn out positive :D I think that's where all the hardwork pays off!


Prior to the class, I did a pre-workshop survey - that I thought it was a very idea (that I thought of this year, and have implemented quite consistently for almost all the school-based workshops) - a pat on my shoulder... hahaha... almost all, except 2 (from the replies) have not blogged before - meaning, created and maintain a blog... So, I'm right, most of them come with 2 objectives

  • to learn how to blog - which I think this is the key motivation to sign up for this workshop. Well, there isn't any workshop (that I'm aware of) that teaches how to blog. In fact, I learn this through sheer exploration and of course, interest and curiosity are the key drivers to further exploration :D
  • to see how it can be used in Maths learning - I believe many come with a sceptical mind... hahaha... I'm making an assumption that I think I'm right to a large extent. As I said, there's a common belief - Maths and blogs? What's the relationship? In fact, there's little literature on the use of Blogs in Maths learning... Hey, perhaps I can start writing a paper on this???

The tone of the class... The class was very quiet and there are many stern-looking faces... at the start... little responses... Oops! So different from my IBL class. OK, another observation: Our Primary School colleagues are livelier... the Secondary School colleagues look more serious... take me right, I'm not referring to their attitude, but the observable body language... Oops! It's like the latter is there to assess!!! Tried to loosen them up a little... and one responded jokingly... "oh yes, Maths people are generally quieter and look more serious, compared to the language people..." Thanks for the comment... and it generated smiles in some faces... Oh well, we can see they livened up when we did the hands-on activity where 4 have to worked together. A good strategy (I thought) that requires them to work as a group and to move around... hahaha... and perhaps such strategy should be adopted for the 1st session - to warm them up first...

What went well...

  • Participants respond well to the new tool.
  • The openness of questions have pleasantly surprised them.
  • They are pretty convinced of the value-add of using the "Comments" feature - that supports the interactive activities.
  • From their participation, the participants were also convinced on the ease to implement blog-based activities (using Comments)
  • Their enthusiasm once got fired up :D Despite many are first timers to blogging, they are patient and asked for more... though it started to get complicated in the 2nd session - where they participated in the group blog.
  • All the activities! That I would safely say, went well and have brought out the 'value-add' of blog to the participants...
  • The attempt to implement in class - about 50% had tried using the blog with their classes after the 1st session (ok, it's part of their homework... but I thought, they responded well to it).
  • Rewarding #1... when in the 2nd session, one participant told me that she actually used blog in a lesson demonstration when a foreign visitor came to the school and visited her class! She even mentioned that she's applying what she learnt from the workshop into practice (showing him the notes!) Bravo! ^.^
  • Rewarding #2... one participant actually applied the skills she learnt to facilitate a learning circle within her department... and she event tried using Group blog! Deserves a good pat on the shoulder for trying this out :D {Trust me, it's not that easy and not many are courgeous enough to try that!}

The school personnel...

Credit must be given to our host - the Queensway staff, who have rendered assistance - in one way or another...

  • Ms Chan, the HOD/Maths. She plays a great hosts in ensuring the things run smoothly... not just to see that the lab is booked, the refreshments are arranged, she even checks that the lab is ok and the TA is available to provide the necessary assistance. She'll even drop-by and get teachers to help to see things through! Really appreciate her help :D
  • Chong, the TA. Another exemplar of excellent service! Everything has been so well thought-through, which we would not find in most TA, especially when providing support to external parties - it's in fact extra service... He ensures that all the things are tested in the preparation day - more kiasu than myself. The very first sign was even before we met, he actually forwarded the detail specs to me as the 1st cut information. He knows what to prepare and how to prepare the trainer - for the logistics aspect. What impressed me more was he bothers to call when he realised that the internet was down in the morning! This is really going an extra mile.
  • I must say, the school is really fortunate to have staff like this :D

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