Education and a Global Society

I recently watched Gordon Brown’s Ted Talk,

“The power of our moral sense allied to the power of modern communications and our ability to organize internationally. That in my view gives us the first opportunity as a community to fundamentally change the world.” -Gordon Brown

As I reflect on that quote and the competencies required of individuals to change the world in this way, I am reminded of how educating young people can play an important role in developing a truly global society. I see 3 competencies that are vital: ethics, communication and action; with this comes the need to understand multiple perspectives and cultural differences/similarities. What does this look like in elementary school?  How do we develop empathy and as Jason Silva mentioned in The Big Picture, extend our gaze to develop a massive transformation of consciousness?

I hear it everywhere… the purpose of education is to foster the ability to think critically and develop skills to be a productive member of society. But, I have also heard (especially in this age of high stakes testing) that the purpose of school for your children is to develop  basic skills.  Students absolutely need basic skills, but can’t we help students acquire those skills in ways that build a moral compass, empathy, communication and the desire to act? 

What I very much appreciated in the article Setbacks Aside, Climate Change Is Finding Its Way Into the World’s Classrooms by Beth Gardiner was the idea of focusing on, “the “handprint” of individuals’ beneficial actions, rather than the harm suggested by an environmental footprint.”  I sometimes worry that through news and current events we are depicting the world as very scary and unjust. Yes, we absolutely have many inequities and global problems, but I think if we start using the lens of what “handprints” are being left and what can we learn from those actions we might be able to turn some of these injustices into better learning opportunities for ways our young people can act.

On Wednesday, my class participated in a Google Hangout with Paul Salopek, a Journalist with National Geographic who is walking around the world for 7 years, following the path of early migration. If you have not heard of the Out of Eden Walk, check it out. And, as an educator check out Out of Eden Learn through Project Zero at Harvard.  It has been a great way for my students to connect their world with students in Dubai, Australia, and Eastern United States (the countries represented in our walking party).

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But, back to our Hangout with Paul.  One of his messages was human kindness is everywhere.  He stated, ”I’m being passed from kindness to kindness”. We have to remember this as much as discuss global problems.

Another way that we have focused on the “handprints” we can leave is when we studied teen activists.  I got this idea from Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study in Writing .  While students were reading about such issues as slavery, girls who weren’t allowed to go to school due to radical leaders and religious beliefs, or child labor, the focus that there were people out there acting and making a difference was powerful. Yet, while I was hoping they would be inspired and choose to act (I felt like I shouldn’t force them to and I’m not sure if this was the right choice), they have not done so yet.  My question is how do we move from knowledge about global problems to acting to change and rid the world of those problems? As I think about that, while they showed a desire to act, they have no idea how to start.  

We are starting small.  This next week, students will be choosing one thing that they can do to make the world a better place.  It can be small or large, but they need to commit to something. We will see how that goes, but I really want it to come from them, so I’m still thinking through this aspect.

Unfortunately, inequities are not just a global problem, they are a problem in our schools as well. When Gordon Brown spoke about how Olof Palme desired to abolish the poor and to let everyone have the chance to realize their potential to the full, it made me think about all the inequities in our schools: tracking, access to technology, access to powerful teaching and learning, etc. How are we doing at providing equitable learning experiences to all our students and are we providing all our students the chance to realize their potential to the full?  This reminds me of a blog post I just read by Kristin Gray, a math coach on the east coast, regarding RTI. I agree that we have to develop strong interventions for students. It is vital, but are we being equitable and just in how we are doing it? This is an area we need to focus on. The article Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares was yet another reminder of this.  We need to do a better job.

One way to improve equitable access to learning is through global education. When we provide all students with opportunities to interact with others and understand multiple perspectives, in addition to learning how to communicate in person, in writing, and online, while also developing empathy for others and providing all students with rich, relevant, meaningful tasks that foster critical thinking skills, we will be one step closer to developing a more just and equitable educational system and improved global society. 

Ahhh…always more work to be done.

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Solving Current Events: A Follow Up

Last week I wrote about a lesson I had developed from a video I saw about a volunteer in Lesbos using the materials of life jackets for bags. This is a reflection on how the lesson went with my class.

First of all, it was motivating, inspiring, open, and students had to persevere.

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 6.40.46 PMThe day after I wrote the lesson we were not going to have math since we were going on a field trip, but I had 15 minutes before we left on the trip and I was able to engage students in some wondering. We went through the first slides and noticed and wondered, not thinking about math at all. Though, my students are now mathematizing the world, so a few mathematical wonderings came through.

 

Then that evening they read this article and were able to answer some of their wonderings.

The math extravaganza began. We took on a math lens and thought like mathematicians. Noticing, wondering and determining what information we needed.IMG_7390 (1)

I am always so amazed with the mathematical questions students are developing now. Determining what they needed was a lot harder than in other lessons we have done. Why? It was a big scale problem with multiple questions to solve. But, through conversation they came up with some good ideas.  I then gave the students the information they asked for and they were off!

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It was fascinating to watch how students approached the problem. Some just started tracing complex shapes, others grabbed rulers and drew precise lines, others drew free hand lines, but then as they saw their classmates using rulers, changed their minds. IMG_7387IMG_7380

They helped each other and after awhile all students were looking for shapes that they knew how to find the area of. I had a few students that really struggled with this and I wanted them to get to finding the area, so I provided them with my shapes.  Then they were off. It was a great way for some students to get additional reasoning with finding the area of shapes and it was through this problem that some really saw the relationships of different shapes to one another.

“I know how to find the area of triangles, so I decided to turn all these into triangles. There are triangles in every shape. ”

And then they solved….IMG_7386IMG_7388

Thinking, connecting, and then we needed a discussion. Can we find the actual area if we use the ratio 1 mm: 2 4/5m?IMG_7400We discussed how the ratio we were given was a linear ratio and we could use that for finding length, but to find area, we needed to create a new ratio of square millimeters to square meters.  And then we had some solutions…IMG_7402

We shared different strategies: converting all the lengths in millimeters to meters and then finding the area compared to finding the area in square millimeters and then converting to different units. We then found the median and mean of our results.

Then came the question: How many lifejackets are there in 40,000 square meters?

It was great to be able to review the use of ratio tables and to see the different ways students approached the problem, connecting the three different strategies. We engaged in the “Compare and Connect”  math discussion that is introduced in Intentional Talk by Elham Kazemi and Allison Hintz

And then there were the students who extended the problem…

I clearly am a terrible photographer… But did you know that 40,000 square meters is equivalent to 7 1/2 football fields, 91 1/2 NBA regulation basketball courts and about 1/2 of Buckingham palace?

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And if you were to lay pencils down in 40,000 square meters, you can fit 3,007,518 pencils. hahaha

Finally came…Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 12.22.19 PM

Hahaha, this is when I was reminded I work with 11 and 12 year olds. What would they do? “I would make a pile and build a huge slide on it.”

“I would jump in the lifejackets.”

“I would take them back to Turkey and resell them.”

“I would make a boat out of them and sell the boat.”

Clearly, we have fun seekers and entrepreneurs.  Next time, I would change the question to… What would you MAKE with 450,000 life jackets?

I then shared with them the video about how they are making bags out of the lifejackets and left students with the question. What extraneous materials do we have lying around and what useful object could we make out of it?

It was a two day lesson, but a lot of learning: using a ruler, calculating area, solving proportions, developing a plan, comparing and connecting, and persevering.

 

 

Solving Current Events: Math, Design, Global Connection

Who knew Facebook actually could be inspiring?

A friend recently posted this video

http://www.rferl.org/media/video/upcycling-refugee-style/27587634.html

And then the wheels started to turn when I saw this picture…

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How many lifejackets are there? What area is taken up by life jackets? Ooohhhh…I see rectangles, trapezoids, and triangles.  I can connect what we have been studying in geometry to what we are moving on to next: ratios and unit rates. Not only is there math, but  we can write, do some design thinking, and develop a greater understanding of the greater world. Here is the lesson. Please feel free to comment. All ideas are welcome.

Before doing the math lesson, I might have students read one of the two articles and notice and wonder about some images.

time.com/4023601/migrant-crisis-greece-lesvos/

https://newsela.com/articles/migrants-techsavvy/id/12077/

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I would then show students this image, asking what they notice and wonder. We might record their noticings and wonderings using Poll Everywhere or Pear Deck, or I might chart their ideas on chart paper. I like using technology because then everyone is able to share at once, but I also like when students share ideas orally because it tends to generate even more and creates excitement in the classroom.Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 12.19.34 PM

We would then zoom in and add new noticings and wonderings.

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and zoom in even more to finally see what is actually there.

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Now enters math… I would start our math class telling students it is time to think like a mathematician and have them ask some mathematical questions.

From the list we generated I would hope that these two would arise. Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 12.21.13 PM

Then I would ask what information do you need to answer those questions. We would create a list of information that is needed and then give them the following information.

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Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 10.32.47 AMNow comes the fun…planning, persevering, and solving. After students have been working for a bit, if I notice a lot of struggling, I might stop them and ask them…Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 12.21.50 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-09 at 12.38.27 PM

If students are still struggling, or for those students that need additional supports, I might share with them the shapes I saw and let them work form that.Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 12.23.57 PM

After students were given time to solve for the two questions, we would share out strategies and engage in Mathematical Practice #3: Critiquing and Justifying.

I would then share with them the data that was in the article:

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At another time, I would then ask students…Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 12.22.19 PM

We would engage in some creative design thinking and come up with some uses for 450,000 life jackets. I would then share the video that inspired this lesson and we would read. this article.

Lastly, here are a few extensions…

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Here is the Ratio and area lesson Refugee if you would like to use it.

As I write this all down, it feels long.  I wonder what I might change. What do you think?

Global Math

I love to travel.

I love teaching math.

I love when I can turn travel into a math lesson.

On December 26, I had an urge…an urge to travel, so I jumped onto Kayak to see where in the world I could go that would be a decent price. Ecuador? Nope…too much. Japan? Whoa…this might be it.  Leave tomorrow? Sure, why not? So I went for it. I booked my flight and was ready to go.

But, that is not all. I was celebrating my most random last minute trip with a friend and her husband said, “Babe, why don’t you go too?”

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” was all I could say. Short story…we booked her a flight too!

celebrate

On December 27, we were off on our adventure to Japan. For the global wanderer in me, I have 3 words…I love Japan!  I never knew I would, but I am definitely going to go back there and spend some time observing schools and learning about their educational system, especially math instruction. I have always been fascinated, but now I HAVE to do that!

Well, our trip was amazing, but when I can combine the mathematics that my students are learning with a trip, it makes it even better. First idea…travel distance to Japan using rates. We had just started working on ratios before I left on the trip, what a perfect introduction to unit rates using miles per hour.

My plan…make it a game. Where in the world did Ms. K and Ms. S go? Giving students the average speed, the time to travel, they can determine the mileage.  We will do a little noticing and wondering. Have them determine what information they might need. Then I will give them the data and off they will explore. After they figure out the mileage, I will give them maps and they can try to guess where we went using their knowledge of ratios. My goal will be for them to understand what a rate is and how unit rates can be useful. I definitely made it complicated, but complexity is what makes it fun and my students would not expect anything less. See the video below.

A Japanese Holiday Room 15  on Vimeo. Password: japanmath

 

The second idea came when we were eating lunch and looking at all the Japanese coins. We came across1971japan5yenobv400

We had no idea how much it was. All the rest of the coins had the value shown, this one did not.

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We finally finished and paid. Ahhhh,  what did we get as a change? Yes, the unmarked coin. We paid with 2,000 yens. The bill was 1,682 yens. Our change….

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Ahhhh, a little algebra… 3 (100) + 1 (10) + 3 (1) + x = 318 yen

The unmarked coin is worth….

This will be a perfect warm up to keep working on writing equations with variables. Yay!

Lesson learned…staying home is relaxing, but traveling is fun and inspirational! Where will I go next?

 

 

 

Students Who Want to Learn…Building Academic Mindsets

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I HATE all the “bribing” happening in schools. You read and you get a party. You do your homework and you get a party. You complete all your work and you get a party.

How about you GET to read, you WANT to learn by practicing at home, you WANT to complete all your work because you are interested and see value in learning.

Let’s not underestimate kids. Let’s get to know them, help them see the purpose of schooling, the love of learning, the enjoyment in books, and the creativity in math. I know it is hard, but if we always just use tricks and bribes, will we ever get the intrinsic desire to learn that we all need? I know there are some kids that need that extrinsic motivation at first, but I just think it is becoming too much the norm. It is becoming a crutch instead of a scaffold and I think we need to stop. Let’s create thinkers who love learning!

I am determined to break this cycle and help my students develop strong academic mindsets that will help them to have long term success in school and in life. One of the things that we did at the start of the year was to learn about the Global Campaign for Education. We graphed how long it took us to get to school, and then watched the documentary On the Way to School. Later, we compared our time and distances to the 4 stories.

This was a true eye opening experience for my students. We discussed why the children would travel such far distances just to go to school. We also completed all the lessons from Lesson for All Curriculum. It was powerful for my students to learn about the barriers to education and then to think about what people are doing to the lessen those barriers.

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I now have students working to figure out how they can support and reduce the barriers for students around the world. Through this work my students were the ones that brought up the topic of attitude and students were saying it is not just about going to school, but it is what you do while you are there. Yes! They said, “Distance is a barrier to get to school, but attitude is a barrier to achieving in school.” Awesome!

They said it and I’m using it. Do you have the right attitude? Are you mentally here and engaged? If not, what can you do to change your attitude?

In addition, we started the year with Jo Boaler’s Week of Inspirational Math. Brilliant! We learned about growth mindset, the notion of brain crossing, growing dendrites and how mistakes can cause synapses to fire. (This is also linked to our study of cells and neurons) Students saw that through effort, they can learn and challenges are important. And….they are just loving math!

The Four 4s!

They are seeing the fun and creative side to the subject, engaging in argument, and becoming pattern seekers. Yesterday, while I was reading a book in which the author states that her least favorite subject was math, the class looked at me appalled and in shock. Yes! They are all starting to love math.

Lastly, after reading Zaretta Hammond’s book, Cultural Responsive Teaching and the Brain,

I was determined to do a better job of being more culturally proficient and helping all my students develop strong academic Mindsets and being the “Warm Demander”.

This is from her website and I am on the road to #1, #3 and #5.

http://ready4rigor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Five-CRT-Teaching-Moves.p

I wanted to start the year by building strong relationships with my students. So, I decided to share part of my culture with them and I set up a Fika or a walk (some people talk more when they walk) with each student.

We talked about how they felt about different subjects, what their afternoon schedule is like, and their interests. We then created a special handshake. Yes, I now have 26 handshakes that I have to remember as they all enter the room each morning. I admit it, I don’t always remember them. But, I will get there.

We we are off to a good start.. I see a few kids changing already. It will be hard, but we will do it or die trying. 🙂 Next comes goal setting this week based off of some of the assessments they have taken and creating our learning pacts

I want them to leave my class as learners: inquisitive about the world and motivated to find out the answers to their questions.

…and so it begins

I’ve been told that I should journal more times than I care to admit.

Yes, I’m always thinking.

Yes, I have a need to sort through all the thoughts.

Yes, I tend to share my thoughts with the people I work with.

Might they not want to receive my plethora of emails with my ideas or my “thesis” as one colleague put it? Hmmm… I can understand how the answer to that might be a yes.

But…journaling? It just seems so wasteful to write all my ideas down for only me, myself and I.  So, in enters blogging. At least there is a chance someone out there might read it, comment about it, engage in a conversation about my thoughts.

Why a nomadic teacher?

1. I can’t seem to last more than a few years in any one position, school, or city.

2. I am not just interested in one subject or one component of teaching…I drift.

3. When I grow up I want to be a nomad and just travel from one place to the next.

What will this blog entail? Not quite sure. But, I will guarantee that it will be nomadic, drifting from one idea to the next and connecting it all together: learning and the brain, math, global competency, writing, science, ridding the world of bad homework and summative grades that are not conducive to student learning, cultural proficiency, technology, engineering, and maybe even a little reading.

I have been completely inspired recently by Zaretta Hammond and her Book: Cultural Proficiency and the Brain, every single component of Cognitively Guided Instruction (How can you teach without understanding how a student thinks and knowing what they know? Read all 3 books if you have not! ), CCSS in Math- the battles, the challenges, the increased understanding that teachers have to have in order to teach it, Lesson Study (One day I am going to go to Japan and see this in action) David Perkin’s FutureWise: Educating our Children for a Changing World,  a More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger, Sandra Kaplan’s work about Depth and Complexity and Universal Themes (thanks Joanna!), and Global Competency (bring in the Asia Society), NGSS and this notion of starting with Phenomena and creating models, and finally the entire Maker Movement. Let’s create!

My goal as I enter my 16th year of teaching (man, I sound old) and back into the classroom after a 2 year hiatus as a TOSA is to create a program in which students are engaged in “life-worthy” learning,  questioning, using (not just obtaining) knowledge, making and creating, understanding multiple perspectives, collaborating and problem solving, developing a sense of self and developing an understanding of our greater world. I want to engage my students and myself in learning that is deep, relevant, and long lasting.

So here goes…back to the classroom, back to 6th grade. Let’s do this!