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My scenario

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caroline kuhn
21 January 2013

This is the description of my scenario

 

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A group of math teachers are preoccupied about the motivation and interest of their students in mathematics class. They see how students struggle more and more to engage in active participation and moreover they performance is poor.  Teachers talking to each other get to the conclusion that students are uninterested in the subject, hence there are not posing interesting questions in class, their homework is incomplete if they do it at all, and so forth. Their mathematical ideas are not connected; they are like disconnected chains that lack of any meaning and coherence consequently, making no sense at all for them. Teachers are thinking in how they could show their students that math is a science that had and still is growing within time, building its body of knowledge in a continuum through incessant struggle with unsolved problems or incomplete theories that needed re-shape in order to serve the understanding of nature phenomena. Teachers were convinced that students did never thought about mathematics as a human activity and of mathematical knowledge as one created by mathematicians –human beings–part of a particular society and situated in an intellectual context at a particular time.

So they were wondering how this idea of introducing some history of mathematics could help to solve this problem and in doing so they could contribute to improve their understanding of the science improving their motivation and enthusiasm so necessary to perform good in a learning scenario. If mathematics becomes human and doable, then maybe, it could become doable for them also. (this is the intellectual part of the reflection, the one that has to do just with the mathematical knowledge, they believed was the core of the problem).

Paul, a teacher among the group, who’s very connected to their students, did reflect on the conversation; he had a strange feeling of incompleteness. For him, something in the solution the group proposed was missing. He felt there was no connection to the human part of students. They just analysed the problem looking at the subject matter; they forgot something very important, the human face of the problem. What is happening with the feelings of students, what are they thinking about their problem? Are they happy with this poor performance and the boredom in class? Aren’t they also questioning the dynamic of the math class and the teaching style? The way they were approached by their teachers?

Paul always wonders why is he more identified with students than with teachers. He rather spends the break time (lunch, interclass time) in the sports court or dining room that in the teacher’s space. There, he thinks he can get a better grasp of students’ attitude outside classroom, and also observe how they interact with each other. He has a particular interest for teenagers; he is always fascinated with their amazing energy and cheeky attitude towards life. Also being among students gives him more chances to get into talks about different things going on outside and inside the class in a more relaxed and informal way, getting to know his students better. Students feel that he is genuinely curious about their interests, joy, anxieties, doubts, angers and frustrations and they have an open attitude to him. They like much to include him in their group chats in the hall and they have a certain feeling of “connivance” with him.

Students where talking about how bored they are in math class, so they include him in the conversation: “Hey Paul, sorry for the question, but don’t you get bored in class?” Math sucks! We hate it!! It is just formulas and rules and nothing really seems to be connected. You have like to memorize a bunch of things and on top of that study like a nerd! No way! Fuck math!! I mean you are a nice guy but really we don’t understand what you do with your life teaching such a boring and irrelevant subject! Have you ever had the sensation of being in the middle age while teaching? Sorry if I am too rude, but you nerve use social media for nothing, it is like we live in parallel worlds. One outside the class where we are we and we can express our selves how we wish and feel confortable with. Socializing, discovering and sharing a bunch of stuff and creating upon that even nicer stuff!! Remixing, do you know what that means?? It’s fucking amazing!! You have to try it! There are so many nice and cool apps to do new things, and you still work with a static blackboard and taking care that we do not copy from each other. You live in the dinosaur age!! Nowadays things are so different out there. But school is never out there, it hires in a buble where things are almost fake and always related with “sin”. School looks at collaboration and sharing as copying!! You guys are really crazy and out of date!! We thought maybe you want to be part of our social network? I think you would have lots of fun and indeed I am sure that with your intelligence, you will find a fucking great world in there. I don’t know if you heard something about our culture, we call it the funky media gang, but in your intellectual circle it is called a “participatory culture”. Paul says: Hey guys do you think I’m from Mars?? Of course I do have a social media network, a very active one. We do a lot of stuff there, we share thoughts, videos and ideas and then we build something better sharing and collaborating. And yes I know what you mean with this culture, let me tell you that I am part of it also!! Students: “WHAT??? YOU??? NO, YOU’RE KIDDING!!” Paul: Yes, me, Paul, your math teacher. Let me tell you about this funky gang culture: It is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another. At the least they care what other people think about what they have created. Students were astonished hearing at him and did not believe their ears. “And how come you never connected all this amazing and dynamic world you know in our class?” One student said: Hey Paul you must feel a completely outsider in your teacher team. I guess that no one of them thinks as you do. Paul could not answer this because he really did not know the answer. The bell rang and everybody had to go to class.

Paul goes preoccupied with the idea that students feel bored and out of context, it did not leave his mind. Once he is in the teachers’ space he decided to talk to them about what he is thinking and all what he discussed with students before. He said that students talk to him about how board and unengaged they feel in math class. They (students) don’t see any thing in common in her school and daily life; there is no intersection at all. They have this feeling of being in a place where the world stops and moreover, goes back. A total disjunction between reality and school education. Paul asks for there opinion. It was a long silence in the room and lots of shaking heads with a ‘no’ attitude. Paul was really upset and did not believe that nobody has similar feelings with him (resistance to change, he thought).

The conversation he had left him more shocked. The teachers are not willing to work in a different way that they do. They are not even aware of what is going on in class? That is impossible he thought. So he gave fear and anxiety to the unknown a chance. He needs to figure out a way to overcome this and show teachers that they also can get into this participatory culture and try in one way to engage students in a common space.

One week later in class, Matias was not attending to Paul’s explanation about graphs and functions; he was looking at his mobile phone. Paul, who has empathy with his students, walked to Matias desk and asked him about what he was doing and Matias said, plotting the function you just gave us and it looks ten times better than yours; sorry but its true. I can see here in this graph (on the mobile phone) how the function decreases from (2, 5) and immediately increases until infinity. I was thinking about the meaning of this abrupt change. But as you take so long plotting it in the blackboard we cannot analyse this issues that really make me wonder and I think it is really what matters. That was the inflection point for Paul. He decided to talk to the group and figure out how to organize a workshop for teacher in digital literacy as a first step to break the ice and slowly moving forward with some other ideas to include in the math class.

 

 

caroline kuhn
01:01 on 21 January 2013 (Edited 01:03 on 21 January 2013)

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