We were very fortunate to have Darren Kuropatwa present to our EC&I 831 class last night: “A Day in the Life of a teacher teaching with technology“. I think I sat through most of the presentation with my jaw on my keyboard! He is absolutely AMAZING! I have not taught in about 6 years now, but watching him was so inspirational, that I started having all of these great ideas pop into my head about what my classroom would look like now. My biggest question was where does he find the time? One of my colleagues in the class actually asked him how does he balance work and home life, because he painted the picture of a very involved Dad and husband, but has what I would call a “Utopian classroom”. He is the type of teacher that takes his career seriously and I applaud him for bringing his classroom into the 21st century in a big way.

The format of his presentation was a great way for us to actually “feel” what it is like to be in one of his classes and as someone who would have fit into his class of the “mathematically wounded”, an interactive setting like Darren is providing for his students would have been extremely beneficial. Darren actually sees that our students are different today and does unique things like opening each class with a picture from Creative Commons on Flickr that relates to the concept being taught that day. He uses numerous technologies with his Smartboard, but the two that stood out for me especially and that we spent a considerable amount of time looking at, included the blogs that he has going for each class (see one of his class blogs here) and the use of Slideshare to share his daily lessons online. I never thought of it until now, but both ways are also very helpful if students miss a day of school, they can catch up online! (sorry for the blurt)

Darren’s classes use blogs to ENGAGE in math conversations, creating their own textbook (each day one student writes a summary of the day’s learnings), reflect about their own learning experiences, and for some of his ESL students (33% of his school are ESL students), there is a widget “Answers” so that when any word in the blog is double-clicked, you can HEAR how it is pronounced, SEE what the definition is and EXTEND their learning by linking to other resources. WOW – talk about attending to the adaptive dimension! Plus,students are more comfortable in this forum, so they share more and they have another way to communicate with their teacher (his email is right at the top of the blog and there is also a link to yackpack so they can verbally talk online). Talk about being connected!

There are three great ways that the daily lessons that are posted online can be used:

  1. are another great way for his students to connect and review what they have learned (or stay caught up if they are unable to attend the class);
  2. a great tool for Darren’s own reflection and professional development; and
  3. the philosopy of web 2.0 – open and free sharing of ideas! (if only all the math teachers out there knew about this).

Obviously, I learned a lot from Darren last night and was extremely inspired by him. But as my last point above states, how many math teachers (or any subject really) are actually forging into the vast array of technologies that are now available? How many of them fear it? How many of our students fear it if they are, for example, one of the students that does not have a computer in their home? Does this single them out and make a subject that is already feared by many(sorry to all of you math teachers – you have a tough job!), even more difficult? Conversely it can also be argued, (and this is probably more where I come from on this subject), are these students who fear math going to do better because there is finally a forum for them to “compete” and be heard in? How many students are now enjoying a subject that they maybe hadn’t in the past because it is engaging them?

Although there will be some teacher resistance, many challenges and much learning to be done, I hope that more teachers are brave enough to give it a try and bring education to a new level of engaging students. Darren said two thing that really feed in to the idea of engaging students :

  1. “Watch it. Do it. Teach it.”
  2. It is in “the quality of connections”.

Thanks to Darren Kuropatwa for the inspiration! Thanks to Alec Couros for bringing in such a great presenter!