Friday, February 6, 2015

Blend That Learning!

I spend roughly six hours a week sitting in math classes, supporting regular teachers with Accelerated Math sessions. During that time, I generally sit in the back of the room and mind my own business while the students work. If they hit a technical issue, I can (sometimes) fix it. If they need a test generated or objectives added, I can do that.  This frees up the teacher to answer math questions that inevitably come up.  In fact, I've been known to help (or confuse?) students with their math questions as well. 

Our school has been using Accelerated Math for a bit more than a year, and I've been impressed with the transformation I've seen in that time.

Accelerated Math time used to be just that. Students with iPads, focused on AM.  The only throwback to traditional math classes would be students showing their work in a math notebook. If you were to walk into the room, you would see all faces looking down at mobile screens and would have a hard time guessing what subject students were working on....but you'd be impressed that they were working on iPads.

In recent weeks, I've noticed an incredible shift in how learning is done in these AM classes.

Second grade teacher, Mrs. Tissot actively scours the data generated by AM and traditional math assignments. She obviously puts in a ton of work outside of class, because she knows exactly which student needs more work with each objective. During AM time yesterday, she pulled individual students to sit on the floor with her to do measuring activities. It took only a couple minutes with each student, but they learned the desired skill and got right back to their iPads.

I also work with Mrs. Young who uses AM as a center.  When I am in her class, she normally has 4 or 5 students working on AM.  The rest of her class is working on other assignments and cycle over to the AM table. She uses that time to work with individual students on skills that they need extra practice on.  

In third grade, Mrs. Bartholomew's students have found themselves comparing fractions on MathFacts in a Flash.  Comparing fractions? In third grade? That's not a problem for Mrs. B. She dug around in her closet, found some fraction manipulatives, and told her students to practice with the fraction pieces before testing the skill. Yesterday, I watched as one little girl helped her friend figure out how to use the new tool.  Technology, manipulatives, and collaboration? Score one for Mrs. B!

Mrs. Plikerd teaches 6th grade math in a class with a very wide range of abilities. Most days I saunter into a glorious "organized chaos."  Some students are working on AM. Some are working in their books. Some are being taught a formal lesson. All students are engaged in math, but it's a fluid collaboration of teachers, students, and groups navigating math together.  And it works! Students are growing and learning some intense math skills, way above what I would consider within the ability level of a sixth grader. 

In middle school, Mrs. Gibbs took the idea of math review to a new level.  She posted a Super Bowl bulletin board, and broke the students into two teams.  Intricate rules have grown, but the concept uses class notes, book work, and AM as ways of gaining yards, scoring touchdowns, and even extra points with bonus questions.  Students are telling her how exhausted they are from answering as many questions as quickly and accurately as possible. 

As I waltz around the school, I'm seeing how we're getting this blended learning thing down. It's not necessarily the tech you use, but how you use the tech to teach your students in a way they can learn. 

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