In his article How to Get a Job at Google Thomas Friedman describes some of the qualities that he looks for when hiring Google employees. He first states that he is not looking for a candidate to have good GPA or even a college degree for that matter. Some of the qualities that he looks for are general cognitive ability, emergent leadership skills, humility, ownership, and least importantly expertise. Friedman and Google as a whole have realized that "talent can come in so many different forms"; so no longer are they just looking for new-hires who have a 4.0 GPA from a prestigious college because they have found that these attributes are not always indicators that someone will preform well in their company. This highlights a problems with schools; because schools base a students competence on grades and test scores that is what they spend most of the time preparing students for. One of the main focuses of school should be to prepare students to be successful in their careers. Thus schools must shift their focus from grades and standardized testing to fostering creativity and collaboration skills. I am currently teaching a class where students work in groups everyday and use critical thinking and problems solving to explore concepts rather than me lecturing to them. I think this is a good start to preparing my students for a job at Google, but one area that I need to improve upon is giving them the opportunity to be creative and think out of the box. I would like to give my students more open ended problems or projects so that they can be creative and explore something that they are interested in in their own way. I believe that this is one of the best ways for students to learn and retaining information and it would help them develop the types of skills Google is looking for.
In Grant Wiggins's article A Veteran Teacher Turned Coach Shadows 2 Student for 2 Days- a Sobering Lesson Learned he describes the unstimulating yet stressful schooldays of the students at his school. He also shares ways in which he would change his classroom based on his findings. He feels students spend too much time sitting (which is exhausting), students passively listen most of the day, and students feel like a nuisance. I feel that my school site is a bit similar to this because some of the classes I have walked into students are seated in rows listening to the teacher the whole day. In my particular class students are seated at tables of four so they can more easily collaborate during group work time. I lecture for about a third of the class or less and the rest of the time students are working with their groups on the investigation or other tasks. However, during this group work my students usually stay seated, like in the classes Wiggins attended. Last week I tried a new activity with my students where they had to rotate to different tables with their group members. This is the most my students have been engaged in awhile. At first some of them complained that they had to get up and move, but once they completed the first rotation they were excited to get up and move to the next station. After the success of this activity I am planning on incorporating some type of mandatory movement into my two hour block periods. I agree with Wiggins that students need to be more actively engaged in their learning. I think that students need guidance from the teacher but they also need the time to practice how to solve problems on their own. I also agree that students should be encouraged to ask questions all of the time. I especially liked Wiggins idea to have students write on the board all of the questions that they have at the beginning of class. Then as a class have students decide which ones need to be addressed first. The focus of education should be making sure that students have a deep understanding of the concepts rather than touching briefly on each standard.
In his Ted Talk Conrad Wolfram proposes that math curriculum should be recreated from the ground up to be computer centered. He explains that too much of students' time is spent learning how to do calculations, which computers can now do more accurately and quickly than any human. Technology and society have changed, yet math education has not. I agreed with Wolfram when he said that since we do not let students use computers to do computations we must "dumb down"the math problems that we give them so students will be able to quickly calculate them by hand. However in the real world problems are messy and their calculations are sometimes even messier. I think teachers need to start preparing students for the kind of complex problems that they will be expected solve in their future jobs; which includes showing them how to use computers to do tedious computations. I also agree with Wolfram that math curriculum needs to involve computer programming. Some people say that doing computations helps students understand procedures. This is true, but an even deeper understanding of procedures and algorithms comes from writing computer programs. I learned this first hand when I took an Number Theory course where I was required to program mathematical algorithms. In order to program a computer to carry out a procedure, such as solving a linear equation, you must have a deep understanding of the steps that need to be implemented, in what order they must be implemented in, what the end result should look like, the different cases that could arise, etc.. Solving linear equations by hand is a computational skill, writing a program that can solve any linear equation is an expression of deep mathematical knowledge and problem solving skills. Like Wolfram, I believe that computers should not be an extra tool that teachers sometimes incorporate into a lesson to engage and teach students about math. I believe that computers should be in every lesson so that students can focus on experiencing math and learning how to use math to solve complex problems, similar to those that they will be expected to solve in their future careers.
In this video math education professor Jo Boaler discusses the benefits of Common Core Math. She begins by explaining that "there is no such thing as a math gene". However many students in the US fail math because of the way it has been taught. Boaler asserts that math needs to become a "learning subject, not a preforming subject". Thus we need to eliminate the time tested and drill and kill homework worksheets. Common Core math is focused around students completing performance tasks that give them the space to deeply learn the mathematical concepts. I completely agree that students need to be taught to analyse problems and think critically instead of learning how to mimic the teacher's steps to solving problems. We no longer need people to be able to quickly do calculations in their head, we have computer for that. What our society is in short supply of is critical thinkers who can find creative ways to solve any type of problem. I think that Common Core curriculum not only teaches students to effectively solve math problems, but also trains their brains to solve any problem that will materialize in their lives. I think that if teachers implemented more open ended, high ceiling/ low floor task into their classes we would see an increase in math test scores and a decrease in math anxiety. Boaler explains that with these types of tasks, every student has the ability to begin the problem (low floor). Then the more advanced students have the opportunity to run with the problem as much as they like (high ceiling). I really like these types of open ended problems but struggle to find ones that align with the standards that I am teaching. One of my goals is to either find or create more of these types of math problems and use them frequently in my class. I am already using a Common Core curriculum, where students investigate concepts and skills necessary to solve real world problems. I think open ended tasks would be great to use at the end of each investigation to see how much students have learned about the mathematical concepts and about problem solving.
For my 20% project I have decided to learn to be a better cook and learn new recipes that I can create a mini cookbook with at the end of the project. I will learn to cook by reading recipes that people have posted online that are detailed and give helpful suggestions. I will find these recipes on pinterest, from friends, and just googling the name of recipes I would like to try or ingredients I would like to use. I also have a friend who is a good cook and has made me some delicious dinners that I would like to learn how to make myself. I will ask her if she can teach me how to make a few of those. I will most likely use Diigo to save the recipes that I find. This way I can annotate them with what went well and what things I would do differently the next time I cook each dish. Thus a successful outcome of the project would be a cookbook of recipes that I feel comfortable and confident in making. I could fail at this project by not being able to create a collection of recipes that I can easily make (or burning my house down). It is possible that with every recipe that I attempt I find that I do not have the skill set necessary to make an eatable product.
Questions of Inquiry:
For my 20% project I am thinking about creating a mini cookbook. For the past few years I have wanted to cook more and learn to be a better cook but haven't had the time. During the week I am so busy that I don't really have too much time to cook. Thus some of the recipes would be quick and easy meals to cook on a weeknight. I also want to experiment with some healthy meals and some exotic meals that I normally would never attempt. I would document my progress through pictures and sharing my recipes with comments (what went well, what I would change next time,...). By the end of the project I would like to have about 10 recipes with notes that I could use for different occasions! Let me know what you think!
In this TED Talk Seth Goldin explains how schools were created so children could be made obedient and work well in the factories when they graduated. He says that schools were created like factories for this reason. He states that the purpose of school, whatever that may be, is no longer to train students to be obedient factory workers; however, the procedures in schools have not changed to reflect the new purpose of school. I feel that the purpose of school is to instill in students the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in any career that they choose. Thus I agree with Goldin that teachers need to allow students to be more creative and learn real world skills instead of school world skills. I thought it was interesting that he said to let every test be an open book and notes test because "everything worth memorizing is worth looking up". I hadn't really thought about assessments in that way before, but it is true that in the real world people have phones and computers that they can use to look things up with all the time. I want my students to be critical thinkers, which includes finding ways to obtain information and figuring out how to use that information to solve a problem; it does not include memorizing formulas. I also agree with Goldin that we should let students have more time to be creative and explore what interests them. I think that my students would be more engaged if we spent less time on doing similar problems over and over again and more time allowing them to explore what interests them mathematically.
In this TED Talk Dan Meyer explains that the math curriculum that is currently being used by most schools is creating impatient problem solvers. He shows examples of how math textbooks are giving students a formula and all the information they need to plug into it; this creates people who expect every problem in life to be solved quickly and easily, it does not develop critical thinkers. What I like best about Dan Meyer is that he does not only state what he believes should be changed about math education, but he also gives solutions and suggestions that I could apply in my classes. He explains how to take away most of the information that a textbook problem gives students in order to create an analytic mathematical discussion about the problem. I believe that this is the best way for students to learn math. For one, any student at any level can share something about a picture or video that you show them, so all students have the opportunity to be engaged and participate. Secondly, I believe that students learn the best by exploring a problem instead of being lead to the exact solution in the back of the book obtained by using the formula in beginning of section. After watching this video I will make it my goal to modify at least one problem per lesson so that it engages students and helps them develop into patient problem solvers.