PLCs and Lesson Studies

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PLCs, or Professional Learning Communities, is an extended learning opportunity for teachers, encouraging collaborative learning and feedback within a school.  Implemented correctly, PLCs have the ability to aid all members of the education community: teachers, students, administrators, and parents.

Lesson studies, principally used within the Japanese schools system, work in the same way as PLCs.  Both focus on student success and creating a successful educational environment.  One of the positives of PLCs and Lesson Studies are the collaborative assessment of the teacher.  It introduces new teaching methods and perspectives, a supportive environment for both teachers and administrators, and a way to improve lessons and lesson practices.

The collaboration inherent in PLCs and Lesson Studies is applicable to all facets of education and is key to creating a successful academic environment.  However, it is important for PLCs to be organized and structured to ensure their success.  For greater teacher success, teachers should be involved in a variety of PLCs, not just subject/grade specific ones.  By being involved in a variety of PLCs, teachers get a greater perspective of the educational environment of their schools, as well as learning different techniques to approach problems.

Currently, schools operate under a “teacher as an island” mentality.  The teacher has their classroom, they teach the material in the way they think best, and there is no feedback from their colleagues.  This results in students with varying understandings of the set curriculum, many of whom aren’t adequately prepared to move on to the next level of their education.  PLCs allow teachers to work together, determining what material is being covered and what isn’t and working to best achieve their goals and the goals of their students.

While it might seem obvious that teachers should be communicating and collaborating, it really hasn’t been the case.  Just as students have different learning styles, teachers have different teaching styles.  It is incredibly important for teachers to balance their own individuality with the collaborative environment in order to create a classroom that can best prepare students for the next stage of their education, as well for the future.

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From Proofs to Prime Numbers: Math Blogs on WordPress.com

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I think this could be an interesting resource, not only for me as a teacher, but also for students, whether it’s in a blog or as part of class assignments.

The WordPress.com Blog

WordPress.com supports LaTeX, a document markup language for the TeX typesetting system, which is used widely in academia as a way to format mathematical formulas and equations. LaTeX makes it easier for math and computer science bloggers and other academics in our community to publish their work and write about topics they care about.

If you’re a math genius — many of you are! — and you’ve blogged about equations you’ve worked on, you’ve probably used LaTeX before. If you’re just starting out (or simply curious to see how it all works), we’ve gathered a few examples of great math and computing blogs on WordPress.com that will inspire you.

In general, to display formulas and equations, you place LaTeX code in between $latex and $, like this:

$latex YOUR LATEX CODE HERE$

So for example, inserting this when you’re creating a post . . .

$latex i\hbar\frac{\partial}{\partial…

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Chapters 5 & 6 – RSS and Social Bookmarking

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Richardson notes that the amount of information that we are presented with on a daily basis can be overwhelming.  With so many blogs, news outlets, and other websites out there, it can be time consuming to stay up to date with the latest information on topics that interest you.  Using an RSS feed can help you keep track of what’s new, as well as keep all those interests organized without you getting lost in the depths of the internet. 

RSS can also be useful in the classroom.  I thought one interesting point that Richardson raised was the use of an RSS feed to keep track of student blogs.  Rather than searching out 20 or 30 different blogs, the RSS feeds let you know which ones have new posts.  I also think creating collaborative feeds that you share with students helps them to find sites or blogs that they may not have found on their own.

Another interesting idea is social bookmarking.  I think having a site where you can collect bookmarks and share them with others has a lot of potential.  Using a site like Delicious, you can keep track of sites, see sites that other people have shared (that you might otherwise have missed), and share your sites.  I think it is also a great way for students to share their information with the rest of the class.

While I do think that both RSS and social bookmarking could be useful in the classroom, I do think they could have drawback.  With both of them, there is the issue of quality vs quantity.  While it is important to have a solid understanding of a topic, and to see it from multiple perspectives, finding that information shouldn’t work to the detriment of student understanding.  I also think that with both RSS and social bookmarking, you run the risk of becoming overwhelmed by the feeds and new content.  From personal experience, I quickly found myself overwhelmed by some of my feeds, especially if I missed a day of checking them.  It could be difficult for students to stay caught up on their feeds and not feel bogged down by all the information rushing at them.

Chapter 4 – Wikis

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Wikis combine technology and collaboration.  Having this combination is not only just essential for the educational environment, but for everyday life as well.  Collaboration allows for a greater perspective on a topic, as well an expansion of ideas.  It allows students to develop teamwork skills, something that is vital for their futures.  Building a wiki with your class allows your students to work together, creating a site that covers the material in a way that is helpful to them and that they can be proud of.

In addition to building teamwork skills, a class-built wiki allows students to present information in a way that they can understand.  It is also an effective tool for students to use a reference guide, both throughout the school year, but also in later course work.  And because of the collaborative effort, students will also be exposed to different view points, allowing for a deeper, richer understanding of the material.

As with all technology-based classroom activities, there are some concerns.  Richardson mentions that with the use of wikis, the role of the teacher becomes a bit vague.  It can also be difficult to assess student work, since any of the students can add to or edit a wiki entry.  Content becomes an issue.  It can be difficult to find a balance between allowing students to explore and create, but also ensure that they are creating entries that are relevant to the class.

Chapters 3 & 8 – Blogs, Multimedia, and the Classroom

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If a teacher plans to bring technology into their classroom, it is important for them to be the first student.  Teachers need to be sure they can use blogs, podcasts, and other technology before asking their students to use them.  However, with how quickly technology is changing, this can be a difficult task.

In chapter 3, Richardson posits that blogs are one of the best tools a teacher can use in the classroom.  I can see their potential.  It creates more avenues of collaboration, feedback, quick responses, and extending a topic beyond the classroom.  But I think it can also be detrimental in the classroom as well.  Richardson stresses that blogging can bring in and utilizing a larger, more diverse audience.  While that has its positives, it can also be dangerous or intimidating for students.

In chapter 8, Richardson introduces podcasting and video streaming as other technologies that can be useful in the classroom.  Like with blogs, it has its advantages and disadvantages.  Richardson points out that it is quick and easy to record and publish your thoughts.  However, that speed could be to the detriment of thoughtful consideration.  Do you really want to address the topic that way?  Once that thought is published, there really is no way to remove it (the internet never forgets).

With both blogs and multimedia tools (podcasting, video streaming), I think it is important to stress to students the importance of being thoughtful of what they are putting out there.  Is what you wrote/recorded what you really want to say?  Is there anything that needs to be clarified?  Students should be encouraged to put just as much thought into their postings as they would in a traditional essay or class speech.

Chapters 1 & 2 – The Read/Write Web

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When Tim Berners-Lee began developing the Internet in 1989, he had a vision of it becoming a large, collaborative space.  While in the beginning it wasn’t quite the collaborative space he desired, it has clearly grown to be that way in the years since.

Richardson makes a strong case for the use of online collaborative tools in the classroom.  And I agree that having so many tools to work with our students is incredibly beneficial, not just for students, but for the teachers as well.  It allows us to reach all of our students, as well as see where some students may need extra help.  It also allows more avenues for students to work together and to learn from each other, rather than being solely reliant on the teacher for learning.

Though technology will become more and more prevalent in the classroom, there are still concerns.  When you can publish anything with the click of a finger, it is important for students (and teachers) to think about what they are putting out there.  Students are less likely to consider the consequences of posting something that could lead to unwanted attention, or affect the lives of students in the future.  As educators, we should be aware of what our students are putting up and help them to make good decisions, as well as protecting them from those dangers.

Richardson also mentioned that there is a gap between those who are “digital natives” and those who are “digital immigrants”.  This can be especially acute in the classroom, when often the students have a better understanding of how to use the technology than the teacher does.  As educators, we need to work to bridging this gap and not be afraid of new technology or things that we don’t know.  We should aim to be learning at the same time our students do, so we too can continue to grow.  As we educate ourselves, we can make better, more informed decisions on what tools are appropriate for our students to use and guide their use.

Is the Revolution Here? – Class Reaction

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One of the most interesting questions we were presented with today is: will computers replace teachers?  I think the answer to this question stems from the type of teacher.  A teacher that merely deposits knowledge in their students’ heads is a type that could be replaced by a computer.  A teacher that creates a passion for learning in their students, working to create lifelong learners is a type that a computer could not really replace.

The idea that a computer could replace me as a teacher is a bit scary.  As I work towards beginning a career as a teacher, I’d like to think that my students will always need me there to help them learn and grow.  But I think it is important to see the emergence of new and improved technology as a positive rather than a negative.  On the positive, all of this new technology provides us, as teachers, with new ways to communicate with our students and connect with them.  It allows us to bring in more real-world examples for our students to see and learn from.  Rather than fearing technology, or ignoring, it is more beneficial to both us and our students to embrace what we have and find ways to use it in our classrooms.