My brother Scott, 2013 Orange County Teacher of the Year, was hanging out at a park in Irvine with his wife and son and happened upon some teams of college students involved in The Solar Decathlon. This is a national competition between university engineering students to see who can design and construct the best state-of-the-art home.
Scott is always concerned about how he can enrich the education of his students, so he initiated a relationship with a student team from Santa Clara University. This partnership resulted in Scott’s class conducting regular Google Hangouts with the students who were working 500 miles away. Scott’s class prepares for the Hangouts by doing research and preparing questions. Members of the SCU team share presentations using the screen share feature and take the kids on virtual field trips through the 2009 house as well as the current construction site.
Scott graciously allowed my class to join in on the hangouts and several other classes from as far away as South America have begun watching the broadcasts. Students get to see the progress and appreciate the vast amount of work that goes into designing and constructing the Radiant House. Students from Scott’s class and my class have also been engaged by the college engineering student team through quiz questions and opinion polls which give the kids input on team decisions. The SCU Google Hangouts have been recorded and archived on YouTube. SCU Solar Decathlon has a Facebook page as well.
This cutting edge pedagogy is attracting the attention of the media as well. The Orange County Register (Irvine World News) and CBS News in the Bay area (see video below) have done stories on the Google Hangouts.
Tim and Scott interview one of the most respected educators on the web, Steven W. Anderson. He is Director of Instructional Technology for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in Winston-Salem, NC. Steven also regularly travels the country talking to schools and districts about the use of Social Media in the classroom.
Steven has been a presenter at several educational technology conferences, including ISTE, ASCD and NCTIES, as well as served as a panelist at the #140 Conference in Los Angeles, New York and was a featured speaker at the first ever #140Edu Conference, focusing on the real-time web in education. He is also responsible in helping create #edchat, a weekly education discussion on Twitter that boasts over 500 weekly participants. Steven has also been recognized with the NOW Award, highlighting the Movers And Shakers in the world of social media and the 2009 and 2011 Edublogs, Twitterer of The Year Award. In 2012 he was named an ASCD Emerging Leader, recognizing young, talented educational leaders in their field.
I gave my 4th and 5th grade students the following math problem:
“Draw as many rectangles as you can that have the area of 18 square inches. You may use a calculator.”
15 minutes later all of my kids understood that there were three clear possible answers:
1 in X 18 in
2 in X 9 in
3 in X 6 in
But then something magical happened. I pushed them a bit harder and said that there were unlimited answers to this problem. “Can you find other answers besides these three? Don’t forget, you are allowed to use a calculator.”
Every student sat by her/himself and formulated an answer to the best of her/his ability. The students then met others in the back of the room to share their results and reach consensus (while the others continued to try to solve the problem near the board.) Eventually, all of the students realized that they could get answers like:
1.5 in X 12 in
4 in X 4.5 in
My students developed much better mathematical understanding and reasoning skills through this critical thinking lesson. You see, I didn’t spoon feed them the answers. I gave them a challenge and let them figure it out with the help of their peers. The problem was challenging enough for about half my kids to get some correct answers initially on their own, and the other half to at least take a stab at it. Then, by collaborating, the entire class was able to wrap their brains around the idea. This is the direction education is headed with Common Core.
The Bedley Bros. have a sit-down with the guru of classroom management and instructional strategies, Rick Morris. He shares thoughts on the Independent Classroom Culture, “happy productive.” Rick believes that classrooms are not going to be truly happy places unless the students operate independently.
Watch Alex’s engaging discussion with Tim and Scott on the latest episode of The Bedley Bros. EdChat. Alex, the 2009 California Teacher of the Year, shares ideas from his new book Teacher of the Year Handbook. Both of the Bedley Bros. also share a quick tip for teachers. Whether or not you are in the running for Teacher of the Year, educators will benefit from this lively interview with the Rappin’ Mathematician.