Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's nearly 2014, does my HS daily homework look different than 1985? Update time!

Any time you try and change it is hard work.  And changing homework to this century is slow, changing is just hard.  What I mean is that I am trying to make sure my class looks distinctly different than a math classroom of 1985 (previous post).  And with today being a snow day on the last scheduled school day of 2013, I can state that it is the end of 2013 for my classes.  (Whether I am dedicated or simply lame for working on a snow day is up for debate though.)   And while the year is about 1/2 over I cannot say I am 1/2 way on making my class(es) like I would like.  There are a lot of times it still seems like 1985.

So I committed to not being the same.  I decided to have 3 elements: weekly practice, projects with milestones, and combo of workbook/text problems (1-2 times per week).  So I am half way through the year, and it is time for a mid-term check (I suppose I could grade myself - but I hate grades, progress does not move strictly by a clock - and that is what grades measure.  Plus I would be brutal on myself with respect to a grade.)

The first prong of my trident was weekly practice being on online sites where feedback is immediate - since my budget for the move was basically zero I defaulted to Khan Academy.  And this has actually worked okay, the problem was getting the students on problems that they needed to practice.  Initially they spent time on things that were "too easy."  But once things are mastered they moved to topics that were more "grade-level."

When I committed class time for Khan , which included the initial set-up and time for practicing during my precious class time the results were good.  The big problem is how to check that students have done the time and staying on schedule. 

Again small school teaching is different, I have 8 different courses in 8 hours.  That can sometimes be a little overwhelming, and Khan did a new roll off of there site in August, too late for me to get comfortable with using quickly.  (Yes - these are all excuses)   So I have been stuck with seeing where students are at certain times,  And because that can be cumbersome I have found myself in the last month falling back to assigning 6-8 problems from the text in a couple of my preps (mainly Algebra 2 and PreCalc) - just because it was easy and I have found myself to be too busy.  (Have great excuse here - won Solve for Tomorrow Contest).   

I have found Khan to be good for my students who need more practice.  Students in my lower Algebra groups etc.  I think that has been better than average.  But all the courses above Algebra 1 the progress has been choppy at best.  I have given credit like homework, it has been less than 0.5% of their grade.  (I believe a grade is a representation of their total math ability - which is why I use assessments versus homework to demonstrate mastery.)

So the mid-year evaluation of the on-line work, is well, a work in progress.  I plan to commit a class period during January and Febuary to see where that leads.  (We have progressed pretty well in the curriculum so that is a move we can do).  I need to figure a better system to record the students progress.  I am leaning to weekly emails where they tell me there point total, and weekly change.  Or I could just do a daily check during the class period, but I really want to make the students own their learning.   The big thing moving forward will be to double or triple the time so I am close to my goal of 20 minutes, 3 times per week - a solid hour outside of class per week of targeted practice.  

The second tine of the trident is large multiple answer projects with milestones.  I have started my large projects that I have used in the past with more milestones and hopefully a higher level of expectation.  Algebra has started a Pay Day Loan project, Algebra 2 has Stocks and Geometry has started the House Project  (Google sketch up in Geometry, youtube video). So far the quality of work is better than years past.

I think adding more milestones has helped with the quality of work.  I have worked at adding milestones that still make the student be a "critical thinker" but allows them more feedback, more often. The key remains that no one flunks a project - everyone needs to deliver.  Just like the world, if the boss (me) does not like the quality the employee (student) reworks/revises.

The last part of the trident was the workbook/text book combo.  This was the fuzziest part in the beginning and the part where really little has changed from last year to date.  I am working from targeted worksheets much more this year versus just using the text.  That has seemed to work - but that is a "gut-feel" opinion, I have no data to support the opinion.  And I always feel there really is no difference between worksheets and the text book. 

The last part with the textbook was "moving" low level things out of my class (flipping & outside reading).  And some of that has been done by flipping my Algebra 1 course.  I spent the end of my summer completing a self-paced course called FIZZ -- which really helped me.  But I have not done any text reading yet, which can be an important college skill.   I also find that making videos is much more work than doing the equivalent in class lecture.  So I am doing a mixture of videos outside of class and lecturing inside class. 

Has it worked?  Well, again there is progress, but it is slow.  But I always stick to my line that I just want to be 3% better every year - cause in 5 years you are 15% better which is huge.  And 3% is achievable - because it is not a pendulum but a slow steady climb of a hill. 

So in the new year, the second half of the school year, I want to focus on the on-line portion and the flipping portion.  Those are the 2 items that seem to have the largest return.  And just try to be a sliver better each day.  I also have agreed to present this homework change at the Wisconsin Math Council conference in May, so I really would like to show "more" progress than I currently have had.

And while I don't think my room screams 2013 - it definitely is no longer says 1985.