Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Uncharted Waters

I've been picking away at different aspects of BYOD teaching and learning all semester: independent learning, trying new online tools with my classes (discovering some great ones, and some not-so-great ones), and encouraging students to take risks and go out on a limb (in a somewhat controlled fashion) to demonstrate their knowledge. 

It's scarier than I thought it would be - as a self-labeled control freak, it's hard for me to give a lot of the control of the class and the assignments over to the students. 

Apart from just knowing the material, I also find it near impossible to properly "prep" for any given day. Most of the class is spent assisting, assessing and checking in with students as they become more comfortable with a proficiency-based format, instead of controlling the pace of the learning.

For the final project in our third unit (trigonometric functions), I've mustered up all my courage and laid it all on the line: a completely open project where they get to pick and design the experiment, collect the data, collate all the information and then present their findings using the method of their choice.

The BYOD teacher in me says "WAHOO!!" The traditional teacher in me is pretty darn nervous, but definitely optimistic.

Using a slow-motion camera app to observe the periodic motion of a mass on a spring

The learning goal is well suited to this type of activity: "I can collect data that can be modelled as a sine function, and can identify periodic functions that arise from real-world applications," so it seems a natural fit. I'm looking forward to seeing what the students come up with, and I love the fact that they will truly own this task.

As my husband (also a secondary school teacher) noted - this is almost completely opposite to what we've been taught to teach: no well laid out instructions, no exemplars from years past, not even a differentiated list of approaches for students to choose from. I feel like I'm venturing into uncharted waters.

Here are the guidelines I used to get them started: Unit 3 Project. I would love to hear suggestions, or see how other teachers have tried projects like this in their courses. Anchors up!


  1. It has been my experience that the most important part of the lesson is not the project or even the time spent solving the problem, but it is the discussion and summary afterwards.
    The connection has to be made between the project and the math in an authentic way for the student.

    1. That's an excellent point. Many of the students are conferencing with me as they go, which is allowing for lots of feedback on my part, and lots of out-loud thought-processing on their part. Many of them are struggling with the data collection (as in, what data should they collect?) but once they understand what they are measuring, they are making the right connections and creating the proper graphs and equations :) It's very inspiring to see them work through and enjoy the process!


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