‘Cool’ math

PBS Math Club, a new web series, hopes to persuade middle-school girls that math is “cool.”

Short videos try to connect math to students’ interests. The video on positive and negative integers uses YouTube’s rating system as an example, reports reports Education Week Teacher.

Each video ends with a brief quiz.

More flipping, less failing

“Flipping the classroom” — students watch video lessons at home and practice skills in class — has cut the failure rate at Clintondale High near Detroit, reports Tina Rosenberg in the New York Times.

Teachers record video lessons, which students watch on their smartphones, home computers or at lunch in the school’s tech lab. In class, they do projects, exercises or lab experiments in small groups while the teacher circulates.

Principal Greg Green had been using videos to demonstrate baseball techniques to his son’s team, leaving “more time for hands-on work at practices,” Rosenberg writes.

In spring of 2010, he asked a social studies teachers to flip one of his classes. The flipped class had more students who’d failed before, but after 20 weeks, they were outperforming the traditional class.

In the fall, Green flipped all ninth-grade classes.

The results were dramatic: the failure rate in English dropped from 52 percent to 19 percent; in math, it dropped from 44 percent to 13 percent; in science, from 41 percent to 19 percent; and in social studies, from 28 percent to 9 percent.

The next year, the fall of 2011, Clintondale became the first high school in the U.S. to flip every class in every grade.

“On average we approximated a 30 percent failure rate,” said Green. “With flipping, it dropped to under 10 percent.” Graduation rates rose dramatically, and are now over 90 percent. College attendance went from 63 percent in 2010 to 80 percent in 2012.

Test scores went up in 2012 and then dropped. But state education officials say Clintondale added many more low-income, low-scoring students from Detroit.

At first, teachers assigned 20-minute videos, but now they run three to six minutes long to encourage rewatching. Teachers record bite-sized lessons or use videos from the Khan Academy, TED and other sources.

Robert Townsend, who teaches ninth-grade physical science, said only half of his students did traditional homework, but 75 to 80 percent watch the videos.

Flipping has helped failing students the most, teachers say. “It’s tough to fail a flipped class, because you’re doing the stuff in here,” said Rob Dameron, the head of the English department. “I used to have about a 30 percent failure rate in English – these kids come in a lot at third-grade, fourth-grade reading levels. Now, out of 130 kids, I have three who are failing — mostly due to attendance problems.”

Townsend said he feels like an “educational artist” who doesn’t just talk and hand out sheets. “I can create interactive lessons and exciting content. There’s so much more time to educate!”

But “flipped classrooms require more creativity and energy from the teacher,” said Dameron.

No lecture, more learning

“Flipping” the college lecture class — students watch short videos at home and do activities in class — appears to boost learning, writes Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic.

A three-year study at the University of North Carolina found significant gains in student performance in “flipped” settings, writes Meyer.

The study examined three years of a foundational pharmaceutics course, required for all doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) students attending UNC. In 2011, (Vice Dean Russell) Mumper taught the course in a standard, PowerPoint-aided lecture format. In 2012 and 2013, he taught it using “flipped” methods. Student performance on an identical final exam improved by 2.5 percent between 2011 and 2012—results now in press at Academic Medicine—and by an additional 2.6 percent in 2013. Overall, student performance on an identical final exam improved between 2011 and 2013 by 5.1 percent.

Students also came to prefer the flipped model to the lecture model. While 75 percent of students in 2012 said, before Mumper’s class, that they preferred lectures, almost 90 percent of students said they preferred the flipped model after the class.

After the first year, Mumper replaced readings with clinical studies, which students discuss in class. He also cut student presentations, which were unpopular.

At first, students complained, said Natalie Young, a Pharm.D. student. “We just were used to just going to class and not having to do so much preparation for the class.” With the flipped model, “you actually have to do reading or watch the [lecture modules], you actually have to prepare for the class.”

Other professors aren’t as good as Mumper at teaching in a flipped model, Young said.

 

Khan: Tech-powered teachers can do more

Khan Academy videos — and interactive exercises — will empower teachers, not replace them, writes Salman Khan in Education Week.

Khan Academy’s free videos now cover every subject from algebra to art history for grades K-12, he writes. In additions, students can practice math skills, move forward at their own pace and receive feedback while teachers monitor their students’ progress.

Teachers are struggling to meet students’ different “abilities, motivation levels, and incoming knowledge,” Khan writes.

Some are ready for grade-level content, while others have not fully mastered the prerequisites. Still others have already learned the grade-level material and are ready to move on to more advanced concepts. Ideally, teachers would like to meet all those needs simultaneously, but it is only humanly possible for them to teach one lesson at a time.

. . . when used appropriately, technology can enable teachers to lead differentiated and interactive classrooms. When teachers have real-time data and a clear understanding of every child’s needs, they can use their precious classroom time more effectively and flexibly. When students are learning at a pace and level appropriate to their individual needs, they are less likely to disengage or act up.

. . . Technology will give teachers valuable real-time data to diagnose students’ weak points and design appropriate interventions. It will enable teachers to more quickly gauge students’ comprehension of new topics so they can adjust their lesson plans on the spot.

Khan Academy’s latest platform teaches computer science as a “creative art,” he writes. He hopes to use the platform to “create interactive virtual labs with simulations of projectiles, pendulums, and the solar system.” In addition, a new feature lets users ask and answer each other’s questions, increasing the sense of online community.

Educating good teachers

Rejecting Michigan’s teacher licensing rules, Hillsdale College reinvented teacher education, writes Daniel Coupland. Since the program is now unaccredited, Hillsdale-trained teachers can work only at charter or private schools.

Future teachers “need a broad liberal arts education” and “deep understanding” of an academic discipline, Coupland writes. All would-be teachers, including elementary teachers, major in an academic field. All learn how to teach by working in “a real classroom with real students under the tutelage of a master teacher.”

We decided to eliminate methods classes and courses in educational psychology and technology. Because the state had such a heavy hand in dictating these classes (enforcing their “standards”), much of the content was irrelevant or antithetical to the mission of both the college and the department.

Philosophy of Education, Explicit Phonics Reading Instruction and Children’s Literature were made “much more content-driven and more demanding in terms of reading, discussion, and writing” to match the rigor of the college’s other courses.

The Education Department worked with the English Department to design an English grammar course for future teachers. “Language is the most important tool of the teacher’s trade.”

Instead of passing a paper-and-pencil test, would-be teachers are submitting lesson plans, homework assignments and videos of their teaching to earn a license, reports the New York Times.

New York and up to 25 other states are moving to the Stanford-designed Teacher Performance Assessment model.

“It is very analogous to authentic assessments in other professions, in nursing, in medical residencies, in architecture,” said Raymond L. Pecheone, a professor of practice at Stanford who leads the center that developed the new assessment.

. . . a teacher’s daily lesson plans, handouts and assignments will be reviewed, in addition to their logs about what works, what does not and why. Videos of student teachers will be scrutinized for moments when critical topics — ratios and proportions in math, for instance — are discussed. Teachers will also be judged on their ability to deepen reasoning and problem-solving skills, to gauge how students are learning and to coax their class to cooperate in tackling learning challenges.

In New York, prospective teachers’ work will be graded by “trained evaluators who have been recruited by the education company Pearson.” That’s spurred resistance from education professors, who complain their role is being undermined and “outsourced.”

At the University of Massachusetts, 67 of 68 students training to be secondary school teachers refused to submit videos of their teaching and a take-home test to Pearson evaluators.

Touchscreen toddlers

Interactive screen time can be educational for toddlers, writes Lisa Guernsey in Slate.  But . . .

Seventy-two percent of iTunes’ top-selling “education” apps are designed for preschoolers and elementary school children, according to a recent report.  Yet we don’t have much research on interactive apps for preschoolers.

A 2010 Georgetown study found children 30 to 36 months old were better at remembering where puppets were hiding if they had to touch a space bar to spot the puppets (or saw a live puppet show), compared to toddlers who watched a video of the puppet show.

In earlier studies, slightly younger children—24 months—struggled with these “seek and find” tasks after watching non-interactive video, unless they had a guide on-screen, a person or character, whom they felt compelled to respond to or communicate with. Even easier tasks, such as pointing to an object introduced a few minutes before, are more difficult for very young children after watching video compared with being taught face-to-face. It is this “video deficit,” which has cropped up in numerous other studies with infants and toddlers, that partially informed the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation against screen time among children younger than 2. (The AAP has other concerns, too, such as whether parents are replacing human-to-human connections with screen time.)

The pediatricians were focused on “passive” media, such as TV and videos, not interactive media, Guernsey notes.

Still, interactive may be more distracting than educational, Guernsey warns.

. . . the wow factor of the device and the presence of interactive “hotspots” on e-book pages may interfere with children’s ability to recall the story line of the book. This isn’t just a problem of electronics. Even traditional print-and-cardboard pop-up books can lead children at 2½ and 3 years old to learn less from the story than they would have otherwise, according to research at the University of Virginia conducted by Cynthia Chiong.

Most education apps now on the market dictate how children will play, Guernsey writes. Instead of exploring, kids must follow the program. However, new products are being introduced that encourage creativity, such as “DoodleCastItzaBitza and in-development computer programming software for preschoolers called Scratch Jr.

This is off-topic, but fun:

Why do people go to yoga class?

Why do people go to yoga class instead of watching an exercise video? asks Matt Yglesias on Slate.

The prospect of online education continues to attract a lot of interest and commentary in various circles, but I think the issue that people considering this need to ponder has nothing to do with convention and signaling and everything to do with yoga. Specifically, what is it that’s driving all these people to show up in person at yoga classes.

. . . When possible, people simply prefer to do this in person with a live human being standing in front of them.

At this point, online learning is like convenience food. It’s not as good as “slow” learning in a classroom, but it’s doable when other options take too much time, transportation and money.

Students create math videos

Move over, Salman Khan. Eric Marcos’ sixth-grade math students are making their own video tutorials to explain math to fellow students, reports KQED’s MindShift. Marcos, who teaches at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, California, has posted the videos on MathTrain.TV.  There’s also a podcast and an iTunes app created by a student.

Often teaching is the best way to learn, Marcos says.

“I’ve heard kids say that when they were trying to explain how to divide fractions, they knew to flip the number over but they didn’t know why.” Because they were creating a tutorial video, “They found out that they didn’t know why” – and then, naturally, they found out why.”

. . . In the beginning, students “were just doing it to help their friends. They weren’t necessarily looking to help people out in Australia, but now they are.”

Marcos has created screencasts about how to make screencasts.

Marcos’ advice to other teachers? “Let them touch the computer,” he says. “That’s how the world changed for me, for all of us. If you give kids a little bit of trust and let them try out some stuff, they’re going to come up with fascinating things that will surprise you.”

Here’s one of the first video tutorials on calculating simple interest made by “Billy” (a girl’s pseudonym) in 2007.

Khan video — plus a great teacher

Khan Academy’s online video tutorials are being hyped to the skies, writes Rick Hess.

Khan Academy isn’t over-hyped, argue Bryan Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel on Ed Next. It’s mis-hyped. Salman Khan’s “short, engaging tutorials in math, science and other subjects” could be transformative with the addition of a key ingredient: excellent, live teachers.

The Hassels suggest letting students spend part of their school time viewing high-quality videos or smart software, which would replace “teachers’ rote lectures and one-size-fits-few whole group learning.” The best teachers would have time to work closely with more students.

Picture this: let’s say one class out of four in a school’s 4th grade has an excellent math teacher, and she spends half her instructional time on whole-group instruction and half on more dynamic/personalized learning. If Khan takes over the former whole-group time, two 4th grade classes could have that teacher just for personalized/dynamic learning. The effect is a 100% increase in the number of kids who get a top-tier in-person teacher — without reducing personalized instruction time with kids. She’d need a learning lab monitor for Khan time at school and time-saving digital tools to monitor kids’ progress (a la Wireless Generation or others; Khan’s experimenting with this, too).  The change would be at least budget-neutral, and the great teacher could earn more within budget, since lab monitors are not paid as much.

Technology won’t replace good teachers, the Hassels writes. It can extend their reach.

Some propose “flipping” homework with instruction: Students would view the videos at home and work on solving problems in class. Thirty-nine percent of high school students do no homework, the Hassels write. They won’t watch instructional videos either.

Gaga over history on YouTube

Music videos by history teachers are hits on YouTube, reports the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Hawaii residents Amy Burvall and Herb Mahelona have won rave reviews for “The French Revolution,” set to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”  Dressed in period costumes and wigs, Burvall sings lines like, “La la liberte,” and “Walk, walk scaffold baby.” The video has topped 166,000 views.

Mahelona and Burvall produce their music videos in their free time, mostly on weekends, and from start to finish the process takes about three months. So far, they have posted 49 on YouTube, including “Black Death” set to Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl,” “Martin Luther” set to “Manic Monday” by the Bangles, and “Henry VIII” set to ABBA’s “Money, Money, Money.”

Napoleon will be next.

“The kids just eat it up,” said Mahelona. “And then they take the exam and just from singing the songs, they would remember everything.”