I shared my ImagineIT project with two colleagues at the school where I work to gather feedback about the dilemmas I identified within the project. One colleague was a fellow mathematics teacher who I often work closely with to design curriculum and lessons. She is a veteran teacher with 27 years experience. The other colleague is a special education teacher who I often look to for advice on all things special ed related. She and I have worked as co-teachers for six of the past eight years. She has been teaching for 14 years.
While I was discussing the issue of curriculum with the mathematics teacher, her concern echoed that of administration. She told me to make sure that I am not selling the students short by not having a test prep focus for my curriculum. She was concerned that by focusing on the beauty of math, I would would be forcing students to appreciate math while not training them to perform calculations. The special education teacher told me to ignore the advice of administration and to move forward with the project with my junior classes. Her thought was that by completing more project-based activities, it would allow for greater differentiation and greater access to the curriculum for all students.
My ImagineIT Project largely deals with challenging students’ perception of mathematics as a dull subject which requires memorizing operations. At the beginning of this school year, I assessed what students’ perception of mathematics was by having them complete a project (a quick fire of sorts!) where groups of four to five students had 30 minutes to complete a poster answering the question, “What is Math?”. I had them complete this project prior to sharing the iVideo which I created over the summer. After a discussion with both of these teachers about the dilemma of assessing the effectiveness of the project, I have decided to have students complete the poster again. I plan to compare the largely computational items and words in the original posters with the final poster. I hope that students will incorporate more beautiful items in their relation to math.
Rather than having a single focus group for this project, I completed an activity of my ImagineIT project with all of my students and gathered feedback from them by having a discussion after the activity. I taught students an introduction to the Fibonacci sequence, including information about the Golden Ratio and Fibonacci Spiral. I gave them 20 minutes to leave my room and go around the school (both outside and inside). They were to take five photos per group and upload their top three to Lensmob. The photos were supposed to represent either a Fibonacci Number or the Fibonacci Spiral found in the world around them. After they returned to class, we looked at each photo and discussed how it represented a Fibonacci Number or Spiral.
The next day, I circulated the room, sitting with each group in my class. I asked them questions about the project, relating to their interpretations of assessment and curriculum. They were, of course, concerned about how I would “test” their knowledge of Fibonacci. One of the most surprising things that many students echoed was a concern that they did not learn anything. Further discussion showed that they did learn what the Fibonacci sequence was, they were able to find representations of that in the world around them, and they were able to describe the Fibonacci Spiral. This concern stemmed from their lack of being exposed to projects like this. Because they were not taking notes, completing worksheets, and taking a written exam, they did not think they learned anything. However, their pictures and verbal feedback showed that they achieved exactly what I set forth as my goal for the activity. I suppose this means that I am challenge students’ perception of what is considered learning as well.