Distance Learning in the Classroom

I went Matric marking earlier this month and used the time to speak to some very forward thinking teachers. One such discussion linked closely with the idea of a “cyber school” day that we began talking about at Beaulieu College. The idea was that teachers would post work online for pupils who would stay home to complete it. The thought was to allow teachers uninterrupted time for professional development.

With the advent of MOOCs, such as Coursera, EdX, and others, it is apparent that many of today’s students will have exposure and experience with some form of distance learning before they are too old. Thus I believe it is imperative that we start getting our pupils ready for this reality.

But how could one do this in a Maths classroom? The idea of self-study is attractive given an already pressurised syllabus.

One such idea is to use a tool such as Geogebra to set up simulations – and it does a number of things exceptionally well, allowing us to work through quite a range of the syllabus – which pupils can then play with. Here is my first attempt. Can you guess the lesson here?

That last question is not an idle one. As an educator – or at least someone who has gone through the school system – it’s all well and good to say that “the angle at the centre is twice the angle at the circumference”, but a Grade 10 pupil is not going to come up with that by themselves.

This is where Google Classroom comes in. Using an assignment, everyone receives a copy of their own Google Doc. We can conduct a guided tour through the simulation and we have effectively got an electronic worksheet to fill in. First fiddle with D, now fiddle with C. Do the same things happen?

The goal here is to then provide a longer time for them to work through the content – breaking it up into bite-sized chunks. There aren’t too many right and wrong answers and so when it comes time to assess the work done, I plan to take a leaf out of Carol Dweck’s research and use a scale of “Not yet”, “Achieved” and, for a very few, “Outstanding”.

The work won’t be discussed in class, but I do plan to have, towards the end of the section, a somewhat more rigorous assessment of the work covered. Again, this will be graded on the same “not yet”, “achieved” and “outstanding” scale. I would like it to be all covered online and so, ideally, they won’t have any exposure to the work in class until the mid-year examinations – just like it happens in real life.

These are my ideas for potential areas to include self-study in the CAPS syllabus:

  • Grade 8
    • Learning to use a scientific calculator (specifically, the Casio 991)
    • Data handling
    • Parallel line geometry
  • Grade 9
    • Data handling
    • Functions (straight line)
    • Finance (simple interest, annual compound interest, depreciation, HP calculations)
  • Grade 10
    • Functions (vertical and horizontal shift)
    • Circle geometry
    • Trigonometry intro (definitions of ratios, right-angled triangles)
  • Grade 11
    • Geometry
    • Data handling
  • Grade 12
    • Data handling

Can you tell I don’t enjoy teaching data handling? What are your ideas?