Everyone is doing the same thing at the same time

Q: Why do we assume that all students within a class period should be doing the same thing at the same time?

A: Because reasons…
– That’s how we’ve always done it
– That’s how we’ve always had to do it (we were hired as experts in content knowledge and distribution)
– Its easier for us as teachers (because reasons)
– It’s how we were trained as behaviorists
– It’s how we experienced classrooms as a student

Q: But what if we take an honest look at how access to resources has changed? How would that affect the constraints upon which our pedagogy and praxis are formed?

I was hired in 2004 and these were the expectations placed upon me:

  • Be an expert in the content of high school mathematics.
  • Be an expert in classroom management (behaviorism)
  • Collaborate with other educators (very loosely defined)
  • Take attendance

I used to refer to my former teacher self as, “an expert content delivery mechanism” by which I could artfully take what I worked hard to learn and make it accessible to students. I was the benevolent keeper of knowledge and I could impart it upon them.

Things have changed.

If I were hired today my content expertise is just as important as its ever been. In fact, I can argue its more important now as we think about managing 30 students in 30 different spots at the same time.

I must be an expert in differentiated instruction in my content area.

Differentiation is HARD. So hard in fact that it almost never happens for more than a few students at a time in a traditional classroom because its not possible to keep all the kids together doing the same thing at the same time while also creating a personalized experience for each. THEY ARE AT CROSS PURPOSES!

We all like the idea of differentiation but let go of it as merely an aspiration because we haven’t had the support we need to make it a reality.

Until now…

Enter Khan Academy. In my classroom Khan Academy (and certainly other tools too) allow me to let go of the content delivery mechanism. The enable differentiation because I become a content coach alongside my students.

If I only knew how to teach each piece of math content in one way, I would be worthless in this type of blended classroom. I would be ineffective as a coach for students because of my shallow understanding of the interconnectedness of mathematics.

A sad number of mathematics teachers themselves have not had the experience of mathematics as coherent Because of this they cannot approach a concept from a variety of perspectives. And this inability makes them deeply ineffective as math coaches.

We’re all math coaches now.

Or, maybe we aren’t. Maybe most of us can’t do this.

What if we just put kids in front of computer screens and hired classified (non-certificated) employees to manage them as they are trained by a machine?

How do kids lose?