Student: Mr. Fisch?Math teachers get this question a lot.
Student: When are we ever going to have to use this?
In the past my answer was typically one of the following:
You’ll need this in [fill in the name of the next math course they have to take].Yeah, I don’t like those answers much. The problem is, I often really don’t know, other than a vague sense of particular careers, careers that many of my students may not have an interest in. I’m hoping to do a better job of answering that question this time around, and I have a couple of tools at my disposal that I didn’t have last time.
If you go into a career in math, science or engineering, you’re really going to need this.
It teaches you reasoning and problem solving, and that will help you in whatever you do.
I really don’t know.
First up, obviously, is the Internet itself, as well as various communication mediums like my blog and Twitter where I can reach out and ask those kinds of questions. While I certainly intend to do that (or, better yet, have the students do that), this post is more about my second option: Skype.
In my previous incarnation as a math teacher, it was certainly possible to try to find guest speakers that could come in and talk to my classes about how they use math. But it certainly wasn’t convenient (especially since my one class next year starts at 7:21 am), and the speaker had to be local, willing, and available. Often if you tried to bring a speaker in, you had to make it more of a big deal in order to justify the event, especially if it involved getting students out of class in order to have the speaker speak once to a large group.
This time I’d like to make it be not such a big deal, but more of a semi-regular occurrence in my class, just part of what we do. So my plan is to fairly regularly invite folks in via Skype to talk with my students (not saying I wouldn’t take a speaker in person, but remember the 7:21 am start time, as well as having to be local and available). Despite the title of this post, this may not always be on Wednesdays (although I like the alliteration of it), and I’m not sure how often to shoot for. My current thinking is that I want this to be often enough that it’s part of what we do, but not so often that it just becomes routine, so perhaps once every 4-5 weeks (still thinking about that).
I’m going to reach out to folks in a variety of places, including universities, companies and my PLN, and try to get folks from many different fields with multiple interests to Skype into my class for perhaps 20-25 minutes or so (depending on the speaker – if they want more time, then I’d provide that, but I don’t want it to be such a commitment that it discourages folks). I’d provide a little bit of background information ahead of time on the speaker and/or their field of work, and then the students will be responsible for researching a little bit more and generating questions they’d like to ask.
While I’m still thinking this part through, I’m considering having the students submit their questions via Google Moderator (part of our Google Apps installation) and then the class can vote up the questions they think are the best. Then when our guest Skypes in they can spend perhaps 8-10 minutes talking about what they do and their use of/thoughts on mathematics, and then the students would ask their questions.
What do you think? Give the voted-up questions to the speaker ahead of time and have them just address it after their intro? Or have the speaker just answer on the fly as the students ask the questions?I’d also record the Skype call and post that to our class web page for further review by the students, or for their parents or other students who might be interested. I toyed with the idea of ustreaming it to try to allow parents to watch it live to get them more involved, but am worried that I’m taking on too much all at once (second computer, second webcam - adds complexity and stress).
What do you think? Is it worth the added time and hassle to ustream it out to parents?So, I’d love feedback on this idea in the comments, but I’d also like your help generating a list of folks to contact. I’d appreciate that if you know someone that might be appropriate and willing to participate, or if you are someone who is appropriate and willing to participate, that you fill out this Google Form (also embedded below) and give me a brief description and some contact information. Please note that the results of this are public (and embedded below the form itself) so that others can use this information as well. If you’re interested, but don’t want the info you give to be public, please email me directly instead. I have no idea if this will generate much response here, but I figured it was worth a shot – thanks in advance if you’re willing to share.