Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Adapting Texts for Quality Use

I read a something (in Advanced Web-Based Training Strategies by Driscoll & Carliner) that caught my eye. The authors were discussing the problems associated with using off-the-shelf content as a broad solution to a training problem. They gave an example of a company that said they had to modify 75% of the off-the-shelf e-learning courses because the content would not work for their staff.

What about with teaching math in the classroom? I am currently using textbooks that are several years old. I assigned one of the story problems from the textbook to my students the other day. They were supposed to set up an equation that modeled the situation described. They struggled mightily. I changed the context to something that they were more familiar with, and they were immediately able to set up an equation to model the situation. The only reason they had been struggling with it in the first place was that the context was unfamiliar to them. And now the connection to the dilemma posed by Driscoll & Carliner.

Should I be adjusting about 75% of the textbook to make it work better with my students?

I think so.

Am I doing this?

No.

So what is going on? I know what I should be doing but I am not doing it as much as I should be. Jordan School District does great things with their math teacher trainings. We have the opportunity to collaborate and a very good structure in place to support this collaboration. I think there needs to be more, though. The vast majority of coordinated training efforts are done during the school year. The vast majority of the teachers have the summer off, at least from teaching. I propose allowing teachers the opportunity to spend their summers doing what the rest of the world does during their summer, namely working.

I realize some teachers may not take anyone up on the offer to work more, but I think that a lot of the young teachers will. We (the young) are in a position where we have to take second jobs to be able to afford necessities, such as a home, anyway. The low pay is what keeps a lot of qualified and quality teachers away from the profession. I often hear things like 'you don't get paid, but you get the summers off'. I may get the summer off from teaching, but it only because I have not yet found the opportunity to get a full-time summer job doing what it is that I am trained to do, namely teaching math or improving my ability to do so.

2 comments:

Dave said...

It's very cool that you are applying your studies in the program to the work you are doing in your district, Richard!

You might consider writing a proposal to get grant funding that would provide summer stipends for any math teacher that would like to do the kind of work you are suggesting. There is a lot of NCLB and private foundation money out there waiting for the right proposal to come along. Perhaps there is a grant writer within your district that could help you locate the right grant RFP and also help you write the proposal.

Richard said...

I have actually already written one proposal for funding to get this type of thing started. It didn't work, but I am going to try and get another one done in the next month or so that will provide money for next summer. If anyone has any suggestions as to some friendly sources of money, let me know.