Our second Maths lit community workshop was held at St Albans in Pretoria on Saturday the 3rd of February. Even though I think I advertised even wider than normal (FET list, ML list and all the IEB gauteng user schools), I had lots of cancellations for this workshop. Maybe it was a bad time. But then… when is a good time ever for maths teachers??? (Note to all: another good reason to have an ONLINE community as you can then participate when it suits you! )

My car broke down on the way from Hogsback and I had to catch a lift to Bloem and fly back to be in time for the workshop. To make matters worse, my cell phone was dead as a doornail as I only took my car charger with me and alas….without a car = no cell phone communications either.

I went past on Friday afternoon, to St Albans to check out the computer lab. As always I was very impressed with the standard of facilities at private schools. Everything was working and the Boss of the lab (Peter) and an assistant as well as Danya, were there to welcome and help me (Friday afternoon nogal). I think I must start off by thanking them profusely for organising the venue, their moral support, as well the fabulous food accompanied by friendly staff .

Then on Saturday morning a distraught teacher, due to attend ,drove all the way to PTA to come and apologise for not being able to attend, as a dear friend was shot the previous evening during a burglary. This taught me 2 things: that some teachers take their teaching very seriously despite “Life getting in the way” and that the need for resources (my resources disk in this case) can force us to put private tragedy unselfishly aside. Our thoughts are with you and the friends family.

So we ended up being a small group of very enthusiastic teachers, from novice ML teachers to “experienced” (Ha Ha) ML teachers. We literally got stuck in a huddle at the door talking about ML things and then decided to get more comfortable around a table. Issues were just flying around and we were all talking at the same time. Some of the issues presenting itself were the Universities stance on ML., dropping from Maths to ML, assessment, textbooks….I then stopped everybody and pointed out that it would be great if we could get all this discussion going on ONLINE. Everybody reluctantly left our little huddle group and settled down at computers to do the online computer community thing. Dania did some notes to keep track of all the issues and once she has recovered from her wisdom tooth operation, I will get her to post it to the group. I did record some of the discussions with my Dictaphone, but as I said, we were all like enthusiastic learners- talking at the same time. Just as well Dania had her wisdom teeth out AFTER this workshop – maybe she made sense of all our ramblings. What is clear is that we need to “TALK”. Now the challenge is if we will have the trust and the will to walk our “TALK” online!!!

Again, I had to set up Easymaths.co.za e-mail addresses so that everybody could receive their e-mail there and then. We then went through the Yahoo group registration process which AGAIN had its trails and tribulations- it seems to be a very slow process. Same technical issues came up as in the workshop at Brescia. (see previous posting). This made me decide to draw up a real STEP by STEP information sheet, to make things a bit easier. This is totally against my social constructivist beliefs, but then we all grew up ‘Old school”, so let’s see if spoon feeding will help the community cause (Feedback very welcome on this issue).

We did the introductions, we found our way, but we did not nearly get to play with all the bells and whistles that the community offers. There were a discussion (offline) about the second poll question which we felt were not a good question as it were too 1 dimensional. Again, textbooks came up trumps as a discussion topic (offline) and a bit online.

We couldn’t switch off during our delicious lunch and carried on our discussions about ML even there. (Again- we WANT to TALK). One topic that came up which I feel very strongly about, was the moderation of our online community. My view is that we must ALL feel free to share resources no matter if it is “wrong” or “right”. And anycase, do we really know exactly what is wrong or right ,seen in the light of the very diverse interpretations that the available textbooks are presenting to us. So say someone submit a resource. And it is a not-so-good-resource. Surely this is where the ML community can be mooooost valuable! Surely we can trust the group/community (which have very fine experts/examiners/textbook developers as members as well) to “moderate” the resource by engaging in a meaningful discussion about it?

Okay, clearly I have very strong views about this. Some of the other teachers provided a very valid counter argument. They felt that some of the teachers in the community can take this “bad” resource and use it in their ML class without preservation as it “comes from the community resources”. I do agree that it is a possibility. But I am an idealist and I would hope that we are all in a time and place where we want to (have to?) learn new methodologies and material. And ML definitely calls on us to make a major paradigm shift. A few of the teachers pointed out that they were enjoying this opportunity to learn new material as opposed to “winging it” out of experience. Soooo, we did upload some of the material that was collected last year and we invited comment on Paper E00006 in the file section after looking at the paper. We did solicit an online comment from a teacher trainer not at the actual workshop! See (Comments on the files in the community), message 80. This did demonstrate some helpful feedback and also showed that a resource is seldom “wrong” or “right” and that the real value of a resource is that we and our learners can learn from it! So I invited some more discussion around this (message 89), but to date had no further replies. As a result of the lunchtime discussion, I created a folder in the file section, called a “dump” folder. The idea is that we upload resources to this folder, and we only move it to, say examinations, once there has been a discussion about the resource. I need serious feedback on this.

The rest of the afternoon, we played with the community tools and posted messages. I aslo showed everybody how to copy and paste from a PDF (writing and pictures). We finished off with sharing some experiences (offline) of ‘How I taught this resources” with some inspiring ideas being presented. Alas, this happened offline around a table (see photo in this post) and not online. I am going to ask Duard to share what he has done with his class online, so that everybody can share in the experience and not just in the resource, which I will be uploading shortly.

The teachers seemed happy and inspired and this just reinforces that we need the support of a community of teachers. We do not want to be alone. We all left happily, but I do notice that none of the group have since posted anything….?

On a nagging note, please make the effort of joining the ML community or passing on the resource doc that will make it possible for others to join. It , and more info can be found at www.mathsliteracy.co.za