Hi All,

Time just fly!!! I was going to do a full report on my workshops some time ago, but life yet again got in the way. I had to go and retrieve my broken down car from Aliwal North and have been as sick as a dog with flue in between. I am still not fully functional and have decided to indulge in yet another pajama day to catch up with my studies and life in general.

Report back on Brescia Maths literacy workshop (20th of January 2007)

The first real hands on workshop to get the teachers online and sharing, was held at Brescia House in Bryanston. There were 12 of us (face to face) with Ferhana joining online (but infortunately we did not get to talk to her a lot. Quite a few of the teachers were new to computers and most were new to the Yahoo group tools that we were using. We could not use the Thutong ITN tools as there were problems with the registration process. I tried to stick to the agenda, but alas…as in all workshops – things to not always go exactly as planned (which I happen to think is a good thing)

So here is my agenda for the workshop (in red) with my comments in black:

The workshop will be from 9am to (3) 4pm and the provisional Agenda will be as follows:

9:00 -11: 00 An introduction to the tools: Getting everybody connected to the Thutong ML online community, setting up e-mails or e-mail redirectors, online registrations and a conference “chat” I briefly explained why I have started this group with a little bit of background to my research on “how an online community of practice for maths lit teachers can create a learning ecology”. We then got into registering everybody for the group. One of the big hassles was that almost everybody could not access their normal e-mails via webmail from the computer room where we were working and some of the teachers did not have e-mail. So I set up e-mail postboxes for them at www.easymaths.co.za with forwarders to their normal e-mail. We then went through the yahoo registration process (which is looong) and got everybody to join the maths lit group. We also looked at some of the features of the group – how to upload files, how to send messages to the group and how to vote in a group poll and we played around with the difference between individual messages and messages grouped into a topic tree. We also registerd for Thutong (www.thutong.org.za) as this is were our shared files will eventually end up in a secure area. The reason for this is that we onkly have 20MB of space in the file section of Yahoo to store shared resources, so we need another secure place were only maths lit teachers have access.

11:00-11:15 Tea Some more teachers arrived as they were already registered with the Yahoo community..

11:15- 11:30 Online introductions Everybody introduced themselves using the message feature and posting from the thread of message #2 (Introduce yourself). I explained how topics are threaded.

11:30-13:00 Working our way through some of the ML issues textbooks, language barriers, content & contexts, portfolio’s, students “dropping” to ML from core maths, assessment,..) We did not get to look at any of the issues in detail as we struggled mainly to get familiar with the group tools. All the above issues were confirmed as being problem areas. Angie created a topic for maths lit textbooks, with a few others posting replys to see how a thread works.

13:00-14:00 Lunch Thank you to my darlng hubbie who organised pizzas, salad and juice

14:00-15:00 Sharing ideas for ML Planning for GR 10 and GR11 (Please bring your year plan with you, as well as prepared lesson plans, if you have it all ready already 🙂 One lesson plan was uploaded but we could not figure it out as it did not have a context. The teacher (sorry I must not mention names for my research purposes) then removed it and tried to re-upload it so that we know that she was using the Radmaste book and that the learning programme must be seen in this context. This did show us that a lot more practice is needed in how to organise our little community. Unfortunately all the technical practice did get in the way of reaaaal sharing. I showed the teachers how to access all the material that was shared last year, using the disk of resources that I have made for them and we uploaded a few of these resources to the group file section. I also explained the differences in attaching a file with an e-mail message to the group as opposed to just uploading a file. Briefly- if you attach a file to a message (easiest way of sharing) the attached file will be distributed to everybody in the group via e-mail and they can open it from their e-mail directly. The problem with this is that everybody who joins the group later then do not have access to this file as it is not stored in the file section. Which brings me to the second choice of sharing a file which require you to log into the group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mathsliteracy/) , go to the file section and upload the file. (provided there is space). We also dealt with the difference between receiving individual messages, daily digests or reading the messages online. Basically the difference is that if you choose the individual option, you receive messages as they are send (I first moderate for spam) with attachments if there are any. If you choose a daily digest you will get a summary of all the messages with alink through to the group where you can go and read the message (again- you will not be able to open any attachments) You also have a choice of only reading the messages online with no attachments. I have however undertaken to load all attached files into the file section. For this purpose I have created a “Dump” folder. I will also make sure that every resource have a corresponding message number so that we can go back to that specific message to discuss the resource.

15:00-15:15 Tea Forgot about tea – we just kept on working

15:15-16:00 ML research participants to set up blogs and discuss participation in the community of practice. Lurkers are most welcome to stay, the more participants the better!!

I decided to incorporate factors of my action research as we were going along during the day but we did not get anywhere near setting up blogs. I did show everybody (using my data projector) how me and Ferhana are comunicating online using IM as well as talking to each other using VoIP and the IM interface.

If you manage to get online and registered with the community before the workshops, you are welcome to only come at 11:00. The workshop will be completely “hands-on”. I am also going to experiment with conducting the workshop “online”. If you would like more information, are ICT comfortable and connected to the community, you are welcome to attend “online”. This means that you can be there without physically being there..so be part of a new experience… This did not materialise the way I would have liked it to. Only Ferhana (that I knew of) hooked on and we did have a little chat towards the end. I was too busy helping out individual teachers to be able to assist any online participation. We all still need to get much more familiar with how things work in order to take our experiences fully online.

There were lots of hiccups along the way. Usernames and passwords were a problem. We ended up with a Yahoo username and password, an easymaths e-mail and password, a Thutong password, not to mention all the diffrent web addresses. I will have to set out a more detailed explanation of how to go about getting to everything. (It would have been nice if we just had one central place were we could do everything – load, discuss…) The pro computer user teachers proved yet again that the average web reader only read 20% of what is on the screen as they could not find messages……and had to be assisted by some of the more novice users…. . Which just prove that we can all learn from one another….. Some of the computers also did not have Adobe Reader installed to read the PDF files on the resource disk. I took this as an opportunity to show novices how easy it is to install a programme. There were a lot of hassles with e-mail. Some of the teachers for whom I set up Easymaths e-mail could not get their group e-mail. We then figured out that all the e-mail was going to their new Yahoo e-mail address – and that they first had to verify the easymaths e-mail by going to the “Edit membership” option and verifying their normal e-mail (or to set it as the default e-mail)

I want to thank Louise for organising the computer centre at Brescia for our community workshop. It is great to see that well equipped schools are prepared to share their resources for the good of the community.

If there are any of you who attended (or not) the workshop and want to add to my summary here as well as the problems that you experienced or any other comments… please feeel free to post a comment

Kind regards

A Very Flue-ie Maggie

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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