The MSU-Wipro urban STEM leadership teaching fellowship summer courses exceeded my expectations. I applied for the program knowing that it would be enriching, but oblivious to the depth of content that would be covered or its delivery. I explored more STEM related articles, topics, and methods within the the eleven day session than the entire school year.
The instructors played a crucial role in the effectiveness of the summer session. The instructional team included distinguished educational leaders: Dr. Punya Mishra, Dr. Akesha Horton, Candace Marcotte, Kyle Shack, Rohit Mehta, and Missy Cosby. This team was very deliberate in their planning. Their deep planning was evident in how the class was informative, interpersonal, interactive, spontaneous, and engaging with the perfect balance of lecture, small group discussion, independent work, and group activities.
They ensured the summer session was interpersonal among their largest cohort of 50 students. On the first day when we were all together, I wondered how I would get direct attention as needed. My concerns were quickly dismissed as we were separated into two groups of 25. TeamWow and TeamAha were the subgroups created to provide small group settings. Each group was assigned two instructors. I was apart of TeamAha with Dr. Akesha Horton and Rohit Mehta. Kyle Shack and Missy Cosb were the instructors for TeamWow. Although we were divided into two groups, there were no division or competition among us. We all had the same goal of increasing our STEM pedagogy and knowledge. Dr. Punya and Candace floated between the two groups throughout the day offering their expertise and supportive services. Our summer session was also interpersonal because the instructors were available to meet with us one-on-one during lunch. The instructors disclosed their personal contact numbers for additional support after class hours. I was impressed how all of our instructors made an attempt to learn our names even if we were apart of their group.
Our MSU Wipro instructional team filled our class with adventure and spontaneity through interactive assignments and engaging topics. Our first encounter with adventure was being assigned a random academic challenge with extreme time constraints. These challenges were named after their ridiculous time constraints and level of difficulty, Quick Fire. Candace introduced the first Quick Fire with an oven mitt on her hand. This is an image I will always remember. The task was to be completed within 30 minutes. We had to work with a partner to create and video record a math word problem using real-life scenarios. This was different because traditional math assignments/questions typically guide the students to the solution using keywords, as well as numbers needed to solve the problem. Traditional questions lack a sense of mystery and wonder. Students aren’t responsible for questioning what they know and discovering what they need to know for solving the question. The Quick Fire demanded we give minimal information, so students can think through the problem independently.
This Quick Fire was definitely hot for me and my teammate Preston Lewis. We decided to create a word problem about the battery life of a cell phone. Cell phones is a relevant topics to our students’ daily life. Video taping our word problem was difficult for us because we were not familiar with using our new Surface Pro 3 camera. We worked through our lunch hour to upload our video. Since this challenge, I have video recorded six different personal real life word problems for my students to solve. This Quick Fire made me think about making learning real and relevant to engage students. I will be incorporating video word problems in my class this upcoming school year. I can also see myself implementing Quick Fires in my classroom to add variety and spontaneity. The students won’t see it coming!
Another example of how we were kept engaged during the summer session was by switching teachers. Changing instructors gave me exposure to all the instructors. Listening to new voices and experiencing different personalities added variety to the class. We switched instructors without being forewarned. Impromptu was a teaching technique that our instructors modeled throughout the summer. Switching instructors for a session was unannounced to us, but it was planned by our instructional team to boost the class momentum. I am considering teaming up with another math teacher at my school and scheduling times where we can switch classes for a period. This will give the students a break from my teaching style and provide them with a variety of teaching styles. It will also give me a break from them.
This summer my instructors modeled some powerful teaching practices that mainly centered around adventure and constant change. There are several examples I could give to support adventures with a few requiring us to take learning outside of the classroom. Although most of our time was spent in the classroom, some learning led us to the great outdoors. One adventure required that we find STEM all around us. We were all randomly assigned letters which spelled STEM. My group had the letter E. We had to take pictures of hidden Es and post them on Facebook. The one stipulation was the letter could not be in word form. I went outside during my lunch on a hunt for Es. I found one on the side of a building formed by windows. I would have never thought of finding letters outside This activity is an example of how learning can be fun and adventurous. Once all the pictures were posted, we observed them as a class and guessed what STEM letter was hidden. It was very interesting to see so many examples of letters naturally created unintentionally. This is certainly an activity I could use as a for team building in my class. It is also an activity I will use at home with my kids.
The trip to the Museum of Science and Industry is another learning adventure we were privy to. Our trip was planned for the halfway mark of the summer session. The timing was key as it curved burnout by changing our learning location for a day. Learning at the museum was tailored to our individual ImagineIt assignment. We all had different purposes for touring the museum instead of one generic overarching theme. In a traditional class, students would all go to the museum with one preselected purpose. The teacher would choose what the students need to study even if the students weren’t interested in it. Our class differs because our learning at the museum was student selected and directed. We were still held accountable for our learning by creating a mini book with sketches and captions of things explored. I enjoyed my visit to the museum because of the freedom I was allowed.
In reflecting on my summer session, it is obvious to notice how the teachers were responsible for its success. Our teachers used adventure, change, choice learning, engaging content, independent and group activities to expose STEM instructional techniques. The instructors never explained the scope and sequence that we would cover or the artifacts we would produce. I believe they had a two-fold purpose for not disclosing the course details. One was to keep us from feeling overwhelmed. If we were informed initially of the assignment list length considering our 11 day window time span, some students may have withdrawn. The other purpose for them not disclosing all the activities we would cover was to heighten our daily suspense.
I entered the class daily anticipating what we would explore because the scope and sequence was not shared in advance. One of the first things I did daily was log onto the class agenda to preview the day’s learning. Although our learning activities and outcomes varied daily, there was still a sense of routine which provided a sense of security and expectation. Our daily routines included This Day in History, World of Wonder, homework reading discussion, lecture, tech tips, group work, independent reflection, and video summary.
As students we were not merely recipients of knowledge, but also distributors of knowledge. Each group was assigned two days out of the 11 to present both a World of Wonder and a Tech Tip. Group presentations were apart of our daily routine. One World of Wonder presentation that caught my attention was an explanation of why the internet slows down. The presenter’s guided question was “Will we ever run out of Internet?”. His discovery was interesting. IP addresses are used for everything on the worldwide web and the current design of the Internet was not created in consideration of how many users would occupy IP addresses. Therefore, there is a limit to the current IP codes and they will eventually run out. The World of Wonder section of class was interesting because it was completely student choice and directed. We were able to research any topic of interest and present a short segment of our findings to the class. The range of topics were as vast as the personalities in the class. This is another component I would like to incorporate in my class. It gives students purpose for asking questions and practice with public speaking.
Daily Tech Tips was another component of our daily routine where the student was responsible for the delivery. Tech Tips were presented in a similar way to World of Wonders where students had freedom to select a topic of their choice. I personally benefited from the tech tips directly related to using the Surface Pro 3 because this was my first time using one. I was totally lost on the Surface Pro. One classmate presented how to take notes on it including highlighting key words and phrases in an article. Other Surface Pro 3 tech tip explained how to split the screen, organize apps, and taking screenshots. These tips and others were informative and helpful in improving my technology efficiency.
Reviewing history daily was apart of our routine. This portion of the class was short, informative, and reflective. Our instructors alternated presenting This Day in History. Reviewing the past was empowering to consider pivotal moments that contributed to our current advancements and success. On July 15, 2006, Twitter was launched. This was a monumental day for our social and academic lives. Twitter is used to connect millions with 140 characters or less. It is used for several platforms including academic, social, religious, and political. We used Twitter the first day of class to introduce ourselves, throughout the summer session, and post summer session to stay connected. We were able to group our tweets using hashtags. Our popular hashtags were #MSUrbanstem, #MSUwow, and #MSUaha. Whenever we tweeted, we would use these hashtags to identify our group and to cluster our tweets. Acknowledging Twitter’s anniversary was appropriate as it was instrumental in making our learning public.
Our class time was careful managed by the minute as there was a lot to cover. We were required to complete readings at home in order to maximize our time together and to extend our learning pass 4 o’ clock. There was time allotted daily to discuss our readings in depth. All of the articles were different, shared the common theme of the instructor’s responsibility of making learning relational for an enduring understanding to take place. One article written by our instructor Dr. Punya and Matthew Koehler explained how teachers can repurpose technological tools and incorporate them in their instruction. This model is called the TPACK framework. The TPACK framework is the collaboration of technology, pedagogy, content, and knowledge of all three areas. Finding the perfect balance of all three entities and merging them together is called the “Sweetspot”. Our summer cohort was empowering because our instructors knew how to hit the “Sweetspot”.