Over breakfast at a recent conference on the use of the Echo360 (Lecturecast) system, I found myself talking to an LTA (Learning Technology Advisor) from a small US community college. He had recently been working with teachers from the Math School at the college, helping them transform their existing paper-based courses for online delivery.
One of the last, and most reluctant, members of staff to go online was a senior member of the school’s teaching staff, who met with the LTA regularly to discuss ideas for the new course. As the course’s live date approached, the LTA suggested that an online discussion forum be included; a place where students could share ideas, or give feedback about the course – the LTA also advised that it was good practice to prime a forum with one or more initial posts to ‘get the ball rolling’. The Maths teacher doubted the value of ‘this kind of thing’ but said that he’d think about it.
The new term began, the course was made live but it was a couple of weeks before the LTA and the Maths teacher had a chance to meet and review how things were going. When they did finally meet the LTA was pleased to hear that the course had been well received and asked his colleague what he had found most useful.
The Maths teacher said that he had taken up the suggestion of including a discussion forum and to get the ball rolling had posted the question for all students – ‘What does Maths mean to you in your life?’. This was a question. that over his years of teaching, he always asked every group of students at their first lecture – observing sadly that he rarely got much of a response.
The teacher said that asking the same question in an online forum had made a big difference, the LTA told me that there were tears in his colleagues eyes as he talked about the many messages in the forum and how a number of students had talked about the beauty and elegance of mathematics, describing a passion for the subject that matched his own – he said the replies had inspired him and that his teaching with this group had an energy and enthusiasm he hadn’t felt for years.
The Lecturecast conference covered many interesting uses of this very impressive technology, but a few months later, trying to think of subject for this blog, it’s the story of the Maths teacher and his students that sticks in my mind and how the use of a much simpler technology gave them a different way to connect.