As the students entered the room they were instructed to collect a Nintendo DS and then sitting in pairs, use the Time Lapse activity, which is part of Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training. Time Lapse displays two analog clocks and requires the students to calculate the difference in time between these clocks.
The students were given ten minutes to complete as many of the problems as possible. Students were discussing their strategies and engaging in some genuine collaborative problem solving. Too often, students are put into ‘solitary confinement’ in the classroom due to traditionalists evoking romantic, and somewhat deluded notions of nostalgia, where ‘rigorous learning’ only occurs independently, but this deprives students of one another’s ideas and disagreements.
“Thus, the source of intellectual growth is conflict.” – Alfie Kohn
There has been much research both supporting and debunking the cognitive benefits of using Brain Training, but used in this context I could see real benefit in having students verbalize their thinking. (see:
- the findings of the small scale Improving Mental Mathematics research trial conducted by Learning and Teaching Scotland.
- Brain Training? Think Again published in the Guardian
- Does Brain Training really work? by Dr. Jack Lewis
Once the DS’s were put away, the students engaged in some data collection Using Wii Sports for Averages, where the data they collected was used to explore the concepts of mean, median and mode. Students were hypothesising and conjecturing without fear of being incorrect, and some deductive and logical reasoning was evident that is unusual to see in students of that age – eg. “Well, I know that the answer isn’t…”
Repetition, reinforcement, processing, active learning and communication were all evident as students ‘oohhed’ and ‘ahhed’ there way through a game of ten-pin bowling. Something very simple that shifted the emphasis of the classroom, was the fact that each group had a small whiteboard and whiteboard marker to use – this shifted the emphasis from taking notes and filling in worksheets, to having students internalize the concepts by engaging in discussions with their peers and their teacher. Something simple, but I felt it made a real difference to engagement levels.
“Talking is not merely a way of conveying existing ideas to others; it is also a way by which we explore ideas, clarify them and make them our own.” – Michael Marland
Every minute a teacher is doing the talking is a minute this isn’t happening. Very little direct instruction was given as Dawn didn’t monopolize the classroom and gave her students a real chance to talk – and therefore to learn.
A big thanks to Dawn for her hospitality!