Sunday, April 10, 2011

Connections, Connections, Connections.

Two great emails and a great experience today started me thinking about the importance of making connections as we learn new things. Making connections is the essence of the constructivist approach to teaching which is what I use and advocate for in all my courses.

The first connection came in the form of an email from my colleague, Professor Kristin Gehsmann who teaches the language and reading education courses in the Education Department at St. Mike's. Kristin sent me a message to say that one of the students who is taking a class with her as well as a class with me was making incredible connections between the two classes. Kristin wrote that Molly L. had quoted the Hiebert book that I am using in my math class in a paper she had written in the reading course. This is wonderful when this happens because you know the student really understands the material and has taken ownership. A couple of weeks ago another of my students quoted Prof Gehsmann in my math class by saying "teaching is not telling"; something she had heard Kristin say.

The second connection was an email from a professor at New Brunswick University in Canada to let me know that he had been checking out my My Math Counts Too website. He suggested that I check some of the facts I have included regarding language and math education in Nepal. I love it when this happens because the information I gain from my research is ideographic which means that it is derived from interviews with individuals. This means that it may not be as accurate or generalizable as it could be because individuals often have unique experiences such as living in several countries before coming to the US. So it's great when I get added information from experts who have lived abroad and know the cultures more intimately and accurately than I. Although it is important to have the facts straight it is also important to have the personal stories because we work in schools, after all, with individuals and not whole cultures.

The third connection is with the past as in the photo of the Callanish Standing Stones in the Outer Hebrides off the coast of Scotland where my brother lives. I think it is always important to be connected with the past through reminders such as these.

The great experience today was attending the end of season banquet for the St. Mikes women's basketball team for whom I am the academic advisor. Well done coaches Jen, Shannon and all the players; a memorable season indeed with the first playoff win in 22 years.

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