By Toby Eveleigh, GCSE Maths Course Manager, Taunton.
Anyone else starting to love a Zoom meeting? I’m not talking about those family quizzes which started off as fun but have started to turn a little tedious. I’m talking about quality educational training that allows you to reflect, is packed full of resources and you just know is going to work perfectly for your classes in September.
At first, I scrolled past all of those online training emails that were sent out at the beginning of the lock down. Fortunately, my Regional Specialist Lead (RSL) Paul, emailed me again with sessions that he was leading for Shaping Success, so I signed up. I’d experienced his face to face training before and knew his stuff was very useful, although I was still a little sceptical of using Zoom.
How wrong I was. No hours of driving to some isolated rugby club, no mass-produced curry for lunch and no race out at the last minute as everyone tries to miss the traffic. Instead, I’m actually able to drop the children off at school and chat to their teacher (something I never get to do), I can grab a decent coffee from my own espresso maker and then get comfy at home in my lounge clothes. I feel empowered when adding my own thoughts to the discussion. I can search online, make notes easily and quickly lookup any old reading on my kindle; all without anyone realising. That anxiety of sharing in front of my peers is removed, or at least reduced.
This got me thinking, can I learn anything from this which could apply to my own students? Maths Anxiety is a huge problem in Further Education. As teachers, the curse of the specialist often means we forget how our students feel about maths; (Ashcraft, 2002) “For a math anxious student, math creates more than a feeling of dislike or worry; it also affects physiological outcomes such as heart rate, neural activation, and cortisol levels.” Can we remove parts of the learning experience which adds to our students’ maths anxiety? Note taking from the board whilst the teacher is explaining, could a good knowledge organiser be used? Thinking time pressure on whole class explanations, what about an excellent Dr Frost video they can watch, and rewatch, at their own pace? Going over their notes and testing to check retention, what about an Anki app?
Should we be embracing online connection? Our students certainly are, a huge part of their social interaction is on Instagram, Fortnite or FIFA. Are we preparing them for a future of working from home, international commerce and social media income? I know I’m not, yet.
Ashcraft, M. (2002). Math Anxiety: Personal, Educational, and Cognitive Consequences
A follow-up idea from Paul Stych (RSL for the Southwest):
I think more people than ever before are looking at what’s available and there is much to trawl through. So the idea is simple. If practitioners add comments where they have experience (Pros and Cons sections only) we will build up a quick data base of peer comments and help all concerned in finding something useful. If there is something not listed (I am sure there will be) I am happy to be sent info and I will add another column.