What would be involved in a multi-class blog?

Jackie’s ruminations about a classroom blog led me to thinking about what might be involved in a multi-classroom blog.

I’m not meaning my own classes all contributing together, or even disparate students able to submit to a collective blog, but a blog related to a single math subject where 4 of 5 or more classrooms across the world contribute and comment.

Potential good points:

* Getting to learn techniques that are taught in one country but not another.
* The possibility of establish global pen pals (or even study pals).
* Raising student global consciousness.
* The usual good points about blogs — getting students to write about mathematics.

Potential bad points:

* Lack of enthusiasm causing dead air — look at my own experience with students guest blogging as a reference. (Yes, I had rather a lot more than 3 students.)
* Mismatched curriculum; even taking two classes using the same textbook issues might arise from one class being on chapter 3 and another on chapter 5.
* Time zone issues.

What do you all think? Having some global class matchmaking site is one of my “dream tech” concepts. I should be able to pick whatever lesson I’m at — say, absolute value — and immediately bring up a list of classes all working on the same topic, and be able to set up a Skype connection on the fly or direct student emails to a communal help forum or —

Just, it’s silly. When I was looking for a laptop I logged on to a MUD I have frequented for 16 years, and an Austrian friend of mine was online and recommended a brand which my wife and I purchased the next day and are now happy with. Where’s the classroom equivalent? When will TIMSS results separating by country be blurred into meaninglessness?

9 Responses

  1. FYI, broken link to your prior guest blogging.

    Also, interesting idea; sounds like you’d need to build up a larger community of bloggers who can then group and regroup as needed. Tricky, but maybe awesome?

  2. I can’t envision this.

    I’m not saying it isn’t a good idea. I’m just trying to figure out how it is different than some of the forums that are out there.

    Have you asked any of your students if they’d be interested?

    • Ask me when the new school year starts! My seniors already took off for greener pastures.

      Students asking for help on a random forum isn’t what I had in mind at all … unless there’s some genuine class-to-class collaboration out there I’m unaware of.

      I’m still foggy on the details myself, but let me try an example. Let’s say I’m doing my activity where my students look at used car prices and model a depreciation rate. Generally speaking (based on the size of the class and groups) we have only 4 or 5 examples to talk about when all is said and done, but if classrooms were to network together on the same project (and then instantaneously send results to each other) we could have 40 or 50 examples. Something truly resembling statistical analysis would happen.

      Bascially, a lesson plan would have to be designed from the ground up as being a multi-classroom one. This is what’s different than what’s out there — people ask for help regarding what’s going on in their individual classroom, but there’s no genuine connection of curriculum.

  3. Ah. Now I see what you’re talking about.

    That would be uhm, interesting, to coordinate. How much flexibility do you have to move topics around in your curriculum? While I’m not locked in to a day-to-day plan, we do have common time lines for assessments in our department.

    I’ll ask my seniors about this when I ask them their thoughts about having a class blog.

    • I’m the only one who teachers our Honors Algebra 2 / Trig, and I’m the one who sets the topic scheduling (we have time for more advanced topics), so I can set that schedule for anything I want.

      The awkward part is it starts in the *middle* of Algebra 2 … and in fact might coincide better in general with a Pre-Calculus class.

      It might be better to start less ambitious and come up with something that allows for asynchronicity.

  4. I have a hard enough time coordinating with the people in my building (although that probably says more about the personalities of the people in my building, me included!). I think it would be nigh impossible to look at linking curricula across state or country borders.

    I do think, however, that it would be possible to create a multi-class blog where students write about whatever is relevant to them from their math class at that moment. With proper categorization and tagging, it could turn into a truly asynchronous conversation between Student A, who studied systems of linear equation in September and used the communal blog to help solidify her understanding, and Student B, who is studying the same topic in February and is using Student A as a newly minted mentor. Of course, these roles would reverse at some point as well.

  5. Hi Jason,

    I don’t know if it would be useful for the more routine stuff (e.g. solving systems of equations) to have two classes writing on the same blog. I don’t see it being very useful on the basic skills front.

    But larger stuff can come up this.

    (1) As you said, collecting data. Anything with statistics actually. Want to show the law of large numbers? Have one person roll a dice 10 times. Then everyone in a class. Then everyone in 5 classes.

    (1.5) If a statistics class is designing surveys, they could either administer the surveys to the other classes, or they could have the other classes critique the survey questions/methodology.

    (2) If it’s an advanced class, some ambitious kid might want to create a challenging problem to stump the kids in another class. So to pose challenge questions to each other. There’s something more fun about giving questions to strangers.

    (3) Have the class do an investigation of some sort early in the year (e.g. http://coxmathblog.wordpress.com/2009/04/09/45/ or “what is the most amount of money I could fit into this duffel bag here”) and then tell students that they should come up with a running list of ideas of questions/problems that they think would be fun for math to answer. Then the class together picks a problem/question and comes up with a way to answer the question and designs a lesson/unit around it. It doesn’t have to be all at once, but 10 minutes of talking here, 10 minutes there, and maybe a day or two to formalize it. Then late in the year, they send their lesson to another class to do. (And vice versa.) Finally, the two classes can share with each other (over Skype or something) their experiences. This could have a good amount of student buy in, if done well, me thinks.

    These don’t have much to do with the blog, the more I think about it, but just hooking up students in different classrooms. Just some late night thoughts.


    • Thanks for the comments!

      (2) If it’s an advanced class, some ambitious kid might want to create a challenging problem to stump the kids in another class. So to pose challenge questions to each other. There’s something more fun about giving questions to strangers.

      Did that one already, sort of (see the guest blogs). Of course, the students weren’t addressing their challenges to anyone in particular, although I did envision people would be answering in the comments (and then I can pass on what happened). Unfortunately there were no replies!

      re: more routine stuff, I can envision where that might be very useful, with just-in-time matchmaking so that one can make _unplanned_ connections to other classes … but the technology (and associated social structure) isn’t there yet.

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