Collab Lab 24 Recap

Maps as a Point of Engagement

The idea for session came out of conversations we had last summer with Donna Genzmer and Kate Madison faculty members at UWM.  Kate and Donna run UWM’s  Power of Data Teacher Workshops. The Power of Data (POD) Project offers a 35 hour professional development program in mid-June that helps secondary teachers enhance existing lessons with Geospatial Inquiry.  Through NSF funding the program is both free for teachers and offers a stipend to participants.  We thought it would be useful to offer teachers interested in exploring how to leverage maps/Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools a chance to explore some ideas, and connect with resources early in the year so they might better be able to leverage the PODs training.

Milwaukee has a wealth of GIS talent at area universities, industries, and non-profits.  Our featured participants brought a broad range of expertise and practical knowledge in the use of GIS/spatial data analysis across a variety of domains.  We structured the session to allow participants to share their interests in exposing students to spatial data, explore ideas for potential projects, and solicit advice for how to make that happen.

That covered some pretty broad territory:

  • Neighborhood asset mapping
  • Macro economic data to map micro space
  • Conservation/spatial learning re Zoo animals
  • Connections to Math (social justice)
  • Viable composting sites
  • Linking environmental issues through maps
  • Past/present/future of place
  • Location of “good” landlords/housing
  • Location of bird houses
  • Parent pickup
  • Crime geography/address social justice
  • Locations for mobile maker space visits
  • Place of residence w/respect to school
  • Invasive/native plant distribution
  • Land and resource usemap
  • Suburban/urban agriculture
  • Watershed education
  • Green infrastructure
  • Food deserts
  • Location for community gardens
  • Data visualization
  • Develop GIS Apps w/IT/GIS skills
  • Freshwater connections
  • Connect people to water resources
  • Rainwater flow
  • Safety
  • Waste stream
  • Climate
  • Location of Companies

 

Upcoming workshops:

Milwaukee Community Map

Tuesday February 19th
4:30 to 5:30 PM
[email protected] – 908 S. 5th Street, Milwaukee
details 

PODS Workshops

UWM POD Workshop #1
June 3 — 7, 2019, UWM Library

UWM POD Workshop #2
June 17 — 21, 2019, UWM Library

details


Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space and to Marvin and our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Emily Champagne – GIS Supervisor, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD)
Donna Genzmer, GISP – Director, Cartography & GIS Center, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Auriana Gilliland-Lloyd – Conservation Assistant, Bonobo & Congo Biodiversity Initiative, Zoological Society of Milwaukee
Lawrence Hoffman – GIS Program Manager, Groundwork Milwaukee
Beth Haskovec – Program Officer, LISC Milwaukee
Kate Madison – Policy Analyst, UWM’s Center for Economic Development
Dr. Aleksandra Snowden Ph.D. – Assistant Professor Social & Cultural Sciences, Marquette University
Michael Timm – Reflo/Milwaukee Community Map

Looking Back

It’s been almost three years since we started talking with folks about the change coming to education, the implications should Milwaukee lag behind, and what might be done to help move things along. We put together a brief manifesto that called for for connecting area educators who are doing interesting work to learn from each other, applying ideas from lean entrepenuriship and agile development to help educators seed the pace at which they are able to develop and implement innovative practices, and raising the visibility of that work.

Those early conversations led to a short series of workshops we ran in August of 2016.  We took what we learned there to kick off our Collab Lab series in earnest that October, with a session focused on maker spaces and Fab Labs. Our friends at The Commons were kind enough to loan us use of  space in Ward 4 for our initial pilots and the 21 Collab Labs that have followed as we reach the midpoint of our 3rd season.

Our roster of attendees now includes more than 400 individuals from public, private, and charter schools, universities, non-profits and area companies. The focus for a growing number of sessions have been topics which partners including Milwaukee Succeeds, M7, Marquette, UWM and other area organizations have asked us to cover. In January we’ll host our 24th Collab Lab in collaboration with faculty from UWM who have NSF funding to help teachers develop curriculum that leverages spatial data. The aim of this session is to identify projects on which schools might collaborate and help educators connect with expertise within the community well in advance of the UWM training so they can come well prepared to take full advantage of it.

Our hope when we started was to use the sessions to identify ideas that collaborative efforts could help move things forward. This has proved to be the case and we’ve run a number of experiments in different areas. Most notable of these have been around how we might develop an upcycling network to get excess material from industry available for use in school maker spaces. Our goal is to set this up as a network of student run business that can help build connections not just between schools, but between schools and the firms that surround them. Our efforts there include work with a number of schools and partners, among them MSOE, MIAD, The Commons, Goodwill, Discovery World, Betty Brinn, SHARP Literacy, and COA Youth & Family Centers.

Other experiments over the past couple of years have led to two major initiatives– an effort with Milwaukee Succeeds to address the dismal math performance in Milwaukee schools, and a set of engineering challenges for the Milwaukee County Zoo. Our math initiative is illustrative of our bottom up approach to driving change. We’ve been working with teachers and staff from MPS, private, and charter schools, with help from UWM faculty to understand what teachers need to make meaningful discourse a regular part of their math lessons– a practice that not only helps students build understanding of math concepts, but helps create a positive classroom environment and gives teachers a chance to experience more of the “Aha!” moments that energize them.

We have pilots running now with Brown Street Academy and LaCausa, where math coaches at each school are working with teachers who have chosen to make Number Talks a regular part of their routine. We launched those efforts this fall after spending much of last year working to understand what would need to be in place for teachers to feel comfortable with the practice. That support includes a community of like minded practitioners willing to help each other out, so we pull a group together every six weeks at Milwaukee Succeeds to do just that. That group includes teachers from other schools who are working with Number Talks now, or want to embed the practice in their school next year. Our January meeting with that group will be a planning session to lay out what needs to happen between now and September for schools that want to start in on the effort or expand the number of teachers involved.

Our Zoo Train initiative came together in collaboration with the Coalition for Sustainable Rail, which has been working with the Milwaukee County Zoo to test a bio-fuel on the Zoo’s steam locomotives. They would like to test the fuel on a Zoo scale locomotive of modern design.  We’d like Milwaukee area students to design and build it.

This year we have 65 students from six area high schools working to design a replacement for the wooden water tower that services the Zoo’s steam locomotives. We’ve paired the teams with near-peer mentors who are engineering majors at area universities, and given the schools a pool of industry experts to tap for help. Over the course of this effort we are also creating opportunities for students to get on-site experiences that can inform their designs. This has included a design thinking workshop hosted by Briggs & Stratton, and a structural design workshop at MSOE.

On December 10th, MSOE hosted the Conceptual Design Review for the water tower challenge. Teams presented their design concepts to panels comprised of Zoo train staff, civil engineers and railroad historians. UWM will play host for the detailed design review in May. The design approach selected there will be the focus of a summer workshop for high school students at MATC where they will produce detailed engineering drawings. We’ll distribute the fabrication work across area schools next fall.

Our goal in all of this it to develop a process where schools can collaborate with university and industry partners, as well as each other, to take on complex work that has value to the community. Having a well defined project with a lofty goal has made it very easy for both schools and partners to say yes. This summer we’ll work with teachers to put together the next challenge– an automated coal handling system for the train. That will follow a parallel sequence with the design phase starting next fall. After that, it’s a caboose, perhaps a passenger car, and then we start in on a new steam locomotive.

Throughout all of this, we have been consistently amazed by the ease with which we can find educators doing great things, willing to share what they know, and try something new. We have also found no shortage of people from area organizations who want to help– they simply need to know where and how. This is a really interesting time. Education is shifting and those who see the change coming are excited by the opportunity to work together to help speed it along.  We are grateful both for the opportunity to be a part of this and for all of the support, feedback, and ideas an amazing group of people have provided us.

— Pete & Joost

 

 

 

Number Talks Workgroup – December Recap

Number Talks Quick Reference CardThis month we joined the Milwaukee Area Math Council at City Lights Brewery for conversation about math and math education. We were also able to distribute copies of the latest version of our Number Talks quick reference card, which Milwaukee Succeeds had printed for us.  We’ll have the final version laminated, but we’re taking advantage of a mix-up when the printer forgot to laminate these.

The unlaminated versions make it much easier for a teacher to highlight key things they want to pay attention to or write additional prompts. We’ll check back early next year with the teachers these have gone out to to see how they may have modified them and what other feedback they may have before we finalize the design.

If you would like to get a couple of the quick reference cards for yourself or colleagues, let us know. We’d love to hear what you think.

 

I'd like to test drive the Number Talks Quick Reference card.

Number Talks Workgroup – November Recap

Wednesday night’s meeting of our Number Talks workgroup was focused on addressing two issues raised at our last session– producing a quick reference card for Number Talks that teachers new to the practice could use to help guide discussions, and second, helping teachers understand how to select Number Talks given the range in abilities they see within their classroom.

Quick Reference Card

After our October session, we created a draft version of the quick reference card, which coaches from Brown Street Academy and La Causa were able to share with their teachers.  From the feedback received from teachers and some ideas that came up in last night’s discussion, we made a couple of revisions and sent it back out for feedback. If all looks good, we’ll work with Milwaukee Succeeds to print and laminate a stack of these we can share with teachers working with Number Talks.

 

Choosing Number Talks

The First 20 Day plans used by Brown Street and La Causa teachers laid out a set of Number Talks for the start of the semester. This allowed teachers to get comfortable with the routine at the start of the year without having to give a lot of thought as to which problem sets would be most useful for their students.  Since one of the goals of Number Talks is to build understanding where students may have missed something, teachers can’t simply choose problems based on the pacing guide for the curriculum, and instead, need to target number talks around the gaps in understanding that students have.

We began our discussion with the hypothesis that if we identified a set of common misunderstandings, we could match those to one or more math strategies that help illuminate the misunderstanding.  Since our references for Number Talk problem sets are keyed to the strategies that are useful in solving the problems, that would allow teachers to follow a path from misunderstanding to strategy to problem set.

As we talked through the approach, however, it became clear that mapping this out in a way that accounts for both the misunderstanding and the skills teachers are trying to build (getting away from counting on, for example) would result in a complex index.  Further, even if one could produce such an index, if teachers simply followed that by rote, it would not help them build the skills that allow them to recognize where a student is and the best exercises to guide students’ understanding.

At this point, we took a step back. We want teachers to get practice choosing number talks and for them to understand the signs that led to a good choice. We also wanted to ensure that they had the right feedback to develop their skills in charting the thinking of students during Number Talks. Here’s the approach we settled on to test out over the next several weeks.

  1.  The coach will work with grade level teachers to select one or two strategies to focus on for the coming month from Math Strategies guides for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division produced by MPS as part of a GE Foundation grant.
  2. For each strategy identified as a focus for the current month, grade level teachers will pull a sets of Number Talk problems from the  guides produced by Boston Public Schools which groups Number Talk problem sets by the math strategies they are likely to invoke. Three guides cover first, second, and third-fifth grade.  Since the schools we’re working with have kids with a wide range of skills, teachers will focus on problems appropriate for where their students are.
  3. Grade level teachers will select their own problem sets, but as a team, will select at least a couple that will be used by each of their grade level colleagues
  4. Teachers will document student thinking on chart paper rather than smart/white boards so they may easily be shared at grade level meetings with the math coach.  These meetings will provide a venue to walk through how student’s thinking was charted, which number talks worked well given where students are, and how those observations can help guide the selection of the next round of problem sets.

As we stepped through this approach, we also recognized the need to list a few signs for teachers that Number Talks are going well:

  • Students were willing to talk
  • Students were willing to take risks
  • Students tried a new strategy
  • Discourse was respectful
  • The problems were just right— not too easy and not too hard

This resulted in the “Pats on the back” section of the quick reference card.

One other big decision came out of the discussion– we shifted the time and venue for our December 12th meeting to join the Milwaukee Area Math Council at City Lights Brewing at 6:00 pm.  Join us if you can.


If you’d like to become part of our Number Talks workgroup us, let us know:

I'd like to... (required)
ParticipateSupport the effort

 

 

 

Collab Lab 22: Recap & Notes

Collab Lab 22 was focused on how can schools leverage a greenhouse/aquaponics facility to provide a rich set of authentic learning experiences for students.  We structured the session as small group discussions focused on goals, the opportunities presented when these facilities are available to students, and what needs to be in place for educators to move forward.

Here’s what we came up with:

Goals

  • Develop authentic learning experiences
    • learn how to think systematically
  • Create a micro-economy
  • Tie into multiple areas within STEAM
  • Create tangible applications to drive student engagement
  • Pull in a new audience (of students)
  • Create a focus/spur for community development
  • Show students and colleagues what is possible
  • Create memorable, hands-on experiences for students
  • Aid local pantry
  • Develop a common language
  • Develop systems awareness
    • Circle of life– acquire food; manage waste; your role
  • Develop productive, self sustaining responsible adults– personal and work ethics
  • Collaborate for learning and greater benefit to community
  • Sustainable educational program
  • Included in educational curriculum standards
  • Equitable access to learning
  • Build literacy for the value of science

Key Takeaway:  The goal(s) for the facility should drive design

 

Opportunities

  • Cash crops
  • Allow students can see what one plant can provide
  • Build transferable skills
    • scientific illustration
    • ecosystems
    • problem solving
    • environmental law/policy
    • public speaking
    • making decisions
  • Tap into kids’ passions
  • Experiential learning — e.g. things break
  • Therapeutic effects/mindfulness
  • Chance for students to see small successes
  • Chance for students to collaborate with peers they would not otherwise interact with
  • Learn culinary skills/safe food handling
  • Build a connection to food/compassion for food systems
  • See something new
  • Experiment with sensors and controls
    • Live monitoring of system: pH, water usage, temperature
    • Build numeracy skills
  • Ag marketing apprenticeship
  • Healthy eating
  • Cooking with kids
  • Community engagement
  • Add meaning to field trips
    • Water/ponds in Milwaukee
  • Tie in to solar energy
  • Public policy implications
  • Develop aquaponics curriculum to build understanding of
    • systems thing
    • food production
    • scientific literacy
  • Inventory of best practices to share and collaborate
  • Accessible exposure to systems– e.g. turn the facility into a demonstration of a closed loop system
  • Composting to teach waste management
  • Start in elementary level to create mindset and culture

 

What is needed to move forward

  • Cultural norms
  • Buy-in from risk management, facilities & maintenance at the district level.
  • A teacher champion (and a backup)
  • A student champion
  • To be around people who know how to do this
  • Broad understanding of the value to students
  • A network of schools working with greenhouses/aquaponics
  • Revenue to cover costs/justify program (reduced need for field trips)
  • Build the case for academic ROI
  • Knowing how to measure behavioral outcomes
  • Regulatory knowledge– how to navigate contracts
  • Celebrate success
  • Space
  • To just start — learn from imperfections
  • Fundraising to expand/upgrade
  • Pioneers sharing their learning
  • Partners with knowledge, experience, funding
  • Colleagues who are motivated to take initiative
  • Tell the story– market the exciting things that are happening to the wider community
  • Create relationships to introduce accountability

 


Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space and to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Charles Uihlein – Teens Grow Greens
Joe Jenna – Waukesha West High School
Sam Rikkers – Tiny Earth
Matt Ray – Fernwood Montessori (MPS)

Number Talks Workgroup – October Meeting

We had the first meeting of our Number Talks Workgroup on Wednesday at the Milwaukee Succeeds office.  This was a chance for teams from our pilot schools as well as teachers from other schools working with Number Talks to share how things are going as they work to embed Number Talks as a regular practice within math lessons.

The coaches at both schools put together a plan for the first 20 days of school to kick off the practice at the start of the school year.  Here’s how things are going…

What’s working..

  • Having a 20 day plan allowed teachers to know where and how to get started.
  • Coaches have been able to model Number Talks in class
  • Student response to the practice has been positive, with several teachers reporting that students are excited about math and look forward to Number Talks
  • Teachers are able to leverage the discourse practices of Number Talks in other subjects, or when reviewing student work
  • 2-3 times per week seems to be the right frequency, with Number Talks used to build understanding of topics that have already been covered in other lessons.
  • Students are able to verbalize their thinking which has helped teachers better assess their progress.

What’s they are running in to…

  • Some teachers are comfortable doing Number Talks with smaller groups of students, but are still struggling in whole-group settings. This is particularly true in higher grades, where there is a wider spread of abilities and some students are less willing to share their ideas.
  • The 20 day plan got teachers off to a good start, but they are now at a point where they need to figure out what problems to pose given the range of understanding among their students.
  • Balancing where students are in their understanding (the basis for selecting Number Talks problems) and what the pacing guide for the curriculum tells teachers they should be covering at this point in the semester.
  • A few of the teachers in our pilot groups are teaching new grades this semester and are still working to recognize where students are in their understanding.
  • The ability to maintain a poker face in response to incorrect answers is a new skill.
  • Figuring how to draw kids who are reluctant to share their thinking into the conversation.

What teachers could use help with…

  • Guidance on finding the right entry point for students given their level of understanding
  • Options for professional development focused on Number Talks
  • Funding for additional resource materials
  • How to help other teachers move past their existing routine to be open to Number Talks
  • A quick reference with sentence starters for teachers to use during Number Talks.

Our next session is coming up on Wednesday, November 14.  If you’d like to join us, let us know:

I'd like to... (required)
ParticipateSupport the effort

 

Collab Lab 21: Recap & Notes

Building Computer Science Talent

Over the summer we met with Ryan Bennett from SafeNet Consulting and Ryan Osterberg from Brookfield Central to talk about the CS internship program they put together for high school students.  That program leads teams of high school students to develop custom applications for other local non-profits. Over the past 2 years, they’ve developed an effective way to engage students in meaningful, high quality work. They have started a new non-profit, Code The Way, to carry on the effort and reach a broader pool of talent.

In the same way that having a real-world project helps sharpen the thinking of students, having a real-world program as a case study helped us talk through a number of the issues around developing CS talent in K-12.

We began the evening with an overview of the Code the Way program, how it is structured, and the key aspects of the approach that make it a valuable experience for students.  Our initial set of small group discussions focused on the aspects of the approach participants found most compelling.  Those key aspects fell into the following categories

Collaboration

  • Building a pathway from high school to college

Pedagogy

  • Context matters (real-world projects)
  • Encourages failing forward
  • Changes the role of teachers/shifts traditional learning models
  • Facilitated Learning

Curriculum

  • Teachers don’t feel confident in teaching computer science and those trained gain confidence and leave
  • Preparing students for future careers involves all students learning fundamentals of programming
  • How do we develop basic technological literacy skills across the student experience

Equity

  • The program/curriculum currently caters to top students.  How do we reach all students?

Partnerships

  • Having real world applications for community organizations is critical
  • What other opportunities do we have available in the Milwaukee area for partnerships with corporations

We then moved on to talk through barriers for each of these areas and what we might do to move forward…

Collaboration

Key Issues:

  • Time available for professional development, collaboration
  • Lack of incentives
  • Institutional barriers
  • Lack of platform to support collaboration

Strategy:

  • Educational policy on CS curriculum
  • Data on tech job growth (to make the case for resources)
  • Connect with business priorities so they are invested in schools

Pedagogy

Key issues:

  • Time
  • Intimidating
  • Buy-in
  • Resources/training
  • Incentives to continue up-skilling
  • Mismatch between what’s being tested and what industry needs
  • CS is not integrated with curriculum priorities

Strategies

  • Invite community leaders to an hour of code
  • Help teachers know it is ok to fail
  • Give teachers a chance to experience the learning module or lesson before going in front of students
  • Recognize opportunities to integrate curriculum– saves on time and adds context
  • College STEM/CS ambassadors
  • Offer more coverage time for teachers so they can learn, explore, collaborate, etc.

Curriculum

Key issues:

  • Prioritization of problem solving vs content (aka CS knowledge)
  • If we want students to solve real problems, what content do they need to do so?

Strategy:

  • Build partnerships/mentors from the “real world” who can inform/provide content, software, etc. which becomes the means to how students solve problems– thus balancing problem solving & content.  So… tap into TEALS  & leverage new partners
  • Quick wins… Talk to TEALS, reach out to local business.

Equity

Key issues:

  • School access– courses are offered within K-12
  • Qualified instructors
  • Paid or unpaid internships vs guaranteed income for students (who can’t afford to go without a summer job)
  • Representation of diverse K-12 demographics
  • Issues related to geography & transportation

Strategy:

  • Centralized platform of program offerings
  • District level talks of scope and sequence for CS for K-12
  • Survey to identify CS offerings
  • Paid internships & provide a pipeline for college & job (stipends/apprenticeships)
  • Opening your doors to see what challenges you have on site. Provide opportunities for others to help/diverse help
  • Privide transportation or bus passes; offer courses within students’ neighborhoods

Partnerships

Key issues:

  • IT vs CS
  • Reciprocal accountability
  • Equity in service
  • Institutional silos
  • Lack of social responsibility
  • Wanting only “cream of the crop”

Strategies:

  • Focus on student’s stories
  • Engage smaller businesses
  • Talk up success, MPS through suburban districts
  • Invite partners to see what is going on
  • Understand the customer
  • Strong message
  • Adjust model to fit more kids
  • Teach that failure is an option

Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space and to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Ryan Bennett — Senior Consultant, SafeNet Consulting
Dennis Brylow — Associate Professor, Computer Science, Marquette University
Karen Green — Computer Science Coach, Milwaukee Public Schools
Ryan Osterberg — Computer Science Teacher, Brookfield Central High School
Mark Zacher — Milwaukee Regional Manager, TEALS

Resouces:

You can find an overview of Code the Way here: http://learndeep.org/wp-content/uploads/Case_statement.pdf

The Milwaukee Tech Hub Education Workgroup is a team of community volunteers committed to addressing barriers that will prevent our emerging workforce from accessing opportunities that will allow them to secure and sustain employment in an era of unprecedented technological change.  The group’s first deliverables were 1) a presentation to make “A Case for Change in K12”, and 2) web content that might help those charged with building a Computer Science program in schools.  Please review these resources before the Collab Lab as they might help spur ideas during your small group discussions.  If you have suggestions on how to improve these resources or have questions about the workgroup’s collective efforts, please email MTH.Education@gmail.com

Zoo Train Challenge Kick-off

Our Zoo Train challenge kicked off this morning with close to 70 students from 6 area high schools meeting at the Zoo. This year students are taking on the design of a replacement for the wooden water tower that services the Zoo’s steam locomotives. The tower has been in place since the train was first installed at the Zoo 60 years ago. At that time it was positioned between the two sets of tracks that run past the station. When safety requirements dictated four feet of clearance between the train and the tower it was moved to its present location, near the gate where riders exit.

On hand for the event were Davidson Ward, from the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR), and Ken Ristow, who has worked as an engineer for the Zoo train for the past 20 years. Davidson provided background on CSR’s bio-fuel testing at the Zoo. CSR is working with the University of Minnesota to develop a fuel to replace coal for recreational steam railways like the Zoo’s. Ken was able to address what it’s like to work with the current water tower, where they’ve had to make do, and what they’d like to see improved. That includes the educational display which currently stands near the water tower.

Student teams had been given a set of guidelines for the project at the start of the semester, so they came well prepared with questions for us, CSR, and Zoo staff.

2018-19 Collab Labs

Collab Labs are back for a 3rd season

We’ve set the schedule for this year’s Collab Labs.  In Collaboration with SafeNet Consulting, we’re kicking off the season on October 11th with a look at developing computer science talent. Through the continued support of The Commons, we’ll be back in Ward 4– now with street car service (well, tracks).

Here’s the schedule:

Apr 11

Collab Lab 27: See Math Everywhere

Thursday April 11 @ 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm
May 09

Collab Lab 28: Share your Success

Thursday May 9 @ 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Spreading Number Talks

Goals for 2018-19 School Year

Our workgroup met Tuesday evening to walk through our goals for the 2018-19 school year which are focused on getting Number Talks to take root within schools.

  • Validate assumptions about what needs to be in place for Number Talks to take root and spread within a school
  • Pilot effort with Brown Street Academy and Prince of Peace
  • Recruit and prepare additional educators in round 2 schools
  • Develop community of practitioners that can support pilot and round 2 schools

Assumptions

Our assumptions about what needs to be in place for Number Talks to take root and spread within a school come out of our workshop at the Systems Thinking Institute in March, and our ongoing work with educators involved with the project.

Support

  • Overt support of building leadership
  • Community Partners (Learn Deep, Milwaukee Succeeds, UWM)

Resources

  • In-building expertise/support for Number Talks in a role that can serve classroom teachers
  • Willing cohort of teachers
  • Time for in-building collaboration
  • Cross-school network of practitioners willing to share problems and ideas
  • Peer-based professional development

Tools

  • A shared set of tools teachers can use in their practice:
    • Common Terms
    • Sentence Starters
    • Anchor Charts
    • etc.

Collaborative Feedback Processes

  • In-building
  • Cross-school/district

 

Pilot School Criteria

Our assumptions about what is required for Number Talks to take root and spread, guide our criteria for where it makes sense to pilot the effort:

  • Supportive Building Leadership
  • In-school resource in a role that can support colleagues working to establish Number Talks as a regular practice.
  • 3+ teachers willing to establish Number Talks as a regular practice within their classrooms from the start of the school year.
  • Participants willing to collaborate across school/district boundaries

We’re excited to be able to pilot the effort with Brown Street Academy (MPS) and Prince of Peace Elementary School (Seton Schools), and will be working with both schools over the summer to prepare for a fall start.

 

Tools

A number of the tools teachers planning to implement Number Talks are looking for were produced and archived as part of the GE Foundation project within MPS.  These include:

  • Sentence Stems
  • Discussion Prompts
  • Math Strategies
  • Planning Guide
  • Teacher Moves

These tools, and others are available on the project’s legacy site:

https://sites.google.com/milwaukee.k12.wi.us/gefvideos/math-resources

In our work this year, we also saw the need for a couple of additional tools– first, what we’ve been calling a Strategy Map– a quick guide for teachers that, for a given Number Talk, gives them a sense of the types of strategies they might see, common errors, and for those common errors, strategies a teacher can use to allow students to recognize and correct the error.  We’ll explore what these might look like over the summer.

We’ve also heard a need for a tool that can allow a teacher easily note where a student is in their thinking or level of comfort with a strategy that does not disrupt the flow of the discussion.  A simple checklist may suffice and we’ll look to test out some options within our pilot schools.

 

Collaborative Feedback Process

In-Building

For teachers to quickly develop competence and comfort in a new practice, effective, timely feedback is key.  We envision a process that borrows from Scrum, an agile methodology used in software development.  The idea here is a quick daily meeting that allows team members working on a common project (in this case Number Talks) to communicate where they are, where they are headed, and what they need help with. Our suggestion is to do these on the same frequency as Number Talks, 3-5 days a week.

Cross-school/District

For the 2018-19 school year, our workgroup meetings will shift towards peer-based professional development.  We look to continue the schedule of meeting every 4 to 6 weeks, but the focus will be on what teachers see, learn, and need help with as they use number talks in their lessons.  We’ll expand the group to include not only the teachers at our pilot schools working with number talks, but teachers at other schools that are using the practice on their own, or from schools that are looking for more widespread use.

Role of Community Resources

Throughout the year, we’ve had help from Kevin McLeod and Gabriella Pinter from UWM’s Mathematics program. UWM has a couple of professional development opportunities this summer, that Brown Street teachers will take advantage of in preparation for the work they will be doing next fall.

Strong Start Math Project — June 18-29
Early Math Seminar — July 30 – August 3

We touched briefly on the potential to connect after school programming at the Boys & Girls Clubs to the work schools are doing around Number Talks, as well as leveraging the Milwaukee Area Math Council to reach additional teachers interested in bringing the practice into their schools.

 

Metrics & Evaluation

As we look to scale the use of Number Talks within schools, we see the need for two sets of metrics.  The first, is focused on the spread of the practice:

  • Number of teachers using Number Talks as a regular practice
  • Number of schools with teachers using Number Talks as a regular practice
  • Number of students participating in Number Talks on a regular basis
  • Frequency of Number Talks for teaches, schools and students

The second set of metrics is aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of the program.  There we can look not just at test scores, but

  • Movement along learning trajectories/where students are in their thinking
  • Level of participation in discussions
  • Improvements in classroom culture

UWM’s Master of Sustainable Peacebuilding Program put together a workbook of tools that MPS might use to assess them impact of Systems Thinking in Schools.  They see that Systems Thinking training ought to have impacts beyond simple mastery of of the ideas.  As those ideas are put to use by students and staff the impact should be felt in the culture of the school, how students deal with conflict, etc. Given that number talks establish a pattern of respectful discourse where the students’ ideas are valued, we expect the practice to show impacts beyond understanding in math, and that a similar approach could be useful in assessing the effectiveness of Number Talks.

 

Next Steps

As we look forward to our fall pilots with Brown Street Academy and Prince of Peace, we’re moving on to what we need to get done over the summer:

  • Get the resources/tools in place for pilot teachers
  • Identify schools/teacher leads for who are interested in following the pilot efforts/participating in next year’s work group series
  • Confirm roles for community resources
  • Solidify the evaluation process
  • Secure funding to support the effort

If you’d like to join or support the effort, please let us know.