I believe students learn through participation in project-based or problem solving-based learning. In such an environment they make links between different ideas and areas of knowledge facilitated by the teacher through coaching (not lecturing). I would also value and add the use of technology that supports bodily and sensory interaction in constructionism learning, introduced by Papert (1991). Within a constructionism lens – in a problem-solving environment carefully enriched by use of technology, I believe different modes of interactions augment the multi-modality of communication in instruction.
Participatory and Problem Solving-Based Learning Approach
I take advantage of Participatory Learning Environment (PLE) promoted in a problem-based learning setting enriched by the current educational technologies as the heart of my teaching philosophy. From the first day of classes, I invite my students to work together and form [flexible] groups to construct their knowledge. I explain to them that they will be immersed in a technological problem-based setting and they will work collaboratively on open-ended problems. I found such a PLE approach usually results in bonding students together and respecting each other’s differences, abilities, interests, and values. Even, with the subject of mathematics, I choose the open-ended problems (problems with more than one correct answer) that relate to the students’ life and experience, or the problems that question their previous knowledge or their myth believes. In such a setting, PLE fosters a friendly environment. I often take the role of “Mathe-magician” and entertain my students with storytelling, role-playing, card tricks, handouts creation. In a technologically enabled classroom, I ask them to construct or manipulate mathematical objects with an appropriate software on their most available device (iPads/ cellphones/ computers/ Interactive Whiteboards, etc.)
Incorporating Suitable Digital Technology and Tools to Support Learning & Teaching
My passion for teaching and learning with technology began when I was doing my bachelor’s degree in pure mathematics and introduced to computer programming. Then it developed through teaching mathematics and computer programming simultaneously (starting in 2000). Meanwhile, my innovative and creative efforts in teaching mathematics, science, and developing interactive e-contents brought me several district and nationwide awards. My vast enthusiasm for learning novel ways of integrating digital technology in teaching and learning mathematics guided me to the ‘Mathematics Education with Information and Communication Technology' program at the University Malaya (one of the top-ranked universities in Asia). During my master’s studies, I was introduced to many educational software programs and media along with major theoretical frameworks. This continued through my Ph.D. studies while working as a Dr. Sinclair, Dr. Campbell, and Dr. Paterson’s research assistant.
Overall, as an educator, I try to take a creative and innovative path to course instruction augmented by the use of emerging technologies with an evidence-based approach. I take this approach in all of my teaching steps: from preparation, implementation to an appraisal of course material, assignments, and assessments. In keeping up with participatory learning, I usually integrate a technologically enhanced learning environment, aiming to utilize electronic handheld devices (i.e. iPads), and Interactive Smart Board. Also, to maintain wireless connectivity, and to create active PLE, I always take the advantage of the organization’s recognized Learning Management System (LMS). This approach meaningfully triggers my student's connectivity and collaborative engagement through the use of Cloud and digital technology. I think, the infusion of technologies in practice will be successful if and only if it is utilized as a purposeful teaching and learning tool, which fosters reflection, critical and analytical thinking, creativity, innovation, and problem-solving.
Flexible and Open to Changes
These changes can be looked at with different lenses:
My teaching philosophy is sustained by an intense desire to bring out the best in people and to tie individuals together in the community. This is directly associated with my personal experience as the first child of a young family and the strong confidence that my parents and teachers helped me to build. They encouraged me and gave me confidence, although there were tangible scant resources (because of 8 years of imposed war to our homeland). During that time, I was assigned as a peer tutor for most of the subject matters. I could successfully form and involve small groups of my peers, create educational tools (mostly from recycling objects: such as a Geoboard with elastic bands and pins on a piece of cardboard, or representing chemical compounds and their structures with colored pebbles and fire matches), and propose group tasks to learn the core concepts.
I am dedicated to encourage the creativity of my students, who will become the future generation of educators. Also, I believe that stress on the cross-curricular instruction, aesthetics nature of mathematics and science, and making concepts relevant to the human’s daily life have a profound impact on quality of teaching and learning. Core concepts learning does not always depend on technologically advanced equipment and tools but the students and teachers’ creativity. In my classes, I make every effort to create joyous, playful, fun, engaging and meaningful activities through immersing problem-solving in PLE. This type of atmosphere enriched with the learning tools (virtual and digital/ manipulatives) helps students to gain and construct a deeper understanding in their small community. This also allows students to collaboratively construct, manipulate, and interpret shared representations of concept using digital resources or media. For example, visit my EDUC 212 students’ video channel on constructing fractals using GeoGebra, aiming to provide shared educational resources for other interested individuals all over the world.
I design course materials exploratory, up-to-date, and open, which needs to be worked on collaboratively in a PLE. My aim is to trigger students’ curiosity, innovation, and creative thinking. In an ongoing manner, I pose questions about policies and course outlines. I choose to have a ‘tentative’ course outline, which allows me to be flexible, ask my students' contribution in managing the course materials and the best way that we may approach the course scopes. To assess teaching and learning outcomes and make any necessary changes and to honor my students’ different learning style, I frequently ask my students’ feedback in an online survey and give the students option of being anonymous.
Not every student and collaborative group grabs the essentials of the PLE and run with others. For example, a few students in one of my classes (2016) persistently refused to work collaboratively in groups. I noticed this through my observation. So, I invited the students to feedback and share their perspective on technological enriched PLE and make suggestions. I found some of the students do not feel comfortable to work in pairs or small groups and prefer to work on problems and assignments individually or in large size groups. I integrated their feedback into the setting and invited them to reform larger size groups collaborations. I also set up more check-ins for those individuals both in class and through online mediums to investigate if the new format works optimally. I also offered them individual consultants and after each class, discussing the concept more in-depth.
Use Of LMS, New Tools and Media within an Open-ended Problem-solving / Project-based Approach
To promote and facilitate participation further, I usually use the organization’s LMS to upload course materials, make announcements, engage students in active online discussions, and provide them a place to create, share and feedback on each other’s work. When deciding on incorporating any tool or media I pose a double-edged question to myself: How does this tool, media can positively influence the engagement level of students? How I (as a facilitator/instructor) can tailor strategies, approaches, and methods to achieve the course scope in such a collaborative engagement environment using this specific media/tool? I consider my responsibility to provide the best learning opportunity and appropriate core concept for my students with engaging them with the new tools in PLE that increases their enthusiasm for the topic makes a cross-curricular connection and fosters their numeracy in society and social justice awareness. In other pages, to show how the subject matter and my students’ learning is important and connect with them, I usually set the office hours flexible. Also, I send an instant response to the students’ emails (within 3-4 hours). Also, because most of my classes are enriched with the technology if a student faces a technical problem I instantly make a video clip that shows how to tackle the difficulty.
Showing My Own Enthusiasm for the Topic
I am aware that how the teacher’s enthusiasm for the topic directly impacts students’ eagerness level and therefore influences learning. I have observed that how when I excitedly talk about aesthetic nature of a given concept, some of the students who are not exposed to such a beauty get motivated and inspired. Such an enthusiasm and passion influences their own excitement and desire to learn the subject matter better. For instance, when I teach Fibonacci numbers, I discuss the ways it appears in nature, art; its different geometrical and numerical representation, link to Golden ratio, fractals, its influence in many aspects of science and daily life, and its historical story. Through the discussion of implications of Fibonacci numbers and Golden ratio enthusiastically, the students become more likely to grasp the importance of the topic, and thus of what they are learning and later apply it to their other activities. My demonstration of enthusiasm for the course material and the technology that I used in this manner, is reflected in my teaching evaluations in which ‘communicated with enthusiasm’ is steadily one of my highest scoring categories.
I am dedicated to the personal growth and an awareness of different pedagogical approaches and perspectives. With the passion for mathematics education and an openness to new and diverse perspectives, I critically reflect on my own professional practice and adapt practices as needed for the learning and teaching.
Perceptuomotor Integrated Approach Theory And Use of Tools
I am a powerful advocate for using technology in such a way that it supports a strong pedagogical implementation and enables life-long learnings. During my Ph.D. studies, I become interested in the vital role of the body and gestures, the use of digital tools in teaching and learning mathematics, and the embodiment of cognition. One of the theories among many others that appreciate embodied learning is perceptuomotor integration approach (Nemirovsky, et al. 2013).
Learning, communicating and conceptualizing concepts have strong embodied components. Perceptuomotor ways of learning intertwine perceptual and motor aspects of activates. Therefore, a perceptuomotor way of learning includes multimodal activities that involve different human senses to construct meaningful learning. To engage my students bodily activate, I take the advantage of using technologies and tools in a collaborative engagement environment. This enhances mathematics learning, provides actual and tangible meaning and triggers critical thinking, computational thinking and problem-solving. Please see this video from one of my classes while students are constructing a spherical right angled-triangle with three right angles on a touchscreen-based display. I strongly support students to collaboratively construct, manipulate, and interpret shared understanding of the mathematics using digital inscriptional resources.