my first ignite

Posted on: October 29th, 2015 by jnovakowski

As part of the Northwest Math Conference, I was invited to present an Ignite session- defined in the program as “math educators present on topics that ignite their individual passions. Each talk is 5 minutes long and consists of 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds, whether the speaker is ready or not!”

Five minutes is fast – as is 15 seconds per slide! I had to really think about one big idea and how I would tell the story I wanted to tell.

I decided to title my presentation “Where’s the wonder in math?” and discuss the importance of students posing their own problems and asking authentic questions that they are interested in finding answers for. I referred to Alfie Kohn’s recent publication in this area, which can be found here. I also shared references from a Google Ad that can be found on youtube here – it’s called “A Question Waiting to be Answered”.  I wanted to provoke educators’ thinking with the question: What openings are we creating for wonder in our math classes? And then I shared my story of what I have seen when the classroom is turned over to students and they are asked to notice and wonder and investigate questions and problems that are important to them. I shared several examples from Richmond classrooms and discussed ways to nurture a stance of inquiry in our classrooms. Lots packed into five minutes!

I have done a lot of presenting over the years to different sizes of crowds but for the first time, I really got the jitters. The room was set for 400 people or so and people kept streaming in, till there were educators standing all around the edges of the room. The fast-paced timing of the whole thing was out of my control and I know this is what made me anxious – usually not my style of presenting at all! The other presenters around me (three others also first-timers) were also displaying different stress behaviours – rustling notes, bouncing knees up and down, talking about how nervous they were. Thankfully, Marian Small was sitting next to me and reminded me that the slides will just keep moving and it will be what it is – not to fret.

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We did it!  All of the other talks were so inspiring and I look forward to watching them when the BCAMT posts them on their website (although I’m not sure I want to see mine – will likely skip over it).

After my heart stopped racing and I had some time to reflect…someone asked me if I would do it again. I am not sure about how I feel about doing it in this large of an arena again but I have been thinking what a great structure Ignites might be for staff meetings, professional learning etc. I am envisioning beginning a professional learning day off with a panel of Ignite sessions and then breaking out into EdCamp sessions based on on topics raised by the Ignites. And of course, what a great way for students to share what they know about a big idea. Lots of possibilities!



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