LessonSketch is a site for practice-based professional development of secondary mathematics teachers as well as a forum for ongoing conversations about mathematics instruction. It supports the creation, examination, and discussion of scenarios that depict the practice of mathematics instruction.
LessonSketch is built on the idea that representations of mathematics instruction—that is, depictions of interactions between a teacher, their students, and the content—can anchor discussions about the teaching, learning, and mathematics, and provide grounds for practice-based teacher development. The core collection in LessonSketch is a suite of animated sketches of geometry and algebra instruction. As a rule, these animations don't show exemplary instruction but rather they depict conceivable instruction that is expected to provoke individual reflection and professional discussion by LessonSketch members. These reflections and discussions may help professionals create and warrant good instruction.
LessonSketch contains professional learning experiences. These experiences include modules and questionnaires made available to members, and where they can engage with depictions of instruction (animated movies or cartoon-based slideshows). New members can go to the Experiences tab and select available experiences. In each experience, members engage individually with depictions of instruction. Upon completing an individual experience, they can revisit the depiction by accessing it through the Collections tab or enter the forum in order to take part in conversations about the instructional and mathematical issues raised by the sketch. Advanced experiences may revisit the same depictions through deeper or more focused questions.
Software tools are available for annotating scenarios of instruction. The Depict tool allows members to create their own alternatives to the actions depicted in the scenarios. The Depict tool enables users to visualize what the lesson they are envisioning might look like in action by creating a cartoon-based sketch of this lesson. Members may also use Depict to describe an episode that happened in their class. And they may post their depictions to a forum where they might gather comments from colleagues. The Inscribe tool allows members to create diagrams and board content that can be used in depicting classroom scenarios.
Teacher educators and professional developers can bring their clients to LessonSketch to engage in professional learning experiences and further explore the lesson collections. By obtaining a special account (currently in Beta testing), teacher educators can use Plan. Plan is an authoring tool with which teacher developers may create custom professional learning activities (assessments, assignments, modules) that can incorporate materials from the LessonSketch media collections. They can assign those activities to their clients and generate reports that document their clients' progress. They can also create forums for their own clients to collectively discuss elements of the LessonSketch collection or collectively create new representations.
Who is behind LessonSketch
LessonSketch is the online version of ThEMaT (Thought Experiments in Mathematics Teaching), the brainchild of Patricio Herbst (at the University of Michigan) and Daniel Chazan (at the University of Maryland). Starting in 2004 with support of the National Science Foundation, project ThEMaT designed and created representations of practice using cartoon characters. The project brokered face-to-face conversations among teachers about the lessons represented. From examining those conversations Herbst, Chazan, and their associates noted that these representations of practice are useful reference points to engage teachers in discussions about teaching practice; they bridge across the differences in the settings in which people teach. Those conversations have proved to be important venues for teachers to consider the rationale for the actions that they ordinarily take when managing problem solving and mathematical discussions in classrooms. Those face-to-face conversations have also proved to be important contexts to discuss the mathematical knowledge needed to teach high school mathematics. More importantly, conversations about representations of instruction have been effective triggers for practitioners to think about instructional alternatives—alternative ways in which a teacher could set up or launch a task, alternative ways in which students might respond to such a task, alternative ways in which the teacher could manage those student responses, and so forth.
LessonSketch is an attempt to bring the Thought Experiments in Mathematics Teaching to the online world. Designed and developed at the University of Michigan by Patricio Herbst and Vu-Minh Chieu, LessonSketch contains software tools that approximate the face-to-face conversations among teachers in an on-line environment as well as tools that permit widespread use of the original ThEMaT materials by teacher developers and their clients.
The animated geometry lessons were created in their entirety at the GRIP Lab (Geometry, Reasoning, and Instructional Practices), University of Michigan in Ann Arbor under the direction of Patricio Herbst. Graphic artists at the GRIP also produced the video track for the animated algebra lessons created by the group directed by Daniel Chazan at the Center for Mathematics Education, University of Maryland. Most of this work has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation to Patricio Herbst and Daniel Chazan. Any opinions expressed in these materials are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation. Over the years and as part of their paid work the following individuals have been involved in various production tasks: Kayin Aaron, Wendy Aaron, Eden Baedertscher, Gina Bonk, Katie Brach, Jeong-lim Chae, Peichin Chang, Chia-ling Chen, Vu-Minh Chieu, Kyle Cochran, Mike Conklin, Justin Dimmel, Ander Erickson, Daisy Geng, Shoshana Gilead, Gloriana González, Chrissy Hatcher, Angela Hsu, Rick Hollenbeck, Amy Jeppsen, Whitney Johnson, Karl Kosko, Mike Lueke, Manu Mehrotra, Takeshi Miyakawa, Talli Nachlieli, Michaela O'Neill, Annick Rougee, Dara Sandow, Hagit Sela, Travis Skindzier, Mindy Steffen, Julia Sutton, Michael Weiss, Anthony Williamson, and Jack Zaloga. We thank the individuals who were hired or contributed their time to do voices for the animations at Michigan and Maryland. We thank the dozens of teachers who have participated in sessions based on these materials in the context of study groups, focus groups, online study groups, or individual interviews—their responses to the materials have been really helpful. And we also thank the colleagues who have used the materials in teacher preparation classes and who have given us important feedback and support to continue with this work—in particular Emina Alibegovic, Bridget Arvold, Deborah Ball, Kristen Bieda, Lawrence Clark, Tom Cooney, Karen King, Jay Lemke, Deborah Moore-Russo, and David Pimm.
LessonSketch headquarters are at the GRIP Lab (Geometry, Reasoning, and Instructional Practices), 2400 School of Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1259.
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