This week, we chatted with Dr. Virginia Gray, one of our cool K12MATH Course Designers.
Hello Dr. Gray! Thank you for joining us. Let’s start off with our first question: What work have you done with the Saylor Foundation?
I am developing and writing a Precalculus I course.
Soon to become Cool, our K12MATH011 Precalculus course is now up and running. Nice work! What keeps you busy outside of working with us?
I work on a number of online tasks–mostly writing. I also write children’s books.
What brought you to writing children’s books?
My bachelor’s degree is in literature and I had a chance to write books that could be personalized.
Like a “choose your own adventure” story?
Yes, only in these books you can choose names for the main characters and can put in things like age and hair and eye color. You also choose other things like whether the main character has a cat or dog and what its name should be. Some of the books are fantasy [and] some are mysteries. The books are purchased online at Book By You.
That’s really creative! So basically you can choose different aspects of the story, and tailor the character to your own personality or imagination?
What a great way to touch others and reach out to aspiring authors. Mathematics and literature sounds like a really unique combination. Why have these two subjects sparked your interest?
My graduate work has been in English and mathematics. I see them as being so complementary. When you read literature you tend to look broadly and sit back in your chair. When you learn mathematics it tends to be more detailed. You look closely and tend to sit forward in your chair. I love the way the two subjects interplay.
Wow, that really is an interesting contrast. Does mathematics inform your writings in children’s books?
One of the ways mathematics appears in the children’s books is in the two secret code books I wrote. Many people don’t realize that codes are an aspect of mathematics, called cryptology.
Shifting gears, how did you get involved in open and/or online education?
Online education is the way of the future. I love to teach and wanted to embrace this challenging transformation.
Indeed it is! So as you embrace this challenge, what do you bring into your work with Saylor that helps you?
I bring variety to my work with Saylor, having taught not only in brick and mortar schools, but also online. I’ve worked with students in K-12 schools and in universities. I’ve helped graduate students become public school teachers. I’ve supervised teachers in their classrooms. My educational background includes degrees in literature, mathematics and education. My work with Saylor has been a chance to stretch further with this opportunity to develop curriculum for an online course. It’s different from developing curriculum for a traditional class, but my background gave me a solid start.
You bring a lot of perspective to the job! On the flipside, how has Saylor impacted your own work?
My Saylor experiences have extended my set of teaching tools by delving deeply into the advantages and challenges of online education.
It’s good to know we have helped to further enhance your skills and teaching tools. Considering all this, what do you truly enjoy about your work?
I love to teach, and I love to write. I am fascinated by the task of taking a complex idea and choosing words to demystify a concept so it really makes sense to students.
Where are we going in online learning?
I think there will always be a need for teachers. I expect online education to flourish because it is convenient and malleable to diverse lives. Students will probably experience schooling in a variety of forms.
What advice would you give to those teachers as we move more and more online?
Choose your words carefully and try to connect with students, giving them a concrete focus as you extend to abstract ideas. Recognize the challenge to a student who does not have a teacher right at hand and work to anticipate and neutralize the pitfalls and snares that students are likely to encounter.
What about for our student readers?
Read, read, read. It expands your mind and gives you a chance to experience a broader world. Ask questions and expect to succeed.
Lastly, what advice would you have for those who have graduated, or are themselves parents of students?
All of us are responsible for education of the next generation. It’s important to expect students to succeed. I beg you to avoid jokes about math–let’s not give students excuses to avoid the subject. It’s important and they can indeed learn it.