Chapter five of the Teaching Gap by James Stigler and James Hiebert brought up a key point to Japanese lessons vs. German and American lessons. Something that could be overlooked to contribute to why Japanese scores are near the top in the world in math, while American scores are more middle of the pack was discussed in this chapter. The idea to teach lessons using overhead projectors or chalkboards was talked about as a major difference between the two countries education system.
American math lessons rely heavily on overhead projectors or Smartboards. These lessons seem to be pre-arranged by the teacher on how the students will learn the new material. It has a step-by-step process where the teacher may cover up some material on the overhead so students do not jump too far ahead. Using overhead projectors seems to not produce a coherent and connected lesson since something learned will be erased and replaced with something else. The ideas continue to be erased throughout the lesson and do not flow together for discussion. There is really not any room for discovery by the students since their attention needs to be focused on the teacher, otherwise they may miss some key information since they do not explore in the material. It is laid out by the teacher on how they feel the students should learn the new material.
From a different point of view, Japanese math lessons rely heavily on chalkboards for discussion. It seems to take the approach of students actively learning together and discussing their conjectures with groups, and the whole class. The chalkboard is then filled with student work and conjectures instead of the teacher laying out the new material for the students. They continue to build on these conjectures throughout the lesson, and are left on the board for the entire class. Students conjecture on their own and the teacher serves as a guide for students to achieve the day’s outcome. It is based on more student led, discovery learning.
I could see Japanese teachers using Smartboards as a form of manipulative to solidify understanding. Smartboards seem to push teachers down the road of teacher-centered instruction over student-centered instruction. Smartboards are kind of like using an overhead projector with the teacher leading students down the path of achieving the objective for the day, while erasing work that has been completed and moving on to the next topic in the lesson. I can see Japanese teachers that might use Smartboards to be a key component to use when students cannot really visualize on their own, so it is used to make sense of the problem. An example of this is three dimensional shapes. Sometimes it can be tough for students to visualize these shapes, especially when they have to rotate them around the axes to determine the volume in calculus class. There is a reason why Japanese teachers have stuck with the old-fashion chalkboard and it works. The teacher can see how they have developed their conjectures and how they have changed over the class period. Smartboards really do not achieve this, but could serve to be beneficial when it is used as a manipulative.
I have never really considered how the way teachers use the chalkboard vs. the overhead projector can have a major effect on student learning. Work is not erased, so students can see how their thought process took place to achieve the learning goal throughout the whole lesson.