Saturday, February 22, 2014

Online High School Math Transition Course - ED 722

There is nothing more frustrating for a math teacher than teaching a lesson that involves skills that you assume your students have mastered prior to coming to your class.  As an 8th grade math teacher, I used to assume that my students knew how to multiply, divide, add, and subtract whole numbers, decimals and fractions.  I am sure you know what I am going to say next, but everyone knows when you assume something you make an _ _ _ out of you and me!  Oh and boy did I ever when I first started teaching.

Each year there is a period of time at the beginning of the year that I must revisit basic skills that students were supposed to master prior to coming to my class.  Hopefully with the implementation of the Common Core I will not have to reteach a lot of topics in the future.  Until we start to see the results of the Common Core though, myself and other teachers will be faced with the issue of students coming to our classes unprepared with basic skills.

This issue is the reason why I wanted to collaborate with Amy Paskov to design an online review course for incoming high school freshman.  Since I am an 8th grade math teacher and Amy is a 9th grade math teacher, we determined that we could use our expertise at both of our levels to determine the areas of concern for incoming high school freshman.  In addition to our own opinion, we asked other math teachers their thoughts on topics that the students needed to master prior to entering high school.

The goal of the unit is to ensure students have the background knowledge that incoming freshman need to have in order to complete the basic level high school math courses.  Of course this list could be very long, so in order to address the most vital areas of concern, we are going to focus our initial first two modules on fraction and decimals.

The student learning objectives for fractions and decimals align with the math Common Core standard: 7.NS.A.3 Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving the four operations with rational numbers.

The essential questions that we need to ask are:
-  What topics do our students need more review on prior to coming to high school?
-  How do we teach or reteach these topics to our students differently this time around so that they master the content?
-  How will we assess if the students master the material prior to entering high school?
-  Will this be the most effective way to better prepare our students for high school math?
-  How can we deliver this instruction to our students?

Up to this date, Amy and I have decided that the two most vital areas of focus are fractions and decimals.  Once we determined this we began researching and trying to find as many resources as possible to assist with our modules.  We want to make sure we are addressing different learning styles of our students and providing multiple opportunities for them to practice the skills to determine if they understand the content.  In addition, we want to involve deeper learning opportunities for our students.

We have begun creating a site that will house the modules and be available for students to access during the summer break prior to their freshman year.  In order to assess their understanding and gain data on their progress, we will be creating assessments for the end of each module in a Google form.  Students will complete the assessment and data will be gathered to determine if they answered the questions correctly and what areas need to still be addressed in high school.

Although this process is tedious, we feel that we have a good handle on what we want to do and where we want to go with our unit.  We need to finalize the list of resources for the module, determine the order in which we want the students to complete the items, and create the Google forms for each module.  After we have done this, we plan to test the site out with a few volunteers from my math classes. (Extra credit will be awarded to these students!)

As I read through this week's reading on blended learning, I was actually pleased with our process that we have used when planning this unit.  When looking at figures 1 and 2 in the Towards a Design Theory of Blended Learning Curriculum, I felt as if we were sort of using this process when determining how we would approach creating our unit even though this was the first week we saw this article.  Of course there were areas that we never thought of such as mixing the module with teaching and task items, such as figure 2, but it helped us to see how we should set up the modules to benefit as many learners as possible.

I cannot wait to see the final product.  Hopefully we can create a resource that many districts and students can use prior to entering high school.  I can see it now... not only will students have to complete a summer reading list, they will be required to complete our online high school math transition course!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Differentiate Instruction with Technology - ED 722

There is not a day that goes by that I don't differentiate my instruction, whether I am teaching a math class or discussing a topic with my homeroom students, I differentiate.  With that being said, I was very interested to read Lisa Delpit's interview through the DLMOOC resources this week: Lisa Delpit Interview.  I was interested because of the title of her book, "Multiplication is for White People," it really caught my attention.  I actually thought if multiplication was only for white people then I must be teaching the wrong subject at my school!

As I read through the article, I was reminded of my first year teaching in a city school.  Growing up in Northeast Ohio, besides Cleveland, which was 30 miles west of where I lived, there weren't many big city school districts in the area.  I took a job in Hartford, Connecticut right after I left the military to teach middle school math.  I wanted to teach in the city and only in the city.  Although I did not grow up in a city, I knew going in on my first day that most of my students were coming to me with more life experiences, both good and bad, that I probably never experienced at their age or even in my lifetime.  I knew that I would need to differentiate my instruction to account for these experiences, whether they were social or academic.  In addition, I quickly learned that every day would be and was different than any previous day in the classroom.  The seven hours that my students were inside my classroom and the school walls we could control.  It was the seventeen other hours in the day we as educators had no control over.

Technology was no where near where it is now when I first started teaching.  My differentiation toolkit that I started with as teacher has only grown bigger and bigger as I find new and inventive ways to differentiate my instruction and use technology to assist with my efforts.  As a teacher with variety of skill levels in my classroom, I am constantly looking for ways to take one topic and present it to my students in a number of ways.  Technology has helped me to improve my differentiation instructional strategies by integrating interactive software programs, websites, games, and other tools that motivate and engage my students.

For this week's Storify, I complied a list of tweets, videos, and articles that demonstrate the use of technology with differentiation.  Hopefully some of these resources could assist other teachers as well as they search for new and better ways to reach all of the students in their classrooms.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Personalized Learning - Creative Teachers Engaging Their Students

I will admit that math is not a fascinating topic for many students.  Truthfully, I never really loved math in school, but when I decided to be a teacher I knew it was the area where I could impact the most students.  After I had an opportunity to watch the #SSCHAT video about teaching like a pirate, I really wished I was a social studies teacher.  

Of course I know that any teacher could teach like a pirate.  It does not matter what subject they are teaching.  I only say that I wish I was a social studies teacher, because I could think of a dozen different engaging lessons I could do with the subject in a matter of minutes.  Math on the other hand is a little more difficult.  

In this day in age teachers have not only have to know the content they are teaching, but they also have to figure out a way to teach it to their students in a personalized and engaging manner.  I think back to teachers I had and the lessons I remember the most are the ones where the teacher either acted out, sang or dressed up like a certain character.  It made the lessons interesting and we always wondered what the teachers would do next.

I wish I had tons of lessons that I could blog about that my students always remembered.  Sure there are a few that the kids remember each year, but none that come to mind where I could charge admission for people to see.  From this point forward my goal is to be more creative with my lessons and let the students tell me how they want to learn the topics.  Their voice counts and it should count because it is their education.  Throughout this week's readings, Hangouts, and videos with the DLMOOC, I have learned about the importance of student choice.  I always knew it was an important piece to the puzzle we call education.  After hearing from the students on the panel through the DLMOOC and then reading publication, after publication about the impact it has on student learning, I know now that I must figure out a way to incorporate more student choice into my class.

In order to gain a little motivation and to see what others view as engaging lessons and teachers, I created a Storify of videos of a few amazing teachers.  I intentionally picked teachers from different content areas to demonstrate that anyone could teach like a pirate.  I must warn you though that you might want to have a box of tissues when watching the first video about Mr. Wright.  I watched the videos each a few times.  The first time I watched them to see what the teachers were doing and the lessons they were teaching.  The next few times I watched the videos, I wanted to see the reaction of the students.  I listened to their comments and saw how engaged they were with each lesson.  I have no doubt that these teachers could charge admission to their classes and have people begging to get in the door!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Week 6 Reflection ED 722 - Students in the Adult World: Real Learning for Real Life

In 1996 my parents asked me what I wanted to do after college.  In my mind my response was simple or at least I thought it was.  I told them I wanted to serve in the military and then become an aeronautical engineer with NASA and be the first female astronaut from the Coast Guard.

Now if I was my parent back in 1996, I would have had a good chuckle with this response.  I probably would not have laughed out loud, but I would have definitely thought in my mind that my child was shooting really high when it came to her goals.  As a parent now I know that parents need to encourage our children to set goals, but are you kidding me with what I set for myself back then?  Oh my goodness!

When I look back, I never remember my parents telling me that something was not possible.  I do remember their response after I told them what I wanted to do after college.  They said if that is what I wanted to do then they wanted to make sure I knew exactly what I was getting into.  They took me to the library and began researching with me the different opportunities that were available as far as internships or shadowing experiences for high school students.  My parents wanted me to live a day or a few days in the life of an aeronautical engineering.  I say it often and I will say it again, thank goodness for my parents!

With their help I was able to shadow an aeronautical engineer from NASA.  Not just any old aeronautical engineer though, but the inventor of the year that year for NASA who created flexible ceramic.  After viewing the following video in my ED 722 course about internships in the real world, it brought back so many memories of my own experience.

I did not pursue a career in aeronautical engineer.  I actually did not even pursue a career in engineer at all.  It was because of my experience that I decided not to, but not because of what I saw engineers during, but because I realized it was not the right fit for me.  If I would never have had that opportunity, I could have potentially pursued a career that was not meant for me.

Internships provide students the opportunity to put their studies to use in the real world.  There are many careers today that require students to complete an internship before they can graduate from programs or receive certificates.  Teachers, electricians, medical professionals are just a few that come to mind. 

I had amazing parents who helped me figure out at a young age what career would best fit me.  As an educator though, I realize that there are some parents who are not as involved as mine were.  In addition, some students and even some adults have no idea what they want to do with their lives.  Internships provide that trial period that allows individuals to see if a career is something they want to do.  They get to put their education into action and experience hands on learning at the same time.

In order to help prepare myself as a parent, but also as an educator, I began researching current internships that exist for students.  I created a Storify that provides information about different programs currently available.  I plan to share this information with my students and hopefully encourage them to set goals and take advantage of the many opportunities that exist with internships and shadowing programs.

Internships provide students with deeper learning opportunities.  What better way to apply content learned in the classroom then with real world experiences!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Week 6 - To Cloud or Not to Cloud: A Reflection on Cloud Based Learning

I love when my assignments for my IT&DML courses align so perfectly with what is happening in my real life.  Just recently I had a discussion with my school's technology coordinator about purchasing Chromebooks for each of our 8th graders.  The primary focus of our discussion was the concern with cloud computing.  This concern was not so much if it would work, because we have seen examples where it can work, but really the safety concerns that we have for our students' information.

The following articles provided background on the safety and security concerns with cloud computing:
The Year in Privacy
Cloud Technology Forecast
Cloud Learning in the K-12 System

I shared these resources with my technology coordinator and we discussed the areas of focus that we need to have before we implement cloud computing throughout our school.  As of right now, our schools has student work folders on a server that is run by the district.  You can only get information from the folders when you are logged onto a computer in the school district.  We want to expand the opportunity for our students to continue their work and their learning outside of school.  By implementing cloud computing, our students' education does not have to stop when they learn a district building.

In order to continue my research in cloud computing, I went onto Storify and looked for information that talked about schools that are using this method in their district.  Below is my Storify with description below each link that describe the content and the relationship it has to this topic.  In addition, I found the Fordham University study on privacy and cloud computing in schools to be very beneficial for any school district to look at before making the discussion whether or not to use cloud computing with their students.

To Cloud or Not to Cloud - Storify

Saturday, February 1, 2014

ED 722 - Week 5: Deeper Learning and The 21st Century Learner

As an educator, I want to provide my students with the best possible classroom environment in order for them to succeed.  I want my students to walk through my classroom door each day and instead of looking at the class as just another math class, I want them to look at the content as something that will help them everyday in life.  That is my long term goal.

This past week I had the opportunity to view a video of a presentation by Grant Wiggins: Understanding by Design Part I and Understanding by Design Part II.  Although the video was not even thirty minutes long, I found myself reflecting throughout the week on what he spoke about and how it played a role in my life as an educator.  The biggest takeaway that I found from his presentation was that we as educators need to have a long term goal for our students.  This goal is not the objective that we list on the board, but rather what we want our students to realize or infer with the information that we are providing them.   We need to create lessons and goals that can be transferred to real world applications outside of the classroom.

In his video, Grant Wiggins provides an example of a math lesson on fair and not fair.  At the end of the discussion he responded to a question from a participant.  His response was that as educators we must make every one of our lessons interesting and intellectually engaging for our students.

For days my head was spinning thinking about his response.  I spent hours looking at my curriculum to see if I was already using or could build upon what my district provided to me to make my classroom not only intellectually engaging, but also interesting for my students.  As I began to look at performance tasks that I have my students complete and other activities, I realized that they were designed engage the students on multiple levels.  There is only one flaw with what I use currently.  That flaw is that although I am tapping into what 21st century learners need in order to learn, such as critical thinking and independent learning, I have to remember to constantly tweak my lessons to keep up with the changes in technology and society.  

I have all of these ideas after reading Tony Gates' A New Pedagogy is Emerging...And Online Learning is a Key Contributing Factor about how not only myself but other teachers in my school can utilize online learning to reach the students we teach.  They are 21st century learners who need to acquire skills that are different than the skills we needed to have when we graduated from high school.  Yes they still need to do be able to complete math problems, analyze literature, and write up science experiments, but they must be able to do all of these with the use of social media, computers, blogs, and other technology sources that are prevalent in the workforce today.  

Gates mentioned in his article that educators need to rethink their roles and authority in the classroom, especially if online learning is incorporated.  Last week I learned a lot about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).  The following link will direct you to my blog post from last week:  Elizabeth Ferry - MOOCs.  There is one type of MOOC, the cMOOC, where the focus is more of a community approach to learning.  Yes there is an instructor, but that instructor is more of facilitator of the learning and the participants learn from each other's experiences and what they find when researching the topic.  As a current student, I think this type of learning environment is fantastic because you are hearing from multiple sources on one topic.  As an educator, I can see where instructors are hesitant to allow students to control the instruction and communication of the content.

I admit that I am a control freak when it comes to my classroom, but within the last few weeks I have allowed my students to take on more responsibility in the class.  Although each of my sections is not alike and some need more guidance than others, either because of their academic or motivation level.  I am finding that the students are engaged more in the content and the learning process.  I took what Gates mentioned as the three emerging pedagogical trends and tried to integrate them into my classroom to see if my 21st century learners would respond to the strategies.

While doing so, I also began researching other strategies and skills that 21st century learners need to take part in deeper learning experiences in the classroom.  I have Storified a list of tweets, websites, and videos of what I found: Elizabeth Ferry - Storify 21st Century Learning  Educators in all levels of education today should look at these skills and see how they can better prepare their students for the future.

A few of the highlights from the Storify include:

-  The first video about 21st Century Learning captured my attention.  It is a fantastic 2 minute and 20 second video that explains what 21st century learning is and what we as educators need to keep in mind when we choose the long term goals for our students.

- Brenda Bailey's Tweet:  This tweet has a link to Brenda Bailey's Scoop.It site.  She has a variety of link that take the viewer to sites that discuss 21st century learning.  Her site is a great resources for both educators and students.

- The Four C's video shows examples of schools that incorporate collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication.  These skills are identified as skills for 21st century learners to provide them with deeper learning opportunities.

-  Rob Hoffart's video on Environments for 21st Century Learning discusses different environments to reach students with a variety of learning styles.  I found it interesting that a lot of the layouts in the schools had rooms that had walls that could move and create smaller classrooms inside a larger room.  If a school district was looking to design a new school, this information would be beneficial to ensure they create an environment for 21st century learners.

-  Partnership for 21st Century Skills is an organization designed to help schools create partnerships with businesses, communities, government leaders and others to incorporate 21st century skills into their schools.  They also have a twitter feed @p21centskills

- NEA partnership for 21st century skills has a few links that provide interactive web tools that showcase 21st century skills