Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tech Thursday follow-up

I ran my second Tech Thursday after school today with some exploration into Chrome extensions and a quick glimpse at Google Add-Ons. I'm happy with the numbers - I had 8 attendees last week and 9 today (3 repeat customers from last week). It's interesting to see the variety of people; today there were two lunch ladies, our ESL teacher, a Spanish teacher, a math teacher, the school psychologist, an administrative assistant, and one special ed teacher.  And the 9th person was a lady who was subbing for our Media Center secretary who wanted to see what we were doing. 

What an interesting group! 

My only difficulty was that I didn't want to show them extensions that would only be helpful in a classroom setting, but I also didn't want to neglect my teachers. I'm hoping I found a good balance. 

I had several people email and say they couldn't make it for various reasons but said they wanted to be there, so that makes me happy too. 

He school psych told me that his favorite Thursday activity used to be eating wings and watching football. Now it's Tech Thursday. (I feel like I should use that on ads for the sessions. :) ) I told him that next week he can eat turkey and watch football and I'd see him the week after for Google Forms. 

Gobble gobble!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

#gafesummit KY

I've spent the past day and a half in Louisville at the GAFE summit in Kentucky. There have been some really great sessions full of ideas and resources. Here are my notes... if you find something you like or have any more ideas let me know!

(The topic sessions are bookmarked, so just click on a link to get to my notes for that session!)
  Or here's a link.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What I'm Doing

My GAFE sessions yesterday went great! At least, that's what I heard from most of the participants. Several people told me that they learned a lot, and others even said that it was the best PD they'd had (this was from multiple people, so it must be true, right? :) ).  They were happy to learn things that they could use immediately.

I have several different random projects I'm working on now:
1. Next week I'm going to spend 4 class periods with one of our special ed teachers. She'd like her kids to learn about and set up symbaloo accounts & webmixes.  (Here's what I have so far.)

2. A science teacher asked me yesterday about the possibility of finding a program they can use to create PARCC-like tests. We have Schoology to do the simpler types of questions (multiple choice, true/false, matching, short answer) but there are other types of interactive questions she'd like to have the kids practice with.  I did some looking and found iSpring QuizMaker (which I couldn't get to download) and EdCite. I thought EdCite looked decent; it has a lot of different question types and was FREE but I'm going to keep looking.

3. A math teacher asked me about the Random Number Generator in the Stats Toolpack in Excel. I'm not a big excel user, especially the stats stuff. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

4. Another science teacher had asked me about the availability of a MathXL-type program that is science (specifically Chemistry) based... I've been doing some searching on that one and found nothing.  I'm going to keep looking, but that makes me sad for the science teachers.

5. I want to check out the new Kaizena Add-On for Gdocs. One of our English teachers is interested in using voice comments while grading papers.

6. I spent several periods last week with different math teachers. As part of the Math Course of Study this year (which I'm participating in on the "tech side" but enjoying the math side too!) we were given a Math Practices Look-For Tool  and asked to observe another teacher or two to try it out. I decided that I was going to try and get to as many math classes as I could, so I asked last week if I could come observe. I really enjoyed being the classroom and seeing what they were doing. I'd like to get to a few more this week, which means I need to check the schedule and see who has what when. I've been checking for the same type of tool for other subjects but haven't been too successful. Yet another thing to add to my list!

So I'm keeping busy!  I also was asked to cover for a special ed teacher today while she had a meeting (there was a note in my mailbox which I didn't see and so I got a phone call telling me about it after I was a little late...). But then I also heard that I will be asked to cover more classes as needed. That makes me sad.  I don't mind helping out but I think it takes away from my role here.  We'll see what happens.

Have you ever heard that one insult can cancel out 10 compliments?  Yep.

Today might call for a milkshake on the way home. Maybe that will help cheer me up.

Monday, November 3, 2014


We have a PD day tomorrow (it's election day, so they don't want the kids in the schools as they're being used as polling places) and I'm leading a session on Google Apps for Education. Because I don't like to just stand and talk unprepared, I threw some information onto a Google Presentation.

I'm embedding it here for your reading pleasure. :)

(Let me know if you have any feedback! Especially before tomorrow!)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Baby steps

I just spent 5 minutes with a math teacher at school. He was excited to show me a story one of his students had written to match a distance/time graph (it was about a crazy sloth who traveled light years to lose weight...). The teacher was telling me that the only problem he had with assignments like this was that all of his students wanted to share their stories out loud in class and it killed the rest of his day.

I suggested that he set up a discussion prompt on Schoology (our LMS) with the graph so that the students could type in their stories and read/respond to their classmates' entries. The teacher was excited about the idea.

Then we talked about using Google Forms (or a Schoology quiz) to ask open-ended questions. Our math department primarily uses MathXL for the Common Core courses, but it doesn't allow for anything open-ended.

What got me most about this teacher (aside from his never-ending enthusiasm, which I LOVE), was something he said on his way out of my office.

"I love getting better."

Don't you wish all teachers felt this way?!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The changing face of the math class...

Have you heard about the new app called PhotoMath?  You can scan over an equation and the app will solve it for you... it will even show the steps in solving!

I added the free app to an iPad that we have available at school, grabbed an Algebra 2 book, and tried it out.  My observations:
1. The app doesn't support hand-written equations. So that takes out the option for the kids to scan their homework. (A teacher here discovered that it won't scan a computer screen either, which removes our kids use of it with their MathXL assignments.)
2. It has a pretty large scanning window which makes it hard to scan any specific equation. And it sees the problem number as a part of the equation, which obviously changes things. (Thanks to Dan Anderson, who informed me that you can change the size of the viewing window, making it more precise.)
3. The app is very quick to show the solution to the equation (I was wondering what kind of lag or solving time there would be) and offers the option to show the steps involved.
4. It appears to only support linear equations; I tried a quadratic, an absolute value, and an inequality with no luck.

So my summation? It's pretty cool but very limited. It would be helpful in an Algebra 1 classroom for a few weeks, but that's about it.

I'm sure there are math teachers scared by this technology... but is it offering anything new that students haven't had available to them before?  WolframAlpha has been around for years and will solve all kinds of equations, including absolute values and power equations. For a nominal fee ($3.75/month for students, $5.49/month for adults) you can even get step-by-step instructions.

And yet if you google "PhotoMath app" it's showing up on a lot of different news sites right now. People see this as another way for students to cheat.

So let's assume that kids start using this app. What can math teachers do to combat it?
1. Stop grading homework. (That's hard for me to say, honestly.) Are the kids legitimately doing it? Or are they googling the answers? Or copying from a friend?  (C'mon, we've all done it.)

2. I've become a big believer in the use of formative assessments; warm-ups, exit slips, quick checks of understanding during class. Make the students accountable for what you expect them to know.

3. Assignments need to change. Don't let the kids' homework tell you what they can do. Make them tell you. Make them explain how they solve a problem. Give them the steps and the answers and make them justify everything.

4. Apply the learning. It took a student-teacher of mine for me to see the light. I like doing the math just to do the math, but most people (especially teenagers!) aren't that crazy about it. Help the kids see how much math they're doing every day without even thinking about it.

Just my $0.02.

(And I can always count on Dan Meyer to put it in words better than I can!)