A few years after I got married and moved to Connecticut, someone said, in passing, “Never forget where you came from.” These words have become so incredibly meaningful to me in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
This past Saturday, my family and I packed up our truck with many generous donations from friends and headed to Oakwood Beach, Staten Island. This area is a little more than a mile from the house where I grew up. My old house was not in a flood zone (it was in Zone B) and it, too, was evacuated in the middle of the storm as the waters rose from 3 inches to 3 feet in a matter of minutes. It’s amazing the two worlds that exist here today. The higher grounds of the island are fully in tact and yet, a mile away, such destruction. It’s like nothing I have ever seen or experienced before. I am humbled and feel privileged that we could help out in some way.
Here are some pictures from our trip. If you show in full screen and hit “show info” on the top right, you can see captions to the photos.
Say what you want about New Yorkers, and especially Staten Islanders, they are TOUGH and they know how to help each other. This tragedy has shown many people what the true meaning of community is.
I have never been prouder to be a Staten Islander.
For the past few years, Middle and Upper School teachers at Hamden Hall have been required to post weekly syllabi and course material to their course conference on First Class. This year, I decided to pilot two additional ways to communicate with my students: Schoology and Remind101. I figured that, with the combination of a web-based, Facebook-like interface, accessible via iPhone, iPad or computer using Schoology, and with texting via Remind101, I would be able to communicate efficiently and effectively to my students in a variety of ways.
After using both for about two months, here are my thoughts:
2) Schoology allows easy access for students to watch the videos that I create on my iPad using Educreations.
3) After students watch the videos, I use Schoology to create short online assessments to see how well the students understood what I explained in the video. These are automatically graded and it is very easy for me to see which problems I need to go over when we get to class the next day.
4) Students have said “I can’t believe I can do my homework on my phone,” although, a few have said that the online quizzes are difficult to complete on their phones because the font is too small.
5) The mathematical formulas and symbols are a little cumbersome to use in the online assessments.
6) I can easily post screenshots and SMARTBoard notes from class for students to refer to for review or if they are absent. I can also upload practice problems to our “news feed.”
7) I can easily create polls that students like to answer!
8) I get notifications when students post to our “wall” and they can also send me direct messages if they would like to communicate with me privately.
9) Students feel that the upcoming assignment area is a bit confusing. I had to make it very clear when I post to this area, clearly differentiating when the assignment is assigned vs. when the assignment is DUE.
Overall, using Schoology has been a positive experience for my students. When I polled them, all but one liked watching the videos and completing the online assessments. I have found it to be incredibly convenient when our First Class email system is inaccessible (as it is right now, with the storm affecting power in our area). I do wish they used Schoology to communicate with EACH OTHER a bit more. I have to work on that. The “Learn. Together.” part isn’t really happening just yet.
I heard about Remind101 on Twitter and then someone showed it during the app smackdown at EdCampCT. It seemed easy enough to set up. Students would not have my cell phone number, and I wouldn’t have theirs, but I could easily get a text message TO them for free! I also liked the idea that students had an option to subscribe to email messages in case they did not have unlimited texting. The set up was SO EASY! Once you create your class, Remind101 creates a printable PDF with step-by-step instructions for students to subscribe. It turns out that all of my students subscribed to the class texts.
Students seem to really like getting reminders about changes to class meeting times/ locations, reminders about extra help sessions, and, today, reminders about their assignments when they do not have internet access during the storm. (Do they really love this?…) The students would love to be able to reply to the texts, but Remind101 does not allow that . It is definitely something that we can work around because students have Schoology and regular email as options for direct communication. Overall, this has been great for us and I am using this quite a bit today, with Hurricane Sandy, as more and more of my students are losing power and internet access.
So.. new ways to communicate are allowing me to keep in touch with my students during what is possibly the worst storm to hit CT since 1938! This storm is nowhere near done with us. I wonder what this week will bring. At least I can get some work to my students! I am sure they are happy about it
Two trains leave the station headed in opposite directions. One train travels 10 miles per hour faster than the other. In 6 hours they are 425 miles apart. Find the rate of each train.
We’ve all heard it before… it’s the nightmare every adult has about their algebra class in High School…why do word problems have such a bad reputation!? They are actually the avenue by which algebra (and most of math) becomes relevant. They can only become relevant if they ARE relevant. Is the “train problem” relevant to us? What connection can a student possibly make to this?
In my 20 years of teaching High School Math, word problems have always been challenging for my students. Consecutive integer problems, age problems, distance/ rate problems, simple interest, etc…Word problems fitting into neat little categories. Is this really the way students learn how to think critically? Are these the problems we WANT them to solve? I think they actually learn to fear and dread word problems when they are uninterested and find no connection with it. This year, I am using a new text (Pearson’s Algebra 1) and it, thankfully, takes a different approach to problem solving. It does not break down each word problem by “type”, as the “traditional algebra textbook” does. While no textbook is perfect, I am finding that my new text is a breath of fresh air. Each algebraic concept is introduced with a real “problem” to solve, and each section’s skill is used to solve that (and many other) problems. These problems don’t fit into a category, and don’t have a chart to fill in or a formulaic method to solve. This is still hard work for my students. (And, really, how many 14 year olds love to work that hard?). But, the problems are interesting (comparing vacation excursions, calculating tickets to concerts, figuring out how many songs and videos an iPhone can hold). And the problem solving process has not been equated with meaningless, rote work.
Over the course of the past week, however, I have felt that my class needed a little boost to keep the problem solving momentum going. I searched the web, tweeted to my #mathchat friends and visited some of the math educator blogs I love… nothing was really jumping out at me. After thinking about about it some more, I decided that I should focus on something that all 9th graders care very deeply about… their cell phone.
So, I developed the “Cell Phone” project:
You and your partner are charged with figuring out the best cell phone plan out there! You have 5 minutes to make the sales pitch to the class. You must determine 3 “must have” features your plan should include. You will research the available options and choose 2 to compare.You will present the monthly cost for each plan and the reasons you and your partner chose that particular cell phone plan.
Here is a link to the sample “worksheet”.
Task #1) Interview your parents to find out about the cell phone provider/plan your family uses. What were the factors that your parents used to make their decision? Include as much detail as possible.
Task #2) Determine the 3 “must have” features your plan should include. Why have you chosen these features?
Task #3) Determine which cell phone plans you will compare. What are the factors that you considered in choosing these plans?
Task #4) Research the cost of the two plans for a month. Use at least three different web sources.
Task #5) Create a 4 slide googledoc presentation to convince the class that you have chosen the best cell phone plan to recommend.
Here is the rubric.
I introduced the project using this website as a starting point for discussion. We talked about different features and came up with a list of relevant factors that groups might consider– coverage, voice minutes, texting, data, international calls (a few students have family out of the country). We also discussed ways to research the information. I can’t wait to see how the project evolves! My students seemed excited to get started.
So– here it is:
My professional goal for the year- change the perception of the “dreaded” word problem in my class!
Last Friday, I attended my third EdCamp. Having truly enjoyed the first two #edcampNYC events I attended, I was really looking forward to this one. And, on the train heading home from #edcampnyc, I set a goal for myself that I would “give back” and do a presentation at the next edcamp I attended. D-day was here!
Sharing the ride with one of my long time CAIS COT buddies, Nikki (@ncingiser), set the day off on the right foot, and then it just got better from there! Ethel Walker was a beautiful venue for the event and the organizers did a nice job explaining the day’s plan. I was really looking forward to meeting some of my twitter “friends” face to face (especially @mytakeonit !), and also making some additional connections to other public and private school educators.
Now came the dilemma… the board starts to fill up. Within each time block, there are at least two (sometimes three!) places that I want to be at the SAME TIME. And… because I committed (to myself) to present in a session, this would mean that during one of the time slots, I couldn’t attend ANY other sessions. EEK! Decisions, decisions… I put my presentation in the first time slot thinking that I could share first, and then begin to absorb as much as I could from others. Maybe I could split a few sessions, or maybe some of the sessions wouldn’t be what I was expecting and I could move to another… time would tell.
I headed off to set up for my presentation, feeling good that I was achieving a personal goal that I had set for myself . To be honest, a small part of me was very nervous that no one would show up. Too late, though. It was a risk that I had taken when I wrote my name on the card! Turns out, before long, there was standing room only, and I was off sharing something that I am so passionate about- being a connected educator. Another of my CAIS COT friends, Cheryl Costello- Academic Tech at Cheshire Academy, attended my session. That calmed me down a bit. She even tweeted: “I always learn something new from @
lcarroll94 . Can’t wait to check out the indep educators Ning and Diigo groups! #edcampct #isedchat“ Thanks @cherylcostello!
Here’s my presentation: “Learning Never Stops When You’re Connected”
Once my presentation ended, I was forced to continue dealing with my dilemma of the day… where to go next!
For the second session, I chose ”Managing Writing Assessment & Teaching with Digital Texts & Tools”. This was not a “natural” pick for me, as a math teacher, but the title intrigued me and I figured I would share what I learned with others back at Hamden Hall. Greg McVerry was a terrific presenter and offered some very sound advice for managing student’s digital work. I often use Twitter to take public, sharable notes… here are some of mine during Greg’s presentation:
- Learning about Targeted Areas of Growth approach. Pick 3 goals of areas for improvement with @jgmac1106
- TAG TEAM approach…vary writing assignments btw individual/ collaborative.
#edcampctstudents HIGHLIGHT their targeted areas of growth…. use curation tools, let kids play! #edcampct
- You don’t need to assess every online discussion. Look for ways students are using multi-modal features… assess it!
- Screencast-o-matic to assess writing. teacher provides oral feedback, students comment. cuts grading time in 1/2 via @jgmac1106
- disciplinary specific goals… writing like a scientist, writing like a historian, share examples… “I do, we do, you do”
- In @
thomasdaccord ’s session: Building iPad PD (5 mistakes schools are making & ways to avoid them) #edcampct
- Mistake: “failure to compose and deliver a clear vision of why iPads ?”develop a consistent, clear message on value added
- iPads cannot be a replacement for everything a computer can do… shouldn’t be either/ OR. use the tool that fits!
- Mistake: “failure to distinguish the difference between what an iPad can do and what a computer can do”… stress the intrinsic benefits
- ”Technology should be in the service of learning” via
@thomasdaccord #edcampct #isedchat
- Mistake: PD is often an after thought w/ iPads. Teachers need to learn HOW to work with ipads, have a comfort level.
- “iPad As” from edtechteacher…. http://diigo.com/0o0up Learning goals FIRST! via
- iPad is meant to be a single user device… need to consider how “shared iPads” will impact the classroom workflow.
- Workflow is often overlooked. It is something really important to consider.
- common mistake: Misguided focus on apps!
- clear/ thoughtful policy re: apps… teacher autonomy is good but can become an “apps festival” Have conversations first.
- Look for the 4 apps that cross a wide range of possibilities. exhaust the creative possibilities.
#edcampct <— YES!
- don’t focus on subject specific apps… most are lower order bloom, drill/ kill. Focus on screencast, annotation, audio/ video.
GREAT advice here…and, when Tom said to focus on 4 or 5 apps instead of trying to figure out what everyone will need for each age group and subject area, it was like a wave of calm came over me … have you seen how many apps are out there??!! And although I wanted to be in two other places at the same time: “Using Evernote to organize & share materials & as an e-portfolio (@daveandcori)” and “Ethical Issues Around Social Networking in class. A conversation. Privacy? Access? Soical Fabric? Jeff Weitz @scienceteacher1″, I made another GREAT choice.
Off to lunch to catch up with some twitter friends that I could finally meet in person. Always fun to pick up a conversation as if I have “known” them for a long time. (well, I sorta have!) Lunch was delicious and the potato chips that everyone was talking about did not disappoint.
After lunch, I decided to be bold and hit a session that would probably put me out of my comfort zone, but I knew I needed to get an idea of what my network manager and help desk tech are up against with the 18 shared iPads. I chose “Managing shared iPads (hurdles & solutions) with @mlevesqueoi and @mytakeonit“. It was a very informative question and answer session, and I did get a bit uncomfortable and overwhelmed. I even had to back off Twitter because I couldn’t grasp the magnitude of managing multiple users on a single user device. Here is the document that Michael and Jeremy shared. Again… wished I could have been in “iPad Apps for Middle School/High School Math” AND “Game Theory in the Classroom? A “curiosity” discussion (@thalesdream)”, but GREAT session and I learned A LOT!
For the last session of the day, I chose ”Flipping (after a year of semi-flipped classroom) How to? Pitfalls? Structure! Management with @docjessm“. Hard choice because I wanted to also be in her husband’s session of “Schoology (and other class manage systems) taking a look at the blended learning class. Better? Not just more? @thalesdream” and also “Supporting School Values/Goals. More than just a poster on the wall. @WillyB“. CRAZY! While I have flipped with mixed success, I felt that this would be the most practical choice for me with school starting in 3 weeks. I got a lot of tips and very good advice from Jess. She was a dynamic speaker, full of energy and enthusiasm. It was a good choice to end the day!
We finished up in the Common Room with some raffles and an app SMACKDOWN! Here is a link to the sites/ apps shared.
I have to say… my two biggest takeaways:
Although it was a day filled with dilemmas (if only all dilemmas could be like this!), I made all good choices, learned SO MUCH and leveraged Twitter (Yay for Twitter!) to try to fill in the gaps! Here is the archive of tweets in a google spreadsheet format and here they are in storify format!
And..if you haven’t been to an EdCamp, you really should get to one… soon!
Ok- I admit it. I had “bloggers block”. I started a few posts since school ended, but they lacked spark and never really came together. They mostly focused on some frustrations that I had at the end of the school year. It felt good to write about them, but I just didn’t see the point in trying to flush them out to publish them. So, after a few weeks of rest and relaxation, and a few hours with some students, I am inspired to write again.
Yesterday was the start of our 2nd Annual Engineering and Science Academy at Hamden Hall. Over 150 students applied for the 32 spots we had in the camp… WOW! Last year was an amazing teaching experience for me (see post here) and I was looking forward to getting started.
This year, my plan was to work with one of the science teachers on the first day, guiding students in some research on bridges, and then to complete some kind of computer activity (possibly using Google Sketchup) where students could work on a preliminary design of a truss bridge they would eventually create out of linguine and test for its strength. The remainder of the week, I would work with Sarah Ludwig, helping the students to design computer games using Scratch.
In preparation, I began looking around for websites on bridge design that were appropriate for students in grades 6 – 8. I found some good ones, but struggled with how I would share the links. Typing individual URLs is so burdensome. I couldn’t share them via email and I thought of creating a wiki and posting the links there, but I didn’t have one set up already.
Then, as luck would have it, this past week’s #isedchat topic was “What are effective ways to curate resources for students and faculty?” Scoop.it was mentioned as an easy, interesting, very user-friendly way to share. So, I decided to give it a try. Literally, within 5 minutes of signing up, I had this page ready to share.
SO EASY! YAY! and the URL was very easy for students to type. Part one of the plan was done!
After watching a YouTube video on creating a bridge using Google Sketchup, I realized it would be WAY too hard to do in the 25 minutes I had. So, I went to google and typed in “bridge simulator” and up popped “West Point Bridge Builder“. I had heard of this program a while ago, but I didn’t make the connection until now. Within minutes, I downloaded it, and was designing my own truss bridge.
This is exactly the type of bridge that students would be creating for the rest of the week! It even allowed users to test their design, and learn how to strengthen the weak areas using different materials and supports. How perfect was this?!
Students arrived in class and things went EXACTLY as planned. We watched the Tacoma Bridge Collapse, talked about different types of bridges, and the students dove into their research. After 20 minutes, they were ready to start designing. This was amazing to watch! With about 3 minutes of instruction, the students were designing and simulating and correcting and re-trying their designs, learning all along the way. It was a blast!
To quote John “Hannibal” Smith from the 80′s TV classic, The A-Team, ”I love it when a plan comes together!” What a great day!
….and I can’t wait to see the linguine truss bridges to their completion!
As our final assessment of the year in Geometry, I was originally planning to do a screencast, similar to my Algebra 1 class. Since the topic was segments and angles in a circle, I quickly realized that it would be very difficult and labor intensive for my students to accurately draw the diagrams necessary. I was looking for a way to have the diagrams already saved and to have the students spend their time explaining how to solve them. After talking through the issue with Sarah Ludwig, Academic Technology Coordinator, she suggested trying VoiceThread. I had used VoiceThread before, but never as an assessment tool. I decided to give it a try!
We scanned the final assessment for the chapter, and broke each problem into an individual powerpoint slide. I uploaded this to VoiceThread and shared it with my students. Each student needed to complete 12 problems correctly (out of 20) on paper, submit them to me for grading. Once they completed all of them correctly, they could begin recording their solutions in VoiceThread.
Even though we had a small issue with “disappearing ink” in the drawing tool on VoiceThread, the students found it extremely easy to record. I loved seeing these students record and then re-record the problems until they got the solutions just right. Is there any better way to practice solving problems?
I used this rubric for grading and found that the biggest issue was the fact that, while students did record the solutions correctly, they did not always fully explain WHY they were solving them… the geometric concepts. When I do this project next year, I will be sure to stress the explanation as a key component to the project. Live and learn!
Overall, using VoiceThread as an assessment tool was extremely successful. The students were fully engaged and I was able to get a very clear picture of what they understood. In many ways, it was the most authentic assessment of the year!
Here is our final project:
Last Friday, we completed our screencast project in Algebra 1. Things went extremely well! Screencast-o-matic was very reliable and the students enjoyed choosing their own color/style/ background to write out their problems using Paint. It was like music to my ears hearing them explain how to add/ subtract/ multiply and divide radicals expressions. The students were completely engaged for all three days in the lab and the entire process forced them to think about how to simplify radical expressions. YAY!
Each student downloaded the screencasts as .avi files and the students were able to easily import the video files into Windows MovieMaker, and add a title, transitions and credits. I uploaded the final projects to my YouTube channel and really enjoyed grading them. Although I had students submit problems ahead of time for checking, some of the students made some errors in explaining the problems and I noted them on their grading rubric. It was the ultimate assessment of whether students knew WHAT to do and WHY they were doing it. Overall, the project turned out great and I will definitely do this again next year!
Here are a few of the screencasts: