Slow Change

If you would have asked me what the world could be like in 2020 when I was a senior in high school, in the year 2006, I would have answered differently than I would today. I got my first cell phone when I was in 10th grade. My family just got cable internet instead of dial up when I was in 12th grade. I was just starting to download mp3s instead of buying CDs. All of these changes in technology were big to me and it seemed like a lot changed in 3 years. At that time I could not believe all of the technological advances that were happening.

However, my school district today does not look much different than when I was in high school 10 years ago. Sure some students have their own devices now. Some class rooms have new projectors or more computers. Some new technology like Google Apps or Schoology now exist. But the day to day shuffle within the school does not look all that much different. I’m not sure what I would have expected to see change in that time since I was in school but I surely would have thought it would be much different.

When I got to college and started my courses related to education we talked about classroom management, how to write a lesson plan, and took our core courses. I did not take one class on how to use technology in the classroom. We did not talk at all about cell phone policies in school or how to help students use their technology. I am hoping that this has changed in the bachelor’s degree programs since I am now seeing more of these courses available as I am completing my master’s and second master’s degree. I am also hoping that since these courses are available educators and administrators will start to spread the word about how important it is that we grow with the technology and not resist it.

The world outside of school has changed since I was in school as well. We are now able to watch endless shows and movies on Netflix. We can post a tweet or post a picture on Instagram and the world knows what we are doing instantly. We can stream any song we want. Today’s world has so much more instant gratification than it used to and I am seeing that within my students. They want to check their text now. They want to get their question answered now. So much is available at the touch of a button and they aren’t used to working for or waiting for what they need or want. It will be interesting to see what this generation is like as they start to filter out into the real world.

The upcoming generations have so much potential due to the technologies that they have available. As adults we need to help them understand all of the resources available and how to use them to do their best and be their best. Students know that Youtube is available and watch endless music videos or cat videos but do they know how to use it to find lessons on the math topic they were stuck on. Students want to use their phones during the school day to text but do they know that they can use it to look up the definition of a word they don’t know in study hall. In our district phones are not allowed out at all during the school day. I have often seen students trying to check their phone during class and completely not listening to their instructor because they are worried about hiding the fact that they want to check their phone.

Why don’t we allow phones out during the day so that students can quickly check their phones in the hall on the way to class and then put it away when they enter the classroom? Why can’t all students be provided a device so that they can carry it with them to use in study halls or at home? Why are students so quick to grab their phone to take a picture of themselves but they won’t use their phone to look up a topic that they are confused with? In the next few years I hope that these are situations that can be addressed in my district. I hope that we can change our policies and guide our students on how to use technology in school and outside of school while providing devices for students other than their phones. The skills to use their resources are ones that will carry over into the real world.

I think that as the younger generations filter into administrative positions in schools we will start to see more change. Maybe it is just my district but there are people in decision making positions that are as old, or older than my parents, and they seem to see more cons than pros to technology and forward movement changes in schools. I often hear older teachers and administrators talk about how they used to have to type reports on a type writer and go to the library to get their information. They say “these kids don’t know how good they have it.” Some of these same people are the ones who don’t use any technology in the classroom or are resisting a change in the cell phone policy. Maybe they are right. Maybe these students don’t know how good they have it. As I’ve gotten older and reflected on my education I know that I sure do know how good I have it. I do appreciate what is available to me and new generations. I sure will not complain about not having a certain luxury when I was younger and then not make use of it now that we do have it.

I am not at all trying to put down the administrators and teachers who do not want change. Change is hard. It requires well thought out procedures and edits to policies. It requires training and sometimes new purchases. All of these things take time and money. Sometimes it seems like the best option to just stick with something that has been working. However, I don’t think running a school now, as it was run 10 years ago is the best practice. Unless we start to see fresh educators and administrators in those positions I am not sure we will see much change in 4 years. However, in 15-20 years I do think our schools and therefore our worlds outside of school will start to look different. It will be a slow change, and all districts will change at a different rate, but the change is inevitable with advances happening as they are.


The Many Uses of Google Apps

Our discussion asks us to describe “a” situation in which the web application we chose would be useful in supporting students with their specific learning style. I am choosing to write about Google Apps because there are many ways in which it can support students.

For a student who struggles to organize notes, he or she can use Google Docs to type his or her notes and have them automatically saved. If a student is a visual learner he or she can create Google Slides with pictures and use these to help study. A student could take a survey for a class using Google Forms. All of these files can be saved and organized in one central place using Google Drive. Files can be accessed from anywhere when you have access to the internet. Students can also share these files with classmates so that they can collaborate and help each other to be successful.

I could find a way to help students incorporate Google Apps into almost any class or topic and it could help them be successful. At our school, all students have an account and start using it in middle school so they are fairly familiar with it by the time they get to me in high school. Even though they are familiar with it, I don’t think they use it to their full potential. With some guidance they could really see the possibilities.

Paperless classes…not for math class right now

In a paperless class I would still be the facilitator of the class but instead of handing the student hard copies of materials I would work with them on how to find resources on our learning management system. Students would be able to access these materials from school and from home in case they couldn’t make it to class. A paperless classroom would force students to go online and while online they may be more inclined to interact with others online or looks for additional resources while online. Sometimes the hardest part for students is just logging in.
I am very concerned about how this would work in a math classroom. I have yet to find a technology resource available to me and my students that allows students to read and show work in a user friendly way. I teach algebra 2 and algebra 1 so there are a lot of exponents, fractions and multiple step problems. I tried to give an online quiz a few times but I could not give the students appropriate feedback without having their work and at that point I may as well have given a paper test. 
If our students were one to one I could provide the notes, examples, and problems on our LMS but our students don’t have access to technology at all times. I do provide paper resources in an online format as well but it cannot be the only option at this point. I would like to see a resource where my students can write their work out on a tablet and then submit it to me and then I can write on it on a tablet as well to send it back. However, if students can access it on their device then privacy issues may occur. At this point I have too many unanswered questions and issues to feel comfortable being paperless in my current math classes. 

Teaching is Conversation, Not Lecutre

One of the big shifts that Richardson mentions stuck out most to me and that was that teaching is conversation, not lecture. My most boring days, for me and for my students, are days when I am teaching a lesson and no one interacts with me. Some days it is like pulling teeth. I teach math which I know is not everyone’s favorite topic. I am constantly encouraging and motivating students to be active learners.  From day one of the school year I model questions that students can ask and show them places they may get stuck. I respond to all questions with respect and careful attention so that students feel they can speak up when they need to.

The days that I feel my students learn most are when they tell me where they are getting lost and talk about me about their thought process. With math, the best conversations happen in person but sometimes students feel more comfortable telling me they are lost through an email. The email then opens up the in person conversation. While our “conversation” about equations may be different than a conversation about a piece of literature it is still a conversation none the less. Students learn best when I talk with them not at them.

Group A’s Wiki

I am writing about Group A’s wiki because they got the stance I wish I would have had. I found it hard to write against Connectivism because everything I read about it made sense to me. We, and our students more so, learn differently than anyone ever has in years past because as Group A points out, the digital world is changing and fast. We are able to seek and share information in seconds and in hundreds of ways. We do create networks within our lives of where we get that information. I learned how to factor polynomials from my high school math teacher. As Group A points out, our students today have many resources. My students can now watch a video, comment on a math help web page, use a photo app and text their friend for information on how to factor. I do think that more studies need to be done on Connectivism because it was hard to find information and especially hard to find sources other than those from Downes and Siemens.

Skype in Edcation

I personally don’t care for Skype for my own use. I don’t like Facetime on my phone, or any other tool that allows you to see someone when you talk to them. Connecting with another educator using Skype is nice in that it allows us to share our ideas and get to know one another but I would rather do that through email or phone. I am the same in my personal life. I would much rather send a quick text or email then sit down in front of a computer or phone and have a long drawn out conversation while looking at someone. It might be because I like to multitask or because I don’t need to look at myself while I speak. However, I have used Skype with my sister when she is away from home so that she can see my pets 🙂 Up until now, I have not used it for connecting with other educators.

As much as I don’t like Skype for some uses, I can totally see how it would be used in the classroom for students to connect with others around the world. Rather than students just hearing about how a classroom across the US looks, they could actually see it. Or rather than just hear about someone who uses math in their job, they could actually talk to and interview them through Skype. I probably won’t use Skype to connect with Educators but it is great to have it as an option in case I ever want to see someone while talking with them. It is kind of amazing how with just a few clicks of a button we can see someone on the other side of the world.


Podcasts for Math

I wanted to see what was currently available in the math world of podcasts. Much of what I found was labeled as a podcast but included a visual. I feel visuals are important in math but when that is included it does not have the benefits of a true podcast. The student should be able to listen without watching.

After digging further I found a podcast on adding and subtracting polynomials. I chose this podcast because it was a true podcast and had solid information. Many of the topics I teach in Algebra 2 were the topics that did not have corresponding podcasts on the websites I found.

I feel, in my high school math classroom, podcasts would be a supplementary tool. They would be another resources for students to review a topic but not the sole resource. This could work for students who are auditory learners or simply want to reinforce the lesson in another way other than what we did in class. Students would be able to access podcasts from my website.  If I taught a subject that had more of a vocabulary aspect, such as geometry, I may be able to incorporate a little more. If I struggle to understand an algebra concept without visuals, I should not expect my students to rely on this resource either.

This is the podcast I found:

Beyond Worksheets and Books

In order to use Flickr in my high school math classroom I would have to think beyond the traditional worksheets and books. My students are required to find a picture of a parabola in the real world for a project that we do. I could have my students store their pictures on Flickr and/or I could have them find pictures for the project on Flickr. Using sites like this allows students to express their creativity and see that math exists outside of the classroom.

I chose this picture as an example of one that we could use in our projects.


Image Citation:

Astolath. (2006, April 12). Parabola. Astolath’s Photosteam.Retrived from



Blended Learning (rotational model in the classroom)

Two years ago I was approached by a fellow teacher to be part of a blended learning pilot group. We would be the first group of teachers in our High School to implement the blended learning rotational model (3 stations: direct, collaborative, independent) with support from the district administrators and Dellicker Strategies. I decided I would give it a try with my Algebra 2 CP ninth grade students and now I would never go back. In the beginning I was skeptical that this style might not work for my content and my teaching style. I now know that I am making it work with ease and have pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. However, I only do it with a certain level of student currently because I have not yet figured out the best way to make it work with my lowest level student.

Some school districts are forcing their whole school or specific subject areas to use this model. We are lucky enough that our district is allowing us to try it only if we want to. I also had the choice of which classes I wanted to blend. The second cohort of teachers is now implementing on a voluntary basis and we have a third cohort coming through next year as well. If you want more information on blended learning, I am including some links.

My advice to anyone who may one day want to try a blended classroom is to talk to people who are currently using the model and to have an open mind about how it could work for your class. There are few, if any other, ways that students can work independently, collaboratively, and with the teacher all within the same class period. It prepares students for skills that they will need in the real world and allows them to approach a subject area in multiple ways.

What do you know about blending learning? Do you know anyone who uses the blended learning approach? What worries you about blended learning, if anything? Would you consider having a blended classroom with the rotational model in the future?

A Week With Wikis

One of the challenges that I struggle most with on a wiki is loss of control. I tend to like things a certain way and having others edit a page that is partly mine means I have to compromise and let some things go a different way. I also worry that my work may not be what the other contributors of the page want. Open communication is important since a wiki truly is a collaborative project.

My opinion on Wikipedia has not changed but seems to have been validated in some ways. I have always said that I take Wikipedia for what it is. I know that it can be edited by anyone but as much as that can be a bad thing it also lends to what seems like endless information. When reading information I can check the sources to see if it is reputable. So many teachers stick by the only use .org and .edu mentality but I’m open to using as many resources as possible.

I can and do use wikis when a collaboration calls for it but it is not my go to tool. The teachers I work with tend to use Google Docs or Office 365. These tools have a very similar concept in that we can all see and edit the document at the same time. These tools actually allow me to see what is being edited as it is happening so in some ways this is nice than a Wiki. As always, it is good to have options.