Sunday, April 30, 2017

Edcamp Lancaster

This past weekend was my second year attending EdCamp Lancaster and my fourth EdCamp overall.  If you have never heard about EdCamps, you should start looking for one in your area.  Here is a quick video on EdCamps if you are unfamiliar.

I always try to sell the idea to my department when one rolls around. I tell them that breakfast and sometimes even lunch is included, there are great door prizes, you can earn ACT48 credits (Pennsylvania's continuing education requirement for teachers), and of course that it always ends up being some of my best PD  every year.

This year I attended the following sessions and picked up a few morsels to bring back to my classroom:

Math Tech Tools - I shared Desmos's awesome activity builder and new geometry tool.  Most people knew about the graphing calculator, but not the other two.  I really advocated for the digital card sorts since that is my favorite feature.

The math tech tool that I learned about is Mathspace.  I asked our department's lead teacher to see if she could get a free trial for us to use once we go one-one with iPads next year.  I'd contact them myself, but it might be frowned upon if I over step my boundaries.  I think this resource looks promising as it is supposed to be adaptive to hone in on students' exactly level of learning.

Logistics of Going One-One - I was hoping more for ideas to help with new classroom routines, but the session ended up being more about managing the hardware/software, etc.  It was still interesting and I learned a little about how some schools manage the process.  For example, one person recommended engraving the chargers with IDs to match the devices.  At $40ish per charger, it can be expensive to replace ones that are not returned.  Also, some schools replaced students devices with new ones when something went wrong.  They just made sure that everything is stored in the cloud and that machines were wiped when returned.  This seems like it would make for easy repairs since students would not need to return a loaner later to get their device.  However, my biggest issue with my technology right now is that students do not respect it without ownership.  They do things like pop off keys.  They don't realize that replacing a keyboard can cost $400, or they don't care since it is not their device.

Hybrid/Blended Learning - This session was one of the requests that I put on a sticky note for the schedule board.  I ended up being the expert in the room which, for selfish reasons, I was bummed about.  I ended up going over the basics and some trouble shooting with other people who were in the beginning stages of the process.  My post-it question was about obtaining buy-in from parents and students.  I know the research supports this model.  I have shared the research with my students and my parents and they typically don't care.  The only thing they care about is that the model is uncomfortable, so they feel it should not be used.  They feel that the only legitimate form of math instruction is lecture and that anything else it "not teaching."  You can read more about my implementation of the model here and about the supporting research here if you like.

Anyway, I was a bit disappointed that there was no one in my session with more/better experience than me.  Oh well, I'll keep looking for solutions.

Last year I attended sessions on motivating unmotivated students, hybrid learning and standards based grading.  During the motivating students session we discussed trying to make the required curriculum relevant and/or interesting.  I recall sharing Dan Meyer's anecdote about "what is the headache for which _______ is the medicine."  That is probably my favorite guiding question while lesson planning.

 During the hybrid learning session we shared k-12 resources for multiple subjects for the independent station and collaborative station.  I remember recommending 3-Act tasks for collaborative.  Finally, during the standards based grading session I again ended up being the expert.  I guess I should feel happy to help other people when that happens, and I am, but I'm also a little disappointed too.  Standards based grading and hybrid learning are a little too new, I suppose, for there to be masses of teachers locally with a wealth of knowledge.  This is why I love twitter :)  Because when your department is made up of teachers from around the world, you can almost always find what you are looking for.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ozobot Transformations and Graphing Functions Projects

Last summer I got the crazy idea in my head that I should incorporate robotics into my high school math classroom.  I did a ton of research and narrowed down my first choice of robot to +OZOBOT.  Then, by just being very very lucky, I learned that +Tryazon was doing a party/giveaway opportunity.  I won one Ozobot bit for myself and one to given away to a party guest.  I wrote about that initial experience here.

After this experience, I decided to apply for a grant through our local education foundation.  Again, I was lucky enough to be chosen.  MTEF bought a class set of Ozobots for my classroom.  Here is what I've done with the Ozobots so far.

I knew that I wanted the end product to be a path that the Ozobots would follow.  This year I'm teaching geometry and algebra 2, so I decided to do this assignment with transformations in geometry and as a cumulative review of graphing lots of types of functions for algebra 2.

In both classes, I started with this activity.  It served as a great introduction to line following robots in real life as well as a how to guide on how our Ozobots work.  I teach in a station based hybrid classroom, so this activity served as one station out of 4.  During the other stations students received direct instruction and small group instruction on the mathematical concepts of transformations and graphing.  This pattern continued throughout the duration of the project.

The next activity that I did with both classes involved students learning about the color codes and completing puzzles/mazes with the Ozobots.  I scanned these images from the Ozobot bit starter pack that I mentioned earlier from Tryazon.

Here are the  files for this portion of the assignment:

Ozocodes and Calibration Guide
Puzzle 1
Puzzle 2
Puzzle 3
Puzzle 4

Finally, I gave the students 3 stations worth of time (about 60 minutes total) to complete the end product, a path for the Ozobot's to follow.  This happened about every other day over the course of a week.  Here are the documents that I gave to students.

And  finally here are some of the final products from my students.

Many of my students would be reluctant to admit it, but they did enjoy this assignment.  The excitement came when they put their Ozobots through the final run and the tiny robots were able to make it through their courses. 

In the future, I'm looking to use the robots again to practice solving systems of equations by graphing.  I'm hoping to have students use OzoBlockly to program the bots to plot the lines.  I'd love to hear about your ideas for how you'd use the bots in your classroom.  Please share your ideas.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Practice Structures: Uno

I've been trying to be creative about turning card games and board games into alternatives to worksheets for building fluency.  I saw some elementary level numeracy games using uno.  So I decided to create a secondary uno game, well two actually.  I made one game on identifying the type of conic section from an equation and a second game for identifying the types of angles formed by two parallel lines and a transversal.  Uno could also be used to practice other skills related to identifying situations in math.  Maybe another option would be for identifying whether a set of lines where parallel, perpendicular, or neither.

Here is how I modified the game to for conic sections:

And here is my angle pair game:

This activity is pretty time consuming.  I did not have kids play by the official rules of reaching 500 points, rather I just gave them a time limit and the person with the lowest score at the end of the time frame was declared to be the winner.  The activity would work well for an extended period during a special schedule (exam season maybe).

If you have other ideas for topics to use for uno, of if you have other feedback, it's be glad to hear about them!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

#Teach180: Days 131-140

This year I've taken on the #teach180 challenge.  The challenge is to post one tweet per day showing a glimpse inside your classroom.  I'm also putting the tweets together in a biweekly blog so that I can share the resources that I'm tweeting about.

Day 131: Today we had our weekly cumulative standards based quiz.
Day 132:  Today in algebra 2 we practiced finding inverses graphically with Mishaal Surti's Desmos assignment.  For whatever reason, my kids understood this much better this year.  I give credit to to awesomeness of visualizing with Desmos.
Day 133:  Today in geometry, we used Khan Academy to practice finding the area of composite shapes.
Day 134:  Today in geometry we practiced finding surface area and lateral area of prisms and cylinders using this @ExploreLearning Gizmo.  I think it really helps students to see both the 3D representations and the nets to make the connection between area and surface area.

Day 135:  Today in algebra 2, we practiced finding inverses of functions algebraically.  Then we checked our work using this Geogebra sketch.

Day 136:  Today we had our weekly quiz.  Last one of the third marking much grading :/
Day 137:  Today in geometry we practiced finding the surface area and lateral area of pyramids and cones using this Gizmo from ExploreLearning.  I love how you can instantly create an infinite number of examples with a drag of a slider.
Day 138:  Today in algebra 2 we practiced finding the inverse of logarithmic functions with this color by number assignment. Weird how a little coloring motivates students :)  I think it is the relaxing aspect of coloring.

Day 139:  Today in geometry, we practiced finding the volume of cylinders and prisms by using this ExploreLearning Gizmo.  I love how you can see the relationship between right and oblique prisms so easily with this tool.

Day 140:  Today in algebra 2 we used EDpuzzle to learn about solving exponential equations.  EDpuzzle is awesome because you can import any video.  You can trim it, add in audio and written information.  You can also insert questions to check for understanding.

That's it for this round of #teach180.  It's never too late to join in the fun!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) Nomination

A few months ago, one of my colleagues nominated me for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).  Although I sometimes get praise from my coworkers, supervisors, and the parents of my students, I've never been nominated for an award for my teaching before, so I'm pretty excited about this.  Most teachers will tell you, that they get more complaints than recognition for what they have done well.  So its really rejuvenating to be noticed for good work.  I was warned by another colleague, that the application process for this reward was pretty intense.  When I looked over the requirements, I thought (fill in some forms, get some letters of recommendation, submit a resume, record a lesson, and write a narrative) that the most difficult part would be the recorded lesson.  However, I think the narrative ended up being the most challenging piece for me.  I have dyslexia and processing language comes slowly to me.  So I suppose I should have expected that to be the most difficult part of the application for me.

I just wanted to share some of the process here in the event that you find yourself nominated in the future.  I think the application process was worth doing once.  I don't expect to win, but I'm glad I finished the entire process.  If I were nominated in the future, I would probably not reapply.  I probably spent about 20 hours in the whole application process, and I ended up reflecting on my teaching deeply, but I'd be hard pressed to take so much time away from my work and my family again.

The first thing that you do when nominated, is fill in some basic information about your teaching assignment.  Your building principal is contacted to verify your eligibility as well as to write a letter of recommendation.  You also have to choose 2 other people to submit letters of recommendation.  You could choose supervisors, coworkers, students, parents, or anyone else who could describe your effectiveness as a teacher.  I chose my supervisor and a coworker who happened to be my mentor when I started teaching 13 years ago.  My mentor wrote a beautiful letter that I ended up keeping a copy of to read on days when I need a reaffirmation that my hard work is noticed.

Next, you will have someone record a lesson for you. It has to be one continuous shot, which was a challenge.  I understand the reasoning, but I wish I could have edited the video to include video confidential style reflections after the fact.  My nominator gracefully agreed to give up her planning period to film my lesson.  I tried to pick a simply lesson that was very routine for me and my students.  The very next day, we were actually doing a really fun lesson, Candy Catapult, but I wanted the reviewers to see a typical lesson, not an above average lesson.  Part of me feels like I should have filmed the project, but I only do 1 project per marking period and I did not want to represent myself as someone who has managed to implement tons of projects.

Finally, you write your narrative.  This involves responding to several prompts.  Some of the questions related to the recorded lesson and other lessons, other related to your teaching in general.  This is the part that took the longest and eventually, I grew fatigued of the writing and I decided it would be best to just submit my application.  I could have spent many more hours on perfecting the language, but again, I wanted to be myself, flaws and all.

Overall, I am thankful that my coworker felt highly enough of me to nominate me.  And I'l also grateful for the wonderful recommendation that my mentor wrote for me.  I also enjoyed the challenge of reflecting more deeply on my teaching than I usually have time to do on a daily basis.  It would sure be a hoot if I were selected :)  If you have the chance in the future, nominate a colleague who does a great job.  It feels so nice to be recognized for our daily dedication to our teaching and we could all use more positive energy to get us through the many challenges of teaching.