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Showing posts from March, 2009

You want how much for wireless?

I'm off in mid-April to the NCTM's Annual Conference; I'm looking forward to it because I'm also attending the Research PreSession (have to learn how to network with researchers in anticipation of starting my PhD) and also the NCSM, which is more for teacher-leaders. Not that I'm a teacher-leader by any stretch. I just like to know what's going on.
Anyways... as I was preparing for my own session (it's on Saturday the 26th, discussing Web 2.0 and aids to differentiating instruction) I checked in with the supplier of wireless access at the Walter E. Washington Convention Centre - SmartCity. If I'm doing some internet stuff and differentiating, I'd like the participants to experience what we do with our classes. Unfortunately, they replied with a cost of 24.95$ a day. And that is for access suitable to "checking email and surfing the web... not recommended for exhibitors or presenters". So much for that idea... it's going to cost me …

A little off-topic..

While I'm more than happy to rant again about videostreaming/taping conference sessions (MERU on Thursday?), especially after meeting in New York and hearing half the participants explain why they can't attend the NCTM Annual Meeting in Washington due to hotel costs, travel time and coverage fees... but not today.  I'm still on March Break.
So this YouTube video came across my desk... it's not at all serious or educational (put a shirt on!) but I like it because it's in ASL -- and so rarely are music videos made for deaf people.  I took ASL a few years ago when I was volunteering in a community with a lot of deaf people.  I love ASL... it's visual poetry, it's so emotive (and for someone raised WASP, that was a challenge to overcome).  I wish I could use it more often.  I tend to drop a few signs in conversation, often without realizing it.
The other thing that made me smile about the video was that it's the way I practice ASL... while listening to the ra…

March Break Intervention (Thanks for helping!)

Well, my public challenge to my students two months ago worked... I got hooked on drinking way too much Diet Coke while writing my final Masters papers and couldn't kick the habit. So, I told my class that if they saw me with DC in my hand, they could use any means necessary to get it out of my hands. My grade eights, in particular, were delighted by the possibility of taking me on (I'm 6'4" and way too many pounds). But, the public pressure not to meant it was relatively easy to switch over to water... I didn't want the embarrassment of being bested by a pack of rabid grade eights, for one.
So, to make sure that something happens, I'm going to publicly list my tasks for March Break. They are:
Finish GeoGebra PD for our PCMI PDO
Restructure question banks and verify the tags in MapleTA.Design & implement GoogleDocs tracking database/spreadsheets à la CIS 339 Middle School in the Bronx, as seen at Educon 2.1 in January. This is something that's been o…

PWN'ing PLNs

The conversation surrounding PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) continues to grow, both from the perspective of the student and the teacher. A member of my blogroll (and thus, tangentially, a member of my PLN) made a post that prompted some reflection. Since I can't see my school working towards a more liberal approach to boundaries involving subjects, teachers, instruction, etc I'm trying to focus on, and advocating for, the professional PLN aspect. I'm sure there's a cool graphic of PLNs somewhere that encompasses everything I think PLNs are... I scrolled through a few and the best is this one from another tangential-PLN-member Alec Courous but I still don't think it's a complete visual description.
The topic is close to my heart - I began my teacher career as the only math teacher in the school -- 100 kids 7-12. For five years, I did the senior math courses while the rest were picked up by the science teachers. We were the only independent school in the…

MapleTA

With the conclusion of the algebraic portion of the MPM2D course (we only have the trigonometric unit yet to cover) the students are looking forward to their summative evaluation. We've been doing review for the past week or so through the application of what we learned in linear systems and quadratics to do the intersection of lines & parabolas and lines & circles. It's a good way to combine the substitution method, and all the aspects of factoring, quadratic formula, discriminant and using graphical methods. I've been pleased that the students transitioned to the linear-quadratic system without difficulty; they were able to anticipate the process.
As part of their preparation I've added on to our MapleTA question banks. While we have a lot of algebraic questions (factor this, CTS that, find the axis of symmetry, etc) at the suggestion of one of my students I've added on questions of the type "when you see..." Students do get confused by all t…

Let's pour oil on a fire

Okay, so I built an assignment around this blog post: http://blog.dotphys.net/2009/02/the-price-of-a-piece-of-lego/ (as my mentor once shared: teachers are great thieves) since we were coming to March Break and just finishing up a unit on lines and data analysis. (Off topic: I use median-median lines with Grade 9 students; using the black box of LinReg just isn't in me.) They'd already written their tests and we had some time to kill. In fact, we already have students leaving for March Break today so I can't really start the Geometry unit.
I set the assignment up so that they used 4 different websites (Lego Canada, Lego US, eBay Buy-it-now and Toys-R-Us Canada) and in their groups created a shared Google Spreadsheet to put in their data. They had to find a way to organize their group so that they didn't overwrite or duplicate. From there they had to analyze the situation and come to some conclusions.
What all my wonderful planning forgot was that these were Grade 8 …

We're yammer'ing

Well, here's hoping this works out... the IT department (unbeknownst to all of us) has had their own private twitter going on for the past couple of months using www.yammer.com. I serendipitously (maybe?) found out about it and started to invite my colleagues like mad. Hopefully this will provide the school with a conversation space in which to go over some things. Unlike most schools I've been at, this one doesn't have discussions. I mean, like, never. We have meetings, to be sure, but they are almost always uni-directional; we're told what's going on and questions are kept to a minimum as the time in which the information is pushed out to us is relatively short (yes, it's a poor model for us teachers, especially with some beginning educators in the audience). If you want to provide input to the administration, you have to make an individual appointment with the appropriate person; there is no opportunity for us to meet and talk together as a faculty. S…

Voicethreads

Well, I think Voicethreads is a great way of offering peer feedback to student work. I used it to distribute their responses to my summative assignment on slopes & equations of lines; the final requirement in that assignment was to provide their conclusions in a creative way. Some did a very simple document, others wrote newscasts and radio interviews, there were the usual powerpoints and three students did animations.
A Voicethread lets me post them all together in a stream. Viewers can then comment on the student's work by clicking on the comment button and providing feedback (text, audio, or video). The example above shows six comments on one slide of a student's work.
Voicethreads really pulled it all together. While I do have to spend some time with the students on how to provide valuable feedback ("Good job" isn't particularly helpful) they did find few problems with the interface and were quick to notice which students had met the demands of the ex…

Classroom Presenter

One of the applications I use a lot in my Calculus class is Classroom Presenter (CP3) from the University of Washington. While my teaching style is not typically lecture oriented, because of the time constraints (I have to do PreCalculus & AP Calculus from September->April) it's a pretty teacher-centric class. To make it a bit more interactive, I use CP3.
CP3 takes your powerpoint lecture and makes it interactive with the students. While you have control over the projected image, the students can simultaneously mark up on their tablet their version of what is being projected. You can also ask them to submit their marked-up screens back to you. So, when you ask a question to the class, they can write their solutions, you can collect them all and then project the various solutions and discuss them.
How does it work? Well, it starts with a Powerpoint. I make it up to include the structure of the lecture, each slide with an idea or a question or a link or a multiple-choice…