Thursday, April 12, 2012

Looking Back On My GAME Plan Technology Skills

            In the past six weeks I have set goals to incorporate two items into my classroom and my teaching pedagogy. These two items are the promotion of digital citizenship and improving the design of digital-age learning experiences. With these goals in mind, I embraced many of the ideas put forth in the course. I did not intend for my two goals to be unrealistic, knowing I could adapt them if the effort was more fruitful than I had first planned.
            One of the key items that made a huge difference was the concept of Problem Based Learning (PBL), and how the students work through a major problem or project. I could incorporate the digital citizenship into many smaller lessons, but making the bigger project was the real challenge. Improving the digital learning experience would be improved by the PBL. The benefits of the PBL, specifically those regarding the students learning the content in more of a covert manner, was enticing. Having an authentic learning experience for my students was also something that I had desired to use within a project, and brainstorming some ideas from this class helped me to come up with a project. The students would disregard a real-life restriction in order to create new ideas and use of land within their own community. The students felt as if mathematics was now part of their real lives, using math in such a way to affect their own community.  Using the PBL of a major project, I could actually improve on both of my goals. I enjoyed seeing my students' interest increase based on authentic learning. While in previous attempts to do larger projects saw the students struggle, the students felt a connection to this project; therefore, they pushed through the difficulty. I believe this perseverance was due to the connection to the assignment.

            In order to continue my integration of technology into my classroom, I have adapted lessons to incorporate the responder system in accordance with my original projection of one per week. There has been some increase in the efficiency of my work, but there has not been some kind of magic method to dramatically decrease my time. I have attempted to get other teachers involved with the responder system; however, they have been resistant to the technology. This is surprising to me as their students show a much higher level of engagement. Perhaps they are apprehensive about the technology, their time, or their knowledge of the technology. I must still look for a partner who I can collaborate with on the responders into our Algebra curriculum.

A website and its content that has really gained some traction in my classroom and with my students is This free software mirrors Facebook and social media very closely. There are several key differences with VoiceThread compared to Facebook. VoiceThread is a private community; only my students are members, and they realize that they are being watched and cannot post any inappropriate content. Within these constraints, they collaborate, give opinions, and have a good deal of fun. Several of the parents have commented to me that VoiceThread was the first time they saw their webcams used for schoolwork. I invited the parents to be part of the community in order for them to observe the happenings. I offered to get webcams for the parents if they would reimburse me, and several took me up on the offer. The students have requested we do more work using VoiceThread. I will absolutely look to incorporate VoiceThread into the PBL in my classroom.

            The other area that I can actually continue to improve upon is that of the digital citizenship. The students need to learn the requirements early, and this is best done by setting expectations and modeling good examples. This process needs to start earlier within the school year; essentially as soon as possible. Good habits are easy to maintain once started, and bad habits are difficult to reverse. By modeling examples and including proper digital citizenship into the grading of assignments, this improvement will more of a continuous process rather than a single time event.

            The last item that was confirmed as an important part of any PBL assignment is a rubric. I have always believed in the power and usefulness of rubrics. The rubric allows the students to work to a defined, tangible goal, eliminating an ambiguity for the earned grade. The rubric also protects me as the teacher against claims of favoritism or bias as the rubric should clearly delineate the values and categories of the material to be graded. Coupling up project modeling, with a good example of a finished project and the rubric results being shown as well as a poor example can be a clear demonstration to the students of the type of work and the grade that will be earned.
            The past several weeks have brought several seemingly independent items together to form a basis for change in my classroom and my teaching pedagogy for the better. I feel more comfortable expanding out of the textbook material, and the students have responded in a positive manner. With those two results, I hope to continue along to reach and further enhance my goals.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Continuing Forward Towards My GAME Plan

This week was filled with strong advances in one part of my GAME plan, and no appreciable movement for the other portion. The area where there was no significant progress was the digital citizenship of my students. The original plan was to insert a project that would incorporate the opportunity to stress these principles. I sat down with my peer Language Arts teachers, explained my intentions, and solicited their advice and direction. One admitted that she does a poor job of enforcing the proper citations, and the other lamented about how difficult it can be. They also referred me to the director of their curriculum to get more information, and asked that I not mention their situations. I reached out to get this information, but have not gotten a response. I am looking into a lesson where we will include simple items to start the process, like photographs.

The other goal is to incorporate more digital-age learning experiences into my classroom, and this is progressing right along where I would imagined it would. I incorporated responders into an existing lesson; specifically, a lesson on time management when taking a standardized test. The software not only records the responses of the students, but also records the response time for each student. I reduced the number of questions from the original lesson, which allows for the students to reflect upon their timing. The students became quite aware of the timing, particularly exceeding an average time per question. This typically occurs when the student gets stuck on a question, and obsesses on finding the answer. This stall on a single question robs time from other questions, and the result is typically a series of questions at the end of the exam being unanswered while the student rushes through to fill in the circles. I purposely included a tough question, and modeled the act of skipping the question. I was pleasantly surprised at the high number of  students who almost immediately skipped to the next question, and they found it easy to complete the practice test. There were a few who stayed on the question too long, and it reflected in their responses on the final group of questions.

This adaptation of the lesson was not entirely difficult, so I feel that my original goal of one lesson per week through the end of the school year is realistic and achievable. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I intend to continue on this pace. I also posted this lesson to the three other teachers who utilize responders in their classrooms. It was met with mixed results; one wondered how I had the time to do it, one asking me to adapt a few more for them, but all were grateful. I hope the flow comes back to me. Thanks for the read.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review my GAME plan for my Technology Skills

The two areas that I selected for my technology skills were the promotion of digital citizenship and improving the design of digital-age learning experiences. While these are realistic goals, I feel as if they are ongoing practices as opposed to a finite improvement. For these two areas of improvement, I have the resources either already in hand or relatively easy to obtain. Since the improvements are separate in their scope, I will break them out as such.

For digital citizenship, I will need to model the proper method of citing resources. In order to do this, the students will work on a new project, and will be required to properly cite all the sources used. Some resources that are already available are the use of our computer laboratory, and scheduling the project within the existing curriculum for the remainder of the year. Since there are quite a few days already accounted for in the year, this may seem more like using a shoehorn to pry this lesson in. By keeping the overt lesson relatively small, the covert lesson of the proper citations can take a larger role; therefore, it can be more meaningful and hopefully the value of the lesson will be grasped. There is some additional information that I will need, and it comes from my Language Arts team teachers. I need to use the same resource citing protocol that they use in order to remain consistent within the school. I will rely on the Language Arts teachers' expertise, and honestly speaking, I do not want to impose my mathematics world into an area that is primarily handled in Language Arts. If I follow their protocols, and rely on their expertise, it will appear as if I am simply enforcing a process that should be done anyway. I have already reached out to the two valued Language Arts teachers, and we will be meeting to ensure that I am on the same page as them. They expressed some forward gratitude that I was even thinking about incorporating something from their classrooms into my lessons. Now if I can just get them to learn a little Algebra!

The other area where I intend to improve is the design of digital-age learning experiences and assessments. I have a Smartboard in my classroom, and I believe I am proficient in its use. It is always treated as more than a glorified whiteboard. I already have many of the hardware resources that I require to improve, such as the Smartboard, the software from our textbook, a set of responders or clickers, and a set of graphing calculators. The resources that I need to find, or develop, are the lessons that use this technology along with their associated electronic files. These lessons should be based on the existing curriculum, with the incorporation of the technologies. I have started to use the clickers on a semi-regular basis; the drawback for moving to a more frequent use if the amount of time I have to adapt, prepare, or adapt and prepare the lessons from the existing lessons and files. This lack of time should be alleviated with the completion of my master's work, so it may not really be fully realized until this fall. However, I have reached out to many online resources, exploring the various files which incorporate the technology. I have found several good resources from the Internet, but I have yet to find a site that really stands out. Most sites I have found, including the ones sponsored by the Smartboard manufacturer, have more shallow lessons and files which do not incorporate the appropriate skill levels of the class with the proper technology. I find files with great technology integration, but are not really on the mark with the mathematics content. I also find good content, but then need to push in the technology. Which brings me back to the most valuable resource that I need, the time to do this incorporating. Between now and the end of the school year, my goal is to adapt one class lesson per week. When the new school year begins, I will increase to three lessons per week.

I do not want to make my goals unrealistic, especially with the integration of technology into my classroom lessons. This should be an ongoing process as opposed to a one-time event. The adage of running fast setting the pace, but slow and steady winning the race might be the best advice.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Strengthening My Technology Skills for the Benefit of My Students.

I looked to examine and self-reflect upon my teaching pedagogical skills compared to those put forth by the National Education Technology Standards for Students (NETS-S). I read through the five indicators of proficiency (, and ranked them in order from my best to my weakest. I have always felt that I can relatively proficient in technology, especially in the areas regarding computers, software, and their application into our lives. Of course, I would like to improve my skills, and starting with my weaker points would make total sense.

Of the five indicators, I felt I am weakest in two areas. The weakest would be the promotion of model digital citizenship and responsibility. I have not been as strict with resources, their citations, and giving credit to the publishers of information. To explain further, I feel as if I have always cited and credited my sources for my personal work, but I have not enforced the crediting of sources for the work of my students. Perhaps this was because my lessons were suited for the creation of material, such as spreadsheets or slide shows. However, this past year one of my projects was a slide show where the students outlined their purchases if they were to spend a fictional million dollars. Most of the students used the Internet as the source of their pictures, and I did not require a section where the students would cite the pages for their pictures. I have used a resources page previously, but not for the pictures, just for information. In order to achieve this goal, I will be introducing the requirement to cite all sources within a student's work, including items that I previously omitted like pictures. Instead of waiting for a project that we have already done, I will be creating a project that will concentrate on the citation process. This exclusive project will ensure that the students realize the importance of citing their sources, and will allow them to practice. That way, the correct resource citing will be ready to be used when the students come to their next project, regardless of their subject class. I will also be working with the other teachers in our team group to ensure that they know and align their rubrics to include the proper and complete resource citing process.

Another area where I have the potential for improvement is the design of digital-age learning experiences and assessments. I do incorporate the use of a Smartboard in my classroom, and I strive to make sure I utilize it as more than just a glorified whiteboard. With all the potential of the Smartboard, I need to be continuously improving and integrating knowledge, skills, and resources beyond my current pedagogy. This year I included a set of responders, or clickers, and the students' level of engagement was way higher. While it may appear that my class and my students is far ahead of most others within my school and district, I believe that there is a vast potential to keep moving forward to incorporate the latest technology and tools. The challenge will be to keep the mathematics in my class the primary subject, not technology. Monitoring this incorporation of technology will be a key element in my improvement. I am a mathematics teacher first, and I would be failing to teach my students the proper subject matter if we concentrated on the technology at the expense of learning algebra.  I will need to continually check my class progress compared to the curriculum map which paces the class over the course of the year. I will also need to monitor the student learning as we progress to ensure that the students are actually learning the material.

I have been the beneficiary of my continual desire to improve over the course of my career. I like to be an early adopter of technology, which has been painful at times. Instead of learning from others, I have been the volunteer to test something out, and this continues after my career switch to become a teacher. It is been mutually beneficial to my school and to me. They get a tester, and I get the opportunity to adapt new items to our community and culture. I look forward to the opportunity to improve my teaching practices and stay on the forefront of technology in my classroom.

It has been a while since I posted. Thanks for visiting!

Resources for this blog entry:

ISTE. (n.d.). NETS for teachers. Retrieved March 6, 2012, from ISTE Standards: