Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bullying and Technology in a Classroom

This week in Math 371 we concentrated on cyber-bullying and teaching mathematics in a classroom with technology.

First, we talked about cyber-bullying, and as a teacher how we would deal with cyber-bullying. Since cyber-bullying usually happens at home it is difficult for a teacher to try and handle the situation. A lot of good ideas on how to handle cyber-bullying were mentioned, such as telling the parents if you see it happening or even talking to the one being bullied, or the bully. Sometimes telling the parents is not as effective as we would like. One of the article's for reading this week talked about parents that were bullying a young girl on their block because their daughter and the girl had a falling out. The parents bullied this young girl so much she committed suicide. Half the kids that are cyber-bullied are bullied in schools as well. It is important as a teacher to know what bullying looks like and to report it if we see it happening.

We also talked about teaching mathematics with technology in the classroom. In particular, using graphing calculators in the classroom. As a class, we talked about when it would be appropriate to use calculators and when not to. Obviously in a Pre-Calculus setting it is helpful at times to be able to use a calculator but students should not be dependent on their calculator. Calculators have become a problem in classrooms  because students are using them for simple addition and multiplication. Children whom are in the 6th, 7th or 8th grade, do most of their homework with a calculator instead of working out the math on their own. It is important to show students how to use the helpful tool, but the calculator should not be doing their thinking for them.

Also, we talked about what our ideal classrooms would look like. The conditions were as follows: we were allowed as much money as we wanted, and we could get whatever we wanted as long it was educational. Students talked about the way their classroom would be laid out and what kinds of technology would be in the classroom. Some students would prefer SmartBoard's and white boards to write on. Also, having iPad's in the classroom would be helpful, or if a teacher would have a tablet so he or she could walk around the room while teaching. A lot of good ideas were thrown around but it is important to keep in mind that we may not get the chance to be placed in our ideal classroom. It is important to be aware of the technology that we could be placed with and also to work with what we have to our best abilities.

Towards the end of class, we talked about the new standards and the smarter balance test. We practiced the test ourselves and talked about the difficulty of the material. We all agreed that the material was not awful, but there was a lot of reading to do for each problem. Our major concern was that students would be discouraged by the problems that require a lot of reading, because they may take more time. It is important to make sure that students are developing in all areas of their learning, but sometimes when math is combined with a bunch of words it will confuse people and discourage them as well.

As teachers we need to make sure that our students are prepared for the technology shift, and that they are aware of the consequences that come with the technology, such as cyber-bullying.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Calculators- The Crutch in the Classroom

As technology advances, students cling to the resources they can use in the classroom.  In high school, I rarely used a computer and filled countless notebooks for my classes.  Nowadays, students use laptops, iPads, and Chrome books for school related activities.  This week’s discussion was primarily focused on the use of graphing calculators in math classes.  Should students be allowed to use their graphing calculators whenever they desire or restrict their usage to ensure quality education?
            In the first article, “Why the graphing calculator still matters in an iPad world?” was written in 2011 and discussed the use of graphing calculators compared to iPads.  Lucas Allen provides strong evidence that graphing calculators are better for students and teachers.  The main producers of graphing calculators, Texas Instruments, provide workshops for teachers so they know how to use them.  Also, graphing calculators are half the cost of iPads.  The apps may be cheap but you still have to pay for the device and you can save more money with the graphing calculator.  For testing, especially for the ACT and SAT, graphing calculators will be preferred because you can’t browse in a window like the iPad.  However, standardized testing has their own restrictions on what types of graphing calculators they allow. 
            The second article, “Graphing calculators face new competition”, discusses other options instead of the graphing calculator.  Graphing calculators can be outdated and a tad expensive.  Now, teachers are letting students pull out their smartphones and use apps instead of the calculator.  This requires companies to come up with more effective calculators to compete with other technology.  However, allowing students to use their phones in a classroom creates problems for supervision.
            The last article, “Go Ahead, Mess with Texas Instruments”, argues that the graphing calculator has more benefits for education than an iPad.  It provides strong points for the graphing calculator and how it helps students learn about graphing and programming.  However, graphing calculators are abused by some students.  The students who are technologically savvy use their calculators to play games.  Most technology has the flaw of not being used for the purpose it was created for.  iPads can be used in multiple different classes where a graphing calculator is restricted to math.  iPads are worth the cost because they are versatile so companies need to understand the consumer’s needs.
            A large part of the discussion was how calculators are becoming a crutch for students in the classroom.  Students no longer have the basic arithmetic skills that they once possessed.  With the simple ease of grabbing a calculator and inputting the numbers, they lose the knowledge adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.  This past weekend, I observed this problem first hand.  While helping my younger brother with his Algebra homework, he used his calculator for basic arithmetic.  I found the answer faster mentally than he did using technology.  Granted, some students excel with technology and like using it.  However, all students should master basic arithmetic without the use of a calculator.  Calculators damage the math skills that a student absorbs throughout the school years.  Calculators are becoming the crutch students use to get by without have a solid understanding in their education.  Teachers need to focus students more on their own skills and using calculators as an aid instead of allowing calculators to do the work for the students. 

by Meghan Pommer

Monday, February 17, 2014

The "Flipped" Classroom

"Flipped Instruction" is a term I had just recently heard about (thanks to our Geometry class last semester) and something that teachers have started introducing into the classroom in the past five or six years. After reading "The Flipped Classroom" by Bill Tucker in the Education Next online journal, it was clear to me just how new this idea is. It came from two high school Chemistry teachers as they were having trouble reteaching lessons to students who had missed class. They started by posting videos for review of each day's lesson. Soon, they learned that not only were absent students watching the videos, but also many of the students that had sat through the lesson already needed just a second glance for reinforcement and practice on their homework. (By the way, the cost of the very first software program to do such a thing was only $50 for the teachers). This new idea turned into a whole new teaching style for these teachers. Instead of standing in front of the class, lecturing, and then assigning problems for the students to do on their own, they posted the lessons online and worked out the problems in class in a collaborative matter, which allows the teacher to actually work with students individually during the class period.

I also found a blog written by a teacher who is currently practicing "flipped instruction" in his classroom. On, this blog, "Flipping the Classroom Part Two: The Nuts & Bolts," was written on Tuesday, January 3, 2012 (in case you're like to do some further reading). This teacher said he first started using "flipped instruction" during two lessons that he knew would be easy for the students to understanding- these lessons were over adding and subtracting decimals, and basic fraction skills. He used SMART Record and a microphone to record his 5-8 minute videos and then was able to post them on SchoolTube. In order to allow students who don't have computers at home to get to a computer somewhere, he would tell the students a few days in advance about a specific video he wanted them to watch. After they watched the video, he had the students take an online quiz. The results were sent straight to him and he was able to record any common questions that the students had trouble answering, or if there were certain students that had trouble. This way, he could spend a little more time going over the concept many students got wrong, or he could spend more time working individually with students that had trouble with the quiz.

Personally, I think this is a great idea to implement into the classroom. The teacher I talked about in the second paragraph is doing this practice perfectly. Of course, there needs to be some sort of assessment that students do on their own so a teacher can track their learning, and that is where the online quiz comes in handy. If I were to do such a thing, I probably wouldn't have the quizzes graded- this way students aren't pressured to get the answers all correct which takes away a potential cheating problem. To me, flipping the classroom is how teachers should have been teaching their students for much longer than just six years ago. I remember sitting in class, listening to my math teachers lecture their lesson and thinking that I understood every single word that they said. Then, I'd go home after whatever sports practice and try a hand at the problems, soon to realize that I really did not understand much of the lesson (and this didn't only occur in some math classes). Luckily, I had teachers who got to school early in case their students had questions about the homework so I was able to finish my homework in the morning. However, as I continue to learn about "flipped instruction," I continue to realize what an awesome way for students to fully understand that lesson. Students typically don't have time to ask questions during, or after, the lesson so they go home either not understanding the lesson at all or with misconceptions about the lesson. And still, there are definitely students who go home completely understanding the lesson because they are much more advanced than the rest of the class, making their time in the classroom extremely boring.

The classroom is so diverse in intelligence. As future teachers, it is (going to be) our job to meet the needs of all of our students- individually. If we "flip" the traditional classroom, struggling students will have time to ask their questions, advanced students will be able to challenge themselves, and we teachers will have a much better understanding of our students. We will get to know them better since it is a collaborative setting- we'll get to know their styles of learning and their personalities. Again, it is (going to be) our job to make our students feel competent- intellectually, emotionally, and socially. If our students can openly ask questions without feeling embarrassed and we can answer their questions so that they are confidently do their own work, then we are doing our job as teachers.

It is my hope that, in the future, this new concept of "flipped instruction" will be the norm and the "traditional" way of learning is a thing in the past. In the future, I hope that the "traditional" way of teaching is considered the "flipped" way of teaching. Because, doesn't it seem flipped to you? It sure does to me.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Calculators in the Classroom

Today’s technology has reached unprecedented heights. There are mobile devices that can access the internet almost anywhere and countless numbers of apps. One device that has come a long way through the years is the calculator. There are many different types of calculators, and each one varies in power and what it can do. Some are very basic and can only do the four basic math operations; add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Yet others can do derivatives, integrals, matrices, three-dimensional graphing, and many more. One of the more powerful calculators is the TI nspire CX CAS. This calculator features a backlit 16-bit color display with 100MB of storage. It even has the ability to do programming. It could do just about anything a student would need of a calculator, and potentially a lot more.

But many classrooms are not allowing the use of calculators, at least in specific situations. So let’s take a quick look at a few of the pros and cons involving calculator use in the classroom.

What are some of the pros to allowing calculators to be used? Well first off students need to know about the technology that is available to them. Let’s be honest after schooling most people will use calculators for some reason or another. And for the most part calculators are fairly straight forward. Though in the case of the TI nspire, the sheer number of menus and capabilities may be a bit overwhelming. To learn to truly use the nspire efficiently and individual needs to use it and practice. Another great thing about calculators is that they are fast and accurate. They can do many operations in a fraction of the time that it would take a human to compute the solution.

Now let’s look at some of the cons.  One of the biggest reasons for not allowing students to use calculators is because we want them to be able to understand and do the math themselves. If a student always uses a calculator they may be robbing themselves of truly understanding. Teachers need to know that their students truly comprehend how to solve a problem using math and not just how to punch numbers on a calculator. Similar to this is cheating. Some of the more advanced calculators allow students to type and store items in memory, say formulas or definitions. If a student is cheating in this way, they are not helping themselves learn the material that they are expected to learn.

I personally believe that students need to learn how to use and apply different mathematical concepts by hand or without a calculator. If used correctly, I truly think that calculators can be a great resource in the process of understanding. But, teachers must first learn how to best apply the new technology to further their student’s ability to learn.