Monday, March 31, 2014

Excel and GeoGebra

In Math 371 we spent the day working with Excel and showing its uses in the math classroom particularly with statistics. From working with it, I realize Excel does have quite a few uses in the math classroom setting. We spent time working with the probability and statistics section which worked quite well especially for calculating average, median, mode and all sorts of other types of statistical data. It also had a variety of different charts useful to plotting data. Another uses of Excel is the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet allows students to create formulas that are useful for data. The students can just develop an equation and then copy and paste to put different values into it which make it easy to solve equations. However as a teacher, it is much more useful for students to solve equations themselves and when equations are used it is much more useful to see the graph which Excel cannot do. 

This is one of the major reasons I find GeoGebra to be a better tool for a teacher than Excel. GeoGebra contains both a spreadsheet and a graphing section which allows the formulas to be shown on a graph. This allows students to visualize the concept which is a huge advantage over Excel. The spreadsheet section on GeoGebra does almost all the things the Excel version does that are useful for doing mathematics. I personally found the Excel spreadsheet a little bit easier to use but not enough for me to want to use Excel more due to GeoGebras many other uses. The graphing by itself creates a huge advantage as it allows points to be plotted to create different shapes and figures while also doing a variety of different manipulations to the object such as measuring, translating, dilating, reflecting, and much more useful concepts especially in Geometry. Also after more experimenting with GeoGebra I realized that it does have a slider tool which can be extremely effective for showing how certain changes affect the graphs of lines and other equations. I could find this especially useful when teaching trigonometry as students struggle to understand how different values affect the graph of sine, cosine, and tangent graphs so by using the slider, you can show how different values affect the graph.

Therefore, while Excel and Geogebra both have good uses in the math classroom, GeoGebra’s larger variety of mathematics related concepts gives it a huge advantage in my opinion over Excel. Excel's ability to create formulas seems like a great tool but really I do not see as many uses in the math classroom. The formulas allow students to receive a variety of answers quickly but in the math classroom the process is more important than the solution so it does not have too much of a use. GeoGebra also has the same spreadsheet feature even if it does not have all the same features but the graphing portion of it just makes it a better option to use in the classroom. Plus GeoGebra has an app which allows it to be used on portable devices such as iPads. And one final remark on this concept is that GeoGebra is free to download. Free programs are always a bonus and GeoGebra definitely gives good value for a free program.

By Jayden Streifel

Monday, March 24, 2014

Technology in the Classroom

Last week in Math 371 we got the opportunity to practice with a SMARTboard and a Promethean board.

We were able to take turns, try new things, and teach each other useful techniques. One beneficial trick that one of the students taught the rest of the class was a quick way to erase the SMARTboard. If you take the eraser and make a circle around what you desire to erase and simply touch inside the circle it disappears. When working with the Promethean board the toughest part is writing on the pad because you can only see what you’re writing on the Promethean board. Overall as the class worked more and more with the boards it was clear that everyone slowly became more comfortable using them. Over the course of this semester that seems to be the theme with all the technology the more you work with it the more you perfect it.  

While we were practicing with the boards we discussed amongst each other about using these devices in the classroom. One thing that we all agreed on is that sometimes technology will malfunction and as educators we need to have a backup plan for these instances.  Teachers cannot afford to waste an entire day in the classroom, so we need to make sure that were not overly dependent on technology. As a class we also discussed how technology is always upgrading and we need to be able to keep up with it. This is a frustration that all teachers are going to have to deal with; like getting use to a SMARTboard over the course of a few a years’ then getting something entirely new.

I think the lesson that all the Math 371 students learned was not to get frustrated but rather keep practicing and spending time before you teach a lesson.  Also a key point we learned while practicing with the two boards or any type of technology for that matter is to locate the undo bottom right away. When a person is playing around with technology there is going to be a time when they get themselves into a bad situation.  I find it important for all educators and future educators to understand that they will have to use technology and it will be constantly changing, it is going to be interesting to see how classrooms change in the future. 

By Spenser Kipfer

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Power of Twitter

I was forced to join Twitter in May 2012 to attend a conference sponsored by South Dakota EPSCoR called Science: Becoming the Messenger, funded by NSF.  I was very skeptical about Twitter and slightly annoyed that I HAD to join.  Now I feel that it was one of the best things that I have done for my professional life. 

I have only tweeted 757 times in 22 months, slightly more than once a day.  My tweets definitely are sent in spurts, when I have time to spend on Twitter and read others’ tweets.  I am currently following 401 people, including friends, family, and educators.  The last group is the largest and contains a variety of individuals, most of who are interested in mathematics, education, technology or some combination of those.  I am up to 178 followers, which isn’t a lot in comparison to others, but the number is increasing weekly.  I want to discuss a couple of great experiences that I have had because of Twitter and then I will offer some advice. 

In my Math Education Technology course, I assigned the students a project in which they were to create something ‘artsy’ with the online graphing calculator, Desmos.  They had a couple of weeks to complete this project and were told that the projects would be ‘judged’ by the department faculty.  They wanted to know if there was some prize and I told them the day that they had them completed that the highest vote getter would receive a $20 Subway card and the second highest a $10 Subway card.  So, they did not know that there was a prize until after they had completed the assignment.

I was so impressed with their work that I felt like I needed to go beyond the department to showcase their projects.  I created a Google form, with links to their creations, and posted the link on Twitter, asking for my followers to vote.  This tweet helped me realize the power of Twitter.  In less than 24 hours, my tweet had: 

  • 5 retweets, including one from the Desmos Twitter account 
  •  A reply tweet from Desmos, stating they “loved the graphs!” 
  • Reached over 4500 Twitter accounts according to TweetReach

Twitter is a great way to connect with other professionals with similar interests.  I have been following Fawn Nguyen on Twitter for over a year.  She is a middle school math teacher in California who has a passion for teaching problem solving and speaks at conferences across the country.  When I found out (on Twitter) that she was going to be a featured speaker at the SD science and math teachers’ conference, I was so excited.  I sent her a couple of direct tweets, trying to prepare her for the cold winter of SD.  We had a few exchanges and when I went to her first session at the conference, I introduced myself.  She gave me a hug—as if we were old friends.  Twitter helps you build your professional learning network (PLN), a group of colleagues that share work-related ideas through digital media to improve oneself as a professional.  My PLN gives me the latest information and ideas on mathematics, education, and technology, which I can then share with my followers.

Here are five reasons why I suggest that you join Twitter.
1.  Connect with other professionals with similar interests.
2.  Learn the latest information in your interest area very quickly.
3.  Share YOUR great ideas with other professionals.
4.  Make an impact on a lot of people in 140 characters or less.
5.  Participate in a Twitter chat, a weekly meeting on Twitter dedicated to a specific group or interest area.

Here are some suggestions that you should consider when you join. 

  • Choose a Twitter handle that is professional as it makes it easier for people to find you and it is good professional etiquette. 
  • Decide your privacy settings.  If you “Protect your Tweets,” then you have to approve every person that wants to view your tweets.  This isn’t really a good option if you want to connect with professionals and want people with similar interests to follow you. 
  • Choose your words wisely.  This is good practice but also necessary because of the 140 character limit. 
  • Try to include links and pictures as they attract more interest.  To help with the character limit with links, use bitly to shorten your links.  Bitly is a url shortening service that is free. 
  • Connect your Twitter account to Facebook.  If you want to use both Twitter and Facebook to post information about your professional interests, you can connect the two accounts so information that is posted on Twitter is automatically posted to Facebook. 
  • Use a free social media management system, such as Hootsuite, Buffer, or TweetDeck. These systems allow you to manage all social media accounts and posts to those accounts under one account on the system.  They also allow you to shorten links to meet the 140 character limit. 
  • Get over Twitter guilt.  If you don’t log on for hours or days, you are going to miss a lot of tweets sent by people that you follow.  You will not be able to catch up on them so you need to just let them go—if it is really important, it is likely that someone else will retweet it.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tinkering with Technology

Last week in Math 371, we looked at our Desmos creations and talked about how to use GeoGebra in different ways in our lessons. 

First, a little explanation about our Desmos assignment: We were asked to create a picture using Desmos, an online graphing site. For my picture I made something basic, a house. It was made with straight lines and one circle for a doorknob. I settled on a house after my many attempts at creating more creative pictures failed. The time it took me to complete this assignment, including time tinkering with the site’s many features, my numerous attempts at other pictures, and the completion of my final picture, took me somewhere in the vicinity of three hours.

Later we talked about using GeoGebra, a free graphing program, to help enhance our lessons for future classes. For this assignment we were asked to keep the emphasis on topics covered in probability and statistics. For my example, I used GeoGebra’s spreadsheet application to show that the probability of an event can be found by the brute force method. I used the probability of a dice roll for my example. I explained that as the number of rolls increases, the probability of each event can be approximated by taking the number of times a particular event occurs divided by the total number of rolls. I then explained that we could use GeoGebra’s spreadsheet function to make a bar graph to show that each event is equally likely, which is more obvious as more rolls occur. The surprising fact about this assignment was that it took me close to four hours to learn how to manage GeoGebra’s applications so I could adequately use it as a tool for my lesson.  

So from this we can see that I spent close to seven hours “tinkering” with technology, trying to learn how to utilize it for one three-hour class period. This experience opened my eyes to the fact that I will most likely be spending my entire teaching career “tinkering with technology”.  I’m sure that I will find some things that I will like and will be able to use for many of the years that I teach. However, with the ever-intertwining of technology and education, it is also likely that I will spend hours upon hours learning how to use new technology, only to have to learn how to use its replacement.  

By Tyler Snaza