Friday, February 26, 2016

What other way is there?

If I were asked to describe my ideal classroom at the beginning of PS1 last fall, I would have portrayed a room with tables instead of desks, a smart board in front of the class, lots of visual and physical manipulatives, a no calculator rule—like in the Calculus sequence at SDSU, and most importantly me in front of the class lecturing each day with fully engaged students.  As we learned about different teaching methods, I was constantly saying to myself, “I understand how this method would work for English or history but not math.  By the end of the 2015 fall semester, I had developed a few ideas that would differentiate my lessons, but I was still stubbornly holding on to the idea of the traditional math classroom.
Now when I think about my ideal classroom, most of the physical aspects are the same, but my approach to teaching is much different.  I realized how stubborn I was being about how math should be taught, so now I am forcing myself to become more aware of different types of lessons, teaching styles, and classroom styles.  When my mom first started transforming her classroom to the hybrid model she uses today, I was unimpressed, and I thought she was taking the teaching out of her job and forcing her students to teach themselves.  I never told her this of course, but when we would talk about it and I would ask her questions I am pretty sure she could guess what I was thinking.  Now that I have joined a couple of online education communities through twitter and reddit, I see great value in the way she is teaching her physics classes.
What I find most interesting about my recent exposure to all these “new fangled” teaching methods is that I was learning about them throughout PS1; I was just to stubborn to see how I could apply them to a mathematics classroom.  Terms like individualized learning and differentiated lesson have moved from the realm of improbable to the realm of “if would be fun if I could try…”
Some of the projects I have looked at and really like are the action figure project: where students use ratios to draw themselves as an action figure, and project that would get students outside: like throwing Frisbees and plotting points on a graph for where they land, measuring the perimeter of the school to determine its area, creating a mathematics scavenger hunt that would lead them throughout the school ground.  Now, instead of thinking about teaching math in the traditional sense, I don’t think it is the only way.  Instead I feel myself wanting to avoid that classroom as all costs.

Let me finish by saying, no matter the way I plan to teach, I always want it to be the best way for my students to learn the content.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Balancing Life and School and Everything Else

The closer I get to graduation, the more I wonder and worry how I am going to be able to find a good balance in my life when I start teaching. This semester has been especially hard to keep my head afloat between classes, work, family, friends and relationships. Teachers in South Dakota often have to have a second job to maintain a reasonable income. I want to stay in South Dakota to teach but I don't know how I will be able to keep a healthy balance between school, work, and life.

Something that we have talked a lot about in various classes is how to maintain a healthy balance.  One of the things that have been suggested is to have a day where you disconnect completely from work and/or school. My question is, how do you disconnect when there is always something that needs to be done or someone who needs to talk to you. I have a hard time disconnecting with taking seven classes and working two jobs. When I'm not working I'm doing homework and when I'm not doing homework I'm working, I make time to spend with friends and family.

I am so worried about burning myself out when I start teaching that I don't know what I'm going to do.  I've seen my teachers in high school burn themselves out by trying to take on the world. I don't think college is necessarily helping my concerns of burning myself out. The last three months have been long and stressful for me personally and I hope that my first year of teaching isn't like this. If it is, I'm gonna need the summer vacation to relax and destress.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm very very excited to teach.  It's been a lifelong dream of mine and the closer I get to it, the more excited I get.  But it doesn't mean I'm not scared and nervous for it.  I hope that I can find a good balance when I start teaching.  I don't want to burn myself out, but I want to be a good teacher and be involved with my students and their education.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Compatibility of Technology and Education

            In this day and age, we as a society are rather accustomed to using technology on a daily basis. But what if we are using it too much? Have we become too used to living life with and relying on advanced technology such as computers, cell phones, or even graphing calculators? Perhaps. Or, perhaps it is simply because we are misusing it.
            As educators, we must be aware of the fine line that differentiates applying technology in a suitable way in the classroom from misusing, or overusing, it. For instance, schools that have the ability of being one-to-one, where each student has their own iPad or tablet, are phenomenal; the abundance of resources as a result of being one-to-one has the potential to be beyond influential and beneficial to students’ academic lives. However, I feel as though this availability to such technology can be easily misused. Thus, we must use technology in a way that will promote, not hinder, students’ learning of mathematics.
Two weeks ago, my class was able to have a guest speaker from Texas Instruments discuss and demonstrate the various uses of a graphing calculator, more specifically, the TI-nspire CX CAS. We were then given the task of presenting a mini-lesson that could be taught with the assistance of the calculator. Until such task was assigned, I had no idea the multitude of lessons available to educators on the following website: I think such activities involving technology should be used as a way to introduce a topic to let the student’s experiment, as a way of concluding a topic in the form of a summative assessment, or as a way to supplement the practice phase of a lesson (but it should not consist of all three).
            With technology becoming exceedingly advanced, it will be interesting to see how schools will continue to integrate such technology into education. Overall, technology possesses multiple advantages when applied in classroom lessons. Tablets, iPads, and graphing calculators can be an excellent addition to a lesson that can truly benefit from their applications. Students may need help obtaining a better grasp on concepts that can be otherwise difficult, as well as, staying interested in math. I believe this can be done through various forms of technology and associated activities.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Need for Educators

                     This past summer I was able to attend the REMAST summer conference. I was so grateful for the experience because I was introduced to so many new ideas, both good and bad. One that truly stuck out to me was the new idea of having virtual teachers in a classroom, while a monitor supervises. The idea can be considered both bad and good. Some think this is an amazing new way of using technology and reaching out to students all over the state. While others think this is a sad new way of going about educating our students in South Dakota. After learning about this new idea, that some schools are considering, it made my desire to become an educator really prosper.
                At the conference we were shown the new big idea that is going into school systems. An IPad which is hooked to a stand, has the ability to roll around a classroom and communicate with students over a webcam. It is a 21st century robot in my eyes. This new robot is taking the place of an educator in the actual classroom. Students will be presented a power-point or an online version of a lesson. The robot will roam around the classroom presenting the online lesson. To make sure students stay in order and pay attention during the class, a monitor will be assigned to supervise the classroom. This idea is nice for those schools that have a hard time bringing in educators. It allows students to learn material from a professional in a certain content, rather than material from an educator who has to teach several different contents. This way students have an opportunity to learn the same way students from other schools do.
                The downfall to this idea is that it completely takes away one of the most important concepts of education; teacher/student interaction. Not having the actual educator present at the school, students don’t have the ability to go up and ask the teacher for help. In middle school and high school, I remember having a strong relationship with my math educators and going to them frequently for help with a certain topic. I couldn’t imagine not having that ability to do so. This is also hard for the students who sometimes need a little bit more from a teacher, and an extra push to do well. If students don’t have a relationship with their teacher, they won’t be as driven to be successful in their classroom. The thing that I’m most excited for while becoming an educator is the idea of being able to reach out and help those students who do need an extra push. If those students are successful, then I will know I did something right and will have made a difference for that child.
                Thinking about having robots as the new generation of teachers scares me. It should be a frightful thing for most people, especially those who have children. I know I would want my children to have the best experience in school, and to gain relationships with their teachers. I would not be thrilled to know my child was being taught by an IPad rolling around a classroom. The need for educators in our state is sky-rocketing, which is resulting in new ideas such as this. I hope many more people take into consideration about becoming an educator. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Online Textbooks

It is the 21st century and everything around us is going digital. Almost all of our important information anymore is kept in some kind of a computer, electronic text, or cloud based format. This includes everything from the photos from your last vacation to the emails and documents we use on a daily basis. School districts are no different. More and more of them are turning to more electronic means of storage, teaching, and learning. Some schools are now even completely online! But is this really the best thing for the students? Is there any real benefit for things like textbooks to be online?

I simply say no, it does not always benefit the students and here’s why:

The idea of books being online is great in theory. There is less paper and it’s cheaper because books get worn down and stuff happens to them. The online versions cost less and give students the same information etc. etc. But guess what students don’t learn near as well reading off of a computer screen!! Students obtain much more information and are much more likely to remember it if they read a physical copy than if they read an online resource. There are tons of studies out there that show students will score higher when put in both situations. Is the money really worth having the students learn less? I don’t think so. We need to look at the progress of students and how well they do with the electronic versions of things like textbooks.

Now don’t get me wrong there are a few things nice about having an online textbook. I no longer have to carry around that 40 lb. chemistry book and students can’t say they forgot it in their locker. I’m also not going to lie and say that I haven’t used an e-book or two to save money and I loved the fact that I could use ctrl F and search the entire document. But there is something to be said for having the book in your hand and feeling it.  It engages the reader more and often makes them feel like the information is more relevant.

Then there is the fact that it is hard on your eyes to constantly be looking at a bright screen all day. Ask almost any computer programmer or someone with a strictly desk job in front of a computer. More often than not they say sometimes their eyes hurt or they get headaches from it. Leaving students in front of a monitor all the time isn’t the best thing for them.

Overall e-books have their ups and downs. However, I think we need to look at the quality of information we are giving students. If scores on assessments would be better with a physical book why try to rethink the wheel. E-text has its time and place but I don’t think it should be in the everyday k-12 classroom.