Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Belize Service Learning: Slim Technology

By: McKale Bakken

My time spent in Belize over spring break fits perfectly with the title of this blog “Slim technology.” During this service learning experience, I was able to get into the classroom in Belize. With little communication through SDSU and the school in Belize, it was tough knowing what to expect in the school. I was told that I’d be co-teaching a fifteen-minute lesson on insecticide, three different periods.  I was also told that I would be able to observe the mathematics teacher in their school. I was looking forward to this experience and ready to see the school in Belize!

The first day in the school we held a teacher in-service day for the teachers in the Belize school. This was a full day of school in Belize, from 8am to 3pm. During this in-service we were able to understand their school and teach them a few things about our schooling back in South Dakota. The Belize teachers had many questions based on the technology and the lesson plans that we create.  Their questions arose because their use of technology is very slim. During the in-service we presented our co-teaching lessons to the teachers.

When we presented our lesson plan on insecticide, the teacher’s faces lit up with excitement. The reasoning behind this is because the school had planted cabbage with their students and it had gone horribly wrong with cabbageworms. The teachers decided to change our original fifteen-minute lesson into an eighty-minute lesson. Yes, this means we went from teaching a total of forty-five minutes to teaching four hours! The reasoning behind the teachers changing it to an eighty-minute lesson was because they thought the students would enjoy the lesson. However, this brought up a few complications.

The lesson we had put together was very vague and it definitely didn’t have enough information within to make it an eighty-minute lesson. The teachers suggested that we should add different pictures of crops that had been infected by different pests. These teachers thought we had hotspots running for our own good, however this wasn’t the case.  Without Internet, we weren’t able to pull together pictures for our presentation.  Thankfully, we were able to add to the lesson we had put together and make our time in the classroom worthwhile.

In America, finding the faults of technology is pretty easy. Sometimes we need to sit back and relax, be thankful for the technology and the Internet were able to use daily. These are two pictures are of a video that was played in the school, the thirty-minute video was presented sideways on a whiteboard with very poor quality and the students in Belize didn’t think anything of it.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Bring Your Own Device: The Step Before One-To-One, or Is It the Goal?

As my peers sought trips to tropical paradises, I spent Spring Break in one of my favorite places, home. The place in which I call home is the suburbs of the Twin Cities known as St. Michael, Minnesota. During my break, I consumed my time pondering my blog topic and visiting my alma mater, Saint Michael-Albertville High School (STMA). In doing so, I heard a rumor that STMA had implemented a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program, commonly known as Project Phoenix within the community. This quickly caught my interest as I had recently acknowledged that BYOD programs existed, so I took initiative of conducting an interview with the principal. The principal of STMA High School is Bob Driver. Upon his fifth completed year as principal, he comes equipped with a background of over a decade in English teaching and being voted the 2014-15 Central Minnesota Principal of the Year. In short, Mr. Driver possesses the qualities necessary to determine what is beneficial for the students of this decade. My concise interview with Mr. Driver may be reviewed by the following summary.

I opened up Mr. Driver to the conversation of how BYOD (Project Phoenix) had begun in STMA and if there have been any beneficial results. I also entertained the bold statement that BYOD may be more beneficial than going 1-1:
He explained that the Bring Your Own Device program had started with about 10 middle school teachers supplied with around 5 respective Chromebooks. After the apparent success, the move to the high school found 20 teachers with personal technology in the classroom and promising results. Finally, the high school stands today with around 40 teachers implementing the BYOD program and with no intentions of turning back. He mentioned that not all 40 teachers necessarily have access to 5 Chromebooks each, which leads to organization among subject area teachers to share a set of laptops. I may note that when speaking to a teacher who uses BYOD and shares laptops, he felt as if BYOD was essential with the two computer labs almost always in reserve for a school of 1700 students. As noted, the school assigns Chromebooks for those who cannot provide a source of mobile technology. For those of you unfamiliar with BYOD, the students are expected to bring a personal mobile device (to be used on the school’s wifi network), and those who are unable to do so will be issued the school’s Chromebooks for the class period. It was no secret that with the students being issued Chromebooks, the school was entertaining the effective emphasis of Google in the classroom. Mr. Driver didn’t appear to state many cons other than the fact that occasionally operating systems (Apple, Android, etc) may become an issue depending on the program being used. Also, if a cell phone is used it is nearly impossible to expand on anything more than a formative assessment, such as Kahoot, on the small screen of a smartphone. When discussing the results of BYOD and the future of technology in the school, Driver appeared to be pleased with his results. BYOD gives the teachers an option to use technology when they want it, not when they feel forced to use it. He commented that technology isn’t the clear-cut answer, but enables teachers to enhance the learning experience when used effectively. When asked to comment on the comparison with 1-1, he seemed to have a positive response. We agreed along the lines that the idea of 1-1 is expensive in not only providing every student with a laptop, but keeping up to date with technology and the repairs that come with it. As previously mentioned, BYOD is beneficial in the manner that teachers can use technology when they please; 1-1 works for a fraction of teachers, but forces great teachers who don’t use technology to do so. Overall, when asked about the future of technology in STMA, Mr. Driver was content with stating that his goal would be to provide the school with more Chromebooks that are currently being supplied.

The results? Other than recently being recognized as one of the nations “Best High Schools” (U.S. News & World Report) and repeatedly placing in the top five percentile in the state regarding standardized tests, the school conducted a survey on Project Phoenix specifically. One notable result was that 91% of students responded either strongly agree or agree to: When we use our mobile devices, I am more interested in class. The very stem of student success in the classroom originates from a student’s interest or curiosity of a subject. Also, the following are two (unedited) open-ended responses of middle school students regarding Project Phoenix:

I think that it is super cool that we get to use our mobile divices because its pretty easy because we use them almost every day out side of school and know how to use them effeciently so i think it is really cool that we get to use our phones and ipods ect

I don't have my own mobile device that i would choose to used in class so I like the fact that we have iPads and Chromebooks to use. :)

Does Mr. Driver have a case on BYOD being the goal for schools in the future? The provided links will lead you to the student survey results and an article comparing 1-1 and BYOD programs.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The 3 Things I Learned After Student Teaching

Hey everyone! My name is Andy Ott and I'm a 2014 SDSU grad. I teach 6th grade in a high needs area in Northwest Oklahoma.

I had a fantastic education at SDSU and it did a great job preparing me for the world of teaching. As a relatively recent grad I thought I had a good handle on this whole teaching thing. I had handled student teaching well and I soared under the tutelage of Mark Kreie at Brookings High. I got to Oklahoma on my own and very quickly realized that my education wasn't over just yet.

Today I'd like to share 3 things I had to learn the hard way, through experience.

1. Classroom Management. I thought I had management  down after leaving student teaching. The transition from affluent high school to low socioeconomic status middle school proved me wrong. To be fair to everyone, this is one I'm still working on. We had talked about the 4 types of management during student teaching. I think we all pegged what our "type" was. Little did we know when we hit the real world we weren't going to be just one type of manager but we would need to use all available tools. Most importantly though, engagement trumps everything!!

2. Time. There's just never enough hours in the day. During student teaching I had the luxury of being able to split planning, grading and other tasks with my mentor teachers. Now being on my own it's a juggle to balance grading, planning, and time with loved ones. I've started to play games and do activities with a lot of my sixth graders that give them instant feedback, so that has helped with part of the time issue. For planning help, I beg, borrow, and steal from other teachers. Teachers in my building or on Twitter are great resources for lessons so that you aren't slaving away planning every night. Once you hit a groove though, it does get smoother!

3. The Kids. I might be weird to say the 25 bodies sitting in my room are not my students-they are my kids. I had a great relationship with my kids in Brookings, but these kids are fully mine. Watching them succeed after a struggle, perform a traditional dance at an assembly, or just being able to ask how their weekend was on a Monday morning is the best . It is my favorite part of the job and the reason I drag my butt out of bed after hitting the snooze button 3 too many times after a late night of planning or grading. They will be the best part of the job for you too!

There are the 3 things that I had to learn on my own. I hope there's some helpful advice or at least a fun read.

Twitter: @iteach_kidsmath

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Our Favorite Technology Tools and Apps so Far This Semester

In the Math 371 course, we have spent a fair amount of time investigating various technology tools and apps.  One thing that I think all of us want to have by the end of the semester is a list of the ones that we like best and that we are most likely to use.  One of the criteria to make our list is that it is free--after all, these are future teachers on a budget. I am sure that we will add more by the end of the semester.

Math Apps/Tools
·         Desmos—graphing calculator and more
·         Geogebra—graphing utility does 3D as well
·         Brainscape—flashcards covering various topics, some of them math
·         Sushi Monster—feed your monster by answering addition and multiplication problems correctly
·         U Protractor similar to Angle Meter—protractor
·         Algebra Champ—multiple choice algebra equations to solve
·         Mental Math Cards—practice math facts
·         FX Algebra Solver—shows how to solve various math problems
·         Quick Graph—graphing calculator easy to use
·         Geoboard—interactive geoboard
·         MADS 24—electronic version of the game 24
·         Magoosh Calculus Lessons—short videos explaining calculus concepts
·         Algebra Tiles—virtual manipulative
·         Minds of Math—full of historical math facts
·         Tangrams—virtual manipulative
·         Algebra Pro—similar to doing algebra worksheets
·         OhNoFractions—various operations with fractions, including comparing them
·         Ratio Rumble—select colored tiles in a given ratio
·         Brainingcamp has cool apps, but most cost $0.99 each. Fractions & Numbler Free are both free apps.
·         3D Math—order of operations
·         Wuzzit Trouble—game by Keith Devlin
·         KenKen—game by NCTM
·         Sumaze!—game from MEI and sigma
·         Common Core by Mastery Connect—resource
·         Euclidea—geometric constructions game 
Interactive whiteboard apps/tools
·         Educreations
·         ShowMe
·         ScreenChomp
·         Doodle Buddy
·         Doceri Interactive Whiteboard—not free
Useful tools
·         QR Scanner
·         Evernote Scannable—easily scan documents to pdf files; Apple only
·         Evernote Skitch—let’s you annotate pictures on your iPhone; Apple only
·         ClassDojo—can encourage students and communicate easily with parents
·         Pdf-notes—allows you to store pdf files in folders, read, and annotate
·         Symbaloo—organize your bookmarks on your desktop easily
Quizzing tools
·         Kahoot!
·         Quizizz—similar to Kahoot! But not timed
·         Google Forms—use Flubaroo add on to grade them
·         Socrative
Sharing documents
·         Google Drive
·         Dropbox
·         OneDrive
Taking notes
·         OneNote
·         Evernote
Presentation tools (alternatives to PowerPoint)
·         Google Slides
·         Haiku Deck
Group Management/Project tools
·         SamePage—free but limits number of pages and storage
·         Trello—has the feel of Pinterest