Saturday, May 7, 2016

What I Learned This Semester

I always have the privilege of writing the last blog post of the semester for Math 371, Technology for Math Educators.  I like to use this opportunity to reflect on what went well during the semester and what I need to improve. 

Things that went well:
  • Desmos Art Project:  I couldn’t be more proud of the work they did on their Desmos art projects.  Several students spent lots of hours working on their project, and it was only worth 15 points. They didn’t work hard because of the points involved, they worked hard because they took pride in their work. It didn’t hurt that there was an online vote for the best project.  The top three students received gift cards to Jimmy Johns and a pair of Desmos socks.  Special thanks to Desmos for getting the socks to me so quickly!
  • Videotaping Lessons:  Recently our department acquired a Swivl so we could use that to record our students’ teaching lessons.  My colleague, Dr. Chris Larson, has always recorded their lessons in Math Methods and then had the students watch the video and critique themselves.  I decided that if we did this earlier in our methods courses, it would be better for the students.  I have asked them to watch their videos and look for ways to improve and for quirky habits they may have.  I am not requiring it as part of their grade, but I think I will consider doing that next year.
  • Class Dynamics: Most of these students were in my Geometry for Teachers course in the Fall 2015 semester. This led them to be very comfortable as a group sharing their thoughts and working together on projects.  Sometimes they may have been too comfortable with each other—but class was always fun and there was never a dull moment.  I am actually sad about the class being over because I am going to miss all of them. 
Things that need improvement: 
  • Teaching Lessons: Since I know that our students struggle a bit with statistics and probability, I have them select a Common Core Stats & Prob standards to teach as their main teaching lesson. After reviewing their lesson plans, I have realized that I need to work with them more on preparing for their teaching lesson.  In addition, I need to watch their selections more closely as three people had similar activities because their topics were very close in content.I will fix these issues by having them post not only their standard but also the activity they plan to do.  In addition, I will meet with them about their lesson a week before they teach so that they are more comfortable with the content and their activity. 
  • Using Twitter: I tweeted interesting math technology related articles all semester using #Math371.  I realized that many of the students were not reading my tweets so I created a weekly Twitter discussion. This required the students to look at all of the #Math371 tweets from that week, write about one of them on the discussion board and then respond to someone else’s post.  This activity started out well, but then their discussion posts seem to be lacking in depth so we stopped the weekly Twitter discussions.I am still debating how to fix this issue, but some ideas I have are to: have the discussion every 2 weeks instead of every week; require them to find something about math technology and tweet it to #Math371; have a weekly Twitter monitor (similar to having a blogger for that week) that does the tweeting for #Math371 that week. 
Special thanks to our guest bloggers this semester: Andy Ott, Mark Kreie, and Jessica DeNeui.  I always love getting another teacher’s perspective on things as it helps me gauge whether or not I am doing what I need to do in this class. 

This will be the last #Math371 blog post until January 2017.  Have a great summer!