Chapter 8 Reflection and Application

Some of the important take aways from this chapter, for me, came in the copyright section.  Knowing that educators and students are protected for all of their original content is important.  I also think that it is important to discuss with students that material found on the web cannot be reused without permission from the creator.  Because so much information can be found easily in Google searches, the value of that data seems to diminish.  It is important for educator to help students understand that digital versions content have just as much value as physical versions of content.  Copyright is one way to help students begin to understand the value of digital information.

Another important part of this chapter is the health related concerns as they relate to technology.  The more time we spend in front of computers and tablets, the more important it is to understand the best ways to do that without hurting our bodies.  Starting early students should be taught not just to sit up straight while typing, not only for good form, but also for body health.  When need to ensure we are not simply parking students in front of computers for long periods of time.

The last part that spoke to me from this chapter was the internet security portion.  I do believe that it is important, but I think sometimes we go a bit overboard and it creates people who are uncomfortable in an online environment.  It is important that we protect identity and private information, but going too far to the other side can also be detrimental.  Many computer viruses these days hide themselves as service to clear your computer from viruses or programs that will clear out bad data and make your computer run faster.  The best way for people to protect themselves and their identity online is to be informed exactly what people are looking for, and exactly how people actually get their information.  Otherwise people are simply taking steps that don’t so any good and not protecting themselves where they should.

Chapter 7 reflection

Another blog post for Education Technology class:

When looking at the evaluation of educational materials, I think it is important to keep in mind that adding technology just for technology sake to other content areas is not good practice.  Just using a computer program or app because it is easy or looks interesting does not help students.  To me, this is a good argument for having specific technology time/class in the curriculum.  With time to specifically focus on the use of technology by itself, you are asking other teachers to teach content that is outside their area, and give up instructional time to learn technology skills.  This also goes along with a conversation I was having at my LEA/RN group this week about new instructional methods.  The leader of the group was giving advice about starting a new instructional method with non-complex content to learn the strategy, and then proceeding to use it for more complex content later.  To me, this is directly applicable to technology, my impressions has been that there is an attitude of learning technology right alongside content, but that often leads to shallow or no understanding of either the content or the technology.  Planning how you are going to teach students to use a new technology resource, is as important as planning how they will use it to learn new content.

My 3 Favorite Educational Apps

This post is also being posted for an assignment in my educational technology class:

When I was teaching in the middle school, I was lucky enough to have the school provide me with an iPad to help me in the classroom.  I used quite a few apps for many different activities, but my three favorites were these:

Desmos: This app is wonderful.  It is not just a graphing program, but it will also solve quite a few complicated problems, and the user interface is very student friendly.  I used this heavily with my algebra 1 students, but I also got a lot of use with my pre-algebra students as well when we were learning geometry.  I particularly enjoyed letting them learn about the coordinate plane by putting in points to draw objects.  I still remember one of them drew a duck.

My Script Calculator: There are a ton of calculators for any number of different purposes in app form.  I particularly liked this one because the input was simply written mathematics, as opposed to punching button like other calculators.  This one would read when you wrote, and try to solve the equations for you.  It would even do algebra.

Five Dice: This was my favorite “game” I ever found for working with numbers.  Order of operations was never my favorite thing to teach (when we are apply mathematics, we mostly know what order we want to do operations), but I really enjoyed this app because it gave students an open middle of the problem to work.  They rolled 5 (or 3,4, or 6, I think) and then they used the four operation signs and the numbers on their dice to create an answer that was given by the app.  I think this forced them to do a little more computing, as them may have not gotten the correct number sentence right away, and they started to learn a little more about being strategic with numbers (like knowing multiplication was involved if the numbers got significantly bigger).

Blog Post for Class 3: Who’s your edu-hero?

I think it is important that we have heroes, not only overall in life, but specifically in our field.  If you had asked me when I started teaching, I would have said my heroes were many, Helen Brcka, my 6th grade teacher who made me realize some of my idiosyncrasies were really my strengths, my clarinet teacher Joyce Wheeler who taught me about being your best and the real meaning of hard work, and Beth Wilson, my drum corps teacher that push me beyond anything I ever thought I could accomplish.

Since starting to interact with the #MTBoS, I found that it isn’t a hero you need, but strong traits of great people.  I was actually going to list some here, but then I felt overwhelmed by all of the great people I have met, and I felt bad about leaving anyone out.  Finding a great community, whether it is in your direct working location or electronically, can be such a great help.  Twitter math camp gave me such a great opportunity to see this people first hand, and find out what I wanted to become in a teacher.  I don’t think it’s important that we measure ourselves against others, but striving toward the great traits you see in others can really help everyone grow.

Think about the great teachers in your life, and what you want to emulate in their practice, and it will always push you to be better.

Blog Post for Class 2: The Importance of Passion and a Good Team

I have learned a lot this year.  I work with an instructor in my department who talks about how you need passion, commitment, and hard work to stick in construction engineering, and I think this is true of any field.  I find that I do not lack in the commitment, and I am willing to work hard, but often that doesn’t seem required in my current position.  But I can tell from my own analysis of myself over the last year that I lack the passion for this.  I just don’t buy into everything that academic advising is selling, and I can’t keep trying to make myself.  I do always find it a little interesting that his emphasis on passion may be the very thing that pushes me away from staying with his department.

Throughout my working life I have been apart of some great workplaces.  I think everyone you talk to will tell you that no matter the field you will have your ups and downs, which I would agree with, but I have found that the best jobs are ones that you can feel good about what you are doing AND get to share those experiences with a great team.  Working in Ryle and Missouri Halls at Truman State gave me that feeling, and so did working in 1505 at the Illinois Math and Science Academy.  I think I felt it most at Florida State while I was Mapping Coordinator, but also with some great people when I was directing the advising office, and I definitely felt it at Trinity Catholic School.  Those students and teachers were great to work with.  But I don’t get those same feelings where I am now.

And I think that is what scares me about getting recertified in Iowa.  I read about the struggles of a lot of teachers on Twitter, and I also read about their positive moments.  I am afraid I won’t end up with a great team again.  I worry that the lack of support and the things that I beat myself up about when I left Trinity will come around again, and I will have spent a lot of time and money to get back into the profession to simply not want it when I get there.  I know I have the passion.  I know I have the commitment.  And pretty much anyone who I have worked with will tell you that I will work hard.  I just hope that’s really all I need…

Blog Post 1 for Online Class

For those of you who have read my blog before, these next three blog posts are for an assignment in my online educational technology class.  They will definitely still be education related, but may be of a different flavor than the things I have thought might be my next blog post over the last 8 months or so.

If you are here because of the EDU 255 Technology in the Classroom class, welcome to my teaching blog!

The first teaching topic I have been thinking about lately is Robert Gagne.  I am currently teaching introductory college level orientation courses for an engineering department at Iowa State University.  It has been a very enlightening teaching experience with interesting topics, which are sometimes hard to build great learning activities for.  It is also tough to get students motivated for their orientation class once Calculus and Physics classes start getting really tough.

What does that have to do with Gagne?  I keep having experiences where I feel that the content is very quickly being forgotten or not sinking in in the first place.  Then I was reminded of Gagne’s 9 events while reading the textbook for this class:

  1. Gain attention
  2. Inform learners of objectives
  3. Stimulate recall of prior learning
  4. Present the content
  5. Provide “learning guidance”
  6. Elicit performance (practice)
  7. Provide feedback
  8. Assess performance
  9. Enhance retention and transfer to the job

and it made me realize how much I focus on the “present content” above all of the rest.  I do spend quite a bit of time planning how I want to present content, but once I have that figured out, I just don’t focus on the rest.  And I think this was true in my teaching in the middle school as well.  It’s like I have this idea that if I present the perfect lesson, everyone will just magically understand because of how the concepts was presented.  This has caused me to set a goal to develop habits and tools to help me plan all aspects of the learning.  I know this is what lesson planning in school was for, but I think I got complacent about the pre-presenting content and the post-presenting content aspects of the teaching, particularly in the classes I am currently teaching.  I’m going to try to attend to the other aspects in Gagne’s events, as see if I get better results.

Finally Know What’s Next and Some Other Stuff #Fridayblog

So, I saw Julie being her “pushy self” (her words not mine) and encouraging people to blog by Friday, so I thought I would join in with some updates.

For those that haven’t read for a bit, or don’t remember, I don’t live in Florida anymore.  I moved to Iowa about 6 months ago.  This brought it it another large change: I’m not teaching.  Iowa has some of the toughest teaching certification standards in the country, and surprise, surprise, I don’t meet them.  I am lucky enough to have a previous career to fall back on, so I am an academic adviser at Iowa State University, for now.

But enough recap, I actually have some plan and direction that I thought I would share.  I met with Dr. Anne Foegen, who is in charge of the PhD in Math Education at Iowa State, to devise a plan for how I could join that program.  After a wonderful conversation about my background, interests, and goals, we finally hatched a plan.   She didn’t think starting PhD with only a year and a half of actual teaching experience was a good idea, which I understood entirely.  But because I am more interested in K-6 and Middle School math in the long run, we both agreed that tackling the pile of requirements that it would take to get Math 6-12 certification in Iowa would be mostly a waste of time.  She also told me that if I want to work in K-8 research and/or teaching, having taught at the elementary school level would be incredibly useful experience.  So, now I am starting the process of getting certified K-6.  I actually have a decent leg-up in this area, because I was originally an Elementary Ed grad student many years ago, and I was only 1-2 classes short of finishing my degree in that when I switched to Math Ed.  First big hurdle is taking the two required Praxis exams, which I am going to do by the end of this Summer.  Then I will just start the application process and get moving on making up the “deficiencies” in my certification and work toward getting a teaching job from there.

I did want to thank those who have reached out and offered support or wondered how I was doing.  I have been up and down, and not everything is rainbows and unicorns yet, but I’m getting there.  I am excited to have a plan, but also very nervous about everything coming up.

Also, thanks for dealing with me being a little in and out of things in the #MTBOS universe.  Wonky internet issues along with tough personal stuff has made getting hooked into the community really hard.  I actively avoided Twitter for a while because it just didn’t make me feel good.  But I am trying to get back in and share as I can.  Also, you guys are killing me with the TMC15 stuff.  Bummed that I am not going, but I do hope you guys have a blast.  I just haven’t figure out whether I am going to be following along with the TMC15 hashtag or muting it next week… 😉

On another note, I just started reading Mindset the other day, because it seemed to have great reviews from the #MTBOS.  I have had some reactions to it that I didn’t fully expect, and that I feel would be tough to get through in 140 Characters.  Would anyone be interested in Google Hangoutting (is that a word?) just to talk about it a little?

Reports of my Demise have been Greatly Exagerated (sort of) #MTBoS

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time, but there are a bunch of things that have made me hesitant/gotten in the way.  I figured when I got a bunch of emails about Twitter mentions this morning, considering I haven’t really been a contributing member of Twitter for a little while, I figured today was probably the day.  This is going to be a long post. There will likely be a tl;dr at the end with just the news-related parts at the end, but I would like to get the rest out, because there is a lot of thinking going on that needs to get out.

Where have I been?  It starts in August when my wife was contacted about a job at the library she worked at in high school.  She had been looking for a professional library job, and this one fit exactly what she wanted.  We figured that, having a Master’s degree in Math Ed, transferring my certification from Florida to Iowa wouldn’t be too hard, so I told her to go for it.  After about a two month application and interview process, she was offered and accepted the job.  She relocated within two weeks, and it now happily working (actual in the library where I am currently typing this post.)  It was around the time of her second interview, that I decided I should contact the State of Iowa and start the process of getting my certification moved.  I had clearly grossly underestimated the difficulty this process would represent.  I was sent an email back from the licensing board that I was missing somewhere between 6-8 classes and I would not be able to get a math license in Iowa until I had made those up.  I think I found this the most frustrating because when I made the decision to change careers into teaching, I considered a few options.  Florida allows you to complete alternate certification, and you can actually teach quickly if you have a degree and can pass your subject area test.  I decided to stay working for the university and work for four years to earn a Master’s degree so I would have a solid foundation in pedagogy before I started teaching, and so that I would likely be able to transfer my certification to another state when we finally moved out of Florida.  In the ultimate irony, if I had simply taken the test and gotten to teaching when I actually started my Master’s degree, I would have had enough out of state experience to get a license in Iowa.

For the next little while I found that every time I thought about teaching, it left a bad taste in my mouth.  I got very focused on the things I did not do well as a teacher, and this was compounded by living by myself and trying get my house prepped to sell, which exhausted me.  When I got on Twitter to chat, I just felt that I didn’t have much to add to the conversation, and I couldn’t get excited by most of the things I was reading.  I was also rather busy with moving, cleaning and teaching, while also just trying to lead a somewhat normal life.  I did no post about this in October because I have some students who follow me on Twitter, and I wasn’t sure I would be leaving in December, and I didn’t want to share any of this information until I knew for sure what my plans were.  I actually didn’t know my plans until right around Thanksgiving.  And I did leave my job in December.  I couldn’t live 1000 miles from my wife anymore, and whatever craziness the Iowa certification process would bring me wasn’t going to go away if I stayed until May.

So, now I’m in Iowa.  Nevada, Iowa to be precise.  And I don’t know what comes next.  I know I won’t be teaching in a public school for a while.  There are a lot of math classes I need to make it through before Iowa will let me do that.  And honestly, I’m not even sure if I want to teach here.  I love helping students think about math, but I’m not sure I want to be in a system that is so hung up on my transcript and not me as a teacher, particularly when I felt I made the best decision to prepare myself for teaching, and it blew up in my face.  I do have a career to go back to in college student advising, which I have enjoyed and hope to get another job in soon.

I want to thank the MTBoS for all of the kind interactions I’ve had.  Particularly Hedge, who has been the one person who has been in contact with me about all of this stuff due to reaching out after a particularly cryptic tweet.  If I do get back into a better mental place about teaching, and I again feel that I have things to contribute to the conversation, trust me, I will be right back at #MSMathChat and other #MTBoS conversations.  And maybe I will find another way to affect math education that has nothing to do with holding certification in this state.  I’ve always kinda wanted to operate outside of the normal framework anyway.  Maybe this is the kick I need to do that.

I’m not writing this so that you will try to cheer me up about teaching, tell me that I’m great and that it’ll all work out, and I have to keep trying and I will get there.  I need time and perspective.  I need to opportunity to think creatively on how I might get to teach kids math even better than a public school would, even without certification.  Or I need to find happiness doing something else.

I just wanted to get some of this out and down on paper, let you guys, who have been so great to me for the time I have been a part of this, know what’s going on with me, and try to sort things out in my head.  Thanks for reading.  I hope all is well for all of you.

tl;rd: My wife got a great new job halfway across the country, we have moved, but my teaching certification won’t transfer, so I’m looking for some other type of job in Iowa.  Hope all is well for you.

Growing Pains

There’s gonna be a lot here, because I haven’t blogged this year, and for that I apologize. Gonna try to do once a week from here on out, because there are so many things I need to get out of my brain that I can’t when I don’t blog.

The beginning of this year had been crazy for me.  I now have a homeroom, which I didn’t last year, which is no small task at our middle school.  I also no longer have a mentor teacher with 30+ years of experience to help me out. In fact, I am helping out another teacher who hasn’t taught math before, I have been working with our curriculum all summer, and I am now on our tech team and heading up a couple of groups/committees.  So, plenty more on my plate, and I am still trying to navigate my way through my second year of teaching.

Some Good

I have had a better start to the year in some respects.  My bellwork structure (shoutout to @iisanumber, for a great structure in her math maintenance!) has been much better and is giving me the opportunity to open my students’ minds to ideas outside of using standard algorithms.  This has also helped with classroom management, so they know whta they should be doing when they come in.  I also use random seating in pairs every day, which was confusing to them at first, but now they seem to enjoy not having the same seats, and getting to work with many different students.  I still feel that I am at my best when we are playing games or working on activities where the students are up and moving around.  We have played a rational number addition and subtraction war game (although my fractions on that were a little too hard), a yahtzee-like game for addition and subtraction of integers, and I have had both 7th and 8th graders using desmos for graphing lines and doing transformations.

Some not so good

I still lecture too much.  I know it’s not true, but I always feel like I just have to explain something in one more different way and it will finally click for all students, even though I know deep down that isn’t true.  I need students doing more of the math and thinking in my classroom.  In the words of Dan Meyer (at least that’s where I heard it first) I need to be less helpful.  It is hard and uncomfortable, not just for me, but for the students.  They seem used to “Here is how to do this type of problem, now do 25 for homework,” and for some reason, they only want to learn that way.  I have to put my foot down and demand more thinking from them.  They need to see that trying something is so powerful, but they are all obsessed with finding the absolute right answer the first time they try anything.  I think this type of learning leads to my other issue I have seen with segmentation.  Students can’t seem to generalize ideas at all.  I know I am working with middle school students, so age may be somewhat of an issue, but it seems like they can learn to apply for a specific type of question, but cannot take previously learned ideas and try to apply them to a new situation.  I am shocked by the number of them who believe the only way to be taught something is to have me tell it to them, explain steps, and then have them repeat the said steps.  I think these are inter-related, and I need to make a more concerted effort to get my students to do more actual math and thinking for themselves in my classroom, and I need to do significantly less “modeling” and “telling.”


In light of this, and several poor quizzes last week, I am going to try out some centers for some different concepts this week.  I haven’t used centers before, although I’m not sure why, because they seem to be a hit with everyone I talk to, but I think this will get me more of a chance to get students to do their own math a thinking every day, and I will get more time to work with them on an individual basis.  Any tips and tricks for this would be much appreciated.

I thank anyone who stops by and reads.  Any ideas about how to help make sure my students are doing more of the thinking are more than welcome.

Reflections on #TMC14

After a couple of days of reflection, vacationing, and reading, I have some ideas coming out of TMC14.

The first portion of this post is going to be my reaction to some of the conversations coming out of the conference.  The thoughts started rolling in my head with this blog post by @thescamdog and the subsequent comment by @ddmeyer: link

I think this is good, constructive criticism.  Having an explanation of why something is our favorite could be very beneficial to the MTBoS at large.  I also happen to give a My Favorite, and there has been some other chatter that made me think even more about what I presented, so I thought I would give a little space here for that.

I presented on how I use card games in the classroom.  If you didn’t get a chance to see it, those games will be posted up on the Middle School part of the TMC14 wiki (Middle School) hopefully by the end of the weekend.  So, to satiate Dan and John, why do I like using card games?  I like practice.  I come from a classical music background, so I am eminently familiar with practice.  One thing I sometimes struggle with the MTBoS community has been that we come up with really cool “teaching” activities where students create their own ways and learn new things, but I often miss where students get to practice their skills.  Games allow for us to put practice into a more enjoyable package for students, while also making sure they are getting the repetitive practice they need to master a skill.  I was actually heartened when I read this comment and portion of Dan’s post (link).  I like to see my students play skill building games because I know some of them are not getting quality practice at home, so I at least know they are practicing some at school when we play games.

If you gave a My Favorite at TMC, and you have a blog, give Dan and John what they want and take a post to explain the why of your My Favorite presentation.

What else did I take away from TMC?  By tweaking @iisanumber’s Math Maintenance to fit my own school situation, I finally have a routine I am comfortable starting each class with, and it will meet a few needs of my students that I have been struggling with.  Also, I am going to try random groupings and some work on non-permanent vertical work surfaces (I cannot currently remember who I talked about with this and who presented on it) as well as creating homework that has 10 or fewer quality problems as I was discussing the effectiveness of that with someone as well.  I am sure there are other lessons I heard about that will spark things in me as well, but those are the ones that stick out the most.

Mostly what TMC did for me was get me re-energized and thinking about math teaching again.  I had a rough end to the year and even a rough beginning to the summer, but now I feel like I am ready to get back in there and make some positive changes.  I hope after some good reflection, you all feel the same as well.