Sunday, December 26, 2010

Final Blog Post

At the beginning of the course, when I chose two NETS-T to focus on I didn't realize how difficult that would be to accomplish. My first goal was to use digital tools and resources to have my students solve authentic problems. This goal has been met in theory, with the three lessons I wrote for my unit plan, but it has not been met in practice. When the opportunity arose to attend a training session on how to set up a Web site for my class I decided to change this goal and focus on the Web site as a way to communicate information to students, parents and colleagues. The GAME plan format helps transform what may seem like a daunting task into manageable pieces as your action plan can be as detailed as you need it to be. Also, monitoring your progress along the way helps to keep you from straying off course, wasting precious time and energy.
As a result of using the GAME plan I now have a Website in the works that I can use as a means of communicating important information with students and their parents. Seeing how useful the GAME plan was, I'm sure that I will use it on a regular basis, not just for lesson planning, but for any professional or personal task or goal I might have.
I've become more familiar with the workings of blogs and wikis from this course, this being the second class I've taken in which they were used. I've also learned of a software program for math called Geogebra, while doing research for class assignments, which I plan on investigating further. While I'm not ready to make any immediate changes in my instruction, these three applications hold promise for future use in my classes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Using the GAME Plan Process with Students

The GAME plan is a versatile tool that can be used in many different applications. It's a great lesson planning tool for teachers as well as a learning tool or even a goal attainment tool that anyone can use. It could be used by someone trying to lose weight or getting out of debt or any project or goal that someone finds overwhelming. The GAME plan helps to keep you focused and organized. Students could even create their own GAME plan for studying for an exam. Since the best teaching is done by example, one thing I could do is decide on a technology that would benefit my classes the most and then, with the help of my students, devise a GAME plan for myself on how I will learn to use the technology and use it in the class. The students could help me monitor my progress and evaluate the end results. At the same time, perhaps each student could make up a GAME plan for something they want to accomplish themselves. It wouldn't have to be math related. They'll probably more receptive to the idea if it's not math related.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Revising My GAME Plan

I've come to the conclusion that the biggest obstacle to my integrating technology into my classroom is not having the time to research how other teachers are using technology in their math classes. It's very easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged. Many times I'm unable to think of a way to use a given technology in my class because I don't fully understand its capabilities. Unfortunately, technology use is pretty basic in my school; power point and internet resources, so I have no colleagues to ask for help. As a result, I have set a new goal for myself which is to start a Web page for my class. I've gotten the necessary permission and password from the Web committee and have begun to put together a list of things I want to include on my page. We had a very brief (15 minute) demonstration at the beginning of the year on how to set up a Web page but fortunately another teacher in my department has set one up so I can ask him for help. The next technology related goal I have is to investigate a the math program Geogebra to see if it would be useful in my classes. I don't know any one who has ever used it so I'm on my own. I need to take a more formal, regimented approach to learning about new technologies and set aside time during breaks from school for this purpose.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Evaluating My GAME Plan Progress

My goal to customize learning activities for my students is going well. I completed the item analysis of the first quarter benchmark exam and am in the process of using this data to create several different on-line assignments. I will then give students access to the assignment that fits their needs. The only problem I forsee here is that one of my classes coincides with another math course that is project-based and therefore has first dibs on the laptop cart. So computer access with this group might be limited.
My other goal, to use technology as a means of exploring real-world issues and solve authentic problems, has run into a brick wall. I didn't realize, when I chose this goal, that this is problem-based learning and now that I know more about the topic from this week's resources and discussions I see why I'm having such difficulty. PBL is a very complex process and must be very carefully thought out and planned and as we've been discussing, it seems especially challenging when integrating into a math curriculum.
I have however set another goal for myself and that is to create a Web page to be linked to my district's Website. This will give me another option for relaying information to students and parents. I have never set up a Web page before but will get started on it this week with the help of a colleague.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monitoring My GAME Plan

I'm afraid I haven't made any real progress toward reaching my previously posted goals. There was a sequence of unsettling events in my building last week and this week and my GAME plan was put on my mental back burner. One of my goals was to use technology to engage students in solving authentic, real-world problems. In my initial post, I had mentioned incorporating technology into the unit on Statistics and Probability. It occurred to me later on that we don't teach this unit until May so even though I could plan for it now, I wouldn't be able to monitor or evaluate my plan. The other unit I had considered using, Ratio and Proportion, we covered last year with the group of students I was focusing on for my plan. Hopefully I can find sometime over the Thanksgiving break to search for ideas that I can implement in the up-coming unit which is Systems of Equations/Inequalities.
Concerning my second goal, which was to customize learning activities to address students' diverse abilities, I did log on to the Castle Learning site that I intended to use to post individualized assignments for students. I set up my classes and that was as far as I got. My department is in the process of doing an item analysis on the first quarter benchmark exams and I can use that information to create assignments for my students. This might be a great tool for assisting in cumulative reviews throughout the year.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My GAME Plan

I just reread my last blog post. Had forgotten all about it actually but I'm happy to report that I did accomplish one of my short-term goals. I had put together a first day presentation for the Promethean board and incorporated a Web site that emphasized the need for math in different careers. Now to tackle the rest.

Being a digital novice I need to start with the basics, finding an easy to use technology I can master fairly quickly and that will enhance my students' engagement and understanding. Therefore, for this course, I will focus on the first two NETS-T standards: Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity and Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments. More specifically, I will #1, try to engage students in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources, and #2 customize and personalize learning activities to address students' diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources.

I co-teach an Algebra class for students on the slower two-year track. This will be the perfect class in which to integrate more technology. There are only 17 students, two teachers and access to the computer lab as well as a mobile laptop cart. My co-teacher and I have been discussing taking advantage of the technology available to us. To achieve my first goal of exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems, I would like to apply this to either lessons in the Statistics and Probability unit or the one on Ratios and Proportions. Both topics have many real-world applications. For the second goal I can use the Castle Learning program my district subscribes to. With this on-line program, I can customize a bank of problems for my students. For the stronger students, I can choose more challenging problems so they won't become bored and for the struggling students I can choose more basic problems to avoid frustration while improving their skills. The program allows me to use this as an assessment tool as it keeps track of students progress or it can be used as a learning tool as there is a mode in which students can immediately check to see if their answer is right and receive hints on how to solve the problem if they need it.

I will monitor my progress by the feedback I get from my students in the form of their levels of engagement as well as their performance on traditional assessments. Having a co-teacher brings in a whole other perspective and will be a great asset when it comes to evaluating and extending my learning.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Final Reflection

As I read through my personal theory of learning that I wrote at the beginning of this course, my thoughts on the subject have not changed much. In the case of the students I teach, I still believe that lack of motivation is the primary obstacle that prevents them from learning. What has changed, as a result of this course, is that I am now armed with a slew of technologies that I can use to engage my students in the study of math as well as to show them why math is so important.

One of my immediate goals is to prepare a presentation for the Promethean Board to be used on the first day of class that highlights different career choices and the math involved in each one. The other is to make use of Excel as a learning tool for organizing data in units on statistics and also as an self-evaluation tool for students to track the correlation between their effort and their grade. These two ideas, while fairly simple to implement, will hopefully motivate my students to try their best.

As for long-term goals, I would like to take advantage of the mobile lap-top cart our department received last year and incorporate WebQuests and perhaps a wiki into the curriculum. With so many WebQuests available, I'm sure I can find several that I can integrate into my lessons. A wiki will take a lot more planning and effort on my part but I feel that by writing about mathematics and sharing their knowledge with one another, my students will deepen their own understanding.

Implementing my long-term goals will require that I take a leap of faith. I have only 84 block classes in which to cover over 100 performance indicators, give quizzes, tests and review for a mid-term and a standardized, state-wide final exam. I am constantly battling the calender. Do I view the technology goals I've set as luxuries to be implemented if time permits or as a new instructional tool that will replace my old conventional lessons? Everything I've learned so far in the courses I've taken toward my Master's tells me that by actively engaging my students they will retain more and be able to recall more of what I teach them. I'm ready to jump.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


The URL for my VoiceThread is

Connectivism and Social Learning in Practice

Technology makes it possible for students to learn from and with one another in a variety of different ways. Topics can be researched and data gathered online. Graphs, charts and tables can be constructed with the click of a mouse and used as tools for analyzing and displaying information. Findings and conclusions can be posted and shared on blogs and wikis. Power point presentations and webcasts can be created. The possibilities are limited only by the availability of the technology and their imaginations. Probably the biggest thing technology-based social learning has going for it is that students don't consider it "work". It's enjoyable. They are actively constructing something while getting to interact with their friends and then they get to show off their work and share it with not just their classmates but with students around the world.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Constructivism in Practice

The principle behind constructivism is that students actively construct their own knowledge . Teachers act as facillitators by providing students with the necessary resources and guidance. One of this week's readings focused on different tasks that can be used in the classroom which would have students generating and testing hypotheses. This fits well into the constructionist/constructivist model and is well supported by the use of technology. Students can use internet resources to gather factual knowledge and data on which they will base their hypotheses. Data can be organized and displayed in spreadsheets. Finally, with the help of interactive applets and simulations, students can test the hypotheses they make and draw conclusions based on the results. Students can then use whatever means of displaying their results that suits them, perhaps in a blog or power point format with charts and graphs or even in a video, showing and explaining the processes that were carried out. The end result would be students actively engaged in analyizing, using and conveying knowledge in a way that makes sense to them.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cognitivism in Practice

Cognitive learning theories center around how we actually learn and remember things as opposed to the behaviorist theories which focus on why, or the motivation behind learning. In order for information to be sent to long-term memory and then remembered or retrieved when needed, connections need to be made. The more connections to a piece of infomation, the the more ways we have of retrieving it. Technologies such as word processing applications, concept maps, wikis, blogs, podcasts, virtual field trips, are all ways of helping students make multiple connections to the concepts they are learning. These strategies take advantage of episodic memory as students can connect the actual experiences of creating and being involved in their learning to the information teachers want them to remember. They also help provide students with visual connections. I think the biggest advantage to having such a variety of technologies available is that it allows students to make connections that work for them. Teachers can give students access to these tools and instruction in how to use them and then let students gradually become more and more responsible for their own learning by finding out what works for them.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Behaviorism in Practice

As I stated in my earlier posts, this blog was created for a course I'm taking towards my Master's Degree. As you can see, I haven't made a post in several months. I am a very reluctant writer (I teach math) but I do enjoy the informal nature of the blog. This informality will allow me to share some exciting news with those of you that happen upon my page; I was granted tenure this week!
So on to behaviorism. The principles behind behaviorism are pretty simple; reinforce positive behavior and punish undesireable behavior. To me, this means providing students with well defined, obtainable, yet challenging, goals, then giving them plenty of support and opportunities to be successful, and finally rewarding them with positive feedback and a good grade. Direct instruction, which I typically use in my classes, ties in well with the behaviorist theory and works especially well in learning and teaching math. Math is a skill that needs to be practiced. I need to keep close tabs on the work my students are doing in class to make sure they are doing the problems correctly. No student wants to complete 10 math problems and then be told they did every one wrong. Frequent, positive and encouraging feedback is necessary if I want my students to not just stay on task but to take risks and try problems that may be a bit of a challenge for them.