There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow

The year 2020 is only in four years, but in the teaching world that is seems like light years away.  Think back four years ago.  What did your classroom look like?  What was your involvement with your students?  Was there technology?  If there was, how did you use that technology in the classroom?  When I think back four years ago, I was teaching most of my math courses from the front of the classroom and my lesson seemed to be very teacher-centered.  Don’t get me wrong, I would incorporate student involvement with having them come to the board and try problems, or work in small groups.  But the moral of the story is technology and a student-centered classroom had not yet begun.  Fast-forward to today.  I currently use a flipped lesson approach with my geometry classes.  My students watch videos and take lesson quizzes online at home, and then participate in a meaningful activity in class the next day that pertains to that topic.  My students have access to iPads and computer carts on a daily basis and I use a learning management system (Schoology) to upload videos, links, worksheets, etc. to help students when necessary.  If all that change happened in four years, I wonder what my classroom will look like in the next four years.

One of the first changes, I believe, that will be seen in the year 2020 is the lack of paper and textbooks.  As seen in many states, there have been some serious state budget issues this past year, and education seems to be one what is being “attacked”.  With the lack of money available, schools are cutting where they can.  To help eliminate costs with the various budgetary issues across the country, many districts will head towards an all digital path.  Teachers will no longer need to copy because everything will be online including textbooks, worksheets, tests, activities, etc.  I believe this transition will be tough for everyone involved at first, including parents, teachers, students, and administration.  However, I think by the year 2020 the transition will be complete and hard copies will seem like something as ancient as record players or floppy disks.

As we head towards a paperless educational society, I’m afraid we may see a decline of interpersonal skills.  We are already starting to see this with students today.  In my high school classroom, if I were to give my students 5 minutes of free time almost all of them would be on their phones and not talking with each other.  Students are so connected to their phone that they forget to socialize and live in the world around them.  If we head towards an education that encourages this all the time, what type of interpersonal skills will they learn?  How will they know how to respond to others, or address someone of authority?  Many of my students now have severe panic attacks when they have to speak in front of others, or to call someone on the telephone.  In the year 2020, I’m afraid this will still be a problem.  My hope is that as we continue towards a digital era, we as educators can address these student needs by having a course devoted to interpersonal skills.  This course will teach and assess public speaking, communication skills, and basic social etiquette.  Hopefully an interpersonal skill course will be a good balance between communication and technology.

Although we have made a lot of progress with technology in the last few years, I believe there is still more to come in the future.  Web 2.0 skills, which is generally characterized as a stage of development that includes user-generated content and social media, started as web 1.0, and it is my belief that by the year 2020 we could even have web 3.0 (Web 2.0, n.d.).  Do I know what the looks like?  Of course not, but one can guess.  I see touch screen and typing going “out of style”, and speak to text and intelligent assistants, like Siri, headlining the next “big thing”.  Think about the iPhone 6s cookie monster commercial, no longer do we have to physically set a timer or put on a playlist, Siri will do it for us.  In the year 2020 I see Siri being our classrooms.  For a teacher, Siri could be very useful and helpful.  She could save us time and energy in the classroom.  But what about our students?  Will Siri benefit them?  My short answer is yes.  The positives of having Siri in the classroom would be the accessibility to knowledge.  Students can find information quicker and easier (which in turn means less frustration for the teacher).

Change is always a scary and exciting thing, especially in education.  As we head towards 2020 I think it is important that we, as educators, remember that change can be good and we should embrace it.  Try something new and you might be pleasantly surprised.  As Walt Disney always says in his Carousel of Progress, “there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, and tomorrow is just a dream away”.  So dream away and let’s make “tomorrow” great!

 

Resources:

A. (2016, March 16). IPhone 6s – Timer. Retrieved April, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCbWyYr82BM

W. (2012). Carousel of Progress – There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow – Sherman Brothers Version. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqBkBxJy470

Web 2.0. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0

Just “google it”…

One of the most frequently used phrases today is “google it”.  Google in the past few years has made great strides with their web applications.  Specifically, google docs has become one of the main places for students to collaborate and share work with their peers and teachers.  Google docs has many different possibilities for student learning including, but not limited to, writing papers and creating brochures, newsletters, proposals, business letter, resume, etc.

A major highlight, outside of the various works that can be created, is the fact that you can share and collaborate with teachers and peers from anywhere.  If you’re on vacation, or sick, no big deal!  Everything that is created on google docs can be shared with a simple click.  There is an option to allow others to edit what is shared so that if it is a group project anyone can contribute.  Once a student shares their work with a teacher, the teacher then has the option to comment and give suggestions.  This process allows for constant learning opportunities, and the ability to fix any mistakes that may have been made.  Isn’t that the goal in the end for teaching?  Students should be given the opportunity to fix and learn from their mistakes, and in most cases that is the best way for them to learn.

 

Why not go paperless?

The idea of going paperless is one that was new to me last year, but I am slowly adjusting to now.  At the beginning of this year all our ninth grade students were given an iPad to start a one-to-one initiative roll-out.  We were asked as faculty members to utilize them, along with schoology, to head towards a paperless environment.  At first I was a bit hesitant, thinking what are parents going to say when their kid says “I don’t have a book, or paper notes, etc”.  The transition was actually not as difficult as I originally expected.  I think going paperless is a process and just like anything, people tend to resist change.  In the long run I believe going paperless is a benefit to learning.  Students can access the content and continue the learning outside of school.  Resources are available to students online, as opposed to having to find a ride to the library.  Although it takes time for adjustment, in the long run I believe going paperless is definitely a step in the right direction.  Technology can enhance the learning process, and you have to start somewhere so why not go paperless.

My “Big Shift” in teaching

As I read Will Richardson’s “Big Shifts” in education, the one that really struck a cord with me was about Open Content.  When I first started teaching in 2008, I focused primarily on the textbook to help me with the content and sequence of teaching.  Being at a catholic school we did not have many resources, or professional development days that were devoted to exploring the use of the technology and internet for extra resources.  As I continued with teaching and changed schools another two times, I found myself utilizing the internet more than the book.  I used videos, simulations, and online practice websites not only for myself, but also in the classroom with my students.  Fast forward 8 years later, I am now almost done with an Online Teaching Masters and currently running a flipped Geometry classroom.  The open content available for all subjects is endless, it just takes time “weeding” through some of the sites.  I’ve found many lesson ideas and activities through open content sources that have saved me time and made for a great teaching moment!  I only hope that teachers continue to share their ideas, activities, and content as we continue with the future.  Who knows what my classroom will look like in another 8 years.  Will Open Content still be the “Big Shift”, or will there be something new?

 

Connectivism: A response to the ones in favor

Group D demonstrated their knowledge of Connectivism and shared the evidence that supports those in favor of this “learning theory”.  After reading their wiki I found myself saying, “that makes sense” and “that’s so true”.  One of these moments came when I read the following:

“Many of the learning theories that we know today (behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism) were developed during a time when education was not impacted by technology. Technology is now in the forefront of how we communicate, how we learn, and how we learn. With this, learning theories need to reflect the social environments that exist today” (Group D, 2016, para.2).

Most learning theories were developed prior to technology, and technology has definitely changed the way we live and learn.  Connectivism definitely utilizes technology as a means to communicate and collaborate, whether it is in the schools or the work place.  I never realized, until reading the wiki, that connectivism was really relevant in the work place far before the 2000s.  It is amazing how closely related the workplace and school environments are, and how learning through collaboration can help students learn just as it helps colleagues create a product.  After reading Group D’s wiki I definitely believe that Connectivism is a theory that is worth exploring.

Resource:

Group D 6-A-1. (2016). Retrieved from https://spring13-bce-01.wikispaces.com/Group D 6-A-1

To Skype or not to Skype, that is the question…

Last night I skyped a fellow educator in my graduate class.  The process was very simple and is a great tool for education.  In a society that has been largely taken over by the iPhone and FaceTime, we often forget that there are many people who do not have an apple product (myself included).  I used to use Skye, but after getting an iPhone, and with most of my family and friends owning an iPhone, I began utilizing FaceTime instead.  Although these two products are very similar, one of the benefits of Skype is that it does not matter what type of device (apple, droid, etc.) you own.  Students everywhere and with any device can connect using Skype.

This assignment has open my eyes to the use of Skype for educational purposes.  Before I only thought of it as a social tool.  As teachers we can benefit from the knowledge and expertise of people all over the world.  How awesome would it be if I connected with a math teacher from California in a matter of seconds to discuss an interesting lesson on solving quadratics?  Not only can you meet and discuss face-to-face ideas, but Skype can also be used in the classroom.  Skype allows for classrooms across the world to “connect” and have a discussion or debate.  I see this especially being useful in a foreign language class.  Students could connect to another student from a different country and in a way have a visual pen pal.  The ideas for ways Skype can be used for educational gains is endless.

Podcasts to improve my flipped classroom

As I have recently started flipping my classroom this spring, I have been looing for interesting videos that help teach important concepts in Algebra and Geometry.  As I was searching the various podcasts available on iTunes I found The Math Dude’s series.  He has entertaining (yes some may call them corny) videos that help teach important topics in math.  I think his quirkiness will help with student engagement.  The Math Dude’s podcasts will be a good option to assign my students for homework each night as I move forward with my flipped classroom.  These short videos will help my students come to prepared with the basic knowledge so they can complete meaningful authentic tasks in class.  Please check out The Math Dude’s podcasts (whether you are a math teacher or not you will enjoy)!

How to use Flickr in Geometry

As I started this unit, I thought to myself how am I ever going to be able to use Flickr in my math courses?  As I sat and thought for a few minutes an idea popped into my head for my geometry classes.  Many of my students ask me on a daily basis, “when am I ever going to use this in the real world”, and Flickr may just be able to help me with that.

Starting next year, as a beginning of the course project, I will have students search Flickr for photos of geometrical characteristics in everyday life.  This could be a photo of anything that demonstrates lines, angles, planes, rays, etc.  Once they have found a set of 3 different photos they will write a blog post sharing those photos explaining what geometric characteristics are in each photo.  They will then be required to comment on 2 other student’s blog photos.

I believe this project will be easy, fun, and worthwhile.  My hopes are that students will see geometry is everywhere!

pic 2

Image citation:

Hossain, S. (n.d.). Geometry [Photograph found in Flickr]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/cross-hair/15018382899/in/photolist-27QFhj-aav5nQ-qHeXGm-eetF47-7wFTMW-64WKoN-7w5s4w-p3mzwe-8bAqPJ-mT5Upj-mT482P-949R4c-837cLw-9DCFP-6Y9FtB-bZMDMs-7wC1AR-pXZ2jU-oT891c-53y5eT-dM6qC9-6Yn8QS-oi4ftt-ouxVmx-dYAe5b (Originally photographed 2014, September 6)

Does a two-year delay seem long enough?

keystone graphic

Image taken from http://www.monessenschooldistrict.com/Page/712

This past January, Pennsylvania state Legislatures approved a two-year delay in requiring students to pass the Keystone exams in order to graduate.  Students will not be required to pass the exams in Algebra I, Biology, and Literature until the year 2019.  There are two main areas in review which caused the “pause” button to be pushed:

  1. Creation/revision of a project-based assessment
  2. Impact of assessments on career and technical students

Will two-years really fix some of these problems?

In my school district we pull students who do not pass and remediate them in a special class for students to work on those concepts.  In theory this sounds great, but what happens when that student is pulled for all three tested areas?  Most students are pulled from electives, or a technical institute to be remediated and how is that helping?  For most of those students their profession, or life after high school, is somehow related to those electives or technical institute.  How is that fair to the student?

Do you think we can find these answers in two-years?  If Keystone exam results continue to count as a score to the districts and teachers, do you think remediation courses will ever be removed?  Do you think remediation courses should be removed?

Extra:  Read more about this topic

Lets “wiki” the classroom

As I finally did some research into wikis and Wikipedia this week I found myself surprised with the results.  While researching and completing the readings this week, I was shocked on how quickly Wikipedia “fixes” mistakes.  Although it is important to always double check Wikipedia, it seems that it is a fairly good source.

As I continued in the week and began to work with wikis, I found myself working with a new tool I hadn’t used before.  I knew what wikis were, but had not had a lot of experience with utilizing them.  I found the most beneficial activity this week was the group activity where we created a wiki.  I found myself not only learning how to navigate around the site, but also learning by researching and expressing facts through our wiki page.  Prior to this activity, I was not quite sold on the idea that wikis were a great tool for learning.  However, after this week I am definitely an advocate of wikis in the classroom.  Creating a wiki allows for creativity, while also encouraging collaboration, which are both important skills for students to learn for the world after high school.

LA_WIKI_EN_NUESTRA_SOCIAL

Although I find wikis to be such a great tool for learning, I am stuck on how to use them in my high school math courses.  With time always being an issue, what kind of activity would be meaningful with a wiki in a math course?

Image from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LA_WIKI_EN_NUESTRA_SOCIAL.jpg