Friday, November 7, 2014

4-State Math Collaboration Conclusion

Today the first of two 4-State Math Teacher Leader conferences wrapped up.  I had a 400 mile drive across the state to let my brain stew about things I took away from the conference.

Here's a brief summary of our two days of work.

  • Students need to be engaged in tasks in which they are required to use higher-order thinking skills.  The best tasks are accessible to all students and allow multiple entry points.
  • These types of tasks call for teachers to be less helpful and allow students to wrestle with the concepts involved.  Often times teachers assist students too much which can cause a potential higher-level task to lose its value.
  • Equity in education is something that needs some attention.

Other thoughts and ideas from the conference...

  • State leaders are trying to find the best way to get more PD to classroom teachers, especially in the grades of 6-12.  
  • It was really motivating to be around a group of people as passionate and invested in improving math instruction as I am. I met some great classroom teachers who are doing great things.  I plan to continue to collaborate with those folks as we move along.
I feel as though we could classify a majority of 9-12 math teachers into one of four categories.

Category 1: Leave me alone
Teachers in this category love the walls that protect them and their students from outside influences.  They prefer to be left alone and have no interest in changing the way they do business.  These are the teachers I have no time for.

Category 2: Mild intrigue
Teachers in this category make frequent visits to category 1, but may be interested in what else is out there.  These teachers have no real interest in hunting for activities and lessons, nor for taking risks.  They are intrigued by seeing how well something worked in another classroom and would consider implementing some changes in their classroom activities as long as the new activity come pre-packaged and usable upon opening.

Category 3: Looking for the light switch
Teachers in this category are open and willing to change, but aren't sure where to begin.  They are typically overwhelmed by the volume of resources available online.  If we can channel the best materials into one place for these teachers to hunt through, then there is serious potential for improvement.

Category 4: Figuring it out
Teachers in this category have already begun to refine their lessons to include deep, engaging tasks that require higher-level thinking.  These teachers typically know where to find the best resources and are aware when more are born.  These teachers are the ones we need in the front line, fighting the battle and swinging the war.  

Last thought:
There is already a movement to try to corral the best resources in one place.  The South Dakota DOE has worked on developing myOER, which is designed to align great lessons with CCSS.  This is a start.  However, I fear if too many resources fall into any one given place, category 2 and 3 teachers lose confidence in their ability to hunt.   

I have worked with Smarter Balance these past 15 months developing the Smarter Balanced Digital Library.  Again, great concept, but with over 1500 resources available to teachers, it too is overwhelming for many teachers to browse through.  

I'm looking forward to part 2 of the 4-state collaboration coming this spring.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

4-State Math Collaboration

I've arrived at Rapid City to take part in a two day Cross-State Mathematics Teacher Leader Conference.  I'm excited to see what I'll learn from fellow math teachers and teacher leaders.  I'll post a summary at the conclusion of the conference, with potential twitter updates (@kreiem).

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Differentiated Review Day

Our test over unit 4 is tomorrow (parallel lines, skew lines, transversals, angle relationships, triangle sum and exterior angle theorems, etc).  So today we gave students some options on how they could review and study for the test.

Here is how the day unfolded...
Prerequisite: All students had to complete all homework assignments before moving on to the review activities.  For most, the homework assignments were already complete.  For those not done, this gave them an opportunity to finish and wrap up loose ends before the test.

Review option #1:
We created a unit review packet and sent it through Edmodo.  Students could work individually, in small groups, or with partners to do as many problems as they felt necessary.  The review packet was organized by section; if a student felt as if they struggled on a particular section, they could review that part of the packet.

Review option #2:
Students have access to a number of resources on the Pearson SuccessNet site.  Interactive lessons, homework video tutors, and MathXL review problems are all on the buffet.  Again, students could work in individually or in small groups if they'd like.  This is again a great option for those who prefer to work alone.

Review option #3:
Mr. Ott created a Kahoot review for students to play.  Students that wanted to play went with him to room 101 and battled for class champion status.

If a student wanted to choose more than one option, all three of these could completed outside of class with access to the internet.

Thanks to having two rooms, three teachers, and laptops available, this format was easy to implement.

One of our three Kahoot champions!

Three individuals that chose to work together to review.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Above the "Substitution" Step

Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura, Ph.D. has developed a model of tech integration that I first read about last year while our school flirted with the idea of moving to a 1:1 laptop setup. The model is called SAMR and is pretty simple to understand.  As teacher integrate new technology into their classrooms, the use of the technology falls into one of four categories: substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition.  (For more depth on the SAMR model, follow this link.)

So far this year, my co-teacher Jarrod Huntimer and I have been living in the "substitution" step of the SAMR model.  UNTIL TODAY.

We found this problem in our Pearson (c) 2015 textbook.

Instead of assigning this problem from the textbook, we assigned this instead:

Using Google maps, find an image (map) of two lines being interested by a transversal.  Snip the image and paste it into Sketchpad.  Using the line tool (in sketchpad), draw lines and label on top of the image.   Label the angles created with numbers.  Finally, identify each of the following:

·         One set of corresponding angles
·         One set of alternate interior angles
·         One set of alternate exterior angles
·         One set of same-side interior angles

Students were then to snip their sketch and paste it into their word document and submit it.

Students were able to go anywhere in the world they wanted to find their diagrams.  Some found a map near their grandmother's house; others explored overseas and to their native countries.  All were engaged and using the technology as more than a substitute to paper and pencil.  

We had many diagrams that you'd expect to see, such as the one here:

And then we had some where students got interestingly creative, such as here:
We hope to augment and modify more of our lessons and activities.  The good news is we have finally ironed out enough of the wrinkles to be able to start relying on the technology.

Some more pics that were promised in earlier posts...

30 of our 60 Lenovo Yogas are ready to go.

Students are able to use the Yogas as laptops or as tablets w/ a stylus.

The Yogas also include a touchscreen.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Unforeseen Benefits of Team Teaching

My colleague Jarrod Huntimer and I (along with our student teacher Mr. Ott) have been team teaching for just over a month now.  (Here is a summary of our setup.)  Since we just got our computers up and running this past week, we honestly have done very little innovating or non-traditional.  This past week, we were finally able to assign, complete, collect, and assess homework paperlessly.  Edmodo is working very well as a vehicle for that process.

I want to briefly talk about some of the unforeseen benefits of our team teaching experiment.  First of all, we do all lesson planning collaboratively.  There is a song from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure called Two Heads are Better than One.  We bounce ideas off each other.  We discuss what has worked for us individually in the past and how we can improve things together.  Much more thought is being put into each activity and lesson thrown at our students.  Lesson planning is a fun time that usually includes many laughs and inside jokes.

Second, because of our collaboration and joint presenting of the lessons, I am continually learning new things and improving as a teacher.  I see different ways to represent mathematical concepts and get a firsthand look at the craft of another.  Jarrod and I are both very confident in ourselves and understand we're in this experiment together.  Mr. Ott has shown great promise and is well on his way to being a great teacher.  We all offer constructive ideas to improve our methods and take those ideas to heart.

For example, one day I was working on a typical geometry problem with students involving angle addition postulate with some algebra tied into it.  I was asking students for their ideas on what we could next to solve for a variable.  As we worked down the page algebraically, I began to run out of room on my SMART board page.  So I started to work upward in the open space left on my page.  (See diagram below.)  We finished the problem and went on with our business.

After the class period, Jarrod says to me, "Nice uphill algebra."  He wasn't meaning to make me feel bad or look silly, but just offering some constructive criticism.  I looked at the screen and thought about what I just modeled to students.  It was not acceptable.  We ask the students to organize their work in a neat manner.  How hard would it have been to just add more "digital page" to my document?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I used to do this all the time at my previous school.  My Smart board there was placed a lot lower on the wall than ours at Brookings.  I'm a pretty tall guy and writing that low was challenging for me.  Moreover, students sitting in the front would block the views of students in the back of the room if I wrote below a certain point.  So there were a numerous times I would work back uphill with my problems.

This one time of Jarrod watching me and offering his critique has made me think a lot more about how I'm writing on the Smart board.  And it has made me a better teacher.

Third, our team teaching model makes classroom management 100 times easier.  With two (or three) of us in the room (even when we have our biggest classes of 45 students), it is easy to float around the room and manage behavior problems.  If one of us is presenting at the board or leading discussion, the other two are roaming and making sure all students are engaged and following along.  When students are working in small groups, the three of are floating around and guiding when necessary.

Lastly, students have three instructors that they can go to for help.  When Jarrod takes off early for football on Friday, Mr. Ott and I (and the substitute) cover the class.  Jarrod's students are still able to come in after school for help, even though Jarrod has to leave for practice.  His students and my students really are simply OUR students.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Technology & Computer Update

Sorry for the lack of updates... life is super busy for me right now.  My family and I recently moved into our new house.  We survived without internet at home for about 10 days.  It's tough to compose blog posts without access to the web.

Here's the latest on our computer and 1:1 situation...
We received the Dell laptops a couple of weeks ago.  As the tech department started imaging them, they noticed the styluses were not working with the machines.  To make a long story a little less long, the 60 Dell computers were packaged up and sent back to the supplier.

Needless to say, my colleague and I were not excited to wait and see what solution was going to be laid before us.  It turns out our technology department was working two bids for the laptops, so they immediately called the company with the "losing" bid.  They were able to ship us their product within and week and now we have the Lenovo Yoga laptop with stylus.  After being able to compare both computers, we are happy with the way things ended up.

The laptops are here, imaged, and in our classrooms.  The tech guys installed a wireless access point right in my room and signal strength is excellent.  Today we officially rolled the computers out to the students and completed our first homework assignment with the computers.

We have one final hurdle to clear.  Our 60 licenses for Geometer's Sketchpad are needing to be re-activated by KCP because we failed to de-authorize the computers that held the licenses last year.  After that, we hopefully should be fully ready to go.  Finally.

I've got another post coming in the near future.  I plan to talk about some of the hidden benefits of team teaching.  I will also posts some pics of the students and our computers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Collaborative Learning

My team teaching partner Mr. Huntimer and I had great discussion today pertaining to collaborative learning.  We happened to be talking to one of the more experienced teachers in our department about allowing (or forcing) students to work in groups to solve problems.
Our consensus was this...
We live in a world very different than 5 years ago and very, very different than 10 years ago.  Because of changes in society and the increase in technology available to children these days, the students who walk through our classroom doors are very different than the students who walked through our doors a decade ago.
A large percentage of teenagers and young adults have spent the past three or four years being addicted to their smart phones and social media.  Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, some other sites that I have no knowledge of, and Facebook are the nicotine of the 21st Century to these students.  They're addicted and can't ever have enough.
Mr. Huntimer and I agreed to supervise lunch this year and our school has closed campus for freshmen.  Students are allowed to use their phones / devices between classes and during lunch.  It's amazing to walk through the lunchroom on a typical day.  Many times all eight students at a table are staring at their 5 inch screens with glazed eyes and blank expressions on their faces.  Sometimes students are texting the person they are sitting adjacent to!  There is minimal face-to-face interaction and even less awareness of their surroundings.

Our solution to this "lack-of-social-interaction" problem developing in our students today: FORCE them to collaborate in class.  We have students work in groups of two or three for many of our tasks.  For example, tomorrow's plan for geometry is for students to come to class with as much of the homework completed as possible.  (The homework was a typical angle relationships assignment - linear pair, vertical angles, algebra mixed in, complementary / supplementary.)  Then in class, their first task is to take 10 minutes are compare solution methods with their partners.  We expect students to have meaningful discussion if their answers don't match.  We expect them to discuss solution methods if their answers do match.  Regardless, they are expected to be interacting w/ each other for the first 10 minutes.  It should be a bit noisy, and we want that.  After all, our lunch duty is more like library duty.

I'll try to remember to post a picture of what that looks like.

Our computers have arrived!

We were delivered some exciting news today - our 60 laptop computers (w/ styluses) were delivered today.  Our tech department is in the process of imaging the machines and we should have them ready to go for next week!

In related news, our wireless network has been experiencing some serious problems these past two weeks.  Let's hope all the issues get resolved before our official roll-out.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Week 1 - with a whole lot of on-the-fly planning

Week 1 is officially in the books.  Here is a quick recap:

Tuesday was a very brief (10 min) back-to-school day for students are parents.  After telling all of the parents that Mr. Huntimer and I would each have 30 classroom laptops and we would be doing as much as possible paperlessly, we find out after school that the expected delivery date on our computers is now September 11.  Shell shocked, plan B was immediately hatched and set in motion.

We immediately went to our principal and expressed our frustration about the whole situation.  He contacted the technology director and were able to round up about 35 laptops that would be ready for our use by Thursday.  The laptops would not have a stylus for students to write with, so they aren't exactly what we need.  But they do serve as a band-aid until the shipment of our laptops arrive.

Wednesday was the first technical day of school.  We joined our classes together (Geometry Team Teaching) and used one of the mobile laptop labs to get all of the students signed into Edmodo.  The mobile lab had 25 computers that were working, so we had students partner up and share computers.  Many of our students had previous experience with Edmodo so things went very well.  We created a brief trial assignment for them to practice downloading and uploading documents for submission.  A few students had problems logging onto the network while others had problems staying connected to the wireless network.  All in all, it was an effective day.

On Thursday, our 35 band-aid laptops were ready to go and we again had the 25 laptops from the mobile lab.  Our biggest class (when combined) has 51 students, so everyone had their own laptop.  We again joined our groups together and demonstrated using the annotate feature in Edmodo so students could see the process of how we will be grading once our laptop shipment arrives.  We got all students logged into the Pearson online materials site.  We handed out textbooks and used a Google Form (linked through Edmodo) to collect book numbers.  After that, we talked about expectations, class grading policies, and other first day procedures.

Friday we decided to keep our groups separated and finally dive into some actual geometry.  As we worked through the first lesson (on points, lines, planes), we used the Pearson Interactive lesson and Virtual Nerd videos.  Our main goal was for students to see what type of resources were available to them, especially when absent.  We printed copies of the notes and homework assignment; typically we would send these through Edmodo.

Mr. Huntimer and I have decided we have no choice but to use paper for these first few weeks until our laptops with styluses arrive.  Students are missing out on Geometer's Sketchpad until then as well, even though we might supplement with Geogebra.  We anxiously await the arrival of the laptops.  Hopefully when we go 1:1 as a school next year our technology staff will order the devices well ahead of time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

More Information About Mr. Kreie

Follow along this year on Twitter with @BHSGeometry!

Also, @kreiem can be used to hear updates on Mr. Kreie's life.

If you're interested in Mr. Kreie's website, here is a link.  

First Day - Here We Come!

The first day of school is today.  In our district, the first day is a back-to-school type event where the parents come to class with the students.  Each class is only 10 minutes long, so not a whole lot of learning can take place.  Introductions, a brief overview of expectations, and contact information is the gist.

Still no word on the laptop delivery date.  Come on, FedEx!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Flexibility in Teaching

8 days until school starts...

It turns out our 60 laptops were ordered on August 8th, and we have not received them yet.  We may or may not get them in place before the first day of school.  This is very frustrating because we have already put in countless hours of planning and preparing to be able to use them extensively the first three days of school.

Here's to keeping our fingers crossed they arrive in the next few days and are able to be imaged and ready to go by next Tuesday.  And if not, this is just another example of teachers needing to be flexible in all they do.  Even the best laid plans are sometimes too simple.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

MathTwitterBlogosphere - #MTBoS

I'm skimming through my nightly Common Core Math Resources & blogs I follow, and I have noticed the twitter handle #MTBoS re-occurring lately.  I do a little digging and decide to join the MathTwitterBlogosphere world.

I just got done reading Andrew Shauver's blog post about why he is not worried about the future of math in the U.S.  In a nutshell, he believes there is a movement that has started led by math geeks interested in changing the way we teach math.  Less traditional routine - more innovative, creative, technologically rich lessons.

I have to say that I agree with Mr. Shauver on this one.  We have so many free, online resources that are engaging to the students.  And each day more are created.  Within 5 years, I think there will be enough materials online that teachers will hardly need a textbook to teach from.  Exciting times!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Digital Footprint & the Future of Resumes

I read an article yesterday about the future of resumes in education.  It talked about how your classroom website, blogs, twitter feed, etc. are the resumes of the future.  Gone are the days of creating a binder to hand to potential employers.  I'd have to agree.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Geometry Team Teaching & 1:1 Implementation

As August is right around the corner, my colleague Jarrod and I have begun to plan our team teaching experiment for this upcoming school year.  Here's the setup:

  • We each have 3 sections of geometry and 1 section of geometry applied.
  • Our geometry applied sections are 2nd hour; our geometry sections are 4th, 5th, and 6th hours.
  • We share two planning periods (1st and 7th hours).
  • Our rooms are across the hall from one another.  Jarrod's room is gigantic and has 15 tables which can sit up to 4 students at once.
  • Each of our rooms has 30 laptop computers, a Smart board, a document camera, and 30 TI-Nspire CX calculators.

We have decided on Edmodo as our classroom technology hub.  We also have access for Pearson (c) 2015 Common Core online interactive resources.

More to come...