The Power of New Technology

Today I had the opportunity of supply teaching a history class that was completely self-directed.  The students were creating blog posts on a particular topic in World History.  The teacher left the link in the supply notes so that I could look at the posts if I was interested.  I found that because the class was working hard I found myself captured by the posts and topics that the students wrote about.  I even found myself reading these throughout the day because I was interested in the other posts that were available.  Some of the students shared their view on the EU, Terrorism, Torture, and Global Warming, based on the research they have completed to show their new understanding.  The class made me think about how much we have changed in terms of teaching and learning.

Teaching math I have found that I did not think of ways or redefining my class and then integrating technology into it.  I have mainly used it for substitution and modification (through the use of new apps so students can continue to learn outside of the classroom).  But from this class and the computer science class at my current school it has made me start to think about how to foster the power of blogging in my math class. I feel that this would be a fantastic way to have my students truly think about what they have been learning.

In my future classes I feel like I am going to use blogging or even forms more often so that we are using the power of technology to positively enhance student learning. I know that this year I have learned a lot about integrating technology and have tried to use it more often but I am still learning and growing like my students are when they learn something new.

All That Google Has To Offer

dpinizzotto:

All that Google can do for you!

Originally posted on doug --- off the record:

Think Google is all about Search?  Or perhaps email?  Maybe Maps?

For a long time, @pbeens has been curating a list he calls Google A-Z.  I have it bookmarked so that I can link directly to various services.  The ones I use daily are promoted to separate bookmarks on their own and Gmail and Google + are always an open tab in my browser.  But, sometimes, you just need to dig deeper to find a desired service.  His collection is all linked to where you might want to go and is extremely helpful.

It’s very helpful if you know what it is you’re looking for by name.  Head to the first letter or do a search within the document and you’re there.

This week, I found another resource that tries to document the Google.  It’s the same great end results but adds a different twist.  It allows you to…

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Teaching Perseverance

One thing I never thought about in my own schooling and on my teaching placements was teaching students the value of perseverance. It is something I became more aware of when I worked at the college level as a teaching assistant and then again this semester when I started teaching the grade 12 college math course.

I think this post links well with my earlier post on growth mindset because I have been trying to implement the idea of “I can” in my students minds. Today was one of those days where I later realized that the teaching I did was more than just teaching math content. I felt like I was able to teach a bit of perseverance to my students today which positively affected those who put in the effort. I had a couple have those “ahh” moments that we hope to see a lot of our students have.

At the end of the class I made sure to let my students know that we did struggle at the start but when they kept pushing through we made it to solving the problem effectively. Before the start of class today I had a student come to get additional work because they were going home sick. This made me realize that I needed to congratulate my students on their efforts because they needed to know that I appreciated their hard work in a difficult task.

I feel like the two lessons yesterday and today gave them the confidence they required in a task that they usually had difficulty with. I have always strived to create a connection with my class so that they felt comfortable with taking chances, but I am still learning how to motivate them to consistently persevere in math.

Replacing TI 83 with Chrome Apps

In the past unit I taught on graphical models, the course focused on regression modelling using the TI-83 Graphing Calculators.  Having used them myself during my high school education I was initially excited for the chance to use them in my own classroom.  Unfortunately it was short lived when I went to the GAFE Summit and I decided to use the Chromebooks and the app Geogebra.

The first day I brought the Chromebooks into the classroom my students were slightly confused on how a math class could use the same technology they used in English and the Humanities.  I introduced the program, created a help guide with Google Docs that they could access, and walked them through the new piece of technology (while assuring them that I was still a beginning user so we were learning together).  After the class ended a lot of discussions arose about the unfamiliarity of the program and how some wanted to use the graphing calculators even though they did not fully enjoy those either.

After the third time we used the tech students who “mastered” the steps were able to help their classmates who did not fully understand how to produce the various regression models.  To my delight students were more appreciative of the new tool they were provided and even found that their resilience was paying off.  Great discussions in the class began about which model to use based on the situation and the R Squared value.  I will admit I was delighted that this was working well and I began to share my new knowledge to my coworkers.

Students wrote their test and instead of the smiling faces or confident submissions I was expecting I found that students were confused and were very upset about their potential mark.  I spoke to some students after the class to understand why they were not very happy with the way the assessment went and their responses initially shocked me.  “We felt like we could produce the graphs and describe them, but we could not describe a graph that was provided for us”.  I thought through the unit and looked at my plans only to realize that I focused a lot of the lesson on being able to use the tech and not as much time as needed on understanding the outcome.

As a first year teacher I realized that I fell into the bad trap of getting lost in the new tech and unfortunately created students who could follow steps instead of thinkers.  One thing that I think will help me in my next attempt at using this is writing out a pros and cons list and a next steps list.  I also started tracking what points students had difficulty with so I can prepare for these in future classes.

My question to those of you reading it is how do you prepare your students to be clearer thinkers rather than students who follow steps? (and this example above was a college level class that I am looking at helping develop deeper understanding)

Growth Mindset

Yesterday I attended Edcamp London and went into a session about growth mindset.  Not knowing what this would entail, I was wondering if the topic was going to focus on the growth mindset of educators or students.  When I went in I was hoping to get the perspective on how we as educators can help students in their mindset.  I currently feel that my Grade 12 class would benefit from me educating them on persevering in their education as most are off to college in September.  It was my goal to get a better idea of how I could educate my students to have a better mindset in their future education.

Great conversations started from Andrew Kwiecien, Ryan Chisholm, and Jeremie Roselle about the book on mindset from Carol Dweck.  The book covers how we can use our growth mindset when we want.  It looked at the mindset of professionals in education, corporate businesses, and parents and discussed how their own mindsets affect their life.  It is a book I plan to read shortly because it sounds like it will be very effective for helping me inspire my students to take on the challenge of having a growth mindset.

In our conversations we talked about the stigmas and the preconceptions students have about their ability to succeed in a particular subject.  For example, if a student has not been successful in math throughout elementary school, they will come into secondary school with the mindset “I’m not good at math, so I can’t do it”.  I know that I have seen this in England where I taught and this was one of the challenges we regularly talked about but never thought of the solutions on how to overcome this.  In our conversation we also looked at how students take the praise they have been given by parents and teachers and use it to create a “mask” that puts them into a comfort zone in the classroom.  We also talked about how students use this mask to shy away from taking chances and asking questions to help their learning.

One of the solutions we started to develop in the session was the idea of  modelling the growing mindset to our group of students.  This directly linked to a new approach to problem solving I am currently taking.  When we are solving a problem in class I talk about the thought process I am going through so that I model to my students how I want them to approach the problem.  I also want the students to understand that even the teacher has to think about the problem before coming up with the solution, nothing “just happens” for us to answer a question.

The issue we foresaw with that is that these new “masks” may be created from this new praise, which would defeat the purpose we have for praise in the first place.  Although from this point it seemed like a daunting task and one that was a catch-22, we as a group had an interesting thought.  If all of us (or a vast majority of us) in a school came to the agreement to start working on this growth mindset, we may start seeing more success and “I can” attitude in our learners in subjects they didn’t feel they could do before.  The question that sparks from this: How could we get more fixed mindset people in our schools to adopt to the growth mindset mentality?

We, as teachers, will face these challenges when it comes to having students think about their ability before they enter the class.  It is our job to help students “break” the mask they have created and provide them with the opportunities and experiences to gain new comfort levels in situations they usually feel uncomfortable in.  My question to you is: how do you work with students to change their mindset and make them feel confident in all areas of their education?

When do teachers stop teaching a class?

Yesterday morning I was listening to TSN 1050 sports talk radio and they were talking about how hockey coach Ken Hitchcock was talking about how by the playoff time he was not coaching his team anymore. He was merely there as motivation for his team and was simply saying the same things he did all season to the team.

This instantly made me think about how we as teachers are slowly walking away from continually teaching our students and how we are there to guide them in their learning. The only main difference I see is that we are always teaching our students, we just aren’t doing it in the way that revolves around us preaching to them.

This has been one of my major struggles this teaching block because my students are used to and most comfortable with having a note and then practicing similar questions. Today I even tried to have them lead the lesson with a warm up activity on correlations and linear models. This didn’t work as well as I had hoped but the one aspect that is starting to improve is that my class is willing to work through a question without any guidance to see how they fare with it.

My next challenge with this group is to get their excitement up about the upcoming units. The past unit was a major confidence boost because it was something they have been doing for a few years and they have no mastered it. I want to use that excitement and confidence to motivate them through this unit on graphical models and future units to the end of the semester.

How do you motivate your classes when you have students reluctant about a particular topic due to past experiences?

GAFE Summit 2014 Day 2 – Putting it all together

Day 2 is finished of the GAFE 2014 conference and it was amazing (again!).  Today I went to some great sessions on using Chromebooks as my one machine, chrome ninja tips and tricks, Critical Thinking with Google Search, and a plethora of apps and extensions for Chrome.

The first session was the Chromebook challenge which was inspiring as I did not know all the new apps and extensions that I could use to make a Chromebook a main computer for me as a teacher.  One of the first things that struck me was when teachers were trying to use one collaborative document.  I experienced something like this earlier this semester with my grade 9 students in a business class.  Claiming your space was an issue because of the novelty that people could delete what someone else wrote.  Today made me think about that past situation and how we as teachers need to model and make sure the students understand the etiquette of working through one collaborative document.  It is easy for us (teachers) to think that students will adapt as easily as we did in that session, but we need to have the discussion about respecting everyone’s opinions and ideas in a shared space.  One trick we learned from today was to have a table with multiple rows, so that each student has their own row to put their ideas in.   Another great takeaway for me was Google Cloud Print.  All you have to do is have a printer hooked up to your PC once and then added to the Google Cloud Print.  After that, you can print to that machine from anywhere in the world as long as it is connected to a device (doesn’t have to be on your Chrome account).  The final takeaway for me is that we need to remember the amazing power of the Chromebooks and use this power to allow students the chance to make their own learning opportunities.  We need to let them have conversations with others in the classroom and give them the tools to make the most of these opportunities.

In the Chrome ninja and Demo Slam session we were given some cool tricks and tips that would make browsing much more manageable.  One of my favourites is setting up personal search engines for sites that you recently visit.  Its easy for any site that you can search on.  For example, with Amazon you go to the homepage, right click on the search bar and then select add as a search engine.  In the second text box you add a nickname you will remember and then click ok (shown below).  Now anytime you use that nickname and press “space” you can instantly search in that site from any other page in chrome.

 

chrome

We can do some other amazing things from the search bar, like add an event to your calendar, search drive, tweet, and much more.  See http://www.teachinglikeits2999.com/2013/09/google-chrome-tricks-raising-omni-bar.html for some of the technical things you can do.  The other tricks we can do on Chrome are to “Pin” webpages to your Chrome browser that will open when Chrome Opens, but manages them in a small location on the tabs bar.  Simply right click the tab and then select Pin Tab and it is done.

Along with making Chrome and Chromebooks more efficient for you, I went to a great session of the Critical Thinking with Searching.  We started the discussions on the new digital divide and how we need to be the people who help students understand what they are finding in these searches and how to manage all the information they are presented in this short amount of time.  The one great acronym I will remember is to ask REAL questions. R (read the URL), E (examine the content), A (ask the author), and L (look at the links).  These are all strategies that we, as adults and educators, do intrinsically and need to show/explain to our students how to do this to ensure that they are searching correctly and thinking about what they are searching before using it because “Google put it first”.

Overall the 2 days were unbelievable and I hope that I am hopeful that I will be able to attend more of these in the future because they were great for learning, connecting, and inspiring new ideas for my classroom.  I know that I myself need to be willing to take more risks and remember that to FAIL is the First Attempt In Learning and finally that when the little changes are compounded together make the a big change.