Category Archives: Technology

Talk Nerdy

Been a while (busy busy busy), I happened to check out this TEDtalk. It made me even more self-conscious about how I use PowerPoint as a means to present information and how much jargon there is in both education and mathematics.

I literally stopped it temporarily at:

When presenting your work, drop the bullet points. … Bullets kill, and they will kill your presentation.

and just let that comment simmer in my mind for a few minutes. I was mentally comparing a typical slide that I might use as part of a presentation to her example of a ‘boring’ slide. I can remember when I first started teaching that some supervisors would mark “use of technology” on a walk-through (or other observation) if I happened to use the projector during class to show a transparency. At the time, I kind of thought to myself that an overhead projector isn’t even really technology anymore. In retrospect, this was opinion was largely due to the fact that I am from a different generation of learner. Flash forward approximately a decade, a PC running PowerPoint through a projector is not technology to my students; they’ve been around it their entire lives.

In my opinion, the entire presentation also affirms the efforts of Dan Meyer and others to being with a striking visual that prompts questions and discussion before you bring the math jargon into it. At this point, I should probably admit of all the changes I’m trying to make this year; I’m definitely the least far along on incorporating more authentic problem-solving. Oh well, no one is perfect, but we keep trying anyway.

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New Blogger Initiation 2

This is going to be a quick one (until I start rambling). I’m tired, this is “due” in about 2.5 hours, I’ve spent most of the last 10 days getting back into school mode and fighting with technology in my spare time, and I don’t even care that this was an entire paragraph’s worth of run-on sentence.

Here’s the prompt I’m choosing:

1) Find one worksheet or activity or test or unit or question or powerpoint slide or syllabus or anything that you are proud of. Share it.

Here’s my pride and joy …

(and the guided notes to go along with it … ya’know, if you’re into that sort of thing)

I can’t tell you how much time and effort have gone into creating that one 40ish minute video. I’m proud to say I’m following through on my promise to myself to try different things this year; we’ve been in school 10 days, and I’m yet to really teach anything from the Common Core. We’ve done some team-building, some activities, some pre-tests (paper-based Algebra 1 and ALEKS), some almost interactive notebooks, a really awesome trick you into agreeing with the idea of ‘flipped classroom’ (turns out most students really connect with the idea of “why are we doing the easy stuff in class and then sending you home to work on the hard parts by yourself?”), some not quite interactive notebooks (with bonus not quite foldables paper-folding!), talked about how grades will work once we actually have some, and spent TWO-and-a-HALF DAYS watching that video together last week with frequent pausing. By the way, there is something quite bizarre about watching yourself teach your class in asynchronous real-time (not a paradox apparently).

Oh, and here’s the pre-test since I don’t think I’ve shared it on here yet …

(thus proving I kinda sorta know how to embed documents)

Anyways, today was supposed to be partial roll-out day – part of class session was going to be spent in the computer lab watching a video independently and taking notes over some basic algebra vocabulary (to be followed with a crossword to check if you were really processing or just copying); even more importantly, students without internet access were going to be getting a DVD with the first 5ish lessons already recorded on it. My laptops are slow as molasses at burning DVDs it turns out; no joke I had it sitting back on my teacher desk and would go back there every 30 minutes to start a new one since I only had about eight discs made between last night and this morning before school and probably ended up giving out about fifteen. I was stressed because I just really wanted to get them out and going while the interest was still fresh. Then I notice the YouTube upload for the vocabulary had failed … at about the same I noticed my principal walking in to see what we were up to that day … while my students were up walking around and supposedly pairing off to use numbers on half-notecards to find GCFs and LCMs (which was already partially a stall tactic) … as I recalled that I had mentioned to him in passing that I was going to be trying some different things this year without really ever following up with specifics … while I was sitting at my desk with my back to the class, madly trying to copy the PowerPoint to the common drive and loading one of the burnt DVD copies to have something to show for the chaos that was that particular moment of my life. Oh my, this could go one of two ways …

I survive the day; kids are coming by later  to pick up a DVD (I’m going to have to take a screenshot of the disc menu; I was impressed with how good free software is becoming) in a sandwich baggie since the first batch went quick. Kids are mostly flipping through the PowerPoint and trying the crossword with a decent level of seriousness. At some point, I figure out I can burn DVDs on school desktops amazingly fast when I have about two more left. I bump into him in the front office during lunch – “how’d you enjoy the experiment this morning?” I venture … <insert follow-questions and comments from the boss here>

Much later, I’m settling down to type this and notice a school email …

I cannot wait to share your flipped classroom and ALEKS hybrid with the staff.

I will probably be presenting what I’m trying and how it’s working at one of the first few faculty meetings. Maybe he’s just doing his job and following up on a class visit with a short email, but I’ll actually go with optimism for the moment – I deserve it in exchange for all the sleep I’ve been giving up.

PS – I’m sure I’ll realize this was quite the hot mess when I re-read it later.


Filed under Big Ideas, Getting Started, Technology

I am Keith Devlin’s pet guinea pig …

Let me begin with an admission of guilt: I should probably be getting my classroom and first few days’ activities finalized right now. Okay, now for something

book coverOne of my favorite books about math is Keith Devlin’s Math Gene. I first read it a couple years into teaching, and parts of it made me rethink and retool my thought processes on how people learn math.  Devlin stresses that everyone is capable of mathematics as it is very much a human activity and argues language and mathematics are interconnected products of the human brain. I’m not really doing the book justice with such a short blurb, but I would recommend it to any math teacher. Anyways, I heard a while back that Keith Devlin was going to offer a free online course on mathematical thinking. The sort of class many undergraduate math majors take sophomore year and realize (if they haven’t already) that math after calculus is going back to the basics, making them more abstract in many cases, and then proving concepts that maybe you had been taking for granted – i.e. the focus of mathematics shifts almost completely away from calculating (skills) to understanding (concepts).


I’ve enrolled in the course; fortunately, it begins several weeks after school starts. It may not be in person, but I didn’t feel like I could pass up the chance to sit in on a course by one of my favorite authors. If all goes well, I’ve got a few other courses that have piqued my interest. Some people ask ‘is this the future of education?’ – no, I don’t think you can completely replace classroom teachers with technology, but the buzz surrounding online learning such as Khan Academy and Coursera is not likely to disappear anytime soon. Flipped learning probably isn’t a fad.

I’m sure I won’t be the only math-ed blogger (especially since I can just barely include myself in that category at this point) to participate in this grand experiment, but I haven’t seen a lot of other posts about this yet. Let me know if you happen to find this post and will also be participating!


PS – My next post will likely build upon this theme and be about some of the technology I’ll be using in classes this fall.



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