Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Understanding by Design and Flipped Classroom?

The video productions have been going a lot smoother these days. The school ordered BAMBOO tablets, and they are great! Instead of being at school, talking to myself into my Topgun headset and microphone, I can be at home now to record my videos. My dog stares at me and knocks my camera over to tell me I look strange. If only she could understand that I am talking to myself for a reason.

I am very fortunate to have all that I do. Now, I just need to harness my fortunes and get ahead of my class. Looking back, I know now this was an undertaking I jumped into way too quickly. I truly needed to have gotten ahead with the videos before I started running the class like this. I take too long in planning the video, videotaping, and editing. It takes me at least three hours to complete two 15 minute videos.  These are very basic videos at that. I am not complaining, or maybe I am a bit. It is a sad reality I have come to almost peace with. I am just slow at this.  

Though I have made progress, as I have indicated above, I am worried about the direction I am taking with this Calculus class. Right now I do not think the format is up to the standards of the “Understanding by Design” program we are diving into at my school. I am a huge supporter of this “new” teaching technique. I believe in it, for I truly believe the students that learn in this manner will be the better student for it. I know I am always very frustrated with the lack of confidence I see in my students in terms of problem-solving and trying new things. It can completely urk me some days, in fact, when I find myself giving them every step to work out a problem, and I see no leaps of effort or use of resources to make connections and rise to the problem solving challenge.  I believe the underlaying success of UbD is that it teaches students to be in the spot of facing unknowns, and it builds them up to be comfortable with discovering and reasoning out a solution.
I will be working on trying to format my unit on integration to fit the Understanding by Design Criteria. Can they co-exist? Can I make videos that do not just cover the material, but that open the students' eyes to the big picture and bigger goals? Can I have them developing ideas and concepts? I could really use a snow day to figure this out. Since this December thinks thunderstorms are the appropriate precipitation, I think I will not be figuring this tough question out until break. See you then.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting Along

About two weeks have passed since I made this goal of flipping my Calculus classroom. We needed to acquire some new hardware and software, and then of course we needed everything to connect together. Let us just say, things were not getting along for a while. My old computer did not like Camtasia, and while my new computer did like Camtasia-as did I- my smartboard did not like my new computer. With the efforts and time of our great technology crew here, all things are getting along now, and I am up and running.

The hardware I am using includes a Starboard smartboard, my new computer with a larger processor, and a Flipvideo camera. I use PowerPoints to structure my presentations and then the program Camtasia to edit and produce the lessons.
I have done three sections so far using the flipped classroom approach. The conditions up until this point were not the best for creating these flipped videos. If anyone views my videos at ,  I blame the shaky and blurry footage on my inexperienced and incompetent camera lady (me). She is still working on her skills and techniques for making videos, but I can promise you she is improving.
 I will say I am not proud of the products I have created so far. They will NOT be the videos I would use again if/when I do this for next year. They are in no means the polished, clever, perfect productions I envisioned. I was using an older computer and a trial run of Camtasia at the time.

I do want to put it out there that flipping a classroom is not an easy task. The time it takes has been a lot more that I had thought it would be. Youtube does limit videos to under 15 minutes for users like me. At first I thought this was something I needed to try to conquer, but I do think a 15 minute video of vocabulary and concepts and a 15 minute video on working out examples is a good structure for my kids. They appreciate the efficient and not too talky videos. Ironically, but not surprisingly when you think about it, it takes a lot more time to make a shorter video.
Another thing I am finding is that to keep my students engaged, it takes a whole different style and technique to teach through a video medium- especially right now since my creations are very “monomedium.”  I would compare it to writing effective essays versus giving effective speeches; these mediums are received differently and so they need to be delivered differently. I am still working on finding how to deliver videos that will be effective and not just boring and hard for my students to learn from. I do know I need to work on bringing in more resources/mediums. I also need to work on bringing in conceptual thinking and UbD techniques.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Flipped Classroom Project

It has been a rough week for me. Going to the ITEC conference helped me gain awesome ideas and an excitement for trying new things in the classroom. It has also given me great dissatisfaction with how some of my classes are running. I am so tired of students looking at a problem for maybe 20 seconds,- saying "I don't get it", and then looking at me. I blame myself for this immediate give up because I have always been one to jump to explaining right away. I need to work on my guided questions.

It is somewhat ironic to me that at one point in time, I considered one of my strengths of teaching as being my ability to explain things. Studies now are showing that mere coverage is not enough. My strength of explaining is not necessarily a strength at all when it comes to students learning to be independent, explorers of knowledge. I need to work on developing that confidence in trial and error. I need to build the problem-solvers I know they can be.

During my day, I have one class that is absolutely a joy to see. My Calculus class is phenomenal! They work so hard for their answers and they take joy and satisfaction in fighting through. I love it.

With the maturity and the trust relationship I have with my Calculus class, I am going to be creating a flipped classroom. In hearing about some of the other flipped classroom experiences from teachers, I truly believe this will benefit the students. I envision it will allow for a faster pace class, deeper understanding due to more one-on-one time, and more efficiency and relevance in the practice problems.

At the moment, I run the pattern of lesson day, workday, lesson day, workday. This will knock out the lesson day, and allow us to tackle more and more quickly. They can take the notes at home, and then come to class with the ability to discuss, piece together, and absorb fully the deeper concepts.

When students watch the lesson on video at home, they can rewind me if I went too fast for their note taking/understanding. Then, as they come to class to work on problems, they KNOW they are doing the problems correctly. I have felt awful to be checking over about 15 long-winded problems where all 15 problems/3 pages/many hours of work are wrong and wasted. Students will feel more secure and confident in their work.

It will also create a more differentiated classroom. The students that get it can move on, and I can work more often one-on-one to answer questions of struggling and not struggling students alike.

I talked with my very supportive administration and technology coordinator, and I quickly found myself with equally enthusiastic support and resources. In fact, all of the equipment I was thinking would be somewhat tricky to get my hands on are sitting at this very moment on my desk. I will be trying to work with Camtasia. I am downloading the free 30-day trial. I have an Interwrite Learning pad, and will be getting a microphone soon. This weekend I hope to have produced my first couple flipped movies.

Just like that, I am a movie maker. Watch for "EXTREME Minimums and Maximums" Monday, October 24 in Youtube near you!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Needed Refreshment from ITEC 11

I made a goal for myself at the end of the 2010-11 school year to make a routine of blogging and Twittering during the summer in order to work on my lessons, applications, networking, and my overall professional development.

I like to tell myself I was so busy with planning a wedding, doing the getting married thing, and renovating a new house that I just did not have the time. Anyone could be nice and say, "Well of course you were busy." But we all know I had the time. So, the summer went by without me accomplishing what I thought would be a manageable goal of launching my Twitter career and keeping up with this blog. In fact, this school year is almost three months in, and still this goal goes unaccomplished.

I sit at the 2011 ITEC conference in Des Moines. I have once again been refreshed, once again been motivated, and once again feel so overwhelmed with all there is. I even contemplated quitting teaching just for a year because I felt this attack of "I need the time to learn. I need more time to get out there and learn how I can follow through with all of these ideas in my head." This was pure frenzy. I would not really quit, but I was definitly a pong ball, and ITEC was the graceful slab that hit me around all over the place today.

For example, I have a great idea for a lesson on inequalities that involves having the students program an ATM machine. I CANNOT PROGRAM.

I also want to achieve a successful flipped classroom for my Precalculus and Calculus class. I NEED TO MAKE VIDEOS!

I want my students to have professional mentors that are good with math and can help them. I NEED TO FIND PROFESSIONALS OUT THERE USING MATH ON A DAILY BASIS AND INTERESTED IN DEDICATING TIME TO COLABORATION.

I want to collaborate with other classrooms to have students form study groups across the state, maybe outside of the state, maybe outside of the country- to open up my students eyes to the universal language of math. AHHHHH!!!!

Now, I have always been one to say nothing is impossible. BUT, I need to be realistic and say there is no time to do all of these ideas this year. Even if I passed up on sleep I do not think I could do it.

Here is just one of my amazing moments today. I needed to meet someone who was a computer programmer, who was interested in working with a teacher to design programs and games for students that teach content. I needed this person to be able to connect teachers and build partnerships between schools, no matter the distance. I did not have a sign or anything that advertized this, but the person who sat down next to me at lunch was exactly that. He was a computer programming major, who was trying to build partnerships between schools. Would you believe that? He was the most perfect person to take a seat next to me at lunch today. Also, he was a vegetarian and had an allergy to wheat products. We had parmesan chicken for lunch today. Anyone who knows me knows I have a shameful appetite; I gladly took his portion of spaghetti and some chicken when he offered.. He really was the perfect person to sit by.

He and I will be in touch. It is absolute amazing how life plays out.

He mentioned that goals are 1% initiative and 99% sweat and energy. I am ready to be spending that energy. I am not looking forward to it, but I am ready and know that is the next step for me. I will be making videos to start the flipped classroom. I will be blogging in a week of my progress.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My Slow Start

To my 4 followers, sorry for the slow start. I have finally set up a Wiki where I will be posting all of my worksheets, lessons, PowerPoints, and activity descriptions. The link is <>.

 I would love for it to become the collaborative location where anyone willing will also share their ideas. They will just need to request to join. If anyone has any better ideas due to the set up or navigation being confusing, let me know.

I want to emphasize that I would love to gain followers who are interested in the cause to help young people become interested and enthusiastic in learning. I have said this before, but my goal is to inspire students to be curious and in awe at all there is to know- lifelong learners. I want them to be confident in their ability to access whatever it is that they want learn. I want to give them the opportunity to be as hands-on with math as possible. On my blog, I will be posting the topics my students are learning. If there are any business people, engineers, researchers, doctors, physicists, economists, anyone! who has had hands-on experience with the topics I teach, please, teach my students and me.

Pre-Algebra:  This week, we will be wrapping up a fairly involved lesson on fractions then we will be moving into ratios and proportions. I went through the book at first. Basically, I did the typical drill the skill of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing fractions. We worked a lot of the book first. Then, I had them create a model of my bathroom scaled to be 1/8 of the actual size. I did post the worksheets and the rubric I used for this project on the wiki (

Overall the project went well. I would like to do this project again next year. I will be changing a lot about it. For one, I will be making days strictly for working on the worksheets. I had a problem with getting my students to do the work that would result in accurate scaling. There was a lot of down-time which I would have to really prompt my students to multitask and do the paperwork that would prepare them for the next step. For example, while they were gluing sticks together to create the 2x4's, they would literally be watching glue dry before I would go over to them and push them to be working on measuring outlet boxes, or measuring and scaling the next object to me made/constructed.

Algebra: We are going to be moving into quadratic equations and factoring.

Precalculus: We are going to be learning the Law of Cosines this week. We will then be learning about vectors. I am excited to be presenting them with one activity this week. I am in the process of planning a plane vs. wind activity. Students will be working in pairs- one student will be a plane and the other student the wind. The wind will be applying a certain force on the plane with the desire to get the plane off course. The plane will be trying to get to a certain location by taking the wind into account. I will be posting that up shortly.

Calculus: We just got into integration and the antiderivative. We will start off this week by finding the area underneath a curve. This year, being the first year teaching calculus for me, I have not been happy with the pace I started out with at the beginning of the year. I started teaching with the book as a guide for my lessons. As a result, I dedicated too much time to the review of precalculus content. Next year, I know exactly which things we will focus on as review. Now that I have taught precalculus, I know exactly what the students have been exposed to in the precalculus class. I also know what my calculus students had difficulty remembering and thus what I will need to focus on as review.

 I will definitely be focusing on the rational root test and other concepts with graphing polynomial and rational functions.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Working on a Webpage

I have never been much of a person who journals. In fact, I will be frank and state that I dread thinking about the time I will be putting into writing these blogs. I will therefore do a forewarning and promise to myself that I will not over think these sessions of blogging. I accept I will be most un-entertaining. I am going to try to keep these short and sweet, and I may be all over the place with my line of topics. 

As my first blog suggested, I have a mission in blogging and I will keep to it:
~ I want to keep documentation and grow from my experiences
~  Mostly, I want to develop my teaching by collaborating with other teachers
~ I will pursue finding, collecting, and creating the math lessons that will stick with my students, get them excited and confident with problem-solving, and help them see the power of learning.

Today, I had a hold up in starting this "place" of collaboration. First, I am still trying to decide whether it will be a webpage or a wiki. I am more familiar with wikis, so I think I will be going with that. If anyone has any suggestions I will gladly take them. 

Second, my launch of the ultimate lesson sharing location was annoyingly held up because I was having issues with finding a space that would allow me to freely write equations in if I needed. I think I have found a solution:   Thank you Roger. I apparently just need to master LateX...

At this point, I really need to sink my heart into the idea of using a wiki to create this project. I will be posting soon, hopefully, about the wiki I have created.

Look what I can do:
Believe it, or not, putting this equation on was really hard for me to do. It actually disappeared overnight too. I just found out I have to go to Roger's site, type in the LateX code, get the site to convert it as an image file, save it on my desktop, and then upload/insert it as in image here. Whew! There she is.

Math Revelations and Genesis

I seek the ultimate group of collaboration that will build and share the ultimate lessons with one another. To go ahead and loosely give definition to “ultimate lessons”:  they are the lessons that make students understand the concepts they are learning by making them wonder enough that they think, they work, and they succeed in solving a problem. When students take their books home to practice concept skills, they should be able to hope for an eventual enlightening, interesting activity that will showcase and force those skills out of them.  We all know formative tests do not always make that cut of what the students are hoping for. We all know formative tests do not always make those concepts stick.

 I am a first year teacher, and I may sound na├»ve, but I know I am very small right now in a very big picture. I feel like for every one awesome lesson or activity that comes through to my classrooms, I should have had three more. But every night, I find myself struggling to gear myself with the expertise of applications and ability to create real life activities.  I feel like my life consists of searching and creating. I search for the jackpot resource that has the ultimate lessons. In reality, I search and search to find bits and pieces. Then I find myself building and creating the activities that I hope will become the ultimate lessons.  Am I just not looking in the right places? 

I have this burn to make something happen because I had heartbreak in my classroom. I teach a freshmen pre-algebra class at a high school. We are doing a unit on operations of fractions. I decided to do an activity that dealt with taking a coloring book picture, cutting it onto equal rectangle pieces and having each student enlarge this piece by a scale factor of 3. To sum up the cause of heartbreak, I found out my students could not measure and cut out a rectangle that had the dimensions 4.5 inches x 8.24 inches. It came down mostly to not being able to use the ruler. Blank stares were the response of the task. I asked a student to just point out 3 ½ to me. Her response was she did not know what all the lines meant.

THIS CANNOT HAPPEN. I need to know that all of these standards that we are teaching and being guided by are actually being reached. I look around my trig class some days and just know they are not receiving what I am teaching. I can sound excited about my content. I can selectively call on students to get them more involved and "engaged". But, I feel the only way to know they are receiving these skills is if my students are truly engaged on their own terms. Thus, I seek the ultimate lessons.

I am on Twitter and I am making this blog in the hope of building collaboration. I will be making a website, maybe a wiki, in order to create a spot of collaboration and ultimate lesson sharing. I am desperate to follow other teachers like me, and I am desperate to share my lessons with followers. 

I just want to improve, and I know I am improving and developing at a much slower rate than what is possible. I always tell my students that they have no excuse not to find what they are looking for when technology has put everything at the tip of their fingertips. I am looking for the ultimate group of collaboration. Please, help me!