Sunday, May 22, 2011


Plots of quadratic equations with discriminant...Image via WikipediaI overheard someone say they thought it was amazing that teachers would give up a Saturday to go to a home grown professional development. I don’t think so. I thought, cool free conference, free breakfast, and free lunch.

Having never been to an unconference I wasn’t sure what to expect. My wife asked me if I wasn’t going to dress a bit better as I was walking out the door. I would have looked pretty silly in a suit and tie.

After the free breakfast, (courtesy of Lenovo I think) we all got together in the auditorium to create the schedule. If you want to lead something or learn something put the idea on a piece of paper and put the paper on the big board, the only requirement is if you create the session you must show up. I didn’t create a session, it kind of caught me by surprise (why I don’t know). With the schedule made we were off.

My first session was the future of the book. When will publishers get the idea that the e-book needs to be more than a paper book. It starts with shared note taking, then continues with animation (a math problem being solved for example), but that is just the beginning. Technology doesn’t just look cool, it gives us the ability to connect, to interact, to change, and to create. If a publisher isn’t going to do that, than it is high time we started doing so. I thought of the amount of work some of our teachers did in adding to the math textbook the high school just bought and I thought, “Would it really be that much more of a stretch to make your own book?”

My second session was on Standards Based Grading, SBG. I’m a big fan of SBG. What is better feedback, Student A scored a C on the last quiz or Student A recognizes the shape of a quadratic graph, recognizes the the standard form of a quadratic equation, but not the factored form, and student A cannot find the solutions to a quadratic equation. It seems like a no brainer, but I suppose some folks will disagree. For some interesting reading of a teacher using SBG in the classroom check out this blog. The best part thought was that the founders of ACtiveGrade, Riley and Michel, came from Iowa just to participate. (I love when these former teachers trying to improve education keep in touch with educators). They also gave away a free 1 year subscription but I didn’t win.

The fourth session for me was “Bringing Google Apps to your district/school”. I love my google stuff, all my documents online, multi-users editing stuff at the same time, email, etc... It seems that google even goes so far as to create a special education only user agreement if a school wants to add Google Apps. The money savings on IT work alone is amazing. Not to mention the free archiving of every email. I created a list of the the links shared during that session.

Session 4 was learning to program for the iphone (really I’d rather program for android, but whatever). I don’t really know anything about programming, but I keep some ideas for apps on a little list so if I every figure out how to program I’ll have something to do. We had three people in that group on none of us really had actually programmed for a phone before, though the other two did at least some experience in programming. They shared some resources which I compiled into a list here. The app inventor looks a bit like Scratch so I think that might be about my speed.

I missed out on the “what to do if you don’t have any technology in the classroom” however our own Mathew Foster attended that one. I have the video which I uploaded to youtube. He tells me he is planning on creating a few flipped classes for next year.

Near the end of the day some folks got together to have what they call a smackdown. As I understand it this is where a bunch of people get together and share some of the web 2.0 tools they are using in their classrooms. Someone took notes and the list of tools can be found here.

The day ended with the prize giveaways. A bunch of t-shirts and stuff from Intel. Some free online conference subscription from SimpleK12, a one year subscription to ActiveGrade, a document camera from Aver, and a touch screen computer from Lenovo (They have given a bunch of these to edtech bloggers to give away, do I get one, nope. that’s alright I didn’t win an iPad either, when they were hot and everyone was giving them away).

All in all a great day. I got breakfast, lunch, a couple of cases of left over juice, and a whole bunch of learning all for free. Well sort of I made the name tags for everyone and that ran a few bucks, but if I had remembered to turn in my receipts I could have gotten some money back from that.

I can’t wait until next year, unless of course if all those (so called lazy, over paid) Wisconsin educators who invaded our conference will organize an EdCampMadison.
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Sunday, May 15, 2011

SIP Day introduction to New Algebra curriculum (textbook)

I went to the Algebra-Geometry professional development at the high school. The district has decided to go with a traditional textbook from Pearson, “Algebra Foundations” and Geometry Foundations”, that has been updated with a lot of 21st century razzle dazzle.
Karla and a few of our math teachers have taken the time to go through the entire series with a fine toothed comb. They have created a binder and web site to help teachers quickly identify the necessary content that meets current and future standards. They also created alternative Solve it activities to better introduce some of the sections.
The textbook is designed using the principals of Understanding by Design, Grant Wiggins was a consultant. Each chapter has Big Ideas and Essential Questions.
At the beginning of each chapter are seven 21st century additions.
Video introduction
Real students introduce the chapter and explain how it is applicable to the real world.
Math vocabulary
The vocabulary is recorded so students can hear the words.
Solve it
A launch problem designed to introduce each section - we may have substituted our own.
Dynamic Activities
Interactive graphs and such so student can connect Algebra to graphs.
The examples are solved online or on the DVD with narration.
Online Homework
Each student can be given their assignments online.
Extra Practice
Self explanatory.
The entire textbook is online. (All teachers can and should be able to get access if you don’t ask me or Karla, or another teacher for the code)
  • If you use the stock examples the student can replay it at home though not with your words.
  • Teachers can create separate classes with individual students.
  • Assignments can be created (well they are already created) and assigned to your virtual class.
    • There seem to be three standard types of assignments games - worksheets - and tutorials.
    • I watched one tutorial it might be a good review or supplementary lesson, the one I watched did not include the objective or a summary.
  • If you prefer every student in all of your classes can access the online textbook under the same user name and password.

The online textbook doesn’t seem to track time spent on the assignment or give a grade when the student is finished. The student can click a button that notifies the teacher when they have finished an assignment.
The Entire textbook is on DVD. Same as above, but when your student tries to claim s/he doesn’t have Internet access you can give them the DVD. (We have rights to make copies as needed)