Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Blog Post #6

Dr. Randy Pausch - The Last Lecture

DVD cover of The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

First and foremost we need to understand that the last lecture "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" was not just a lecture for the audience that was there. It was a life lesson for his children which is something he wanted to leave with and for his children while he could. He knew they wouldn't understand what he was telling them now, but in the future, it would be something inspiring for them from a dad that loved them deeply.

From Dr. Pausch's last lecture you could see what type of person he was. Why is this important? It is important because a person's teaching style comes from their personality. I believe you can usually quickly assess a person’s personality and from there determine how they will teach. Dr. Pausch said in his lecture, there is good in everybody and you just have to wait to see it. Based on that comment alone, you can see that he was not going to give up on his students and it was proven throughout his career. His lecture was like he said "how to lead your life" because he believed that if you lead your life the right way, your dreams would come to you.

Leaf medallion with phrase on it from Dr. Randy Pausch
Dr. Pausch enjoyed having fun with what he was teaching and telling interesting stories. His life was an open book for all of us to see and grow from. He definitely wanted you to learn but he also wanted you to have fun while learning. He taught one very valuable lesson. It was to never give up on your dreams. If you give up on your dreams, you end up settling for less than your full potential and happiness is never achieved. Dr. Pausch did what was necessary to make sure his students were successful. He showed gratitude toward those that helped him become successful and he was able to use "head fakes" throughout his career to get his students to learn.

Dr. Pausch achieved so much because his students learned and grew from their experiences with him. The ETC masters program he created was an example of this. It is amazing that companies were guaranteeing his students jobs once they finished the program. It is also amazing that the semesters were simply planned with only 5 projects but the end results were priceless. The students wanted to do well for Dr. Pausch and that is a tribute to the way he worked with students. They were like this because he allowed them to be creative with their work and was not quick to tell them they failed. Mistakes are bound to happen; it's what you do after the mistake is made that determines the quality of your work.

Dr. Pausch was like a pioneer for project/problem based learning and I have to believe it is because of the success that he achieved that so many embrace this type of learning today. Project Based Learning was not something that you did so your students could get a grade, it was something that was done because I believe he knew it could change society. Projects are meant to create change and that is exactly what he and his students at Carnegie-Mellon did. I can truly say that he has inspired me to push my students to their limits. I now want them to explore what appears to be impossible and create using what they have learned throughout their lifetime. I truly appreciate Dr. Pausch for what he has taught us about learning. His work won't be forgotten!

picture of kids exploring and quote by Michelle Hlubinka

Dr. Pausch was a dying man but he did not want anyone to pity him. He had accomplished his dreams and had lived a wonderful life. Yes, he could have lived longer and done even more for the world but it was his time to go. The mere fact that we are still talking about him today and everything he accomplished means his quality of work was excellent. A man should not only be known for what he is doing now but also for the accomplishments he has achieved in the past. If you want your life to speak to others and to be known long after you are gone, you have to make a mark. Dr. Randy Pausch did this in more ways than he could ever think of. Dr. Pausch was a scholar, inspirer, lecturer, learner, and most of all visionary. His vision will continue to live on in all that knew him and especially in his children.

Project #5

Project - Project/Problem/Challenge Based Learning Plan #2

This project based learning plan is similar to the one done collaboratively with Sarah Richerson. In this project, we continue to use www.desmos.com to create pictures using graphs. In this project the focus is on creating a bridge using only quadratic and linear functions. This project will again be done in groups of four using the team approach. Students are to create structurally sound bridges using math equations and explain why the bridges will hold up regardless of material used based on the functions that they have used. Having learned a lot about functions (during this unit) and researching bridges and getting help from the teacher, they should be able to tell which linear and quadratic functions create the best bridges. I have also created a rubric and used a peer evaluation form to help push the students to work together and accomplish a task collectively. This project is bound to be a lot of fun but only if students realize the implications of things done correctly and how what they have learned can benefit society.
Picture of the Golden Gate Bridge with a ship about to go under it that states Yang Ming Line

Here is a link to the project lesson plan: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lYd5wstJtUG9hmg_l8-5-XXaxgfHlQMUrr8xMz6fRQg/edit?usp=sharing
Here is a link to the rubric: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Y1rSeKl935DrOH1Hh2qvHdKe4hTwwcosDrJwAzEj6GU/edit?usp=sharing
Here is a link to the peer evaluation form: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ilEj4zGTIjA_vkCNbgSA0h_qyiR_z5DfxgQN_e_C6lU/edit?usp=sharing
It can also be seen on my site: https://sites.google.com/site/rambosfunpage/

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Project #4

Project Based Learning Lesson Plan

picture of Ania's Stopwatch created using Desmos.com

Here is a link to my site where you will find my Project Based Learning Lesson Plan and supporting documents done collaboratively with Sarah Richerson. The project was more of a cad design project using math functions and an online graphing calculator. It takes a lot of thought by the students but is achievable. The final products should be useful for modern society or the future.
Tennis Racquet created on desmos.com

Here is a link to the project: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1LT_utwSJnrsK9lH9HJaE2EufKJuF7peD0rZ8r4N3L1U/edit?usp=sharing
Here is a link to the rubric: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Nm6uBYbIJph6m2Gm3l7DS7GhdvvcL-XqygGYHFv88fs/edit?usp=sharing
Here is a link to the peer evaluation form: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uEXxl1YKenL28pWM7JStFCTg36GDYofQwciMK_zJbxs/edit?usp=sharing

Blog Post #5

Questions: What are we really asking?

We begin the post by describing what a question is. A question is a probing for information about a specific subject from a source (as defined by me). The dictionary defines a question as a sentence in an interrogative form, addressed to someone in order to get information in reply. Now for me this is basically the same as my definition of a question with the source being someone and probing being a sentence in an interrogative form. So, what does this have to do with questions asked in the classroom. Well, now that we can correctly identify what a question is we can determine what type of response we will get. If the source does not have the information they cannot respond to your question, so is your probing in vain? A lot of times in the classroom it is. We have to ask questions that we know the students have an answer to. Most times these are open ended questions but they don't have to be if we know the student has an answer. We only need to ask questions in which we know an answer is inevitable. This could be a question like "What part of this equation don't you understand?" They'll answer with what part they don't understand, or they will say that they don't understand any of it, or they will say that they understand it completely. This in my opinion, is a good question.

green chalkboard and some erasers, the board says Any Questions?
The Teaching Center have these strategies that you should keep in mind when asking questions:
1. When planning questions, keep in mind your course goals. This is a great strategy because it requires that you focus the attention of your question on something you want the students to learn. This way you can test what you have taught and then determine if further explanation is needed.
2. Follow a “yes-or- no” question with an additional question. This I really like because it requires all of your students to be thinking about the question. Just because you asked one person a yes or no question does not mean that you will not go to another student for more information. It also doesn't mean that the student you asked the question is just done with a yes or no answer. It may prepare the students to give further details if you do this enough as they know a follow-up question will be coming.
3. In class discussions, do not ask more than one question at once. This is important for two reasons. The first reason is that students have trouble focusing on more than one question at a time. The second reason is that it allows you to ask more questions based on the answer given by the student. It encourages discussion that might come from a question then and answer and then another question and another answer.
4. Ask a mix of different types of questions. This may be implied from what I have stated above but it only goes to show that a mix of types of questions may also help generate discussion. You don't just want to ask open-ended questions and you definitely don't just want to ask yes and no questions. The mix will keep students off guard but if you always ask questions, they will anticipate some type of question from you.

Maryellen Weimer, PhD stated this in The Teaching Professor Blog and I found it in an article called: "Three Ways to Ask Better Questions in the Classroom" on a Faculty Focus site:
1. Prepare Questions
2. Play with Questions
3. Preserve Good Questions
Now all three of these are good ideas but I have slightly varying opinions on what she suggests. While I agree that you need to prepare questions. You want to base your questions on what is perceived to be misunderstood. Usually you can tell what students don't understand by the confused look on their faces. This way you can direct the question and focus on the confusion instead of a pre-planned question that may or may not be worth asking. I guess this kind of goes with the play with questions that she suggests. If you play with questions you can see what students understand and what they don't. When they finally answer questions that required more thought they may have put the thought into it and then again, they may not. You can tell but does it mean that it was not a good question because the students did not put enough thought into it. You really can't tell but you will see how much the students care about the question. I don't think preserve good questions is necessarily a key. Yes, you can ask it again in a later class or maybe the next quarter or semester but you can also think of more questions by then. Good questions should be kept for no longer than 1 year and if kept longer than that, used no more than 2 times in a 5 year period. That way students can't communicate to other students what question you will ask. I say, "keep them on their toes", ask as many new question as you can knowing that eventually you will run out and have to repeat. The more time in between them the better.

To sum this all up, I would like to address what has been known as the most famous question taxonomy, Bloom's Taxonomy. Bloom and his associates indicated that we should ask questions dealing with these 6 different cognitive functions:
The first level—Knowledge—asks students to recall information.
The second level—Comprehension—asks students to put information in another form.
The third level—Application—asks students to apply known facts, principles, or generalizations to solve a problem.
The fourth level—Analysis—asks students to identify and comprehend elements of a process, communication, or series of events.
The fifth level—Synthesis—requires students to engage in original creative thinking.
The sixth level—Evaluation—asks students to determine how closely a concept or idea is consistent with standards or values.(Volger)
basic picture of bloom's taxonomy and the different levels of thinking
Now, all of these types of questions have their place but I believe we should focus on those that require critical thinking. What I mean by this is that we should really be asking comprehension questions and questions about real-life applications. But we should not forget that we want students to reflect on the answers they are giving, so giving them questions which require analysis is excellent. Also, synthesis questions are excellent because it requires individuality and finally evaluation but not for the reason you may think. I like evaluation because it requires students to compare and contrast, thus getting them into the habit of research. Now, all of these types of questions aren't applicable for exams, in fact the first two types are probably the most applicable for exams but the others will be useful when students are learning PBL skills. By having these types of questions, they are required to use what they have learned but also find applications of what they have learned and think of ways in which to improve their society as a whole.

picture of a bunch of different color arms and hands reaching for the stars
We should be asking questions that require creativity within our students. We should be asking the questions that require them to go out and seek knowledge: knowledge far beyond what we could ever teach them. If we ask these types of questions applying part of Bloom's Taxonomy, varying our questions, preparing questions or even giving questions as prompted by the students’ answers that require research, we will get more out of our students. If you really want to see what a student knows or is capable of, challenge them. Challenge the student to be themselves! If they don't know who they are, challenge the students to discover themselves! Challenge the students to surprise you! These are goals for the students that will not only benefit them, but it will also benefit you as a teacher because the answers they will return based on their perceived/real ability will probably be far better than you could ever expect. Students are capable of a lot. Let's not limit them with questions that don't really matter in the long run. Let them reveal something in them to you that they didn't even know existed!

References: Kenneth E. Vogler (Bloom's Taxonomy), Asking Good Questions, http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/summer08/vol65/num09/Asking-Good-Questions.aspx
Maryellen Weimer, PhD,Three Ways to Ask Better Questions in the Classroom,http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/three-ways-to-ask-better-questions-in-the-classroom/
The Teaching Center,Asking Questions to Improve Learning, http://teachingcenter.wustl.edu/strategies/Pages/asking-questions.aspx#.Uyd5MfmwJRc

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

C4K Summary 1

Summary of Comments for Kids 1

My first summary comes from a posting by a student named Josh. Josh posted about sledding and it was a relatively good post. I stated how I used to go sledding and how I really enjoyed it. I explained to him how fun it was and stated how I could envision what he was describing in his post. I told him it was an excellent post and told him he could be a writer some day. That sums up my comment for Josh.

My next summary comes from a posting by a student named Tatiana. Tatiana did a Color Poem and I commented on how it sounds like her Color Poem was very interesting and to personify it was just genius. I stated that I tried to click on the link and read it but it didn't work for me. I stated that I wish I could have read it because based on her description it sounds like it is awesome. That was about it for my comment on Tatiana's post.

My next summary comes from a posting by a student named Harley. His post was on birth stones. I indicated that I was excited about his post because our birthday is in the same month which meant we both had the same birthstone, diamond. I indicated that we might share the same birthday…you never know. He also created a tellagami and I complemented him on his tellagami. That was my comment for Harley.
a picture of a diamond

My next summary comes from a posting by a student named Elizabeth. Elizabeth's post was saddening and I informed her of that. She had been hurt by another student. I offered one piece of advice and that was to not hold on to unforgiveness. I empathized with her and stated that she should learn from the past and learn how to trust again. That was my comment for Elizabeth.

My next summary comes from a posting by a student named Amber. I commented on how her blog seemed like a lot of fun. It was a quote blog. I stated that the quote she chose was inspiring and it provides wisdom. I also commented on the design of her blog. That summed up my post for Amber.

My next summary comes from a posting by kidblog97. I stated that kidblog97 provided wisdom beyond their years which means they have learned a lot since 1997. I explained how I understood the situation this person was in. I stated that they had handled their situation well. I stated that he/she was right when they said that their true friends are the people that stick with them and is there for them no matter what. I explained how I have two really true friends that are there for me anytime I need them. I explained how this person had done excellent work. I couldn't tell if kidblog97 was a boy or a girl, but I assume that kidblog97 is a girl. The post was deep and good. This sums up my comment for kidblog97.

C4T Semester Long Chosen by Me #1

Ramsey Willis Semester Long C4T Summary 1

The teacher I decided to select for my semester long C4T is Dave Sladkey. My first summary comes from a post on "8 Ways to Incorporate Empathy into Your Teaching". That post showed how to get involved with your students and show them that you care about them. I commented on how I particularly liked his section on getting the parents involved by calling early. I stated that by doing this, you can quickly determine which parents will truly be involved with their child's education. That was the basis of my first comment on Mr. Sladkey's post.

My second comment for Mr. Sladkey was a continuation from the first comment. Dave commented back so I commented in response to his comment. I stated that I know calling home early to all of his students could be difficult but it seems like he is on the right track. I also stated that I am glad that he sees the value in a triangle relationship. That was the basis for the second comment.

My third comment for Mr. Sladkey was a comment on his and his students use of Desmos.com. I stated that I loved the way he made learning functions and graphs fun for the students by using this online calculator. I told him that I viewed a number of them and could see the creativity in his students. I stated that they were all different and all interesting in their own way. I also shared that this seemed like something I may be able to do with my classroom in the future. It was a fun posting but interesting as well as useful for a math teacher. That sums of that comment.
Happy Face created using math formulas on Des-man

My fourth comment for Mr. Sladkey again involves Desmos.com. I stated to Dave that I am subbing and have shared the Desmos.com opportunity with a group of juniors. I stated how they enjoyed helping me figure out how to create a face on there and, although time consuming, it was fun. I went on to thank Dave for his inspiration and that sums up this comment.

C4T Semester Long Assigned by Dr. Strange #1

Dr. Strange Semester Long C4T Summary 1

My semester long teacher that I will leave comments on is Will Richardson. He always has interesting posts but I will summarize my comments left on his posts. In my first comment I commented on a posting about Discovery "Double Talk". I talked about how I, unlike some others, see and understand that a lot of teachers think they know what is best for the students and the truth is they are a lot of the times, clueless. I commented on how he was correct when he said that "our" better assessments, curriculum, and uses of technology are not transferring ownership of learning to children. I described that teachers are pushing more of what they want and not looking at what will probably be beneficial for the student. I concluded that we should be providing better ways for students to learn what they need to survive in the 21st century.

My second comment for Will was on "How Common is the Common Core?" This posting was very controversial and thus I had to include my input. I basically stated that the common core, although meant to be a good thing, still isn't very common. I summed up by stating that without having the same resources all over, you cannot have a common core curriculum that works well for all.

Picture of a robot family
My third comment for Will was on "A World Upended…Get Ready". This article was basically about people making a decision about the future who would not be around then. We are talking about a total digital world. I stated that it was scary for our children and our children's children. I stated that the people that will be retiring are the people that are making these unscrupulous decisions about education and are basically eliminating a livable future for their children. I stated that the balance is leaving and as such, you could see this first world America become just like a third world country. I summed it up by stating that we could see a robotic world as predicted.

My fourth comment for Will was on "SAT as Scandal". I commented on how the article showed how our education system in America was failing us. I stated that the SAT would never be a good test because the education is not the same. I stated that students think they know what they need to know and are prepared but that may not be the truth. I summed it up by stating that, as educators, and parents we need to advocate for the dissolution of the standardized tests because no educational experience is standardized.

C4T Rotating Summary 1

Rotating Teachers C4T Summary

For my first rotating C4T I commented on a posting by Andrea Kerr. I introduced myself to her and she had just completed a project on exponents so I commented on that. I commented on how I loved that she encouraged group activities as it gets students to teach each other, thus reinforcing what they have learned. I also mentioned how I liked the fact that she used fun games to introduce or help provide a deeper understanding of topics like exponentials. That was the basis of my comment for Andrea.

For my second rotating C4T I commented on a posting by Mary Worrell. She had a posting on multigenre projects and because I hadn't completed one before I commented on how what they are learning would be useful for higher education. She had made some mistakes on a project like this in the past and had learned from her mistakes. I commented about how teachers should also be learning even if it is from what is done right and wrong. That summarizes my comment for Mary.

Picture of makeymakey project using paper to play PacMan
For my third and fourth rotating C4T I commented on a posting by Eric Langhorst. I got him two weeks in a row and I don't believe that was intentional but nonetheless, here are my summaries. My first summary of Mr. Langhorst is about the Makey Makey project and the industrial revoltution. It was a great post about how the students invented/made a virtual keyboard using Makey Makey. He used this project to show them how people invented stuff during the industrial revolution. It was a great post, with great pictures. My second summary of Mr. Langhorst is again on his use of technology for inventions. I commented on how I was happy that we had a teacher that encouraged their students to be inventors. They were again working with Makey Makey and other tools like that so it was not much more to say. Again, it was a good post.
Picture of bananas used to act as a makeymakey keyboard

Project #3 Presentation

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Blog Post #4

Technological Changes In Education

Teaching has changed a lot since I was in school. I am in my mid 30's and primarily went to school in the 80's and 90's. Not only has teaching changed but it has been influenced significantly by changes in technology. During my high school years, the PC was not the major commodity it is now. It was a luxury to even have a computer in your home so most people that I knew did not. I learned how to type on an electric typewriter and that was a big thing because it was electric. My first word processor was a Brother word processor and it worked primarily like a typewriter except for the fact that it did not print what you were typing until you were totally finished with a line (I believe). It was definitely advanced for my time. Computers were a thing of the future. The computer language C++ was extremely new and becoming a breakthrough in modern society. I learned how to program a computer using the language Basic and then I moved up to Cobol although engineers was using the high tech Pascal language. Computers were new, ingenious, expensive, and windows was just starting to become a big name at that time. That right there should tell you how much has changed but if you don't realize it yet, read on. The World Wide Web, now just WWW was also relatively new when I was in high school. Although scientists new there was a way to connect with individuals, basically through their studies and ARPANET, WWW didn't start to really take off until the mid 90's. "By January 1993 there were fifty Web servers across the world; by October 1993 there were over five hundred." (Raggett et al, 1996. p. 21) Thus, the history of the cloud is only really about 20 years old or so.
Picture of the 1975 ARPANET Map

Given a little history on how much technology I did not grow up using, we can begin to really discuss the changes as we see them today. Today, the cloud has become part of everyday education. If you don't have a computer in your home, you better have access to one. Many individuals over the age of 60 don't have computers or use them very little as part of their everyday lives. This is to no surprise to me so if your parents are older and you are a modern student, you better be able to convince them that you need this for success in school. But why the change? Why has technology become such a vital part of education? The answer lies in career availability. Not now, but in the future, we believe. Teachers and administrators alike realize or should realize that 20 years from now, our job market will be totally different and the only true way to try and prepare students for it is to keep them aware of technological changes and encourage them to look for and develop advancements that may be needed in the future.

Image of chairs in a circle and two computers in the middle with people coming out of the computer shaking hands
Project based learning appears to be the key, but who knows for sure how much this is preparing students for an unforecastable future. The things that I see as useful no matter what the future holds is that students are collaborating, exploring, and seeking out solutions to problems that they discover. As long as the earth exists, people will need to know how to work together, people will discover new things about where they live, and there will always be problems that need to be resolved. These important life tools are being learned by Mr. Capps 3rd graders and I am sure they are being learned by the students of other proponents of project based learning. That is definitely a good thing but what happens to those students that aren't receiving this same type of education? Are they being left behind in a society where No Child is Left Behind or does it not really matter what tools they are using as long as they are learning the same things? To sum it up, you cannot be learning the same thing if the playing field is not the same for all. Those students that have the tools (including teachers) that are willing to explore, do more with technology and demand (gracefully) that their students really learn are the students that will be creating the future. The rest, although not totally behind because they still have access to technology, will likely be the ones working for those students who had the insight to know and create a future that will "hopefully" benefit society. But, who knows if they will need workers. Robots are constantly being developed and are becoming more and more advanced. You need to be the creator and then your robot will do what you want it to do, thus possibly foregoing the need for a human worker. Students are still being left behind!!!

Based on what I know about technology, the primary question that comes to mind when using PBL (Project Based Learning) is: Is it too much autonomy for such young children? Children usually need direction. Are the proponents of PBL providing enough direction for their students? The answer is simple. Are the students learning, really learning what their teachers really want them to learn? If so, they have been given enough instruction or direction. If not, maybe their approach needs to be revisited as they reflect on where they may have gone wrong. After reviewing the videos and listening to Mr. Capps, it is clear that his students are learning what he intended for them to learn, in fact, they are learning more than he expected thus showing us as teachers that children are capable of so much more absent limitations that may exist in today's society.

Classroom full of kids using different forms of technology in their educational experience
Still, there exists some reluctance among me and others who did not grow up using this modern technology. I see the usefulness of it but also question the safety of even search engines like iCurio, which is a dedicated search engine for children. Who's to say that one persons view of what is ok for their child, is ok for all children? While some people don't have problems with the music and entertainment industry that exists today, there is a lot I try to limit my children's exposure of. But, on iCurio and other search engines dedicated to children's research, the editors may believe that some things are ok to view or hear as long as it is not showing too much or saying what society feels is inappropriate. So, for this reason you really have to search and search and then determine what is ok for your child because it may be different than what somebody else believes. A prime example of this was the student that couldn't do the Afghanistan project like the rest of their class because of their father's objection. To Mr. Capps it was perfectly fine but to the parent it was not. This will continue to happen but as teachers, we just need to learn how to be flexible.

I've researched some appropriate 12th grade ACCR Standards for writing an essay like this and they include, but are not limited to:
1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. [W.11-12.1]
2. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences. [W.11-12.3]
3. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. [W.11-12.4]
4. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information. [W.11-12.6]
All of these standards are useful and should be used by anyone in a graduate or undergraduate program. These are basics that show what a writer's intentions are and how the writer can validate their statements.

Finally, I would like to close by stating these few things. I believe Project Based Learning (PBL) will be a great tool for students at any level. It will teach students to use their own brain and not just rely on what they are told. I believe it will be a while before all teachers are open to using technology in a way that enables and supports PBL, thus students will still be left behind. If the WWW can grow like it did in 20 years, who knows what will happen in the next 20 years with such extreme advancements in technology. We will all find out, so be prepared!

Raggett, Dave; Lam, Jenny; Alexander, Ian (1996) HTML 3. Electronic Publishing on the World Wide Web
Bice, Thomas R (2013) 2013 Revised Alabama Course of Study: English Language Arts