Friday, July 28, 2006

Technology In The Classroom

I recommend you read this blog entry from a Canadian math teacher. You'll need to read it to understand the rest of this entry, which is related to an issue I wrote about a few days ago. What follows is my comment to what was written about in the other teacher's blog. His insights are good, and I suggest you bookmark his site.

Be distinct or be extinct? I don't think so. What is the point of being distinct only for its own sake? Why be distinct if it does nothing to improve learning? True, one reason for the use of technology in education (like videos) is to motivate students, but a teacher should recognize that there is a point beyond which a teacher's use of technology is chasing after the students' fads. That makes us beggars, not teachers i.e. beyond a certain point, I'd be begging the students to pay attention to the course content.

Videos and other media are from the arts, and perhaps they are best used in the teaching of the arts. There is a place for them in the teaching of math and science, but let's face it, there will also ALWAYS be a more highly prioritized place for "chalk and talk" in math and science. Math and science rely on symbols and ideas which cannot always be best, nor easily, represented in other media.

I believe the question I ask is similar to yours: are the kids who are making videos learning the curriculum or are they learning how to make videos? Which is being stressed? I have experimented with the use of videos on my blog, and I'm thinking that with the tools that are FREELY available, the students would be concentrating on the technology and not the math. Video production has a steep learning curve. The experiments on my blog will attest to that.

However, I am not going to exclude the idea of using videos. When students can make tools, like videos, they are motivated, especially when they know the tools will be used by others. To ensure that the students concentrate on learning the math, I think I will develop other tools to make the production of videos much simpler. But that will take a lot of time.

Ahhhh, time. I have discovered in my first year of teaching that this profession is a balance between giving the time you want to give to the students and giving yourself time for having a life. :^)

I think I will post this comment on my blog. May I link to your blog?

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006


  • Stick to the lesson plan.
  • Don't hesitate to write on the board what is already on the paper.
  • Slow down--for one thing, it will make my writing neater.
  • Be more more organized and neater on board.
  • Don't be afraid to tell students to be quiet.

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Test 6--to determine initial size of graph that's best for uploading

I want to determine how to best make a graph, for discrete probabilities, on my desktop so that it shows well on my blog. The graph below was made with Smarttech, with the default graph.

Conclusion: it must be made bigger than the default in Smarttech, because the graph above is too small.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Math Blogging vs. Arts Blogging

I regularly read the blogs of several teachers who use blogging as a part of their teaching. Only one of them teaches math and the rest teach courses in the arts. Two examples are here and here, and another (from my town) is here. I won't include all of the URLs because there are so many and because I want this post to be a summary of the arguments. Their ideas sound great, but I keep reading a lot of theory and not much of what is practical. I'll finish reading a blog entry and think "that sounds great, but what do I DO?" Much of what they write is great for teaching the arts but needs modification when teaching math and science. Don't tell me that our schools need more problem-based learning, that involves digital tools, to help the students solve the problems. I knew that from the time I was in the Faculty of Education! Many of us know that to maximize learning, students need the freedom to experiment, make mistakes in those experiments, and start again. Tell me instead how I can get the board to buy the digital tools, and let me have (or see) some course outlines and lesson plans that involve those digital tools. In return, I would contribute some of my lesson plans and BLMs (Black Line Masters i.e. handouts).

The majority of these teachers teach classes in the arts, such as History or English. So they write about giving an open-ended question to the class and letting student groups deterimine the answer, with little guidance from the teacher. The teachers write of not recognizing answers as right or wrong. They emphasize the process, not the answer. Due to the phrasing used, these teacher-blogs can lead one to believe that the students are just dying to blog about the homework assignment, because all that is mentioned are those reactions to blogging from the students who are enthusiastic for blogging. Nobody, however, is giving an estimate on what percentage of the class is enjoying the blogging.

In my opinion, the ideas they put forth sound great for arts classes. But could you see a math teacher telling the class "we've seen average, mean, and mode. Now here is the equation for standard deviation. It is the average deviation of all data points from the average of the data points. Tell me why this equation makes sense." Or "your answer of the calculation is neither right or wrong, it's the process." I don't think so. There has to be more guidance from the math teacher. The lecture format will always have a place in math instruction. And there is the point of time--many curriculum expectations mandated to be taught in 1 semester allow for limited experimenting done by the students. Also, my experience tells me that there will always be students who don't give a damn about blogging or learning, they just want the credit to get into university.

These blogging teachers stress making the content relevant to the lives of the students. This is an excellent idea. I do want to make the math more relevant to the students, but that is very tough. For example, how does one make derivatives (from Calculus) relevant to students? It is possible, I'm sure, but this confidence is based more on gut feeling and my strong faith in my skills, than it is on evidence and experience. I teach Data Management, so I'm sure I could find some modern, in-the-news ideas on which I could produce problem-based lesson plans. I must try.

So...I must try to develop more open-ended questions or tasks, which are as student-relevant as possible, and which involve digital technology, all so that the students become better thinkers, and so that they will be more motivated to learn and become better writers, respectively.

I can use Bloom's Taxonomy, EQAO questions (for the grade 9s), newspapers' RSS feeds, and data from other countries . I hope to use Web 2.0 tools to motivate them and get them to practice their writing. I don't think I should expect myself to perfect the implementation of these ideas all in the next academic year. This will take time to do well. But I want to start this September.

Your thoughts? Any ideas?

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

test 5

resolution= 1280 X 1024 (smallest icons)

recorder = "select area"

This does not look as good as the results of test 4, below.

Conclusion: FOR WRITTEN FONT, use typical screen resolution, as in test 4 below. I did NOT use the entire smarttech screen, only a small part.

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test 4

Here, I test how printed numbers look.

resolution = 1024 X 768 (typical)
recorder = \"select area\"

height= 339, width=420, result= not bad, a bit blurry, but is easily legible
height= 420, width=600, result= just as blurry, but more legible only because the fonts are larger.

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test 3

screen res = 1280 X 1024
recorder = "select area"

height=339, width=420, result = blurry
height=420, width=600, resutlt= blurry

Conclusion: FOR GRAPH VIDEOS, use bigger font for the numbers on the graph, use recorder set to "select area", and set screen resolution to 1024 X 768 (typical; do so because the differences between test 3 and 2 are so small).

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test 2

This was taken with screen resolution at normal (1024 X 768) and recorder at "select area".

I have viewed this video with the HTML parameters "height" and "width" set to the default values of 339 and 420, respectively, and then 420 and 600, respectively. In both cases, the video is, in my opinion, too blurry.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

test 1--for including videos in my blogs

Please tell me what you think of the resolution of this film. I suspect, though, that it's already crummy. LOL It was recorded at screen res of 1024x768 (normal) and recorder set to 'desktop (default)'.

So, what did you think? Be honest. :):) It is lousy. I would love to hear any suggestions.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

To Do List

  • re-write schedule for grade 9 math course
  • re-write schedule for grade 12 math course
  • tell KR of what I plan on doing with the social software (she teaches the other class of the same course)
  • read board's internet use policy
  • read the school's internet use policy
  • decide what social software the students will use and the order to demonstrate it
      • Firefox
      • blogger or blogmeister
      • bloglines
        • including search feeds and news feeds for ISU
      • del.ici.ous & Diigo (for bookmarking and organization of blog entries)
      • Wetpaint Wiki
      • Flickr and Flickr Toys --create a private group account??
      • BubbleShare
      • Jumpcut (make movies for calculators)
      • ThinkFree Office for their ISUs
  • decide what regular software the students will use
      • Excel (this is a given for the course)
      • smarttech?
      • tree diagram from DS5
  • determine marking scheme for the use of social software
  • write letters to parents explaining use and purpose of use of social software
  • develop and write "Responsible Blogging Guidelines" for students
  • develop checklist for the ISUs
  • create exemplar for an ISU
  • develop feedshake filters (read the site here)

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Birth of a Blog

Hello world!

I'm going to use this blog to post my ideas on teaching and to experiment with Web 2.0 software. I want to hear your reactions to what I post!

All posts will be socially bookmarked here:

In case you're wondering, the word "insegno" means "I teach".

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