Technology Integration

IMG_2313As part of the @teachthought, #reflectiveteacher, I am blogging for day two of the 30 day challenge – “Write about one piece of technology that you would like to try this year, and why. You might also write about what you’re hoping to see out of this edtech integration.” I have done the flipped classroom in the past and I plan to try new apps to make my videos, and new platforms to post (Schoology), in the hopes of improving this delivery of instruction.

But as far as new technology, my goal will be to explore apps to use to do some standard based assessment. I am currently exploring the idea of using @10Marks, as recommended by a fellow tweeter last night as I “lurked” on the #msmathchat. The idea for standard based grading came to me from my google hangout with two other seventh grade math teachers, Paul from Florida and Bob from California. They both do forms of summative standard based grading. They inspired me to consider how I could use this with my students, but I want to explore how to do this formatively instead of summatively, and perhaps either informally, or to have the students monitor their own progress.

In addition to 10Marks, I plan to also use more of Socrative to help students to monitor their progress and understanding.

Twitter and blogging have been so great for me in the past year, and most of this benefit has been in the past few months. Twitter has just opened so many doors for me to explore new ideas and it is an exciting place to hang out for a teacher!

In doing this 30 day challenge blog, I am hoping to connect more with like minded educators!

Please weigh in on how you use technology to assess your students!

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Our First Google Hangout Meeting

Our First Google Hangout Meeting.

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Goals for a New School Year – Revisited

A year and a half ago, I had set down some goals for the 2012-2013 school year. I thought that now, at the end of the 2013-2014 year, it is time to revisit and revise my goals.

Professionally:life camera

1)  Learn to effectively use twitter

I have learned a lot about twitter in the past two school years. I generally visit my twitter feed every day. I have come to recognize and respect several educators who regularly tweet. I have re-tweeted many links that I plan to go back to later to read, study and consider. I now use twitter to keep a pulse on what is trending both in education and in the world. I plan to participate more in collaboration with other teachers through twitter, and to encourage others to start tweeting.

2) Post on my blog at a minimum of twice each week – find more opportunities to communicate with other teachers through my blog

Unfortunately, I did not meet this goal – nowhere close. I am still determined to work on this goal. I find it very helpful to go back and reflect on my old posts, and just as I am doing with this post, I can assess where I have been and where I am headed. I am now trying to assign days of the week with certain types of blog posts, so that I can have a framework with which to publish materials. My idea is for:

Mondays – What’s going on in the (cyber) world  

This could be a curation of sorts, for interesting links and blogs that I encounter

Tuesdays – Math lesson plans

Interesting lessons, and projects that I have utilized in my classroom

Wednesdays – old school / new school

How it used to be done, (oldies but goodies) and how it can be done now (exciting new ideas)

Thursdays – The common Core(ner)

Posts and ideas linked to the common core

Fridays – making the connection

Connections of Math to the real world, other disciplines, or with other teachers

Weekends – Inspirations

Blogger’s Choice

3) Incorporate my lesson plans directly into my smart board files

I did meet this goal. I have a new fellow teacher in my school teaching 7th grade math, so between the two of us, we are creating note packets for the students in word, with a set template, and it is very easy to create smart board files based on these files.

4) Organize my documents folder, including deleting all unnecessary files

The lululemon manifesto

The lululemon manifesto

Ummmmm…didn’t exactly happen. Actually, I am not even going to pretend that this will happen. My plan will be to start off next school year with a fresh new yearly folder and maintain it in an organized manner. I will copy over any good lesson files from previous years, and just leave the old files and folders.

5) Read the lululemon manifesto (see above) once a week  

Admittedly corny, but I still like the ideas – drinking fresh water (check); do one thing a day that scares you (once a month? Check) Sweat once a day (every other day? check) and more. Did not revisit once a week. I am going to drop this goal, even though I agree with the manifesto.

6) Use the three act math lessons from Dan Meyer

I met this goal. I experimented with the three act lessons several times. I am a huge fan, and a huge fan of Dan Meyer in general. I initially tried them in a math station format, and the students were not really sure how to use the lessons. They were not really eager to read directions on how to run the three act lesson. I found better success by running the lessons as a whole group and teacher led and choreographed.

7) Contribute to and add to the three act math lessons

I have not met this goal, but I am still going to keep this as a goal. I have explored the adobe video programs that I need to acquire to make the videos as professional looking as Dan’s. This will require some time and effort.

8) Create a new project based learning module – hopefully dealing with using YouTube videos (just pop culture, etc, rated G) and teasing out mathematical learning from these

I have not met this goal, but I still like the idea of the creative possibilities with this. I am going to put this goal in the parking lot for now; I have some new goals to reach 🙂

9) Learn more about social media in learning

I have learned quite a bit about social media in learning. I will continue to learn more and to use more social media with my students.

10) Develop an educational app related to math education

Oh, this is still a lofty goal that I have. I will keep this goal but realize that it is a long term product that will take much learning and collaboration. I would like this to be a type of global collaborating tool for students to interact and learn mathematics together. To this end, I am planning to learn the applications that are available for programming and app creation. As a first step, I will be teaching and encouraging students to program and to create apps.

11) Add to my flipped classroom videos (personalized, not found on the internet). Have students get involved. Create effective differentiated, organized and effective classroom activities in conjunction with the videos.

Done!  Will continue this practice, and continue to improve my videos.

12) Maintain and improve my wikispace



1) Stay connected with family and friends and tell them often how much I love and appreciate them

Done. Will continue to do.  An easy goal for me!

2) Write down three things I am grateful for each and every day

Oops. Did not do this, but I know that this is such an important activity to do each day. I need to create a small notebook used just for this purpose.IMG_4077

3) Plan a trip to Europe

Done!  Planned and executed! The trip of my lifetime, so far. My oldest daughter and I traveled to the Amalfi Coast of Italy last summer and it was amazing!  Rick Steves was my “goto” for advice and his research and advice were spot on. We had a wonderful memorable vacation! I will need to blog about our experiences.

4) Continue my exercise routine, including cardio and weight training

Done and will continue! IMG_0085

5) Learn how to live alone, yet not lonely

Getting there. I think I am there. I still struggle with being alone, though. While I would rather be alone than with the wrong person, I still maintain the hope that I will meet the perfect significant other to make my life more joyful. But I am doing a pretty decent job of finding joy without having met this goal. And really, I am not alone. I have Dante, my 7 pound yorkie poo as my constant companion.

6) Read the lululemon manifesto (see above) once a week

Okay, I must admit that this is corny…..

7) Find a new volunteer opportunity

Have not found the right outlet yet for me. I really enjoyed Special Olympics, but it just does not fit into my schedule. Does organizing a school wide Pi day celebration, advising on the yearbook and MathCounts coach count?

8) Continue with creative writing (comedy)

Have not done this. I have read what I had started and it can still make me laugh. I think this one will be voted (by me) the least likely to get done.

9) Learn Laughter Yoga

Have not done this. Would like to pursue this one. I think I could seriously (no pun intended) be a successful laughter yoga instructor. It would just be a matter of finding the time to fit it in with all my other pursuits. Maybe this could be my volunteer activity…..

10) Remind myself to Love more and expect less

Always remind myself. I do well on remembering to tell myself this, but I personally struggle with this. I am learning, and on the right road to lower expectations and just let things be as they should be.

11) Keep my Pinterest boards organized and useful

Did, done and continue to do. I have also created some shared Pinterest boards, with success. I started, and will continue, to curate my pins. It is a never ending process.




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Student Choice is a Plus! (or is it an “x” and an “o”?)

Weigh in please, on student choice….

I know that my students really embrace the idea of having some choice in their learning, and I find that they are more attentive and more willing to participate in learning a concept when they are given choice. The main structure that I use for this is a choice board. I found this idea on pinterest, and the site that was given the credit for this idea is “dare-to-differentiate“.

One way to implement choice boards if time permits, is to have students choose activities similar to tic-tac-toe; the student completes 3 activities in a row (up, down, diagonal). They can be adapted for ALL students and actually lend themselves well to differentiated  instruction. Generally speaking, I do not use it as tic-tac-toe, but there is plenty of options on the board for students to choose. Sometimes, an option might be to work some problems in our notes and homework packet; there are students who prefer this type of activity to the more creative choices.

I have made a general template:  Choice Board template stations . I created this similar to the ones on the site referenced above. I then just fill in the necessary concepts, computer/iPad applications, internet sites, etc. that I choose to use for the concept in question.

Here is one I used with Choice Board probability.

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My flipped classroom experience: Old School / New School

“My experience with the flipped classroom – How do you implement?”

Each year, I make it a point to try something totally new and challenging in my classroom. Last year, my new activity was the flipped classroom. It was exciting; I was the only teacher in the district that tried this new approach to teaching. It was very well received by the students! I was fortunate in the fact that my school has a mobile laptop cart that very few teachers use, so I had access to it in my classroom for an extended period of time. This made much of the logistics simpler; any student who did not or could not view the video at home could come to my room at lunch or study hall time to view the video. Very few of the students had to make use of this; even the students who consistently avoided homework took the time to watch the lecture video at home. For a sampling of some of the videos that I produced last year,  visit my wikispace and click on the link for “Team 7B math has flipped!”.

The students were given a note taking guide so that they took notes as they watched the video. This was how I determined whether they had done the homework. Upon entering class, I had three stations set up, depending on the self assessment of the students.

1) Those who had fully grasped the lesson were given problems to do to practice the concepts and skills that were introduced in the video. They were then assigned to either create a presentation of the concept ( in the form of paper slide video, or other media ideas), or were given advanced sponge type activities on the topic

2) Those who needed some assistance or much assistance worked with me. I gave assistance and provided clarification for those who needed minimal help. These students then went on to work on problems to practice the concepts and skills.

3) Those who needed extensive help had more of my attention to assist them in grasping the concepts.

There were numerous benefits afforded by implementing the flipped classroom, as well as challenges, of which I will outline both below. Please understand that I will start with the challenges, but the benefits far outweighed those!


Inevitably, creating and storing the videos took a substantial amount of time on my part, not to mention planning for differentiated activities to take place the next day in class.

Uploading the videos took a substantial amount of time on my home computer. My cable company explained to me that they reserve most of their band width to downloads, and rightly so. Many more people are downloading and streaming video, rather than uploading.

There were some technical challenges with the lighting, sound and execution of the videos.

Things did not always go as smoothly as I had planned in the differentiated classroom. The first time we had flipped the classroom, things were a bit chaotic in class the next day. I think of it as growing pains and opportunities for growth. There really was not a multitude of resources available to me. Day after day, these resources are growing, as many more teachers are realizing the benefits of the flip. I learned from my early experiences, and, just like every other aspect of the art of teaching, I will improve with experience.

Yet, even with these challenges, the benefits were tremendous: Please see my other post on the flipped classroom

How do you implement the details of flipping the classroom? I would love to hear from you!


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MVC-003F_flipped    This year, I have expanded my use of the flipped classroom in my 7th grade and 7 accelerated math classrooms. It has been a successful structure to use. Students, parents, administrators and support teachers have responded positively. Some of the benefits have been:

1)  Students can re-watch the lecture portion of a lesson as often as they need.

2)  Each student has a “front row” seat to lecture, and can alter the pace to their individual need.

3) Students who are absent from class have access to the introduction of concepts

4) The videos serve as additional review for tests, state tests, and the final

5) Parents can watch the lecture portion of class so that they have an idea of what their children are learning, of my style, and how to assist their children with the concept.

6)  Support teachers can access the videos to reinforce what is being taught in the classroom

7) More time in class to assess and assist individual students

8) More opportunities to differentiate instruction in the classroom.

I had tried a number of different methods to record the lessons. I started with a digital camera, and then proceeded to upload the video. I tried YouTube, but then had to find a new venue because my students cannot access YouTube through the school internet system. I then sent my videos to my Google drive and this worked fine.

Uploading camera video was a slow process; my internet provider gives most of the bandwidth to downloads and therefore uploads take time. I would have to let the videos upload overnight.

I set up links to the videos from my classroom wiki – see link above at the start of this post. After I had access to iPads, I started to use Educreations to make my videos. There was no room for editing on these videos, so I learned to just record and accept an error or two in the video. The process was quick and efficient and the videos are stored in the cloud on the Educreations website.

As I would like to be able to edit and control the videos, I am going to try using Explain Everything for new videos that I create, and plan to store them on my Google drive.

Shout-out to these two links in particular that were very helpful to me in starting my flipped class experience:

Lodge McCammon – NC State University

Peter Pappas

What questions do you have about the flipped classroom?

Do you have any experiences that you would like to share? I would love to collaborate!

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Math Lesson Plans 3: “Tweet for two…and two for tweet”

Students in the middle school grades have a difficult time understanding exponents. I use an activity to demonstrate exponential growth, to show them how exponentiation grows rapidly. Anytime that a lesson can be related to the real world, and more importantly to experiences that are directly part of the students’ world, are the most effective.

There is a common idea in a math lesson on the powers of two – that of taking a message, and spreading the idea by telling two people who then tell two people who then tell two people and so on.

In the past, I had done this lesson with a chain email example, as that was a common method of communication. Now, text messaging and tweeting are the latest popular forms of communication. This year, I will use tweets as my example.

The handout to the students is something along these lines:


Math7B@VestalMiddleSchool Oct 2012

Meet 3.14.13 at 3:14 pm for PI day flash mob#ilovemath7B#pi-rocks@friend1@friend2

View conversation Reply Retweet Favorite


If I start a tweet on day 0 to organize a pi day flash mob, I tweet to two people. Then, the next day, those two retweet to 2 new people. Those then go on to retweet to 2, and so on and so forth. Assume it takes one full day to retweet.

How many days do you think it will take to reach:

1) VMS team 7B?

2) VMS 7th grade?

3) The whole middle school?

4) The Vestal Central School District?

5) The town of Vestal?

6) The state of New York?

7) All the people in the USA?

8) All of the people in the world?

Work together with your partner to find some strategies to use to answer the questions above.

For simplicity sake, the students are asked to assume that it takes a day to re-tweet the message after having received the tweet. Students are challenged to predict how long it would take to reach every student in the seventh grade; to reach every student in the school; to reach every student in the district. From there, they estimate how long it would take to reach every person in the town; in the state; in the country; in the world. They are always surprised on how fast a message can spread in this manner.

The students are paired up and the tweeting scenario is presented. They are given some time to work together to come up with some problem solving strategies to use to solve the problem. In this way, the lesson not only provides instruction on the content of the common core, but also on communication, collaboration and problem solving skills.

It becomes apparent that several problem solving skills are used to tackle this problem. The students need to “make the problem simpler”, “draw pictures”,”choose an operation” and “make a table or chart”. The first day of the lesson is working towards a solution. Towards the end of class on day one, we examine the chart created, and find interesting patterns in the chart. There are several and this always provides a rich experience for the students to appreciate how real life activities can have underlying beautiful mathematical patterns. The students are then assigned the task of finishing the chart for homework, in order to answer the questions of how long it would take to reach all the people in New York State. They are also given the challenge of trying to arrive at a general algebraic expression to express the number of people who have received the tweet, based on the day number, n.

There was a movie released several years ago called “Pay it Forward”, which was based on the powers of three. The idea in the movie is that if you receive a good deed, you should pay it forward to three other people, who then in turn pay it forward to three more, and so on and so forth. At the end of this two-day lesson, I show a clip from the movie and challenge them to pay it forward with three people. There is a website,, and we anticipate that day to start the chain. In this way, the students can now take this idea and use it on another real life scenario, with beneficial results!

Now the lesson has also morphed into character education!

Later in the year, we will solve a problem using the “Towers of Hanoi” puzzle; at that time the students will see this pattern of the powers of two resurface. They will be surprised to see this beautiful pattern now emerges in the form of a puzzle. Who would have thought there was a connection between tweeting and a puzzle! This lesson will be shared in the near future, so stay tuned!

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Common Core Standards, Creative Ideas, Education, Math Education, Problem Solving, Real Life Applications, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments