Using tech to promote equity: technology equalizer

Technology can be used to level the playing field for learning. You may ask how can this be? Imagine a classroom where all students receive personalized learning plans that support their learning styles and social-emotional needs.25733957In the book, “For White Folks that Teach in the Hood …and the rest of Y’all too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education,” Dr. Edmin states, “ The technology alone was not enough to engage them. What they cared about was how it was being used.” Below I will list a few uses for technology that can engage urban youth by creating the cosmopolitan effect which is a feature of Reality Pedagogy.

  • Design a digital scavenger hunt related to the content being taught. Components: a powerful driving question, a quick assignment for students to complete and a short lecture.
  • If your district and students age allow: Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or another social netting site as a platform to share homework assignments with classmates, plan school activities, or create profiles dedicated to topics being taught. Create a Facebook, Twitter, etc. that highlights your class name, homework assignments, members of the class, books being read, links to Youtube videos related to classroom content. You can invite experts on the field of study to join the discussions.
  • To teach students these same skills with actually joining an internet-based social media group use the following ideas. A Twitter board can be created in your classroom. This is equivalent to a Twitter timeline. Students will need to create a handle. The process begins with students writing their handle on a paper tent that is placed on their desk for all to see. Next, the teacher sends tweets about what is currently being discussed in the class to one student using their handle. When someone has been tweeted they have to come up to the Twitter board and respond. A person cannot be tweeted more than 5 times. Students must answer the question and then ask someone else a question. If they don’t have an answer, they must ask a question about what they don’t understand. All questions must relate to the main hashtag( topic) set by the teacher and the beginning of the activity. This event ends when the teacher writes a closing Tweet.

Social media is a powerful engaging teaching tool. In order for students to see it as a tool for learning, teachers should teach this skill. If we don’t Dr. Edmin states,” …as a result of excluding social media from schools is that students then infer that these platforms are completely unrelated to learning.”

Emdin, C. (2017). For white folks who teach in the hood – and the rest of yall too: Reality pedagogy and urban education. Boston: Beacon Press.

Teaching Math In the Digital Age: The Resources (Part 1)

Teaching Math in this age requires a lot of technical skills when it comes to creating and implementing curriculum. Luckily there are many programs out there that can guide you on your path to teaching Math in this day and age. In this blog I will give you a quick rundown of the tools I use with my students as we go from paper and pencil to stylus and screen.

The first and most interesting website to me, which is incredibly interactive, is Desmos. Desmos is geared towards most standards from 6th grade to college calculus. It can double as a graphing calculator and the best part is that it is totally free.There are interactive activities that students can give feedback in anonymity, manipulate graphs, and even play games with. You as the teacher, can easily connect this program and activities through google classroom or many other mediums by creating a class code, copying it, and pasting it into a link in Google Classroom.

This leads me into the next program/programs that I use daily which are Gsuite, (formerly known as Google Apps For Education). The main program that I use to give access to websites and information to my students is Google Classroom. It is very easy to set up and can generate class lists for all of the programs I am mentioning in these blogs. To assess my students I use Google Forms which can allow teachers to insert answer keys into the assessments so students can get instant feedback. It also frees up time for teachers because Forms will do the grading for you. There are always new features coming out, most recently the screen lock feature which will lock the screen as seen in Smarter Balanced and MAP assessments. You can also import grades from Forms into your Google Classroom if you do chose to use Google Classroom’s grading system.

This leads me into Google Sheets which can be used as grade sheets all the way to creating graphs of students’ data. Students and teachers should get familiar with Sheets because it can save massive amounts of time for teachers and gives students a tool to use in their future endeavors. I mainly use it for data analysis of assessments and to post grades in Google Classroom. The students use it to collect, organize, and display data with graphs and tables. I will introduce Sheets to them once we have gone over general statistical analysis tools and how we derive them. Once they know how they work, I will show them that they can compute what would take them 20 minutes into 1 minute. This saves time for the students and allows them to get a better grasp on the story the statistics are displaying.

The beautiful part about Gsuite is that a student can create a spreadsheet and insert it into Google Docs or Google Slides with a few clicks of the mouse. The student can display data in a presentation with a pie, bar, and many other types of graphs of their choosing. The students can all work on these platforms together through sharing them with other classmates, which allows collaboration to be done anywhere, anytime, very easily. Once the students are done with their assignments or presentations all it takes is a couple clicks of the mouse to turn them in to me in Google Classroom.

In part two of my blog I will go over more online platforms that go deeper into Math and Science which can easily be posted into Google Classroom for easy access. If you start with a few of these programs mentioned above, it will not only save you, the teacher time, but it will save the students frustration by making collaboration and access to materials extremely easy.

Skills USA

On February 9th, students from Harrison Elementary School participated in their first year in the SkillsUSA competition. SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers, and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce.  

In its inaugural year, Harrison’s Chapter sent 12 students to Delta College to participate in a variety of skills, such as “Team Engineering,” “Pin Design,” “Mobile Robotics,” and “Job Skill Demonstration.  These skills required some to work in groups to complete a task, or independently to present a skill that the student has prepared for judges.

Besides students having to participate in events, students are required to dress for success.  Many students traded in their loose jeans and oversized hoodies for black slacks, tie, and a red SkillsUSA blazer.

Overall, the day was a success for Harrison as all students from their chapter qualified for the state championships in Ontario CA from April 25th – 28th.

Learning Theories/Adult Learning Theories

Overview

Malcolm Knowles might well be considered the founding father of adult learning. He contrasted the “concept of andragogy, meaning “the art and science of helping adults learn,”…with pedagogy, the art and science of helping children learn” (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999, p. 272). Knowles’ original studies and writings arose from the assumption that there are significant, identifiable differences between adult learners and learners under the age of eighteen. Primarily, the differences, according to Knowles, relate to an adult learner being more self-directing, having a repertoire of experience, and being internally motivated to learn subject matter that can be applied immediately – learning that is especially “closely related to the developmental tasks of his or her social role” (p. 272).

Andragogy

Knowles (1968) popularized this European concept over thirty years ago. Andragogy, (andr – ‘man’), contrasted with pedagogy, means “the art and science of helping adults learn” (Knowles, 1980, p. 43). Knowles labeled andragogy as an emerging technology which facilitates the development and implementation of learning activities for adults. This emerging technology is based on five andragogical assumptions of the adult learner:

  1. Self-Concept: As a person matures, he or she moves from dependency to self-directness.
  2. Experience: Adults draw upon their experiences to aid their learning.
  3. Readiness: The learning readiness of adults is closely related to the assumption of new social roles.
  4. Orientation: As a person learns new knowledge, he or she wants to apply it immediately in problem solving.
  5. Motivation (Later added): As a person matures, he or she receives their motivation to learn from internal factors.

These five assumptions dovetail with the thoughts and theories of others. Merriam and Caffarella (1999) point to three keys to transformational learning: experience, critical reflection and development. The aspect of experience (the second assumption to andragogy) seems like an important consideration in creating an effective learning opportunity for adults. The learning opportunity needs to be relevant and applicable to a person’s set of experiences. Argote, McEvily, and Reagans (2003) point to experience as an important factor in one’s ability to create, retain and transfer knowledge.

Critical reflection is the second key to transformational learning and part of andragogy’s self-directed learning. Reflection/think time is yet another essential principle to creating an effective learning experience for adults. Garvin (1993) shares the importance of fostering an environment that is conducive to learning including time for reflection and analysis. Adult learners need time to contemplate the ramifications of the learning experience to their experience and responsibilities.

The third key to transformational learning is development (corresponding to the third assumption of andragogy). Merriam and Caffarella state that “the ability to think critically, which is mandatory to effecting a transformation, is itself developmental” (p. 330). If development is the outcome of transformational learning, then an effective adult learning opportunity needs to be created that will take personal development into consideration

Andragogy assumes the following about the design of learning:

  1. Adults have the need to know why they are learning something.
  2. Adults learn through doing.
  3. Adults are problem-solvers.
  4. Adults learn best when the subject is of immediate use.

According to Knowles ( 1984, Appendix D) an example used to apply the principles to personal computer training:

  1. Explain why certain skills are taught (functions, commands).
  2. Task oriented instead of memorizing. Tasks should be common tasks.
  3. Take diversity into play. Acknowledge different learning levels and experience.
  4. Allow adults to learn on their own and from their mistakes. ( M.Knowles)

Some would contend that Knowles only introduced a theory of teaching rather than a theory of adult learning. In commenting on this thought, Merriam and Caffarella (1999) referring to Hartree suggest, “that it is not clear whether Knowles had presented a theory of learning or a theory of teaching, whether adult learning was different from child learning, and whether there was a theory at all-perhaps these were just principles of good practice” (p. 273). It is further contended that Knowles did not establish a proven theory, rather he introduced a “set of well-grounded principles of good practice” (Brookfirle, 1986, p. 98).

“Within companies, instructional methods are designed for improving adult learners’ knowledge and skills. It is important to distinguish the unique attributes of adult learners so as to be better able to incorporate the principles of adult learning in the design of instruction” (Yi, 2005, p. 34). Within this context, adult learning is aimed at not only improving individual knowledge and skill, but ultimately it is the goal to improve the organizational performance by transfer of learning directly to work applications. Yi suggest three methods to foster learning in adult organizations: Problem-Based Learning which seeks to increase problem-solving and critical thinking skills; Cooperative Learning, which builds communication and interpersonal skills; and Situated Learning, which targets specific technical skills that can be directly related to the field of work (Yi, 2005). Each of these methods support the assumptions about how adults learn; specifically they are more self-directed, have a need for direct application to their work, and are able to contribute more to collaborative learning through their experience.

Experiential learning

Experiential Learning Theory emphasizes the role that true experiences play in the learning process. It is this emphasis that distinguishes itself from other learning theories. Cognitive learning theories emphasize cognition over affect and behavioral learning theories deny any role for subjective experience in the learning process.

Scholars in the field of education have two contrasting views when it comes to the concept of experiential learning. The first view defines experiential learning as a sort of learning which enables students to apply newly acquired knowledge in a relevant setting. The relevant setting can be a sponsored institution of learning with trainers, instructors, teachers, or professors to guide the lesson. The other school of thought defines experiential learning as “education that occurs as a direct participation in the events of life” (Houle, 1980, p. 221). Thus, learning is not achieved in a formal setting, but in the practice of reflection of daily experiences. Kolb furthers the second definition of experiential learning by developing a model which details learning process through experiences. Kolb and Fry’s (1975) experiential learning model is a continuous spiral process which consists of four basic elements:

  1. Concrete experience
  2. Observation and reflection
  3. Forming abstract concepts
  4. Testing in new situations

Immediate or concrete experiences are the basis for observation and reflections. These reflections are assimilated and distilled into abstract concepts from which new implications for action can be drawn (Kolb & Fry).

According to Kolb and Fry (1975), the adult learner can enter the process at any one of the elements. The adult learner moves to the next step once he or she processes their experience in the previous step.

Anxiety and the Adult Learner

An interview with psychologist Edgar Schein, Coutu suggests that more often than not, organizations fail at transformational learning. They rarely fundamentally change the behaviors within the organization. Schein dismisses the notion that learning is fun, especially for adults. He equates adult learning within organizations with that of the brainwashing techniques he observed while studying prisoners of the Korean War (Coutu, 2002). Organizations must find a method to deal with the anxiety adults experience when they are forced to “unlearn” what they know and learn something new (Coutu, 2002, p. 6). Schein discusses two kinds of anxiety: learning anxiety and survival anxiety. It is in this manner that he draws the parallel to brainwashing; that is “learning will only happen when survival anxiety is greater than learning anxiety” (Coutu, 2002, p. 6). Each of these anxieties could be managed, for example learning can be constructed in a “safe” environment where the consequences of failure are minimal. Survival anxiety can obviously be increased by threatening job loss, a lack of security, or recognizing competitive elements of the market.

Case studies & workplace examples

The adult learning experience presented itself in all of its glory and contradictions through a curriculum review taking place in a school setting. The objective was to examine the current school curriculum and evaluate it for strengths and weaknesses. The purpose for this review was to both align the curriculum with current practice and augment the curriculum to enhance student learning. Interestingly, the teachers involved in this process seemed to exhibit all the qualities of adult learners mentioned previously: learning through projects, applying self-direction to the process, challenging the process for purpose, and some approached the process with much anxiety. Engaging in the process illustrated that adult learning is individual and there were as many approaches to adult learning as there were people involved in the process.

Article Sources and Contributors

Learning Theories/Adult Learning Theories Source: http://en.wikibooks.org/w/index.php?oldid=2060870 Contributors: Abigor, Fishpi, Hagindaz, Panic2k4, Rdunican, Recent Runes, Red4tribe, 29 anonymous edits

License

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported http:/ / creativecommons. org/ licenses/ by-sa/ 3. 0/

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MRH3CoZFj2RFrAvDNHOFao11xd_tgyahca-QZbRwmww/copy

Spring Break Curriculum Training

Well, what can I say. I began the week thinking “why did I sign up up for these trainings?” Yes, I was excited but also exhausted from this last stretch of teaching.  After it was all said and done I am so thankful these trainings were offered. I can’t imagine myself showing up the week before the kiddos come back and saying to myself, “Yes, I got this. I can teach two brand new curriculums and use the online portions of these programs.” If you have not signed up for the trainings I strongly encourage you to do so.  

The trainings were fun and in depth on how and what we will be teaching.  In both trainings we learned how to use all of the materials, plan our day to day, how it aligns with the standards, differentiated teaching strategies and materials, center ideas galore and how to bring these kids to grade level and beyond.

Benchmark is our Brand new Language arts curriculum.  At first glance it can be a little frightening. There’s a ton of material and it’s really overwhelming looking at all of it. But after a two day training I’m eager to start using the materials and planning for next year.  Benchmark uses repeated exposure to skills and strategies, along with multiple opportunities to practice all standards. It has an equal balance of Whole Group (Model/Access Grade Level Complexity) and Small Group (Differentiated Practice/Application) Literacy Instruction. All units are aligned across the grade levels giving the school a central theme for learning. Benchmark includes Shared readings, Mentor Read Alouds, Decodable Readers, an online component for teachers and students, grammar and spelling, vocabulary, phonics, reading and writing, Big Books with complex texts, text close reads, center activities, and reader’s theater.  Every day students are exposed to at least three different text. You name it, this program probably has it. It’s a complete curriculum that spirals throughout the year so that if a student doesn’t fully understand a concept it will be visited several times throughout the year. And the best part of Benchmark for k-2 teachers: there is no more ripping out and stapling the decodable readers. They are printed, stapled, and sorted for the teachers. Also, weekly and unit assessments can be completed on paper but can also be taken online with immediate results for the teacher to collect that much needed data. Benchmark’s online portion is amazing!

The official growth assessments for the Language Arts test will be taken over by iReady. iReady is our new online assessment program for both Math and Language Arts giving us the traditional Map scores. It will be the online component that will do the data tracking portion very similar to map while also giving differentiated lessons to the students for the math program. This will be taking over ST Math. It will create a year long program specific to the student which will fill missing gaps and bring them up to grade level and beyond. If a student is more than a grade level or two behind it will either give them a one year path to proficiency or a stretch path that is a multi year plan to to bring students to proficiency. For an awesome website check out i-Ready Central. It’s basically the Pinterest of i-Ready; it’s free and filled with a ton of information.

Our new Math Curriculum is Ready Classroom. Not to be confused with i-Ready.  Ready classroom is a comprehensive curriculum that includes all daily lessons, enrichment activities, centers, tools and videos for instruction. As well as the prerequisite for instruction.  All materials can be found really easily using the online portal. This curriculum is not designed to be just a pen and paper curriculum, it is designed for exploration and discussion. Students will learn to do math through whole group and small group discussion. They will learn how to problem solve in multiple ways.  A lot of what we will be doing is discussion. The print outs will primarily be used as checking for understanding and independent work. As far as lesson planning, this is a teacher heavy lesson planning curriculum. This is not a curriculum that can be pulled out and used as a script. These need to be planned out and planned so that the students can receive the full benefit of this program.  

So if you have not signed up for the trainings I strongly recommend you do so. Yes, you get paid and no, it is not mandatory.  But if you want to have a strong understand for this curriculum you should get on Go sign me up and sign up for one of these awesome trainings.  

Assistive Technology on a Budget

Image of students working with a laptop.

Sometimes we only think about computers when someone mentions technology.

When you think about using technology in the classroom you probably think about students using computers, chromebooks, or iPads. At times some students just need a little support with technology to help them with using a pencil. Whether you’re in a general education classroom or special education you have probably experienced that child in your class that hates writing because it is uncomfortable or perhaps struggles with letter formation that is so poor that you have difficulty grading the students work. You could always contact someone that can provide assistive technology for a student but that takes time and we want to provide immediate support so that our students can feel comfortable and grow.

Adaptive techSo, how do we meet the needs of learners as soon as possible? We can try affordable tricks and do-it-yourself assistive technology.  Assistive technology is any equipment, devices, and services along with the changes made to the environment to help support students. There are affordable low technology devices that can perhaps help all students. Many students struggle with fine motor skills  in part, because this generation of kids are used to playing video games or using a tablet versus past generations of children that would simply coloring to build those fine hand coordination skills. Examples of assistive Technology could be anything from special lined paper to pencil grips. There are many forms of pencil grips and some students may work better with some types of grips versus others. If you go to your local Home Depot and Lowes you can get a small piece of foam tubing in which the pencil goes inside the tube and allows the student to have a much larger pencil to grasp. Another device is a wrist brace, which runs about ten dollars at Walmart or any drug store.

I have included a video for creating a weighted marker but it also works for weighted crayons or pencils. The best part you can buy all supplies needed at a local Home Depot or Lowes. The only two items you will need in hex bolts and rubber bands. This allows the top of the pencil to be weighted to help students that hands are shaky when they are writing. In addition to modifying devices there is also simple ways to modify the surface students are writing on. By incorporating slant boards in the classroom you will be able to support those students with fine motor skills. You can affordably have slant boards for all students. A typically 2” or 3” binder will do just fine and either leave in closed or flip it open. Students can do their work on the angled service which benefits students with their fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and posture.

STEM With Magnitude.io

Picture of students watching balloon launch

Mr. McCarty’s class says goodbye to the high altitude balloon!

What fun it has been working this year with our SUSD partners at Magnitude.io. This company has three different STEM opportunities that your kids can learn with, including; ExoLab, CanSats, and High Altitude Balloon (HAB) Launch. Each of these activities had our classroom using their reading, mathematics, writing, engineering, and scientific skills to explore the world around us.

For the past two years my classes have participated in the ExoLab program. This includes a customizable electronic growth chamber where students can grow various seeds and plants. The chamber has many sensors in it that track live amounts of Oxygen, CO2, Humidity, and more. Did I mention that astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are participating in the same growth chamber experiment?! How cool is that!

With the CanSats (Can-sized Satellites) have multiple sensors, once linked with a battery, can provide real-time data that students can use for live experiments. My students have collaborated and selected eight different projects to focus on during this coming spring. Magnitude.io provided our classroom with eight individual CanSats. These soda-sized cylinders will be used to; create a weather tracking station, track students course during their mile rune in PE class, and determine if plants grow differently when surrounded by varied levels of CO2 and/or Oxygen. These experiments and accessibility to live data, changes our classrooms for the better. It changes our classrooms ‘for NGSS’. These are student driven activities and projects that are helping my students to start thinking globally, as well as locally. What project will your imagination lead?

Picture of the instrument box.

This box contains the instruments that were carried by the high altitude balloon.

Finally, one of the most exciting activities we have participated in this year, has been the High Altitude Balloon Launch that we completed on February 22nd. In preparation for this project, my students researched the layers of the atmosphere, and then presented some of their findings to other students at our school. This program contained multiple projects, such as; experiments, engineering and design applications, data analysis, and more. Our experiments included sending up a raw egg to space, to see if the pressures, temperature, and increase radiation in the atmosphere would cook or freeze the egg. The kids also sent up a batch of various plant seeds, that we intend to plant in our classroom’s hydroponic garden. We will now plant both seeds from Earth and seeds from space and determine if leaving the various layers of our atmosphere would alter the seeds or cause them to grow with any mutations, or not at all! On the final day of launch we had students from all grade levels attend our event out on the school field. Even our friends over at Commodore made the trek over to our school to watch the balloon launch. Come through any time!!

A picture of young students watching the launch.

Younger students from Hoover and Stockton Skills came out to watch the launch!

 

A picture just before launch.

This was the scene just seconds before launch.

Ted Tagami (Mr. Ted) and Tony So (Mr. Tony) head up the team from Magnitude.io that is working with SUSD teachers. It is because of their efforts that my students have been exposed to opportunities they might not have known existed. They have been so helpful and supportive of our students and we continue to be amazed by the programs they offer. I encourage any teacher looking for some unique ways to bring real-world STEM into their classrooms, to look for these programs in the future.

And special thanks to Justin Swenson from SUSD for the great photos, and a website he made for our event that can be found here