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.

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.

Older Adults and Technology

by Austin Cushman

Everytime I see my dad, born in 1933, using his smartphone and messaging on social media, I say to myself “I never thought I would see the day.” As the emergence of the PC was happening he was a big believer, yes he bought my first Mac, in personal technology.

So, let’s start with defining “older adults” in relation to technology.  Most surveys will use age ranges to define “older adults” and I will reference some of those surveys. I view it as any generation that didn’t grow up with daily access to a PC.  

250px-apple_iieMy experience started with the Apple IIe with the 5¼ floppy disks that was a glorified typewriter and a simple game console.  It slowly grew with the home internet connection, AOL, and continued with the PC, smartphones and apps.

Most of my adult ESL students easily learn the computer basics necessary to access Google Drive, G Suite and the web. However, there are some students, when first learning the basics, feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Occasionally a student will come in with no experience with computers and the web, but will quickly adapt and succeed through daily practice and peer assistance. Older students and those in the workplace have to quickly learn and adapt to the ever changing technology that connects us. Parents must be familiar with it to assist their children or check grades. Employees must be familiar with the basic skills necessary to adapt to any system found in the work environment. The “baby boomer” and previous generations have had to learn how to use technology as adults, bearing the learning curve and expense associated with buying a PC and now smartphones/tablets. With the growth of e-commerce and social media access to information and technology has become more and more a part of our daily lives. It has become more important than ever, though some would argue not required, to be proficient in the basic uses of technology.

So with the growth of technology we see from this survey, the older the generation, the lower the percentage of people who use technology.

Chart showing percentage of adults that go online.

Graph showing use of various devices by seniors vs. all adults.

04-seniors-more-likely-to-own-tabletWe continue to try and bridge the gap, while implementing the new and ever changing technology, and make sure our students and the “older generations” are ready for the 21st century demands.

 

 

 


Source of all graphs: http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/04/03/older-adults-and-technology-use/

Image of Apple IIe: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_IIe

GSS–> Getting Savvy with Sheets

By Mychau Sou

An image of a spreadsheet utilizing check boxesIn Gsuite (formerly known as Google Apps for Education), Sheets are spreadsheets that many feel intimidated by, but once you learn the benefits of Sheets, you may not want to go back. I create spreadsheets to help me keep a digital record of what my students turn in. For instances, I would copy and paste my students’ name list from illuminate and insert a checkbox column to check off which students turned in what. At the bottom of Sheet, I add tabs to the same Google Sheet to use it as my track log. The first-day packets, GAFE permission slips, and signed report card envelopes are all examples of what you can quickly check off. I use it to create my small groups and highlight which groups I’ve touched bases with for the week.

A Google Sheet can be converted into tools that help the flow of your classroom. Flippity.net is a site that will provide 10+ templates of ways in which you can convert your spreadsheet into something spectacular. One I frequently use is Flippity Random Name Picker where you insert your class list, publish the Google Sheet and instantly get access to digital equity sticks with your phone or laptop. What I love about this tool is that the Random name picker helps me form groups, pairs, and teams with a push of a button.  I know with the constant movement of students it’s hard to keep up with real popsicle sticks. What if I told you can add and delete students on the spreadsheet as you please and still use the same link?

Convert a spreadsheet into …

sheet1

 

 

A flippity random name pickerAn image of a flippity game wheel

My students love the quiz shows that I make with Flippity Game Show. I insert the categories of my math units as the topics such as Ratios, Unit Rate, Unit Conversion, etc. and type in my questions and answers using the template provided. The Flippity template allows me to publish and get a link to the game show for a math review. The kids are split into teams where you can have them name their group. Points can be added or deducted to keep track which team is doing well. Once we’re finished playing, I provide the link to my students so they can always study these questions at home the day before the test. This is both easy and effective for teacher and student alike.

An image of a spreadsheet/study guide.Take the spreadsheet and convert it into…An image of a Jeopardy style game boardA Jeopardy style quiz show board!

Whether or not you will be using Sheets as a system to track your students’ paper permission slips and work, or use free flippity templates, you can learn how to create a sheet with the click of a button! Trust me, it’s fairly simple. Come to my PD next week on Wednesday, February 6, 2019. John Adams Elementary Rm. 28 to learn more about Google Sheets. If you can’t make it, please sign up for the other PDs I’m offering in February.

(This is part 2 in a series. Part one was  Getting Savvy with Slides.)


About the Author:

Mychau Sou is an Intermediate Teacher at Adams Elementary in Stockton, Ca. She is also a Certified Google Trainer.

 

Cloud Computing & Collaboration Services

collaboration

By Austin Cushman

There are many cloud computing and real-time collaboration services to choose from. Here at Stockton Unified, we primarily use G Suite or Office 365. These two are probably the more well known, however, there are a few other options to choose from. Most of my adult students have never used any real-time collaboration services which have become more and more popular in the education and business world. These platforms are a requirement for any competitive company or agency. Companies have seen a 15% – 20% increase in their revenue using one of these services. Companies that use them see an advantage over their competition simply because they can get more done. So, in no particular order, here are some well known and lesser known cloud computing and collaboration services.

431075-zoho-logoZoho offers a suite of apps to create online documents, spreadsheets, presentations and databases, with great sharing features. You can invite others to view or edit documents and also create groups. Similar to Google Docs, you can publish any doc to your blog or website and make any document public. Zoho creates a URL and RSS feed for every public document that is updated when a change is made. You can also chat live with others making it easy to communicate while editing a document together in real time. Also, you can check older versions of the document.

g-suiteG Suite has apps for creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations. They also share features allowing you to effectively collaborate in real-time. You can also post the document to a blog or website and have any changes updated. G Suite is also being used more and more in the private sector. Verizon Communications Inc, Nielsen Holdings Plc and Colgate-Palmolive Co. have brought about 250,000 workers to G Suite during the last year and a half, along with many school districts.

etherpad-logo                                                                                          Etherpad is an open source online editing program that allows collaboration in real-time of plain text documents. It includes a chat room and shows color coded edits. Users are also able to save older versions of the same document. Etherpad is good for group brainstorming sessions in real-time. It also lets you import and export Word, PDF, Plain Text and web documents. Students at Stanford Law School use it  and programmers like to customize Etherpad to suit their needs.

office_365_logoOffice 365 is a subscription based Microsoft Office suite available online. It has cloud-based software for businesses, such as hosted Exchange Server, Skype for Business Server, and SharePoint. Subscribers can collaborate with other users by using their Microsoft Office Online account. “70% of Fortune 500 companies have purchased Office 365 within the last year.” Companies such as Shell Oil, Air France, and Lilly Pharmaceuticals use Office 365. Stockton Unified has Office 365 available to district employees via the “staff” section of the homepage.

ce75b1a100012e9db79597098cf6785bThinkFree is a suite of online apps like Zoho and Google Docs. You can use the web version or install it to work offline. Thinkfree allows you to do everything just like the Microsoft Office suite with great sharing tools. Each document works with Microsoft Office and if the person you’re working with doesn’t have it, they can view documents with the ThinkFree viewer. Also, you get 1 GB of storage online for your documents.

Other Services:

So, there are a few. Here at Stockton Unified, we have been trained in and primarily use the G Suite apps and work in the Google Drive environment. Being aware of other services is valuable for our students and staff. We should be knowledgeable in the uses of real-time collaboration suites to prepare our students for careers in the 21st century.

Education for the iGeneration

If we define today’s world in one word, it would be “change.” The 21st century is truly an age of change and if the education system does not change according to today’s needs, it is sure to collapse. As pointed out by Sir Ken Robinson, a creativity expert, we have to “change paradigms” in order to cater to the educational needs of the 21st century. For this reason, I think most of the countries today are thinking of reforming their public education system. Educating tomorrow’s children, with yesterday’s methods is not at all a good idea.It is true that a change in our education system is the need of the hour.

A quote from the article.

 The reason for this need may be the economic efficiency of our students or the ability to be a global citizen who still has a hold on his/her cultural roots. The iGeneration is the first American generation to be born, almost literally, with a smartphone in hand. Today, our children are flooded with information coming to them through technology. They have access to endless information at their fingertips. We, as educators, can use this for our advantage or this can actually become a distraction for our students and a problem for us. It is due to this, that more and more schools are shifting their curriculum and methods to incorporate technology and media in everyday instructions.

Some schools are providing technology and some schools are following the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policy for this. According to Project Tomorrow’s annual Speak Up survey, fifty-eight percent of high school students in a national survey said they use their own mobile devices for learning in school, and 47 percent of teachers in the survey reported that their students have regular access to mobile devices in their classrooms. Along with this, most of the schools also provide chromebooks, ipads or some other device with wi-fi connectivity from the school, for most of the core classes, and students can use these on a daily basis in the class.

Due to this, digital literacy has become very important for all of us. As Eric Sheninger pointed out in his article, The Need for Digital Literacy, “although technology enables students to access more information in much less time, it does not always foster learning. Teaching digital literacy helps to manage all of the benefits of technology while helping students understand how to safely weed through the vast amounts of information online.”

 

This vast amount of information online is the number one distraction for our students these days because they find it interesting and engaging as compared to the traditional and “boring” class work. We need to make our lessons more challenging and engaging for today’s generation. Otherwise, we will and we are losing our students to the more magnetic digital world of technology. This has been rightly pointed out by Marc Prensky in his article, “Engage me or Enrage me.” The students who are truly self-motivated are rare in today’s classrooms. We usually have students who go through the motions and think that they know how to manipulate school work, to get a good grade or we have students who “tune us out” because we fail to engage them and their senses in the class work. Technology can come to the teacher’s rescue here. It can make the lesson not only more interesting, but also challenging enough for our students to perform to the best of their abilities.

But this brings up another problem and I have personally faced this in my class and this problem is of digital equity. Forty-seven percent of surveyed school and district technology leaders said digital equity and students’ out-of-school internet access are among their most challenging issues. “Today, as many as 7 in 10 teachers, assign homework that requires access to the internet and broadband,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, FCC Commissioner, at the Congressional briefing. I am also one such high school teacher. But we need to remember that as many as 1 in 3 households in this country do not subscribe to broadband and this leads to what is called the ‘homework gap.’ I have students come to me and say that they could not finish the homework because they do not have access to the internet or a computer at home. To tackle this problem, I give more time and opportunity to my students to work on these assignments in the class, using the school chromebooks and assign homework which can be completed without the use of technology. This can be an example of using “Blended learning,” and it is showing positive results like the forty-five percent of surveyed districts, where blended learning programs are showing positive results.

Online and blended learning can increase self-directed learning even outside of the classroom, foster divergent thinking and creativity as well as develop and maintain trusted collaboration among students. Collaboration fosters learning, innovation, and development. According to Burns, Crow, and Becker, “collaboration spurs innovation because bringing together groups of people who have different ideas, approaches, experiences, and areas of expertise creates a fertile environment for generating new concepts and methods.”

We need to stop alienating our children from who they actually are and what they are actually interested in. We need to use their interests and capacities to challenge them to improve, learn and innovate. The “factory line” system of school can only create a generation of students who are clearly uninterested and find school boring and irrelevant. This will keep reinforcing our idea of “Fictitious ADHD epidemic” that we think is responsible for our students’ lack of interest and ultimate “failure” at school.

Using technology, along with divergent thinking and creativity, is one of the most important 21st-century skills that our students must have. For developing this skill, we should be using technology more and more in our classrooms for challenging our students’ capacities and engaging them in the process of learning. For this educators should become more digitally literate themselves and then use this knowledge for the benefit of the students of the iGeneration.