Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Schools that Learn" Reflection

In reading “Schools That Learn”, I reflected on many different aspects of education, comparing what the book ideally talks about accomplishing day-by-day with what I can actually accomplish in my classroom on a daily basis. The part of the book that stuck out the most to me contained the headline, “A Shared Vision Process for the Classroom.” I immediately thought about this phrase that I had also come across in my readings, “The one person who could fix these problems and reflect on the system as a whole and how it is functioning has no voice—and that’s the student.” I thought to myself, how can I give my students a voice? When I give them choices between cooperative learning or individual work, they take advantage and fool around. When I ask for their opinions on what topics they want to review or spend more time on, they choose nothing and aren’t interested. How could we rely on student voices to fix the problems within the education system or even within my own classroom if they have no motivation in being in a math class?
After reading about “A Shared Vision Process for the Classroom”, I took a step back from the negativity I was initially feeling and opened up my mind to this “Shared Vision” which sounded so appealing and ideal to me. Tim Lucas talks about ways to approach students on the first day of school to set the tone in your classroom for the whole year. Rather than reading a whole long list of rules and guidelines, the most important things we should be doing on that first day is asking our students a series of questions such as, “What would you like this classroom to be like? How would you like to be treated here? What would make you look back and say, “This was a great class?” By asking students these questions on the first day of school, you give each student a chance to think about what he/she wants from you, your class, and school. It encourages them to set goals on day 1 and shifts the responsibility onto them to achieve them. As a class, you have developed a shared vision for the future days, weeks, and months. Together, you can work to make your classroom engaging through the open, comfortable relationship you have developed together. Lucas discusses how now, discipline is no longer just in the hands of the teacher. You can continually refer back to the ground rules cocreated by the class to fix problems that arise and find adequate solutions.
Again, things are not always as nice or perfect in a real classroom as we would like. Although a certain technique may sound good, in reality, it just doesn’t work as nice. This is where my negativity came from, and where the frustration comes from for a lot of teachers. This book has taught me that the key to success is realizing that everyday will not be perfect but at the same time, understanding that learning is driven by a vision, a shared vision that we should all have with each of our students for a healthy learning environment.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Salon 6 Response

Conditions for Classroom Technology Innovations

or "Why don’t teachers innovate when they are given computers?"

I decided to join this Salon session because it poses a very interesting question, "Why don't teachers innovate when they are given computers?" As a new and fairly young teacher, I stepped into this session without any answers. I grew up with technology, used it throughout college, and am now in a Master's program to learn more about it. Why don't others see the importance of technology, and embrace it when they have it available to them?
The discussion we had led me to believe that people are just mainly stuck in their ways. If education has been successful for so many years past, why change it now? The old saying, Why fix something that's not broken, pertains to this topic. However, the problem with this statement is that veteran teachers are not realizing that it's not that education needs fixing, but rather, it needs to stay updated and modern like all other things in our lives. This is where technology comes in.
The consensus that we pretty much all came up with during this session is that the answer to this question is TIME: time to learn, time to plan, time to change. Most people can perform basic operations with a computer but the key is knowing how to use the computer to benefit your students, enhance your lessons, and provide true understanding. This is where time becomes an issue because this is not necessarily something that can be learned over night. It's a continuing process which requires constant professional development and growth.
Ultimately, it's unfortunate to know that some people have access to technology but do not make any use of it while others around the world can only wish they had computers available to them. As teachers, we need to remember that our job calls us to provide our students with a sufficient amount of knowledge to succeed in their lives and in their futures. In the world we live in today, in order to fully and properly do this, we need to be exposing our students to the new technologies and advances that now surround us.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Salon 9 Response

Salon #9: Minds On Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail and Learning 2.0 (John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler)

This salon session was a really engaging conversation for me. I always struggle with the fact that we, as teachers, are expected to do so much (integrate technology into our lessons, create fun activities, interact with the students) but aren’t given the time to do it because of high-stake tests. I thought I was alone or in the minority with this feeling but apparently, most teachers across all districts are feeling this stress and pressure.
Specifically, we spoke about a “disconnect” between what we are instructed to do by administration in our buildings and what we feel that we actually can do with technology in the classroom. One specific disconnect I see is within my own district. This year, we have had a district-wide initiative for technology integration in the classroom. Hours of professional development have been devoted to ways technology can be integrated into lesson plans and everyday activities. While this sounds like a perfect and very smart plan on paper, it leaves out the part where we get 42 minutes a day (which by the time students get settled and homework and do now’s get checked turns into 35 minutes) to teach a specific topic. In math, which is my content area, we move very quickly because of the rigorous and crowded curriculum we have to cover. The problem is, math is one of the subjects that students have the most trouble with. Knowing this and fearing the results of my students in June, how can I worry about making a Jeopardy PowerPoint, or making a presentation on Geometer’s Sketchpad, or making an interactive lesson on a SmartBoard? Sometimes, it takes me more time to explain the new use of technology then it does to explain the lesson! This is when integrating technology becomes more of a frustration than reinforcement. Or what about when you’ve planned a beautiful lesson using technology and it doesn’t work for some crazy reason that you can’t figure out??? That’s another whole discussion though….!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Packaging of Salon 4"

"Digital Technology and the End of Social Studies Education"

During this salon session,one quote from the article that we spent some time discussing was: "In each of these situations teachers are using technology to slow down learning, to focus on thinking, to help students deal with more complex primary materials and more meaningful problems, to foster democratic skills of dialogue and debate." The confusing thing about this quote is that when most people think of technology, they think of high-speed and moving faster. So why is Bill Tally saying that technology is being used to "slow down learning?" I found this to be extremely interesting and in some ways, very true. As a high school math teacher with a packed curriculum and a regents exam to prepare for, each minute of my class is precious. Technology provides me with tools that can manipulate images to support theorem's and formula's I teach in math. Do I have to use technology to teach my students these skills? The answer to this question is no. Do I want to use technology to better my students understanding of the topic? The answer to this question is yes. This is where the struggle lies. Technology allows us to show and do things that otherwise would not be possible in a classroom. The problem is, technology takes up time. For me to visually show my students that the three angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees or that the sum of the squares of two legs of a right triangle equal the square of its hypotenuse on a program such as Geometer's Sketchpad would take a few minutes of time. Worried about the only 42-minutes I get to see each class a day,I could just give my students the formulas, ask them to memorize it, and hope they can recall it when the test comes up. However, the learning taking place for my students is very limited. Although technology will "slow-down" the learning by taking up more time, in the end, it will prove to be more beneficial because my students will understand the concepts rather than store it in their short-term memory. Either way, isn't it good to sometimes take a step back and slow down??

The Museum Box Project is a really good tool to use to teach Social Studies. The inspiration for this tool was by a man named Thomas Clarkson who would carry around a box of items to illustrate his arguments during his anti-slavery campaign. This is the perfect educational tool in that you can actually make your own box of items by adding Word documents, images, and captions. It's the perfect way to integrate technology into your classroom by allowing students to create a Museum box of a historical person of their choice. It is definitely more engaging and interesting than having students write a paper or create a timeline on oaktag. Technology allows students to do the same amount of work and research but in a more fun and exciting way. The learning taking place by using technoloy is immeasureable and in my opinion, long-term.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Cognitive Module

"Cognitive learning results when information is stored in long-term memory in an organized way." As teachers, this is the type of learning that we strive for. We want to teach our students skills that they can remember, use, and apply to everyday life for years and years to come. The key to allowing students to store information into their long-term memory is to teach according to their liking and learning style. The challenge we face every single day is to plan lessons to make this happen for each and every student we have.
I personally do not have the best memory and find it hard to remember things that have no direct value to me. I do remember from school, however, group projects, lessons applied to real-life situations, and theories I founded by my own research. Because these are the things that I still remember from years ago, I use them in my instruction today hoping they will work for my students as well.
Starting with group projects, I always found them to be fun, engaging, and beneficial to learning. Sometimes, the best way to learn is from your peers. Working together as a group to find solutions help my students to feel more comfortable, important, and active. Weeks later, when I reference to that topic, they automatically remember it, the solutions they came up with, and who they worked with to find it! As for real-life lessons, as soon as I am able to make a connection between solving an equation on paper, and solving an equation to find a real life value, my students are instantly engaged and more open to learning and remembering the process they used to solve it. Lastly, individual research also always proves to be influential for cognitive learning. If I give my students a topic or mathematician to research, down the line, they remember certain things about it because they had to find out the information for themselves, and feel accomplished after doing so.
The most rewarding aspect of teaching is being able to send our students out in the world with an education and with skills to succeed in life. Children need to participate in their own learning experience if you want true education to occur. Being that learning is such a complex procedure, us teachers need to facilitate the learning so that students are able to “code, transform, rehearse, store, and retrieve information.”

Saturday, November 3, 2007


After reading through the PowerPoint's and articles on Constructivism, I was left with so much information that I'm having a problem organizing my thoughts! For the most part, what I took out of all that reading was that a constructivist classroom is not one where a teacher stands in front of a room and dictates notes for students to copy all period, but rather, is a classroom that actively engages each student in their learning. Learning, in this type of environment, is a mental process of development, where the students actively learn and build knowledge.
I could not be any more of a supporter of this type of classroom. I am a junior high/high school math teacher and the only way I can get my students to understand my material is by actively engaging them in the problems. Math is a subject that A LOT of students struggle with and I have come to the conclusion that the reason is because most of them can not see the relationship between math lessons and real life. A constructivist classroom is based upon students having prior knowledge about certain topics. Furthering your education in math is also based upon this. Students can only move forward by building upon past knowledge.
One specific lesson that a constructivist approach worked well in was on computing the sale price of items. The point of this lesson was to teach different applications of percents. Students needed to use their prior knowledge on calculations involving percents and apply it to calculating the sale price of an item. The way I introduced this topic was by explaining that we would all be going shopping with coupons and that discounts are based on a certain percentage off of a price. With that, students developed a method to calculating discounts and were actively working together to solve each problem. I was more than satisfied with the way this lesson went because students were engaged, relating math with real-life, and using prior knowledge to answer questions. For me, a constructivist classroom is an effective and successful classroom!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Thoughts on "GLEF" articles

I'm not really big on reading long articles and books (I'm a math teacher--I'm better with numbers!!) but the articles from the GLEF website were so informative and interesting I couldn't stop reading. I was particularly attached to the "Caring Schools and Emotional Intellgience" article giving ten tips to creating caring schools. The one I like the most is on "Character Atheltics," which talks about students awarding cerftificates to players of opposing teams for showing good character throughout the game. Nowadays, everything in life is a competition--who has the better clothes, who finished the test first, who scored the most points in a game, etc...We always celebrate and cheer for those who end up on top that we forget about everyone else. This article talks about acknowledging the students who may not have played the best game, but played with the best spirit. The students who truly have dignity, respect, and heart. I think that this is an amazing idea and has the capability of changing the actions of students everywhere. Every student likes to be in the spotlight and get an "award", why not give them one for solely having great character. This idea basically urges students to be better, more caring, and act as mature adults.
I really enjoyed reading this article and the affect it had on some kids already.