Middle School Math iPod Touch Blog

Integrating Technology into the Middle School Classroom

Can I get back that new teacher excitement? It’s almost time to start anew! April 29, 2011

   Here it is – the final stretch. As I come to this time of the year, I keep students after school often and try to motivate and encourage them to gain every last bit of review possible before the year-end test. I develop study booklets on each strand of mathematics for review at home and at school. We practice during class and after school trying to push everyone’s understanding of the skills higher. (It sounds a bit like teaching to the test, doesn’t it? I really don’t teach this way the rest of the year, but right now it is review, review, review).  I am doing my best to focus my time and energy on my helping my students, but also realize I have needs too.

    When I work with new teachers, I show them the phases of teacher evolution during the year. Many teachers are familiar with this diagram, “Evolution of a Teacher”, that accompanies the article, The Evolution of a Teacher by Dr. Mark Littleton and Dr. Pam Littleton.

    There are so many teachers who spend a great deal of the time in the disillusioned phase, and not nearly enough in the Rejuvenation or Anticipation Phases.  I am not a new teacher, but I feel myself follow this downward slope of emotions yearly. I don’t believe I am disillusioned nearly as long as this diagram depicts, but certainly January through March are challenging months. Well, I am nearing the end of the year, I am reflecting, and feeling rejuvenated, and I WANT THAT NEW TEACHER FEEL AGAIN! Think of how many “new” things are fabulous. I love that new car smell, the crackling of a new book, and the excitement and joy felt by a new christian just bubbling with enthusiasm. I want that new teacher feeling back!   When I was a new teacher, I didn’t mind as much when students said really “cooky” things just to get some giggles from their friends, because I knew they needed that attention.  New teachers don’t hear as much of the complaining that goes on between other teachers, they don’t notice the “extras” being asked of them because it is all new, and they wake up in middle of the night with fabulous ideas of how to bring the content to their students.

    Teachers are fortunate in that we can start fresh every year. This year I have faced some struggles that have made me feel similar to new teacher, because all of the technology I was using was so new to me. It was wonderful at times, but challenging and disappointing at times. I had to work hard and spend extra hours finding apps, programs and developing lessons that would incorporate technology more effectively in my classroom. Overall I have been successful, but I am in the reflection/rejuvenation phase where I am looking forward to my “new start”. We are fortunate that we can start over each year, and can always aim for this year to better than those in the past. I am hopeful, optimistic and excited about a new start in just a few months and look forward to all the challenges, successes and craziness the new year may hold. It makes me think of that Meg Ryan favorite in “You’ve Got Mail”, “bouquets of sharpened pencils”. I am looking forward to that new teacher experience all over again!

 

Final Course Blog – Increasing traffic to your blog April 24, 2011

Filed under: blog,education,technology integration — msmathteachr1 @ 10:25 pm
Tags: , ,

Methods I have used to increase traffic to my blog:

I have taken several steps to increase traffic to my blog. The items in red are those that I feel have been most successful, while those with an asterisk are those that are recent methods based on recommendations from others in the course.

  • Try to make the blog short enough that it doesn’t require too much of one’s time to read, while still informative and interesting
  • Use tags that best describe the post, and that will attract others from a Google Search. Check to see if it works!
  • Use Twitter to Tweet new posts in hopes that Twitter PLN will visit the site.*
    • I chose to rely more on twitter because I can see what others are tweeting, and I can see when/if my tweet about my blog is retweeted or mentioned.
  • Post links to Twitter on the blog
  • Send emails to friends, colleagues and others whom you feel my find the blog interesting and/or relevant*
    • I chose to notify friends and colleagues because many of them are not familiar with the extent that technology such as the iPod Touch can be used in the classroom. I want them to see some of my ideas, how much students enjoy using the iPods and hopefully get excited about using more technology in the classroom. Then, we can share ideas and all become better teachers by having more resources.
  • Use Ping-o-matic to send “ping” alerts to search engines that the blog has been updated. Be sure to return to the Ping-o-Matic site each time the blog is updated to send the “ping”. 
    • I had already signed up for Ping-o-matic, but I didn’t realize I had to return to the site each time I updated my blog.  I am interested in seeing how much site growth I have now that I am using the program correctly. *
  • Visit other blogs and leave comments referencing your own blog, example Classroom2.0
  • Use RSS feeds to allow others to get notification of your new posts, and to read your favorite posts without searching.*
    • I like having my own RSS feed reader that allows me to quickly keep up with my preferred blogs about education and technology integration. What I do not like is that some sites, such as my own, don’t allow you to use Bloglines. Some sites allow you to subscribe using Google Friends or save your RSS feed to a file on your internet server. I don’t like this as much, because I would like to have all my feeds in the same location. I am sure if I spend a lot of time looking for the process I may be able to convert the RSS to include Bloglines, so hopefully I will have time to do that in the near future.

Usefullness of blogging as an educator

        I believe this has been a very useful project for an educator. Initially I was very concerned about blogging, because I had fears of what others would think about my blog, and I was concerned that I may write something that would be frowned upon by my school system. Once I decided to only write about problem-solving with regards to apps, rather than school-system issues, I felt more comfortable. I also believe that the blogs I write can be helpful to someone new with using iPod touches in the classroom, specifically the middle school math classroom.

     What I have found most beneficial about the project are building my PLN and documenting what works and what doesn’t work for my own journal. This will help me improve as a teacher using technology, and help me problem-solve while using the technology. This is definitely a project that has allowed me to apply its use to my needs. I have built a website to organize thoughts, lesson plans, resources, and videos. It also allows me to tie that site into my blog offering me the possibility of more users as my website grows. (It is still in the building phase, although I do plan to continue this endeavor). I have come to feel more comfortable with Twitter, (I am following many- everchanging as I read the posts, and have over 100 following me). Through Twitter I have learned of technology PLNs that Tweet, sites they have, and conferences. For example, someone recently Tweeted me asking if I planned to attend the edcamp in Charlottesville this summer. I have never heard of it, or SlidetoLearn and others that I may now consider in the future. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn of all these new technology resources and know that I will continue to grow in my ability to integrate technology more effectively into my classroom. My goal for next year is to plan and carry-out an augmented reality lesson in my math classroom. I know this is something middle school students would enjoy.

Read this excellent blog post by Sue Walters of edublogger about s blog traffic!

 

Using Mouse Mischief as a way of engaging students in reviews for year-end tests. April 23, 2011

     I just learned about a new  classroom application that can be used to engage learners, and to act as a formative assessment to guide instruction. Mouse Mischief is a program that can be used with PowerPoint 2010. Essentially, a teacher would show a presentation to the students, and at certain points during the presentation ask the students to participate.  The teacher should include multiple choice questions, or just some type of question where students can reply by “pointing” with their own individualized (characters, shapes, bugs, etc) cursor by using a wireless mouse.  The program is very affordable, with the main expense being a wireless mouse for each participant. I am looking forward to trying this, but feel that with 25 students in a class it could get quite “busy” with all the cursors swarming around the screen. I may have to find a way to do this in smaller group instruction, but I am willing to try it once to see what happens with the full class.

     Another neat feature is that students can draw with the wireless mouse.  So, I could ask all of my students to draw their own heptagon on the screen and then students can compare and contrast each to determine which are correct. And, the students can feel comfortable because only the teacher knows which cursor belongs to which student. See it in action for yourself in the video below then visit the Mouse Mischief site for more information. Let me know if you have tried it, how you have used it, and if you feel it was helpful. Thanks!

 

GAMeSlab at RU offers good videos to help teachers new to using iPods in the classroom. April 22, 2011

What I like about the teaching profession is the collaboration among teachers, because we each have our own, creative ideas. As new teachers, the lack of immediate resources is one of the greatest struggles. When teachers work together, sharing ideas and pedagogy, we all become our best and the students benefit the most.

The GAMes lab at Radford University offers some good videos showing how some teachers are using iPods and iPad in the classroom. Twitter is another resource from some excellent ideas, if you have time to sort through the ideas. Another way of sharing and obtaining resources is through blogs by other educators and technology users. The most important thing is to be creative, reflect on your students’ behaviors and engagement, and build (and keep in contact with) your own PLN and PLC. All teachers need support, but especially new teachers need to know how to survive those first, most difficult years. I hope these suggestions help, especially when you are trying to incorporate technology into your classroom!

 

A lonely student with hearing loss needed a friend. My student’s best friend today was an iPod :)

Our school does an excellent job of trying to provide positive reinforcement opportunities for each child. In middle school, this is not always an easy task. One thing that we do is give coupons to students who have made good behavior choices during a certain timeframe. This time our coupons provided students with the opportunity to wear a hat, or sit with a friend at lunch.

One of my sweet students, whom I will call Brian, is totally deaf and has Asperger’s. He can be a neat kid, who adds a lot to our classroom. He is the only student with hearing loss in seventh grade, although there are several other students with hearing loss at our school. During lunch, he typically sits by himself and eats his same lunch in the same order each day. He likes it this way. Routine makes him comfortable, although many of our hearing students don’t understand this. They, enjoying time with him and wanting to help Brian feel included, ask to sit with him and write on a dry-erase board or paper to talk with him during lunch. We usually agree to let them try, but it doesn’t take long before the other student learns Brian would rather sit quietly.

Upon being praised for excellent behavior this quarter, Brian was offered a coupon and he chose a sit with a friend pass. In my less than stellar signing ability I asked if he had a friend he wanted to sit with during lunch to use his pass. He said no, he just wanted to sit and eat. Knowing how big he smiles when we use the iPod Touch in math class, I asked him if he would like to take it to lunch the next day.  It was a no-brainer! He smiled and said yes.

Today, he quickly ate his bag lunch as usual, but then with excitement reached for the iPod. I am now thinking of utilizing the iPod as a lunch buddy for Brian on special occassions. I am excited about looking for an app that teachers sign language (I know I have seen one before) and loading it on to the iPod. Then, some students can learn some signs in order to be able to have small conversations with Brian. Then, when he gets an “eat lunch with a friend” pass, he can use the iPod and another student can play apps with him and sign as well, after having learned some sign language.

I just wanted to share this story because we all know how iPods can help keep students engaged, it can differentiate instruction, and make learning fun. Now, it can help students build relationships by learning to communicate and can be a “friend” to a student in need.

 

iPods, Games, SmartBoard, YouTube…but what about student accountability? April 20, 2011

Filed under: blog,education,math,middle school,technology integration — msmathteachr1 @ 3:17 am
Tags: , , ,

        This has been one of those weeks.

       Maybe it is because my students have spring fever with break right around the corner, and it is beautiful outside (some days…when the tornadoes take a break). But just maybe it is because I am focused on the year-end test that tells the teacher “gods” what kind of teacher I am. I consider myself a caring, empathetic, motivating teacher that truly wants to see my students each do their personal best on a daily basis. I realize the year-end test means more to me than it does to many of my students, but I also want them to view it as an accomplishment. If they pass the test, they can have pride in knowing their effort paid off. If they improve over last year, they can build self-confidence and realize they can be successful. But what about those students who really don’t care how they do on a test?  What about those students who say, “I like to go to summer school. That way I get lunch during the summer”. I cannot compete with meeting a student’s basic needs like food.

         It is good to motivate students!

       Teachers spend countless hours planning meaningful lessons incorporating music, videos, technology, cooperative learning and many other creative means of educating and entertaining. The majority of my students respond well, with excitement some days.  It is evident some of my students have made great strides in math progress this year and I try to hold on to those “happy spots” and help them also to recognize how their attitude and effort have helped them to make such improvements.  I love how many of my students stay after school for an extra 90-minutes of math tutoring twice a week to help get extra practice on past math concepts. They inspire me.

            But then I feel the tug of futility.

       It happens to many of us at some point. I have about 6 students in my classes who don’t care about learning, and I struggle with keeping positive while watching a student refuse to try. Is it because they don’t have food to eat? Is it because mom just went back to jail for the third time? Is it because they are living with family until their house is repaired after the tornado? Is it because they hate me? Is it because they hate math? They may not always like me, but I believe they know I care. They tell me I explain it and make things easier for them to understand and my class is fun sometimes. So, what? Is it because the student’s parents are in the process of getting divorced? Is it because the child lives with grandma and never gets to see mom or dad? Is it because the child has no friends? How can I compete with all of these surrounding, important, issues in a student’s life? How can I make them see this is an opportunity for them to have some control in one small part of their world?  

          What is the solution?

         I am still searching for the solution. I hope for some form of student and/or parent accountability for those cases where students can learn, but choose not to try. I focus on those students who do care. I network with an amazing PLN that offers suggestions, support, empathy, and just “listens”. I try to be a blessing in some way to each student, even if it isn’t in regards to learning math. This is why I became a middle school math teacher initially, and this is what I love about teaching. I can show students I care and help be a positive influence on them.  I will try to focus on this goal of “reaching each student”, realizing it may not mean they will succeed by reaching a mandated score on a year-end test. I hope that happens too, but really it is the student that is most important.

        A resource I enjoyed, and I think you will too:

                CoolCatTeacher had a wonderful blog this Monday that was very helpful in offering a renewal that I needed. Visit the blog and see if you, too, gain a lot from her great words. Thanks Vickie!

http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2011/04/monday-morning-pep-talk-for-teachers.html

           Please comment and let me know how you deal with the year-end stress of tests, and how you motivate those hard-to-reach students! Thanks!

 

Making Math Movies- Pros and Cons April 18, 2011

My students worked so hard on their movies this week using the MacBooks, keynotes and lots of their own creativity and excitement. This was a wonderful thing to see! I have had some wonderful suggestions on how to reach students without internet access at home. Some of the ideas include making dvds for them to use with computer, dvd player or x-box. Wow! Great ideas…I didn’t realize you could play dvds in gaming systems. I tried making a sample dvd and it worked great, so my student developers and I were even more motivated once they saw a sample.

So, those are clearly “pros”. Now, I have a few “cons”. Unfortunately, students were not able to use the recorder option in keynotes to record their voices to their presentations. I am not sure if this is a bandwidth issue, since our school struggles with this issue. Now, because I have spent 3 class days making wonderful videos, I am planning to load them onto iPods for students without the voice recording. This can always be added later. I am going to hold off on the dvds in light of the glitch, which is upsetting because I really wanted those dvds out to families to use for SOL reviews. I will have to keep trying, and find a way to help my students find success with such a worthwhile project that they really enjoyed.