Sunday, August 24, 2008

Organizing and Teaching with Spreadsheets.

Every year, one of the first things I do to get ready for the new school year is import student data into a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet serves many purposes throughout the year. I mail merge student names into a label document to print out labels for student planners and take-home folders. I record assignments of textbooks, calculators, locks, and lockers. The formulas feature makes calculating growth on test scores a breeze. And, as ridiculous as it sounds, it helps me answer the question that takes me off guard about three times a year, "How many students do you have on your team?"

One of the best teaching strategies I've implemented in the past couple of years requires students to store collected data in spreadsheets. One of our class activities at the beginning of the year has students working in groups to measure each students' height, arm span, resting heart rate, exercising heart rate, wrist, neck, thumb, foot length, and stride length. The data is used for multiple purposes throughout the course of the year. We make scatter plots to determine relationships between different data. We use the data for five number summaries, box-and-whisker plots, frequency tables (line plots), stem and leaf plots, and histograms. We make circle graphs and bar graphs to demonstrate misleading graphs and displays of data. The spreadsheet software only makes a few of these graphs, but putting the data into a spreadsheet accomplishes a few critical objectives. One, the data is stored electronically under the students' profile and less likely to be lost. Two, students accomplish some of the technology curriculum by creating formulas, sorting data and graphing data using spreadsheets. And Three, students can easily reorganize the data to make it more readable for a specific application. I strongly recommend reserving the computer lab anytime students are collecting data. Even if you don't have access to the computer lab when you're using the data, any student can access the data on the classroom computer and share with the class.

Tammy Worcester has developed an extensive list of spreadsheet enhanced lessons for all grade levels. I would be remiss if I posted this blog without providing a link to her website.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 Great Way to get Class Materials

Today, I submitted my first grant for the school year. I submitted a need for a video camera and tripod for my classroom. I've had great success in the past with grants. Over the past three years donors have bought some excellent technology for my classroom. Thanks to the generosity of various donors, my classroom has been equipped with a Bluetooth wireless keyboard/mouse, a XGA TV converter, a USB 1GB memory stick, a presentation remote, and a TI-Presenter. I haven't been awarded every request, but its certainly paid off to keep trying. DonorsChoose outright tells you that requests costing less than $400 have the best chance of being funded. This has proven very true in my experience. I have applied for other grant opportunities with no success. I will continue to try for these other grants, but I strongly recommend that every eligible teacher appeal to donors on to get what you need for your classroom. I also recommend starting small so that you build momentum toward getting higher priced items.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Physical Education and Math

Had a great conversation today with one of our P.E. teachers. He was looking for a way to integrate fitness data with the math curriculum. We discussed ways students might electronically store their fitness statistics. (Heart rates, # push ups, # sit ups, running times, ... etc.) It was a fortuitous discussion because I have deliberated several times over the past year about ways to used data that is meaningful to students in teaching data analysis and graphing. I'm excited about the prospect of the 8th grade math department collaborating with the P.E. department to find ways to make math personal for the students.

I really enjoyed the conversation because it testifies to the climate of our school. We have an amazing professional staff and the professionalism is contagious. It looks like we're off to a great start this year.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Video in the classroom. Kids behind the camera.

I've been contemplating ways to enhance my teaching this year by using video. I'm determined to make video cameras a staple in my classroom this year. Nothing seems to excite students more than the prospect of being in pictures.

One idea I've been mulling over involves students acting out a script to teach a math concept. Even if they don't really understand what they're teaching, I think they could memorize a script and act out the scene. Videos should peak student interest. Acting activates multiple intelligences. And, content isn't compromised. I will post more as I develop a more concrete lesson plan and again as I execute the lesson.

I also intend to incorporate video into normal daily routines. There's something about knowing you're being recorded that makes you want to do your best. Not only will it encourage students to be at their best, it will also motivate me to be on top of my game as a teacher.

I certainly welcome any ideas about other ways that I can effectively use video in my math classes.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Hiatus has ended.

I have returned to blogging after an extended break. As I get ready for school to start, I've decided to return to blogging. I'm taking a different attitude with my blogging this year. I became somewhat disappointed last year when I felt like no one was reading my Blog. I wasn't getting comments posted and took this to mean that I had no audience. While I would like to have an audience completely riveted to my every word, the real usefulness comes from the valuable self-reflection that goes into Blogging.

Friday, February 1, 2008

My first educational video.

I've finally done it. After putting together a few hours of uninterupted time, I finally managed to put together my first teaching video. It's no masterpiece, but I don't think its horrible for a first attempt. I've posted it to Teachertube.