Thursday, August 30, 2012

IEP-Part 2

Laron Thomas
Ed 632 Internet Resources Management Class
IEP-Part 2
 IEP Lesson 5-Pythagorean Theorem 1
 IEP Lesson 6-Pythagorean Theorem 2

              The second portion of my Individual Education Project incorporates much more technology than the first. However, the main thing I wanted to incorporate into the project was the website, which I did manage to incorporate. When I taught these lessons in Algebra 1 a couple years back, I knew that I wanted to give my students something hands-on to help them remember the Pythagorean Theorem. So, we did an intricate cut and paste job using rulers and such to verify and even prove the Pythagorean Theorem in class. The project went well enough, and I may continue to use it but probably not at the beginning of a sequence of lessons on the subject. Instead, I think that students will initially get a lot more out of it if they use Mathdisk’s “worksheet” on the Pythagorean Theorem to verify it in Lesson 1 and then to make simple calculations in Lesson 2. The use of Mathdisk as an integral part of this lesson allows students in a sense to play around a bit with the site and still learn by doing some calculations and changing up the triangles. Using paper and scissors, such a project would be next to impossible. At the least, it would take insidiously long.
                There are a few more comments I need to make about these lessons. First, I would have to modify the existing Mathdisk worksheet to make it suit our purposes. This means that I would have to do some creating on the website, which I still have to work at learning. Second, I want to point out that I use two other web tools. The first one is MovieMaker about Pythagoras in Lesson 1. I could have groups of students make a simple film or I could make one myself depending on what I wanted to do. However, I think that biographies would be great opportunities for students to do the same story project I did earlier in this course. There are various ways I could design such a lesson and I’m not sure I know how I would accomplish such a lesson right now. The easiest way would be to make the biography myself with the help of the students. We could piece it together and watch it as an introduction to the Pythagorean Theorem. Also, notice how I use Quizlet in these lessons as well. It offers a great opportunity for the students to solidify their understandings of the vocabulary terms on day 1. On day 2, it serves as a filler at the end of class for those who finish early.
                Finally, I would probably piece together at least two more lessons on the Pythagorean Theorem before I would consider my direct teaching on the subject to be complete. However, the objectives would basically be the same. Perhaps, I may add the objective of using the theorem for real world problems as well, thus making the lessons about a week long. I think that one week is a good length of time given the importance of the Pythagorean Theorem as well as the algebra and geometry necessary to work with it, which serves as a wonderful review.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

IEP-Part 1

Laron Thomas
Ed 632
Individual Education Project
Lesson Plans
                The first part of my Individual Education Project explores the site Quizlet. I was first introduced to Quizlet four years ago by a colleague of mine. He found the site and started using it in his social studies classes for vocabulary learning. He appeared to like it, and his stories indicated that the students liked the site as well. However, at the time, I could not use it for my math classes as I was focused on other, more important aspects of the class. I did not want to spend the time on vocabulary development, so I continued to teach the vocabulary informally making sure to use the words all the time in the classroom. The site intrigued me, but the time was not right to use this particular tool.
                So, when I came across Quizlet again during my Internet Resources project, I decided to explore it further and think how I could incorporate the features and tools of Quizlet into my lesson plans. That is the first aspect I endeavored to do for this project. I did it because I believe that Quizlet is an engaging site for vocabulary development, which can be modified specifically for the classes needs. So, I show a number of ways I could incorporate the site into my past lessons.
                The first lesson is really focused on learning mathematical vocabulary. This is the same vocabulary we’d start with in Algebra 1.  Incidentally, my goal is to introduce the class to an engaging, powerful vocabulary tool that we’d use all year long. I designed the lesson in such a way so that my students could become completely adept at using the site. So, I focus on using each and every tool for a short bit of time to work on the vocabulary words. This whole lesson works with and on the Quizlet website. Other important things to consider are usernames and passwords for the class and the students, and the procedures to be continually used to use the site throughout the school year.
                The second lesson is the following lesson for Lesson 1. It emphasizes the many ways that Quizlet can and will be used in my math classroom. First, I can use the site as a standalone warm-up exercise. Second, it can be used for a filler during down time for faster students. It is an especially great way to have students finish class if they are done with all their work. The site also gives me a tool to assess my students’ vocabulary development without having to give formal assessments related to the vocab during the actual quizzes and tests in class. Finally, I think that it would offer a great homework assignment because it would be on the computer and it would be something the students could definitely be successful with.
                The second set of lesson plans I provide come from  the beginning of a second week of study of Alaska Native groups in a 9th grade Alaska Studies class. The basic goal of the lessons was for the students to learn enough about the Alaska Native cultures that they could intelligently discuss them and their key differences and similarities. The way we tackled this goal was through reading and discussion. On the previous Friday, I had introduced them to all the Alaska Native cultures by showing a video and having them locate each group on a map. Now, the reading I gave them was tough, well above their grade level. (The students were freshmen and the reading was college level.) We read together and I had them read individually looking for key ideas and concepts to fill into a worksheet. Things went great but I can see that using Quizlet could have immensely enhanced the learning experiences. I could have frontloaded (i.e., pretaught) the vocabulary for the day’s reading. As it was, I taught that lesson in one day but I think I would have had to slow down a bit and do it as a two or even three day assignment using Quizlet to aid in vocabulary development and hence in better understandings of the reading.
                 Thus, we see how Quizlet can serve a multitude of functions both inside and outside the classroom. Further, it can be incorporated within almost any part of a lesson to enhance the students’ understanding and grasp of the subject. Given enough computers, ipads, smart phones, etc., I would definitely use Quizlet in my classroom in the future.

Here are links to the 4 lessons I have written that use Quizlet.
  1. IEP Lesson 1-Using Quizlet
  2. IEP Lesson 2-Evaluating Expressions
  3. IEP Lesson 3-AK Native Cultures 1
  4. IEP Lesson 4-AK Native Cultures 2

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Internet Resources

Here is a list of a few internet resource that will probably be helpful for me in my education practice.

This unique math program has a lot to offer yet it is not at all perfect. The greatest benefit may be that it redefines the term “worksheet.” For this site, a worksheet is a working multimedia document that can be manipulated. For example, the worksheet for sums of angles in a triangle shows a triangle and the measure of each angle. Also, it adds up the angles to show that they add up to 180 degrees.  Once displayed, teachers and students can use the mouse to change the angles in the triangle however they like (within the parameters, of course, that it remains a triangle) and can check that the angles all add up to 180 degrees. This could be very valuable in solidifying that relationship for students and I could carry it out as a form of lab, much simpler than the tedious way of using a protractor to measure angles of a triangle that has been constructed using a compass. Although they are important skills for students to learn, using mathdisk , in this case, would help teachers concentrate on that one isolated issue thus making it easier-and faster-to learn.
One of the great features of this online program is that it uses mathematical notation just like students would see on the chalkboard or in their textbooks. Further, they can use that notation in a fairly benign environment and in a sense get the hang of how that works through simple examples. Not to mention that the students could create as many examples as they’d like to persuade them to remember.
A large pitfall appears to be that there are not many worksheets readily available, that is, already designed by members to the site. This translates into teachers spending quite a bit of time designing their own worksheets. However, at least the structure is there already for taking on such a task. Further, once that community develops more, there will be more worksheets available. Finally, the program would take a bit of exploration on the teacher’s part and a bit of training for the students to use.
This wonderful site offers a number of services. Mainly, it seems to provide teachers with a fairly large online community of colleagues. As such, there are many groups to belong to depending on the teacher’s focus area. I might be working extra hard for a time on my classroom management, for example. Well, on edutopia, I could find a group to belong to and within that group resides plentiful information on classroom management. Further, many discussions and conversations are posted there.  This is good because I could seek help, ask questions, or even seek clarity if I wish. There are also quite a few more technically-minded writings as well as reports and the like. The site is organized fairly efficiently for teachers and allows teachers a good bit of information absolutely free. But a drawback is that, having so much information, it can almost seem overwhelming at times. And another drawback, like so many similar sites, is that you must sign in to use the resources. I see the number of sites I’m signed up for going up, up, and away. It’s WAY too much for me to remember all those usernames and passwords. I guess I just have to find a way to do so like writing them down.

Wolfram Alpha at first glance appears to be definition oriented, higher level search engine. If that definition, you can seek an even more detailed version. This process will generally be a bit over students’ heads. However, for teachers this can be an invaluable resource in making connection and better understanding the topic they may be teaching. In the example above, the slope of a line as well as that of curves is defined. Additionally, slope is defined in other cases such as curves with parameters and as an angle as opposed to the “standard” distance one. Further, like topics, keywords, and resources (both internet and print) are displayed for those interested to investigate further.  The site also provides a multitude of tools that educators can use to illuminate such topics. It could also be a good spot to get started in researching a particular mathematical topic. In summary, although this site provides highly detailed information, it will most likely be too much for students (unless given much support), but it can be especially helpful to educators.

Cool Math is truly a site that makes math cool! The site opens up a wide array of options from teachers’ lesson plans to fun math-oriented games. On the teaching side, there are nice little lessons and units that students can work through to supplement their lessons. These lessons vary from elementary arithmetic all the way through precalculus. They are short and sweet, which makes the material much more understandable for students. But, because of that, it should not take the place of the textbook, which is crucial for students to learn how to read. Also, each lesson is presented in an appealing way thus helping to engage the student. Also, the site provides other great resources to students for other subjects and for such stuff as math anxiety. The games also give teachers an opportunity to give students a fun, engaging way to practice the material outside of problem sets, the textbook, and other pure academic lessons. So, all in all, this site is a wonderful aid for classroom instruction and learning.

Unfortunately, I could not really use or explore the website. On the surface, it appears to be a great website with a couple dozen different types of math and problems that people face in the real world. The website mentions that most of the lessons use primarily technology, which is great. Yet, at the same time, I definitely would be more reluctant to use the site because it is strong on technology. Also, it uses a very different format for downloading (i.e., kmz files). I would definitely have to figure out ways around those obstacles to make it work. However, I really like their integrated approach: the math problems are not just math problems but involve problem solving, reading, writing, politics, etc. Although I need to explore the site more, it seems to be a winner.

Apparently, this website is a piece of software. It’s aim is to create dynamic worksheets using computer language with commands and script. This means that it is quite a bit more complex to use than any of these other sites listed. Thankfully, the site includes the nuts and bolts to get started with plentiful tutorials, a complete manual, and a forum to ask questions and read what others have asked. Presently, this would be a work in progress for sure as I’d have to somewhat learn how to use the site somewhat before working with my students on it. Once that point is reached, however, it could be a rather powerful tool for math, computer programming, and logic. It also appears that the site is in its infancy in use as not much has really been said, asked, or done on the site.

The mathis site focuses primarily on elementary school math. However, it does touch on secondary math, namely prealgebra, algebra 1, and data and measure. It provides good, interesting text for learning skills related to those areas including problems for students to check their understanding.  Although there are worksheets, none are related to algebra. To me where this site truly excels, however, is in its puzzles. They are fun, interesting, and downright hard! They would work well for group projects, extra credit, or for after quizzes and tests.

This is another good site with a plethora of options and opportunities for educators. The content areas and grades are fairly well categorized to aid in leading educators to the right communities. Within the overall community, there is a couple discussion questions posted every week. These questions seem to be good thought provoking questions and will be helpful in remaining thoughtful on my teaching practices. In the specific content areas, there isn’t quite as much going on, but you can still find a lot of good information and discussions. I could see using this site for reflection on my teaching practices mainly, following it for perhaps a couple minutes every other day during the week.

The Professor Garfield site has some fun games for lower level math students. These games would be appropriate for middle school students or very low performing high school students. They are kind of fun and help a bit with some basic arithmetic, pre-algebra, and algebra skills. As such, this could be a great tool for students who are done with assignments early or even as an incentive to motivate the students to work extra hard on a particular learning objective.  However, with certain groups of students, the games may seem a bit childish and hence not cool. Also, the games certainly do not hit upon every learning objective in a math classroom.

Super Teacher Worksheets offers a nice site with a lot of ready made worksheets. The worksheets are simple and useful and they hit upon a lot of topics up to early algebra and geometry. They may be especially useful for extra practice in certain areas and for certain students who may be struggling with certain topics. The site also provides an answer key, which simplifies the whole process for the educator. Finally, although there are many free worksheets for non-members, only members get full access to all the worksheets, which does in fact cost $20 per year. I think given my use for them, I would choose not to become a member as the site will be useful to me only on occasion. Those occasions, however, are vitally important because it’ll be a time I need to tutor one or a few students while others work on other stuff.

Quizlet is an immensely interesting site. I think that it can be exceptionally valuable as a vocabulary tool. It offers a number of different ways to practice and develop vocabulary. Also, the site offers the chance to communicate and even compete with other classrooms. This would be a great tool for unexpected circumstances and to quiz on vocabulary since educators can access the scores their students get. I think it’s great that the students in essence have complete control over the grades that they get because they can practice as many times as they’d like or take a quiz as many times as they’d like. As such, it would be a great supplement to increase vocabulary in the mathematics classroom.

Hands on Math is a truly fascinating blog. There are some very funny, interesting and captivating entries all with the end of looking at math in a real life context. Word problems are the traditional “real world” math problems, but these go a step beyond by making the word problems fun and relevant. And they sometimes provide video and other media, which can be really helpful to students and teachers these days. Many of the posts would be great as warm ups for the week or as a problem for Fridays after a quiz. This is because the posts appear that they could increase (or better arouse) engagement in math.

I really like Math Snacks. They are funny little vignettes which address mathematics objectives. However, they reach this aim through story. Although the stories themselves cannot stand alone as teaching materials, I believe that they can solidify understandings and make a lasting impact on students. They also offer a great take off point for group or individual work to create mathematical projects, esp. using technology.

Online Community

Although I thought that finding an online community to join would be one of the most difficult tasks, it ended up being rather easy for me. Sure, I looked and looked for awhile as well as took other students' online communities into account. There are all sorts of weird things on the internet now such as wikis and such. It's all very confusing to me. However, as I looked, I happened to come upon Edutopia. I looked at a bunch of the community's information and explored it a bit deciding that it was something that I could do. I could be a part of that community, and thus I joined.

Over the two weeks I've been a part of the community I found a lot of valuable information and interesting conversations. To me, this site mainly gets its value from these conversations. I wasn't attracted to the blogs of any of the articles that can be read from its main page. Of course, that can all add to the potential value that the site has for me. Honestly, all that stuff is simply too much. There really is too much information out there, too many opinions, in my opinion. And there's yet another. It's all a bit overwhelming.

Anyways, the conversations take place within a number of interesting categories such as "project-based learning", "technology tools", and "classroom management" just to mention a few. It appears that within each category, there are a few moderators who are highly involved in asking questions, writing blogs, etc. It seems that most of these people are some form of administrators. The rest of the community consists of teachers scattered throughout the world.

One of the conversations I immediately replied to was a "technology tool" called mathdisk. You can read one of my conversations here A creator (or advertiser or sorts) of a mathematics tool on the web posted a comment that this particular site existed. Interested, I checked the site out and gave a quick simple review. I pointed out that the tool was really cool, but there wasn't very many ready made worksheets for educators to use. The site's creator valued the comment and informed me that there was much work going on but not being published to the site. The moderator gave a comment as well to which I replied based on his bad connotation of the term "worksheet". He still hasn't answered but I'm interested to find out.

I also went joined a conversation about wisdom that we had gleaned in terms of classroom management. I read a few comments (out of well over 100!) and posted mine. A teacher who had been in Chevak for 25+ years told me, "You have to get the students' respect." And I truly believe that is a very important quality in the classroom. But I find, given my style of teaching, I can't demand it but welcome it by modelling my own respect for each and every student in the classroom. I truly try to value each student's immense value to my life and to my classroom, that value is my respect for them as people. However, that doesn't mean that I respect it when they make bad choices. You can find my comment here, which I believe is Comment #101. Additionally, someone replied with a tool that I can check out to meet my goal. Very cool!

I like the format of a conversation, an opportunity to exchange valuable ideas to become better educators. This is in essence what it means to be colleagues. Although I don't think I'd participate on the site but occasionally, it still will be a valuable addition to my teaching repertoire. It gives me yet another place I can go to learn more about my profession and share with others what I have learned.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Storytelling Rubric

I produced my storytelling rubric, which I like to keep simple. It's important, esp. when students do the assessing, that I follow the KISS guidelines. So I use 3 qualitative assessment points or traits-1) understanding, 2) planning, and 3) presentation. I think that these are the key points. Also, I think that it's nice to have qualitative assessment of it by teacher and students. This gives wiggle room. As far as I'm concerned, if a students don't like their grades, they can argue why it should be better and I am willing to listen and change the grade. This is a very good learning opportunity for both student and teacher although it can be rather time intensive. I give each of the three traits and equal weight of 10 points, which is easy for students to grade and understand. (How is it 1 through 10?)

The document can be found and read on my Google Docs at the following link:

Digital Storytelling Reflection

The process for completing this Digital Storytelling Project was as follows. First, I studied meaningful digital storytelling, which provided a template for creating a story map for my story. Because my friend Dustin recommended that I do one on dimensional analysis. That recommendation helped me in getting started on this project. The first difficulty in a project like this is always figuring out what to do a project on, so that was very helpful. So, I personalized the story including an example I will really use for myself. This was all done in the initial stage of this project.

After the story map, I filled in the story map with details to make a script. The next step simply piggy-backed on the script writing: making a 2-column story map. In Column 1, I included the script, and in Column 2 I thought deeply about what media would correspond to the piece of script to illustrate each section in a movie.

This initial stage to me represents the planning/writing stage of the story. I enjoyed thinking about and writing what I would do my project on. Also, I think it was very helpful to make a story map, which helped me think about how I could write a cohesive, understandable piece. Also, it was very helpful in writing the script and eventually associating the script with media images and videos.

The second stage, the production stage, I found to be excruciatingly difficult and not much fun at all. I started by trying to use MovieMaker to create the story. This did not work very well. I tried to put some video pieces on it but it didn't work. First of all, our old computer just could not handle the huge video files. Also, the video files would not show up to be moved into the MovieMaker file. It appeared impossible and I became quite frustrated. So, I switched formats. My sister let me use her Mac and iMovie to complete the project. This program isn't as user friendly as MovieMaker, but was much nicer because I could import video into it. Finally after a grueling month, I had something created. And thankfully it's done. You can find the video at

I think the process will be very helpful for students. In particular, students often have difficulties with the planning process to tell compelling stories. I would emphasize or even totally focus on this planning stage. I don't feel really comfortable enough with the media and video programs to make that a requirement. I think I'd only integrate that stage into the process if the students wanted to do it. Otherwise, I may skip it. Plus there's always the difficulty of getting enough computers and such.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

2-Column Story Table

I think this 2-column story table of mine is a bit long as it'll probably go 4 minutes, which is our maximum time allowed. Also, it seems to me that doing the media portion will be excruciatingly difficult. I don't even know where to begin. I guess I'll begin with one step and continue the journey from there if Jason okays it.

Here is the link: