Monday, October 31, 2011

Financial Literacy - Real-world math, REALLY.

In two previous postings, What Should We Be Teaching? and Financial Literacy - Bring It Back To School I brought up the fact that we are doing our students a disservice by NOT teaching financial literacy. appears that there is some movement on that front, which is exciting for me to see.  I am hoping this economy crisis we are in has perhaps opened the eyes of many our education system needs to better prepare students for reality, not just standardized tests. Great that you can pass a test to get into a college, but not so great when you can't figure out how to save for that college.

In the article, High Schools, Colleges Push Financial Literacy by Caralee Adams, the focus is on student-loan debt and helping students understand debt and earnings starting in high school in order to hopefully prevent future problems. Helping students realize what debt is, how payment of loans works, and how to start saving and planning for the future is a skill that our students need....and they need it now so they can hopefully NOT fall into the problems facing so many today.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

World Series Game 7 - Still All About Math was a wild and crazy night in St. Louis last night. I was right down the street from the stadium and the streets were packed for hours with screaming, dancing, high-fiving Cardinals fans. Insane!! But, hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm. My palms hurt from all the high-fiving and my throat is sore and I can't talk...

Anyway, with all the excitement I totally forgot to post yesterday...what I was going to post  from the math conference was how the baseball fever had permeated the booth. St. Louis Cardinals shirts, signs, feather boas were all over the exhibit hall. In our booth, we had a Sketchpad tessellation done by a college student that was the cardinal, and using TinkerPlots, we did a quick statistical analysis of the two teams. They were so close in comparisons that predicting the winner was hard....obviously home team advantage and Freese made a difference! Just wanted to share a picture of the team comparison.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

St. Louis, World Series and Math

So, I am here in St. Louis for the NCTM Regional math conference starting tomorrow. also happens to be the site of the World Series - St. Louis Cardinals vs. Texas Rangers. I am not a baseball fan...much more of a football fan...but I feel the need, in the spirit of the game, to maybe be prepared for tomorrow at the booth with some baseball 'stuff' to show. And, as I look at some baseball statistics, I am just amazed at the sheer amount of mathematics that surrounds baseball.  It just has me thinking that any math teacher who is worried about the how to explore statistics with students using relevant data need look no further than baseball.

More later - hopefully some interesting data explorations using TinkerPlots....will keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Facebook As A Communication Tool

Taking a quick side trip away from 'education' directly to give a shout out to Facebook as a powerful communication tool and to an unknown Texas A&M student who has reaffirmed my faith in humanity and honesty.

First - little background - in the last three months my credit card number was stolen twice (while I still had the credit card....) and my entire wallet, with ID, credit cards, ATM card, was stolen right out of my purse while I was sitting eating at a restaurant.  So, needless to say, I am a little down on humanity in general and dishonest slimy thieves specifically.  After hundreds of dollars lost, hours wasted getting new id's and cards, I have not been feeling too kindly about our society in general.  So when my daughter called me from college yesterday to inform me she lost her wallet with her id and all her cards, school id, dorm keys, etc., panic mode set in and there was an immediate call made to the bank and the credit card company cancelling the cards...yet again.  Of course, I thought the worst - wallet gone, first person to find it is going on a shopping spree.

However - light at the end of the tunnel.  My daughter just text me this morning to inform me that an unknown A&M student had messaged her on Facebook to let her know she had her wallet.  Everything intact - id, keys, cards, money.  So - shout out to the power of Facebook, where an honest person can reach out to someone they don't know and find them and relieve their anxiety over a lost object.  And a shout out to this honest student at A&M - thank you for reminding me that not everyone in the world is a thief and dishonest and that there are still some good,  conscientious people out there. I will not gripe at all as I wait for my replacement card...again!


Polaroid-style photo of a girl studying in the library

Integrity - Character is destiny.

The Aggie Code of Honor which Aggies recite by heart: 'Aggies do not lie, cheat or steal nor tolerate those that do' shows what goes to the heart of being an Aggie. - Texas A&M Leadership

From the Texas A&M Website on Core Values - I am a believer now!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Playing at School - A Recipe for Creativity

Clearly, the loss of Steve Jobs has many people wondering where are the next innovative technology ideas going to come from, what's going to happen to Apple, who is the NEXT Steve Jobs?  There are articles galore on Jobs impact, so I was not surprised to run across one connecting Steve Jobs to education entitled "If we don't let our children play, who will be the next Steve Jobs?" by Darell Hammond.

I really loved the idea of this article - that schools need to let kids PLAY in order to foster their creativity, curiosity, and imagination.  It's something we have lost with the emphasis on standardized testing and assessment.  Time is short in schools, so the play (i.e. recess, music, art, etc.) is being eliminated for more time spent on practicing, testing, reviewing, and memorizing.  Check out the article - there are some great anecdotes  from Steve Jobs about the value of playing and creating.  The message here - let kids get out there, play, tinker, create, explore, imagine, should NOT be about regurgitation.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Math Teachers and Gambling

Okay, just wanted to report back on my 'gambling adventure' on my 21st anniversary while at the NCTM Regional Math Conference in Atlantic City.  In my post, I believe I referenced the idea that I would put 21 dollars down on 21 at the roulette table.

So, with my good friends and colleagues at the casino, after a lovely dinner, I went right up to the roulette table to get my chips.  Apparently, lots of etiquette rules on how to get the chips and place the bet - thank goodness the nice gentlemen next to me filled me in!  I shared the anniversary story and the man next to me suggested that instead of placing my 21 dollars on 21, to place my bet at the bottom of the column where the 21 resided, where I would get 2-to-1 odds if it landed on any number in that column, which included the 21.  I would have more likelihood of's all about the odds.

And here is where I believe math teachers are at a disadvantage in gambling - we know the odds and we know they are not good...stacked against us.  The odds of hitting 21 (i.e. single number) are 2.6%, though the pay out is 35-to-1. The odds of hitting a number in a column are 31.58%, but with only a 2-to-1 pay out.  What to do, what to do....?! brainer for this math teacher who hates to lose money and can do some quick calculating.  I went column.  And won. And then walked with 42 dollars more than I started with.

I am not going to be able to pay off the house or my daughter's college tuition, but I am a winner.  Cheap and a bad gambler, but a winner!

AMTOPV and Math Conferences

Had a lovely morning with some terrific teachers yesterday morning at the AMTOPV (Association of Teachers of Mathematics of Philadelphia and Vicinity) at Germantown Academy in Plymouth Meeting, PA.  First, what an absolutely beautiful town and school.  Second, what a great group of teachers, dedicating their Saturday to learning more about how to improve math education for their students.  Met some wonderful teachers and the presentations that were going on were so exciting.  It's a shame that the media can't capture things like this conference, where dedicated teachers are giving up their day off to do something to help students learn.  Might bring to light that there are amazing teachers out there working hard to educate our students.

Anyway, just wanted to mention what a great time I had doing my short little presentation - I learned some new things about whiteboards and Sketchpad from the teachers and hopefully they got some ideas and help from me as well.  It was a fun session and gratifying to hear stories of teachers in the classroom and how they are using Sketchpad.

I do have to share one story that just absolutely made my day, if not my entire week.  There was a high school student in the session - sweet girl.  I was sharing various activities related to teaching slope, and in one activity, Mellow Yellow (an activity available in The Learning Center of Sketchpad5 under Sample Activities), I was demoing how to show a contextual understanding of positive, negative, no-slope and undefined slope.  At the end of the session, she came up to me and said - "I have never understood what undefined meant until you just showed us now" (it had to do with the inability of Mellow Yellow to 'teleport').  How great was that?!!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Teachers are using technology....they just need support!

Well, as I mentioned previously I was going to Atlantic City for the NCTM Regional math conference.  Today was the first day at the booth, and it was a very busy day - lots of teachers stopping by to check out the new booth and play with Sketchpad, TinkerPlots and Fathom.  I spent the whole day talking to so many different folks - teachers, administrators, students, and it was so fun to see them trying out the software, or help them find some resources to support their own learning of the software or find an upcoming lesson to use.

I think the overall message I got out of today is that the technology is being used, but teachers really want and need curriculum and support/resources they can use right away because they don't have the time to search or create on their own.  I think it's one of the strongest components of what Key's software offers - (shameless plug, but hey - I am at a math conference!) - we have great software but more importantly we don't leave teachers out there struggling - we have ready-to-use lessons and built in tutorials, videos, and activities that teachers could start teaching with tomorrow even if they hadn't spent any time themselves learning the software.  A scaffolded approach you might say of learning the software incrementally as you also do mathematics. Here's one example of a tutorial just to get an idea.

All in all, fun day and I am looking forward to meeting more folks tomorrow.  Tonight, off to check out the Atlantic City boardwalk and possibly do a bit of risk-taking at the casinos.  It is my 21st wedding anniversary today, so I am thinking 21 dollars on 21 at the roulette table...worst odds, but why not?  Or...perhaps Black Jack...after all, 21 is the magic number there, right?!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

NCTM Atlantic City

I am off to Atlantic City tomorrow for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (whew...that's a mouthful) (NCTM for short) Regional Math Conference.  I am a little nervous and a little excited.  We are going completely technology this year, so a little nervous at setting up and making sure I am up on TinkerPlots and Fathom demonstration, as my strong point is Sketchpad.  But...very excited about the prospect of focusing on technology and getting to play with math and technology all day.  So...any of you folks planning to attend Atlantic City, stop on by and say hi...would love to see you!  I will update on how things go.

On a side note - Atlantic City - gambling....  Should I try Black Jack? I am a HORRIBLE gambler because I don't like to lose money - even a dollar.  But how can you be in Atlantic City and not even try, right?!  Do math teachers have an advantage?  I know this math teacher doesn't....

Monday, October 17, 2011

Testing Hiatus - Give It A Try!

I read a fun blog posting this morning by Peter DeWitt called "No Testing Week"   Basically, his school is planning a testing hiatus, where no tests will be given for the entire week of November 28 - December 2. Instead, the focus will be on project-based learning, reading, theater, creating works of art, interdisciplinary projects.  In other words - learning and enjoying learning.

I think it's a great idea.  I think EVERY school should be doing things like this, because as DeWitt says (and which I completely agree with) "the US is too focused on testing and we need to bring back creativity and not always worry about collecting data. .. we are raising a stressed out generation of students who are overtested and overanalyzed".  Hear hear!!

So, those of you out there teaching and leading (i.e. principals, curriculum specialists, district supervisors, etc.), consider stepping back and letting school be about creativity and learning and connecting, if only for a while.  Help students remember that learning is fun, engaging, and not always about a score on a test.  You might be amazed to find that students want to learn if learning involves more than memorizing facts and doing worksheets. Let's all try to have a testing hiatus - whether it be a week or a month - but let's bring back some creativity and excitement to learning and teaching.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What REALLY happened in a 2-hour Technology Professional Development

In my posting on Wednesday regarding a 2-hour Sketchpad workshop I was doing, entitled "How to do a 2-hour Technology Professional Development" , I listed four basic things that in that short amount of time would be important to do: Inspire, Relate, Practice, Support.

Let me now share the REALITY of what happened in my 2-hour workshop.  Already, not an ideal situation with only 2 hours.  However, it gets worse.  Those of you who are teachers and have attended any professional development will be able to relate to this: the 2 hours turned into 1 hour and 15 minutes because the district whole-group session prior to the break-out sessions didn't end on time - so good-bye 30 minutes.  And then, of course, all break out sessions were told to end 15 minutes early so participants could fill out evaluations.  So...down to 75 train teachers on Sketchpad.....with the expectation they will start using it after the session.


But, the show must go on with the same four focus points still necessary. Key here was to read my audience and focus on their needs and what was going to be the most useful to them in this short window of time. Flexibility is a requirement for any technology presenter and I tried to be as flexible as possible with my goal to have these folks leave with the desire to try Sketchpad in their classroom. Below is my synopsis.

1&2) Inspire and relate - time crunch here, so I decided these two objectives could be combined.  I did a quick survey of subjects taught.  Since geometry was the big winner, I did my favorite intro to Sketchpad, using a simple triangle that shows off many of the dynamic features of Sketchpad to explain how the use of Sketchpad provides the ability to construct infinite examples of a construct in order to develop definitions, collect data, and help students make numerous discoveries. It seemed to do the trick. Here's an abbreviated version of what I did:

3) Practice. The first activity ate up about 20 minutes of my 75 minutes. I wanted to make sure they got their hands on the software, so with them all on computers, we opened up Sketchpad and went to the Help menu and opened up the Learning Center.  They explored the videos, sample activities, and tutorials and then actually did one of the tutorials, Dynamic Algebra, so they could play with Sketchpad tools and see how the tutorials could help them and their students not only learn the software but learn math content.  The plan was to let them play and explore and then be aware of all the built-in resources to continue learning and to have ready-to-use lessons. I walked around, I heard some grumbling and frustration.  Here is where, as a presenter, you have to read your audience and be flexible.  Turns out, the consensus of the room was they felt they could play and go through the tutorials on their own, and they would much rather use their limited time in the workshop to know how to get lessons.  So...change of plans!

4) Support. The software has built in lessons, but the district had also purchased for the teachers the online curriculum, Sketchpad LessonLink.  Originally, I knew I wouldn't have enough time to really explore this with the teachers, but based on their feedback, it was lessons they wanted to leave with, and...thinking about the short time I had, if I really wanted them to USE Sketchpad, I needed to leave them with a way to get even more beginning activities that they could implement right away and build on their knowledge of Sketchpad while still having dynamic activities. Hence, we spent the last 35 minutes of my short time with them walking through Sketchpad LessonLink, how to search for activities by content and skill level, save them, and create a student web page.  And of course, most importantly, where to get the tutorials/videos on how to do this!!

When time was up, I think most people left feeling they knew how to find a lesson and get started with their students.  Will they all do it?  Probably not....75 minutes is not enough time to convince teachers to try something new if they don't feel comfortable with it.  Will some of them start using Sketchpad? Yes...I think so...and those few will hopefully share their experiences with others and it will become viral.

The lesson here, for any professional development, whether 2 hours, 75 minutes or the preferred way - long term over months - is to have a plan, but to be flexible and willing to alter that plan to meet the needs of your participants. Because ultimately, you want your participants to leave a professional development experience thinking "I could do that"....if not, then you have wasted your time, no matter how long you had.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to do a 2-hour Technology Professional Development

As I posted previously, if you are trying to integrate new technology into teacher practice, a one-stop workshop is not going to be the best solution.  Long-term training and support is what is needed to help teachers learn, try and slowly begin the hard process of integrating technology effectively and making long-term change in instructional practice. What do you do then when a one-stop, 2 hour workshop is all you have?

This is the predicament I find myself in - preparing for a 2-hour Sketchpad
workshop. The reality is, one-stop workshops are still the norm because of costs and time mostly. I am not stupid enough to think after 2 hours I am going to convince all my participants that they should use Sketchpad in their math classrooms, nor am I idealistic enough to think that they will even try to implement things. My goal is to spur some excitement and provide the tools where they can try and get support. If you only have a couple of hours, then you want to inspire, relate, practice, and support.

Here's my plan:
1) Inspire - show a really cool application of Sketchpad that sparks their interest and let's them see the dynamic capabilities and the ability to 'construct' math concepts.
2) Relate - model some uses of Sketchpad with them that relate directly to what the participants teach.  Showing them how to teach a concept using Sketchpad that they could do in their classroom helps them picture themselves using the technology with their students.
 3) Practice - they need to play around with the tools, practice and have some time to get hands-on with it.  To facilitate this and again, to keep it related to what they do in the classroom, they learn through DOING math.  One of the reasons Sketchpad is so great is it comes with built in tutorials and activities in the Learning Center that offers something at all grades and skill levels.
 4) Support - Let's face it...after only 2 hours, they have not even touched the surface.  So, support and resources are needed to help them keep learning, try things that are ready and proven to work with students, and be able to see how Sketchpad can be an amazing instructional tool.  Thankfully, Sketchpad is a technology tool that comes with amazing support and resources. I will definitely make sure they spend time exploring the Learning Center and know where they can get support from a community of sketchpad users at the Sketch Exchange.

Summing up: Two hours of technology training is not enough time to change anyone's practice.  If it's all you have, then make the most of it and get that interest and motivation to try something new started.  The key element here, after the 2 hours, is that participants leave knowing there is support and ready-to-use activities to make their attempts at implementing it easier.

I will keep you posted on how this turns out after Friday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Education Technology - Will It Save Education Part 2?

In my post yesterday, I brought up the idea that education technology is assumed to be the solution to all the problems facing education today, when in reality, they should be viewed as tools.  And these tools need to be researched and evaluated carefully to make sure they fit in to the social and political structure of the learning environment and to make sure they will really do what is needed - improve teaching and learning.

But how do you know?  If we are to believe advertisements, it's no wonder so much technology is purchased for schools.  What I want to caution is that company's are trying to sell you the idea - make sure you research, analyze, evaluate and try new technology out to see if it fits and if it does what's promised, or else it's going to sit on a shelf gathering dust or worse, change nothing, or worse, hinder teaching and learning.

I thought it would be fun to share some of the advertisements I saw this morning in my daily reading of educational news.  I am NOT supporting any of these products, simply pointing out that there are a lot of claims about the benefits of technology. Every article has a sponser - all magical solutions apparently.  Hence my warning - be careful when selecting technology to 'improve' education - make sure it really works and is a good fit for your needs FIRST.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Education Technology - Will it save education?

Jack Schneider's article Questioning Our Mania For Education Technology reemphasized what I have been reading in my doctorate course the last couple of weeks regarding the assumption by many that education technology is going to solve all the problems of education and help all students succeed. I have been immersed in Neil Selwyn's book, Education and Technology: Key Issues and Debates, where, he goes into much more detail on the points Jack Schneider brings up - that basically a lot of investment in money and time are put into getting technology into schools in order to improve education, but that it doesn't work.  A lot of assumptions are made, but buying the latest and greatest technology tools doesn't mean the underlying problems of education are going to be solved.

Neither Selwyn nor Schneider are saying we shouldn't be investing in technology.  The underlying message in Selwyn is that educational technology is going to to impact teaching, teachers, schools and schooling.  But - without looking at the social and political context schools and their processes, using educational technology is not in and of itself going to improve education. Schneider mentions past technology, such as radio and tv, that was at the time thought to change education for the better.  Selwyn goes much more into detail on these innovations and the historical assumptions made about how those technologies were assumed to be what was needed to change education for the better and their subsequent failure to actually change education. The lesson here is that we need to be careful in assuming that just because a new technology has the potential to help improve education, that it will. Nothing will improve teaching and learning if it is not done right.  Buying every student an iPad is not going to improve their learning if teachers don't use the right apps or are not taught themselves how to appropriately use that tool to TEACH and LEARN.  Having the technology doesn't mean using the technology appropriately.

New iPad!

I am pretty excited - I got an iPad2 this weekend. I am still learning how to navigate and play around with it - I am definitely a novice, but it's pretty cool.  I got this for work (thank you work!) in large part because of Key's new app, Sketchpad Explorer, which for those of you out there teaching or learning math, is amazing!  If you are familiar with The Geometer's Sketchpad, which is the best dynamic math software out there for teaching, learning, constructing and exploring mathematics (yes, I am a little biased, but I felt this way before I worked for Key!), then you will definitely want to explore Sketchpad Explorer for the iPad. 

Sketchpad Explorer is a version of Sketchpad for iPad - it has built in activities for all grade levels, but it also let's you open any Sketchpad sketch/activity from our Sketch Exchange online learning community that has been shared by others (you can post sketches to Sketchpad Exchange and then open them with the Sketch Explorer app on the iPad). For those of you familiar with Sketchpad, and how you can use your mouse to move a point or line or object. With the iPad, you can move more than one object (vertices, line) with your hands, making the dynamic manipulations so interesting and well... even more dynamic!  So fun and hands-on - those of you who are in schools with an iPad initiative should really download the app and start playing with Sketchpad!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Part 3 - Technology In Schools: Driving Digital Technology

In part 1 I brought up the issue of technology in school and how it's use is often spotty at best. Part 2 offered one possible solution, which was to do away with only offering one-stop workshops for teachers when training them on technology, as this is ineffective and will not create sustained change or use of the technology.  Time and support need to be part of these one-stop workshops.

Today (mainly because I found a great article this morning about this) is related to the actual decision process of deciding on what technology to bring into the schools (in this case, digital content).  This should be the FIRST step - if the decision process on what technology will actual help students is done carefully, then this should go a long way in helping ensure that the use of that technology happens.  If the technology fits in the first place, it makes integration into instruction an easier process (though training, time and support are still needed).  Rather than reiterate the suggestions, here is the link to the article by Geoffrey Fletcher entitled Driving Digital Technology.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Take some time to remember a teacher

In my perusal of Twitter postings this morning, I ran across this link "What's the Most Important Lesson You Learned from a Teacher?" Touching story about remembering teachers who have impacted your life.  If you haven't done it, with Facebook and Twitter and other social media avenues, it's easy to find that teacher (or teachers) who made some impact in your life.  Admit it - there's at least one - so go find them and thank them. With the constant bashing teachers get for the failed education system, it would be nice to get some positive feedback that yes, indeed, they did make a difference in at least one of the hundreds of lives they have touched.  We know it's more - but they they usually never even hear about one.  So...reach out.  Let a teacher know that in fact, because of their hard work and dedication and caring, you are who you are.

I did this last year - found Senora Frances Pettigrew from McLean High School and let her know that in large part, because of her, I became a teacher.  And it wasn't the Spanish, since I became a math teacher - it was the humor, the dedication and caring she showed me as a student, and the way she taught - allowing her students to express their thinking, creativity, and respect. She put up with me for three years, but her influence I hope helped make me a dedicated, caring teacher who showed respect for my students and taught math with creativity and humor.

Technology in Schools - Part 2 - Do Away with One-stop Workshops

Step 2 in my multi-part series on technology in schools and why it isn't being used.  From part 1, I pointed out that there is a lot of technology in schools that is either not being used effectively, is unknown to teachers in the schools, or is being used but ineffectively or in a very limited manner.  Part 2 here is my first suggestion on how to help increase the use of current technology that exists in schools.

Do away with the one-stop workshops. 

You know what I am talking about.  Those one or two day workshops that teachers attend to learn about a new technology.  The expectation that after these one or two day workshops teachers are going to integrate the technology into classroom instruction is ludicrous. The more gun ho teachers will give it a try, but if the attempt goes awry, as it is bound to do, that technology is going in the closet to gather dust.  Long term support is needed if real integration and change in practice is to occur.

How do you do away with these workshops when that is all the district has time for or money for?  You can't.  But...administration can do something that will support and enhance these one or two-day workshops if that's all they have.  Here are a couple suggestions:
  1. Provide common planning time or collaboration time where teachers can plan and create lessons to try in their classrooms
  2. Give teachers TIME - time to try out the technology and then time to get together to talk about what happened, how to change it, and time to try it again (and again and again)
  3. Give teachers permission to fail - few people get it right the first time, so make it okay to fail and try again
  4. Create support for the technology - a fellow teacher who can help, an online forum for discussing and sharing ideas and lessons, planning time, sample lessons....anything that allows teachers the freedom to try, to fail, to get support and to keep trying.
If real integration and use of technology in an effective manner is going to happen, there needs to be continued support after the one or two-day workshops or you might as well  throw in the towel now.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Open Source - Is it really open to everyone?

Read an interesting quote yesterday in my research book, which comes from Jakob Nielsen about the 90-9-1 Rule for online community participation, or open-source.  Basically it says that even though open-source and free online communities are open for anyone to contribute, so in theory provide a wider audience to contribute the content, making it a diverse resource, in fact this is NOT the case.  90% of the users are passive consumers, with only 9% willing to comment or contribute content periodically, and most of the content and commentary being contributed by 1% of the users. Who is that 1%?  To me, a scary question.

This finding is not surprising but is a little disturbing in the educational arena, where free and open-source are becoming more prevalent options due to the tight economy.  It begs the question, who is this 1% of the population that is contributing to the content being used by educators/education sites, and is it really reliable, research based - i.e. worthy of being used with students? As a former classroom teacher, free speaks volumes - this I know.  HOWEVER - free doesn't mean quality and doesn't mean it will actually help students learn and achieve, and shouldn't that always be the reason that any educator chooses to use a technology tool in their instruction? 

It forces me to bring out the comparison of The Geometer's Sketchpad versus Geogebra.  Not free vs. free. Why pay when we can get something similar for free is the question I hear often. My answer - they are NOT similar. One is research based, all activities tried in the classroom with real students, designed to help construct and enhance math learning, lots of support provided and proven to work while the other is open source, contributed by the 1% of 'unknown' who may not really have student interest or learning in mind, some support but again, from that 1 or 9% of unknowns.  As an educator, I want to know that what I am using in my instruction is going to help students construct knowledge and learn to use that knowledge, and I go with proven, research based over an unknown any time. Students should ALWAYS come first when considering education technology. Try to remember - you get what you paid for.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Financial Literacy - Bring it back to school!!

I spoke about this in earlier postings (see What Should We Be Teaching... ), but just found this article on the state of Virginia bringing back financial literacy as a requirement for students and I just thought I would share.  Think it's exciting!

Technology In Schools - Why Isn't It Being Used?

Not a surprise, but there is a lot of great technology out there in schools that is not being used. Whiteboards gathering dust, calculators never coming out of the closet...I am sure those of you in schools right now can site a hundred examples of great technology that should be in the hands of students that is just sitting somewhere gathering dust. Why?

I know from personal experience as a teacher, and now, as someone who travels around and works with teachers, often times, there is technology that has been bought that many teachers don't even know the school has. Can't tell you how many times I have been to a school to train on Sketchpad to find it's been in the building on the computers for years and no one knew about it. How does that happen?

Often times it was a case of money had to be spent quickly, so administrators or coordinators buy something they think sounds like good technology, but then no real training or information is sent out. Or...the person who spear headed a great new technology purchase leaves the district and no one is left who remembers or knows how to work it. Lack of awareness and more likely, lack of training, contribute a great deal to the misuse or non-use of technology in schools.

How do schools combat this?  The first step is to get someone to do an inventory of the technology that lives in the buildings and on the computers.  What's there, is it still useful, do you still have a license to use it, and most importantly, will it benefit student learning? Once this is done, then identify what needs to be done to help make those technology tools become an active part of instruction - what type of training and support is needed, who or what subjects would get the most use and benefit.  Just some small steps to at least getting started with figuring out what technology is out there in your schools and what it could be used for so that you can start heading in the right direction.

Next time - some suggestions on what to do once you find a technology that might be a great instructional tool.