Mission Accomplished: IPad Integration a “GO”!

Exciting News!
My grant proposal was approved for the upcoming school year! That means that I will receive 20 new IPads, a MacBook Pro, and an Apple TV to project my IPad onto the Promethean Board in my classroom. Additionally, the IPads will be housed in a cart that will remain in my classroom. What a huge accomplishment, and a reason to get  excited for the upcoming school year!

So what happens next?
Firstof all, I am meeting with my division heads to make sure they know the bigger implications of changing the curriculum to focus on the IPads and the flipped classroom structure. Additionally, I am sure I will need to meet with the technology department to work through the details. They will make all of the ordering, so my hope is that I can offer some preferences to them to ensure that we are all on the same page. My proposal may have been missing some information they need.

After that, it’s really up to me. As of right now, I have been working with and developing my knowledge in Khan Academy to make sure that I know ahead of time what the videos say and the approach they use towards developing a problem. Additionally, I have secured 60 accounts on Math Pentagon, an IPad learning application which allows me to assign worksheets, display videos, and track progress and work of students as they work in the classroom. This is something I am REALLY excited about. They are a new kid on the block, and I told them that this would be a pilot program, so they gave me FREE accounts to use! This was a very generous offer indeed.

So this is where I am right now. I would love to hear feedback if you have any about your experiences with IPads, albeit applications you have found very handy, or websites that may work will with mathematics. An area I intend to develop further is that of Project Based Learning opportunities for me to use over the course of the school year. 

Enrichment – A Teacher’s Reboot

I forgot how much I enjoyed helping kids. A love of kids serves as the root of my energy level. Sometimes I forget this fact, and it’s not until a program like the one in which I am working falls into my lap and reminds me that despite the drudgery of the days that seem to drag on during the school year, I can always find a little more energy in challenging children to think a little harder and try to accomplish something that they otherwise would not try to do on their own.

I am teaching a five-week program this summer. Yes, other teachers may say, “You just finished 9 months of grueling class days…and you are going back?! Well, this is a bit different. I teach at an independent school, and this program is one for kids from public schools. It is an "enrichment program” that serves as a head-start for many of the kids as they move into Geometry. The students are selected via application and recommendation process, and only 60 are selected from 147. So I can pretty much do what I want – as long as the curriculum is challenging and the students are engaged.

Let the fun begin.

This week we have been working with Khan Academy to assess the ability and understanding of the students in working with exponents. Students are able to attempt sets of 10 practice problems with the goal of getting all ten right and acquiring proficiency in a subject area. There are currently 4 different exponent modules, and they utilize a very logical scaffold to increase depth of knowledge (which also increases difficulty).

I was pretty floored by just how far most of the kids can get through these modules. Everyone has passed the first (simple evaluations of exponents), and some have progressed through all four with ease. Further, some have moved to Scientific Notation, evaluating expressions for given variables, and even logarithms. These are rising freshmen, people! Good news that the top tier of Houston Independent School District is moving at a pace that matches our best students in my independent school!

Khan Academy is fantastic – I can track progress of my students, work with them one-on-one while the attempt problems, and create follow-up activities to help the weaker students catch up. For instance, yesterday was day two of using the KA website, so instead of diving right in to the practice problems, I had the students get into pairs and describe four rules, of their own creation (so no textbook limitations needed…allowing them to use a “how to” mindset), in dealing with exponents and show how to use them in examples. They did a pretty good job! Some students repeated rules, others missed pieces of the concepts, but the majority of them created some very solid guidelines. A good first effort.

Tomorrow we will start a segment on functions, leading up to a group project on exponential decay. In trying to stay on the technology high ground, I will use their graphing calculators to help build stat plot models and help them understand real-life trends…eventually.

Adventure in Educating

As I work through the ins and outs of using tumblr, I think I have at least figured out how to post some information. I’m not sure where this will post, but consider it a test for what is to be a personal documentation of how I will be reengineering my classroom in the next couple of school years.

The hope will be that I will receive an in-school grant for iPads in my classroom…news should come from that front in the next week or so. Should all go according to plan, I will begin to find ways to incorporate project based learning and flipped classroom principles into the curriculum I already teach my 6th graders. In making this change, I hope to engage each student on a more comprehensive level while getting them to see math in a new, practical way. And I want to make sure I conti use to cover the material I need to cover.

No small effort.

I hope to write more, even tomorrow. So let’s hope for some good news about the grant. Stay tuned.