Sunday, November 8, 2015

Solving Systems by graphing? 360 Degree Math is the Best!

This year is a very exciting year for me. I have six Algebra 1B classes and one Algebra 2 class. Algebra 1B consists of sophomores and upperclassmen who need to complete second semester of Algebra 1 throughout the whole year. Not too many teachers receive the gift of coaching the students who don't "play school" very well. To make sure I use this opportunity wisely, I made a list of things I need to follow at all times.

  1. Model for less than 5 minutes. 
  2. ALL work done while in classroom. 
  3. Make videos and work available online for frequently absent/sick students or for ones who want to review at home. 
  4. Always monitor student work. 

I quickly learned one of the best ways to accomplish this was through 360-degree-math (vertical non-permanent surface work) and student-created-posters and videos. Many of my students do not have notebooks and even if I provide one, they rip off the pages for other classes or lose the notebook. The poster idea was great, except when it's time for them to present, other students did not pay attention like they are supposed to. The student-created videos are exceptional, I really believe in using that for instruction. But most of my students give up after they make their second or third mistake during their recording and choose not to upload their video to their Youtube channel. (This is a blog for another day.)

My students love writing on the boards. Since the majority of my students don't keep notes or work at home, I wanted to increase the frequency of 360 degree math usage in my room.

This is how I usually do it.

(Keep in mind that teachers who use 360 degree math do it in many different ways. In case you want to tweet the tweeps I know are using this, here is @tbed63, a 5th grade teacher, @AlexOverwijk, a math teacher in Canada who did a presentation on this at #TMC15. I also know @edcampOSjr is using this. I hope I'm not forgetting anyone else. )

I have students work in groups of 2. I like having two students work together because throwing ideas at each other makes working on tasks so much more fun. I have each student pick a different color marker. They have to write their names up on top of the board above their head. Last name comes first, then the first name. Since I can only see the backs of my students, I can't tell which ones are doing well and which ones need assistance. So the name on the board is a crucial piece. I stand in the middle of the room. I use my projector and my bamboo tablet to show how to graph a basic linear equation. This takes less than 2 minutes. Then I give them another equation. I tell them, "partner 1 in the group, please graph this equation. You may consult your partner." I write the new equation on my computer that is projected. They get loud and things go on their boards. I identify struggling groups and approach them to assist them. I try my best to go around the whole class and tell them "great job!" if it's done correctly. Then I give them a new equation and have partner 2 graph it. Afterwards, I tell them that I'm giving them a challenge.

"Let's see who really got this. Partner 1 or 2."

They get excited. I tell one person in the group to graph the first equation.
Then I tell them not to erase the graph. On the same board, I tell the second partner to graph the second equation. They feel confused. Some ask, "Are you sure we don't erase the first graph?" but follow through.

I tell them, "I want to tell you the truth. I know both partners got it and it's okay if you worked together for both graphs. This wasn't a competition. I just wanted to teach you my lesson for today. We learned how to graph a system of equations!"

Then I ask them where they think the answer would be. They look at their board. Some kids remember what the answer is from their previous years in Algebra 1. Pretty soon the whole class picks up the answer from that one child since all students can see each other's answers. I teach them how to write their answer in coordinate form.

Then I give them practice questions. It's the same rule. One partner graphs the first equation, the second partner graphs the second equation, then they write the answer together. I don't necessarily have to help every group. They see each other's boards and self correct and learn. But this time, they do 4 questions on their board space. So they have to divide up their board space into 4 parts to solve them. (I don't have a sample from solving systems of linear equations, so I'm posting a picture of practice questions from solving linear inequalities. )

If we tell our students to take notes in their notebooks on their desk, some students will have their eyes on their desk and their pencil will be moving, but when you get to their desk, all you see is doodles. Some students are just brave and they do nothing.

Similar things happen with 360 degree math. Some students refuse to get out of their desk and stand next to the board. They don't want to do anything. Some students write their name on the board, but start doodling. Great thing here is that I get to see that immediately and I get them back on task or call their parents. Some students write their names on the board, then stand leaning on the board. They do it very strategically in cramped areas. So it takes me a while to identify those. But I have chosen to work with the 33 students who are working on the board actively rather than the three students who are not. I still talk to them about it after class.

Some students are scared of being wrong, so they wait until that one child gets their graph done, then copies it. I'm okay with that. I just try to remember who that child is, then I talk to them about being confident and about having fun when you are wrong.

This is a great way to identify the students who really get it. When these students get the same question wrong on a test, I pull them out and ask them why they got it wrong. Usually they tell me tests scare them. I give them credit for the question if they can show me how to solve it right then and there as we are having our conversation.

To summarize, 360 degree math is a great tool for any math lesson, but I wanted to show you an example on how I used it in my class for solving systems using graphing. 360 math is great for formative assessment, error analysis, creating a social environment, lessening math anxiety and promoting group work.

I hope this answers your question on how I might be utilizing the boards all around my room. Please tweet me up at @MathPrincessC if you have any questions that I didn't address in this blog. And finally, I wanted to thank a few people in the district who helped me purchase and install boards all around my room. You know who you are. Many thanks for supporting my work and believing in me.

Monday, September 7, 2015

My Shot at Gamification During Summer

Summer is just a great time to try anything new, isn't it?
That is, if you are one of the fortunate ones who get to teach during the summer.
I've been thinking about gamification for a long time, but it seemed too intimidating.
Some people told me to start assigning XP and badges in place of grades and that would do the trick. Others made gamification too daunting. They said I need storylines and  great animation skills.

I'm a doer, not a thinker.

So guess what I did. Yup, I did gamification.

First, let me share what my 10 students in my summer session said about gamification.

They liked earning XP simply for completing a quest. They liked that their grade was based on XP plus the final (They needed 2200 XP and pass the final with a 70 percent or higher). They liked that I lectured for about 5 minutes at a time, only when the whole class seemed confused. Whole class verbal directions were not necessary since the quests contained directions. They liked that they interacted with me one-on-one.

They didn't like how it took me 24 hours to approve their quests. This means grading their quest so they can get their XP and badges. They wanted instant gratification. They didn't like that I would comment and return their quest instead of giving them partial XP for projects that did not meet the rubric.

At the end of the summer session, 9 students passed with an A or B and one student earned a D because he didn't earn enough XP, and received a 68 percent on his final.

I realize I need to explain my grading system and the nature of the quests at this point.

Most of my quests are math projects.

Some require students to participate in #360math, or vertical non-permanent surface classroom, which means all students have to go to the whiteboards, write their name on top and solve problems I ask them to solve. I monitor them in the middle of the room and help them when I notice signs of struggle. As long as they participate, they earn their XP.

Some require students to create a video tutorial uploaded to their school Youtube account. If it is a real-world project, they have to create a video explaining what they did for the project, then teach the math in it. There is a 3-minute time limit.

The quest that is worth the most XP ends up being traditional tests which are cumulative. I know, traditional tests suck, but I guess I'm still not that innovative. Here is the innovative part though. Students take the test and I grade them. Whatever their grade, they can't get their XP until they get 100 percent on the test. So how do they get 100 percent after they learn that they only scored 30 percent? They correct their test, then come see me individually to explain why they got it wrong the first time and how it's supposed to be solved. And of course, if there is no one around to help them correct their wrong question, they first get tutored from me, then they come back the next day to re-explain to me.

So as you can see, the whole class is set up so students actually learn and they earn XP. You either do it correctly and earn XP, or you don't do it correctly and you have to keep trying till you get it right. Students only stress out over XP. I tell them periodically how much XP they need to have by certain dates to ensure they pass my class. When the final comes, students should not be worried since I recycle questions from the previous tests, which were all cumulative anyway. I also add three or four questions that everyone can get correct such as, "Draw me a little picture to have Ms. Choi remember you by".

What I loved about gamification using 3D gamelab was that I can create quests that simply required student participation, while others required meeting content standard proficiency. All students had to do their work (quests) and in the end, they would automatically be set up to pass the final. What I hated about gamification was how I had no time for anything. I was constantly approving quests and constantly talking to students who were in different levels even though I had a set timeline on when to complete what.

On the last day of summer school, my students and I had a round table discussion on my system.
They shared all the things I shared above, but in addition to that, they thought that having one final at the end of the semester for a grade will be too long of a period for students to wait. My students told me that there will be many lazy students who will not accumulate enough XP throughout the semester and start complaining about my grading system at the end of the semester. To protect me, they said I should have a test at the end of each grading period and also assign grades based on how much XP they "should" have earned till that point in time. Yes, my students are super cute and try to protect me from other evil students. :)

They did tell me that it was "annoying" and "unfair" of me to hold off on approving their quest on traditional tests until they corrected all their wrong answers. They said, they were "totally okay" with a "C" on their test and I am "forcing" them to do better. I just took that comment as, "Ms. Choi, you are REALLY an awesome teacher".

Since it was the last day of school and I already told them their grades, they told me that board work was great sometimes, but on those days when they didn't want to work, they simply copied off their friends work to get their XP. But they do that with traditional classwork anyway, so I didn't really think too seriously about it. I just wanted to see everyone's work on the board so I can approach the ones who need help and provide it.

So that's it.

I tried 3D gamelab over the summer because it was about $120 per year for up to 175 students. Steven Isaacs, the presenter I met at ISTE2015, told me he uses that so I wanted to try it out. Another presenter from ISTE2015 told me Classcraft is cheaper. So I wanted to try that one during the regular semester. But this semester, our District made many changes to our schedule so now we have 7 periods instead of 6 and our awesome principal made some changes to the way we work in the math department. So right now, I am putting gamification aside.

I am still using the same grading system. But instead of XP, I just put in grades into gradebook everyday for everything they do. And it's either 100 points or nothing at all. It's a little different because students are not looking at how many XP they accumulate, but rather they check to see if they still have a 100 percent A. Other students who don't mind a B or a C simply don't submit their work since they are happy with a lower grade. So test corrections are not being done and student created videos are not being done as thoroughly compared to the summer when I used gamification. I really feel like I need to go back. But the pricing system with 3D Gamelab doesn't work for me since I have six classes and way more than 175 students.

If you are using a certain platform for gamification that is easy on my wallet and still really user-friendly, would you let me know about it?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

ISTE 2015 Day Three

It's already been a week since ISTE2015.

Memory from a week ago is already getting a little hazy. I need to blog as soon as possible when I go out to these conferences since there is no purpose in attending these if I forget everything I learned.

Some of my friends who participated in the 5k wanted to do a scenic bike ride at 6am on the third day. But I am one of those unfortunate ones who never learned how to ride a bicycle and I really wanted to attend one of those #CoffeeEdu sessions that I see so often on Twitter. So I went solo.

It was nerve-wrecking to get a Uber by myself. But I did it and the experience was quite pleasant. I learned that if the driver ranks lower than a 4.7, he gets kicked out of the Uber business. So unless the driver really sucks, give him a rating of 5 and allow him to put bread on his table.

CoffeeEdu with Alice Keeler and Jon Corippo was at 6am at 1500 Market St in Philadelphia. There were so many people in small groups that I felt uncomfortable leaving my little group of 5 to move onto another group. My precious find in this session was Steven Isaacs. He is a game design teacher. He uses 3D Game Lab as a platform and gamifies his lessons. I have decided on this day that I will use 3D Game Lab to gamify my summer session that will start July 13. I already signed up. It's going to cost me $10 a month for 175 concurrent students. I am currently being trained on COPPA (Child Online Protection and Privacy Act) on 3D game lab as I write this blog. More on this will come in another blog post. I learned that Steven had a session on the last day of ISTE. Of course I decided I'm going to attend that one. Steven was easy to approach and easy to talk to. He was the first one I met that I liked without knowing that he is an active presenter. But wait. How did I find Steven in that Starbucks crowded with people? I talked to people. I talked about the topics I am interested in. Global connection, gamification, blended learning and vertical classroom. And this one woman said, "Oh! I have someone you wanna meet!" And she took me to him. My advice to you out there, if you are shy like me, is to just talk to random people about what you are interested in. Then you'll get your connections. You are only weird if you shut up and stand by yourself in the corner.

When I returned to my hotel, I learned that Jon Corippo was at CoffeeEdu through Twitter. The one that I was in. But I didn't see Jon. So I had to demand that I see him. I have been bugging Jon to meet up with me and share his wisdom one-on-one since the day I heard this podcast by Adnan Iftekhar. He finally gave in on my third day at ISTE. He gave me a few hours. Basically, my third day was all about CoffeeEdu and Jon. I didn't get to walk into any of my sessions. AND THAT WAS TOTALLY FINE. :)

Shadowing Jon was great. He told me to come visit him in Room 103 in the morning. I thought he was presenting in there. I was wrong. The room was almost empty. There was some kind of podcast going on. We took a picture together first. Then he went on his interview. I didn't understand anything he said. But whatever it is, I told him I want in. It sounded like he was talking about training teachers to use some cool recording software for students. Later I learned it was a podcast with Wirecast. I like having my students create video tutorials so this sounded cool. Then there were more meetings. I heard words like "future ready" and "reporters". People kept stopping Jon to say hi as we walked the hallways for him to get to his meetings. I learned two things while walking with Jon:

  1. Don't randomly stop people cuz I think they are fabulous.
  2. Forget my first lesson and stop them anyway to give them a hug since they are used to it *wink*

I think Jon felt bad for me. He told me he'll have lunch with me! We went to the Reading Terminal to pick up food. He shared his wisdom while eating with me on the steps at the convention center. I don't know what I can share and what I cannot. He shared so much that I'm still processing. He asked me what I think about education right now. I answered. He asked me what I think about teaching math. I answered. He asked about my district. I answered. We talked about charter schools. We talked about wanting change in traditional schools. We talked about blended learning. We talked about 360math. We talked about Bootstrap in math classrooms. We talked about Dan Myer's 3 Act Math Tasks. We talked about deadlines. We talked about grades. We talked about homework. I honestly don't want to share what I learned from Jon here. I want to keep it with me.

But hey, I do want to share this about Jon. Jon is one of those guys you want as a mentor. I put a smiley face and gave him what I thought were answers I needed to give him in the beginning. But he was straight forward. He didn't do fluffy talk. My face turned serious as I listened to him. He eats fast. Soon the time he allotted me expired and he had to go. I am grateful. Thank you, Jon.

It was already 2 or so when Jon left for yet another meeting. I stayed at one of the cafes to process and blog about my second day. Then I joined my District folks to go to the Philadelphia baseball game. Don't ask me who Philadelphia was playing against. I don't know anything about baseball. There was a storm. The game started an hour and 30 minutes late. So I was a little grumpy and scared because we took the subway and there was lightning when we arrived at the stadium. But it was only my second time at a baseball stadium and the memories created that evening will be something I'll never forget. The subway felt like me exploring gamification and 3D Gamelab - exciting, scary and new. The baseball game with the lightning mimicked my feelings about traditional schools and math classrooms - gloomy and rainy but still something I wanna stay in and experience.

So for this blogpost, I want to leave you with this. I know you want what's best for your students. If you have children, I know you want what's best for your children. How do you feel about education in traditional schools? How would you teach if you were the teacher of your own children? Now what do you want to change in your classroom? What else can you do outside your classroom to make change happen? You see? You and I, we are the only ones who can make change happen. Would you kindly contact me if you are at the forefront of changing education for the better? I'm always looking for mentors and partners. Let's do this!

Monday, July 6, 2015

ISTE2015 Day TWO

Philadelphia Art Museum

I started Day Two right. I participated in the ISTE 5k with Josh Stumpenhorst. In addition to that, I got three other friends from my District to go with me. The 5k was at 6:30am so we had to use Uber.

Want to know about Uber? Click here. It's like a taxi but better since I get to see where the car is, who my driver is and my estimated fare before I even get in the car.

The course was beautiful.  More than 200 runners showed up at the "Rocky Steps" in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum. My friends and I had fun taking pictures and videos of each other running up the steps like Rocky.

Remember how I mentioned that I recruited three other friends from my district for the 5k? Well, guess which one out of the four didn't complete the entire course? Yup. That would be me. I just couldn't go up those steps in the middle of the course. I'm not talking about the "Rocky Steps". I'm talking about another set of scary steps right smack in the middle of the scenic trail. I waited for my friends and took pictures of them instead.

Other than the early morning exercise, the beautiful view and the "Rocky Steps", this activity made me feel like I belong at ISTE. It also made me realize that there are many people out there who enjoy the things I enjoy. I just have to find them. And what a great day we live in. We can use technology to connect with other people with similar interest. Josh Stumpenhorst extended an invitation to the attendees of ISTE2015 to join him so he can run with a few friends and more than 300 signed up. He announced that he had to change the venue because of the large number of signups. He estimated less than 20 participants would show up.

After that, we returned to the Convention Center and took our District photo at 9:45am. The "ASK ME" person was so friendly. She agreed to take our District photo. Her name was Louis, I think.

It was already 11am when I finally walked into my first session with Josh Sheldon on creating Android Apps using MIT App Inventor. It went on for only about 30 minutes. I really liked this session because I learned that there is a college board approved AP Computer Science Principles course ready to start in the 2016-17 school year. Click on this link for more information.

In addition to that, I got a link for more training for myself. I started coding club after the "Hour of Code" event inspired by Hadi Partovi and my high school students quickly got interested in creating apps. Here are the links.

My ultimate goal is to eventually integrate coding into the traditional math classrooms, but for now, I'm learning to code myself through my coding club.

I felt REALLY good about my learning.

During my lunch hour, I bumped into Sam Patterson (left) and I was really excited when he said that he intends on working with me so our students can interact with each other. He serves at a private school and I at a public school. It will be interesting to see how our students interact and learn from each other. I'm super excited about this one, but forgot to tweet about my excitement along with this picture and I worry Sam forgot what he said to me. Oh, this picture is me introducing Sam to my co-worker Erik. Erik ran the 5k with me earlier in the morning and was in the fastest group in the picture above. Erik started teaching a Technology course last year and is pumped up about coding and other things. Sam, being who he is, was super nice and was talking to my friend about things I didn't pay attention to cuz I was taking the dark picture above.

Developing the Innovator's Mindset was my next session by George Couros. I tweeted out notes from this session. If you've ever been to any of George's sessions, you will know that he will never disappoint. The picture I posted above from his session link is the main point. But describing his session is unnecessary here since if you look him up online, there's tons and tons of information. And as you already know by now, the only reason I would go to any session is either to learn more about the presenter or to have a conversation with one to connect in person or both. So of course I stayed after the session. He is the division principal in Canada. He was in a hurry. He had a plane to catch. And some sales lady kept on holding him. I seriously wanted to push her away to the Nether in Minecraft. I finally got him and asked if he can introduce me to math teachers in Canada since I want feedback on my students' math tutorials from students outside of the United States. He was like, "Why don't you just tweet me the link? I'll share it with the world!" George is just so refreshing. Thank you George. There are reasons why certain presenters have many followers. They are good during the presentation, but they're even better in person.

My last session for the day was with Bob Lochel. If you are a math teacher, you hunger for math content sessions. I already use Desmos in my classroom, but I wanted to meet Bob in person. He is an AP Statistics teacher in Philadelphia, so it will be quite silly to come all the way to Philadelphia for ISTE2015 and not meet up with Bob. I don't like the blurry picture above, but he was moving around the room the whole time (signs of a great teacher), so I couldn't get a better one. I know I will see him again in California for TMC2015 towards the end of July, but I wanted to say hi so I will feel more comfortable when I see him again and ask silly questions about statistics that is so common sense to him. Just so you know, common core now includes Probability and Statistics in the regular high school math pathways and a lot of teachers are re-learning these two subjects. I am finding joy in Statistics and I think math can be more fun thanks to Statistics. But I do need people smarter than I to show me the way to Statistics fun in the classroom, so Bob is a great resource for me. During his session, I learned that mapping equations to pictures is difficult. And that his student video tutorial is really great. Below is my two equations that map onto the green hat. That was all I can do during the few minutes Bob allowed us to play around. I can see my students learning so much from this. Bob is a friendly guy. I can't wait to talk to him again later this month at TMC2015.

After my last session with Bob, I joined my district friends and went on a walking trip to see the Liberty Bell. That was a lot of fun. I won't elaborate. ISTE is fun when you have great friends to hang out with.

As I write my last sentence I realize it's already July 6. I still want to blog about my third and fourth day at ISTE2015 for my own reflection, but I wonder when it will finally get done.

Oh well, ISTE was so great. So great that I still want to continue writing about my experience even though by now there is no audience for it but myself. If you get a chance, if your District is willing to support you, please attend ISTE next year. I know for sure I will be lobbying with my district so I can attend next year. Have a great evening! Day 3 and 4 will be coming... hopefully soon.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

ISTE2015 Day One

This is Philadelphia. I walked outside the Philadelphia Convention Center to snap a picture of this Masonic Temple. This is #ISTE2015!

Before I start, I just want to remind you that laptops need to be out with your shoes at the security checkpoint in the airport. I forgot that and they held me. I had to run to my gate and barely made the flight.

When I arrived in Philadelphia, it was already 3pm. After our District dinner at 6pm, the only event/session available was the in-person #TXEDUCHAT at 9pm ET at the PLN Lounge near Broad St. It was quite exciting to meet Whitney Kilgore in real life. She shared her passion. She just got her Doctorate on that. Certain passions cannot be shared in a series of 140 characters through Twitter.

I soon learned that she will be partnering up with the #AussieEd participants from Australia. I was excited since I'm currently looking to connect with educators outside of United States so my students can learn math with a global perspective. Don't ask me how I'm going to do it or what specifically I want to do. Brian Jones recently inspired me with his #GCLchat so I just know I wanna do it and I need my connections. We'll go from there.  So of course I got excited when I met Shane Mason and Grant Mitchell. They are deputy principals in Australia.

Their accent is beautiful to my ears. They sounded even more beautiful when they promised me they will have one of their math teachers contact me. We talked about using Touchcast so students can communicate with each other asynchronously (Hope this works. Fingers crossed)

A few participants of #TXEDUChat stopped by here and there. Soon Tom Kilgore walked in with his daughter. He was returning from his poster session on Makerspaces. I stayed after the chat was over to ask Tom a few questions about Makerspaces.

Perris Union High School District, where I work, is currently creating a Makerspace at our middle school. I am very excited about this even though I don't work at that site. I already plan on playing there before the summer is over. And since I know that my awesome principal will also create Makerspaces at my site (Perris High School), I wanted to know what I can do to encourage my students to use the space effectively.

Tom and Whitney shared a story. There was this student. He was not really motivated to embark on a project. Tom learned that the student loved Thor. So Tom asked, "Why don't you build a prototype of Thor's hammer using different material and estimate the weight?"

There was another student. I think Tom said he/she was a fifth grader. This student recreated the Boston Tea Party by calculating the amount of Tea dumped at the Boston Harbor, the size of the ship and the harbor.  He said that the student's parent reported that the student worked on it diligently for more than three weeks and asked if her calculations/creation was accurate. He said, "You see, I don't know. But the important thing is that the student did all that work. The amount of learning that goes on during that time is invaluable"

In the end, Tom left me with this comment.

"You see, I thought Makerspaces was about space. I even had a catchy name for it (Imagination Lab). But now I see that it's not about spaces."

I saw this post on Twitter today.

I now understand what that means thanks to Tom and Whitney.

It's only Day 1 and I'm getting some profound stuff.

I can't wait till Day 2. Catch you later!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Best Blended Lesson Model This Semester!

So I am that teacher. The one that makes them learn from videos. Who learns from videos anyway?

Nobody told my students that they would have to watch educational videos online when they received their Chromebooks from the District. So it was a great shock to them when they learned they had to with Ms. Choi.

Truth is, I didn't know what I was going to do when I learned my students were going to receive Chromebooks. I continued to teach the old way and got frustrated because they kept watching non-educational videos online.

Then I thought, "hey, why not record myself while I teach, then play it in my other classes so I won't have to repeat myself?" This was a great idea. I had time to walk around the classroom and help students who were behind. The fast learners did not get bored since they didn't have to wait for me. Back then, I had a Sophomore Algebra II class and a Repeating Algebra I class with Juniors and Seniors.

I noticed something. My Algebra II sophomores wanted me to upload my video links on Haiku the day before the lesson. They wanted to watch the videos at home and have me check their answer in the classroom. My Algebra I Juniors and Seniors used their swift finger movements to switch their tab as fast as they can so I won't catch them watching their music videos or basketball games. This was the 2013-14 school year.

Then this school year, I got the regular Math 1 and Math 2 students. I got excited. I decided to Flip my lessons. I thought my students would love it!

Well, they hated it.

I wanted students to be self learners and self advocates. I wanted them to watch the videos at home. Then I wanted them to come to class filled with curiosity. How do you solve the homework questions? How do you move on to the next step? I thought students would walk into my room asking me these questions. I told them they can work in groups. I wanted them to use the boards plastered all around my room to work out problems. How much better would they learn if they first started by asking questions to each other, then seek my help? I almost felt like a superhero.

Instead, what I received were angry students and parents. "How do you learn from a video? What are you here for?" These were some of the questions I received.

So I kept on going. 

Yes. I didn't give up. 





But I modified my flipped lessons throughout the semester. This is how it looked like toward the end of the semester.

  1. The videos got shorter (from 45 minutes to 17 minutes max).
  2. Students got 5-10 minutes at the beginning of class to watch the video.
  3. Then they went to the boards and wrote down 1 to 3 things they remembered from the video.
  4. Everyone took notes from the board into their notebook or Google Docs (crowdsourcing).
  5. I solved ONE problem without allowing students to ask questions using my Wacom tablet projected on my screen. 
  6. Then I made ALL students go to the boards again to solve a similar question (checking for understanding). And yes, they could collaborate with each other. 
  7. Finally it's time for them to solve more questions either in their notebook or on the board in groups and I walk around to help. 

Time flew since students were doing different things every 5 to 7 minutes. Students felt like I was teaching them something. They didn't have to feel embarrassed about not watching the video prior to the lesson. When they felt lost, they had the video, their friends and maybe even me to fall back on.

The semester is over.

I am proud to say that the students in my classes did great on the district finals. They did better than the district average. And my school almost always has a lower average than the district. So this is a great accomplishment.

Most of you who know me knows that this is not a 5-day-a-week thing. I do other stuff too.

But I wanted to share how my blended model evolved. Most importantly, I wanted to share how I stayed strong despite parents, students and other teachers telling me blended doesn't work.

I know my system is not perfect. But results were good this semester and I will continue to tweak and improve my model so it will work for me and my group of students.

Please leave me comments since I know you are dying to share different perspectives. I would like to learn from you! :)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Different Colors in A Rainbow #MakeSchoolDifferent

The eloquent @mrsvannasdall has kindly challenged me to blog about 5 things we need to "Stop Pretending" in education.  Let's make school different!

Let's stop pretending that students learn best when they quietly follow directions. Instead, let's encourage them to be advocates for themselves and tell/show us how they learn best so we can cater to that.

Let's stop pretending that we are deliverers of content alone. Have you heard of a ground-breaking researcher, a great mathematician, or an eye-opening scientist who can't solve any real world problems and cannot explain their findings to the general public? Instead, let's have students identify existing problems and solve them using content. Then let's have them share their success or failure with the world.

Let's stop pretending that classroom management is about scaring the kids into compliance. Classroom management is about connections. Do you remember forgiving that teacher when she was cranky that one day? Sure, you could have thrown a fit since you know she was clearly in the wrong. But you decided to be a big kid at heart. But why did you do that? Wasn't it because you have a connection with the teacher? It's okay to be human. Let's show students that we value them more for their curiosity, hard work, and relationship skills than their grades, especially if they are failing a class.. or two... or six.

Let's stop pretending parents and students of poverty do not care about education. Realize a day off of work for some parents can mean a job loss. They want to come and talk to you about their children. They want to know if their children are being respectful and trying hard, but they can't take a day off of work. They cry when they hear your demeaning tone on the phone after they get off work at midnight to find that their child was talking to his/her friend in class. Instead, let's be understanding and know that the playing field is not even. It is harder for children from poverty to be successful. Let's treat these children and their parents with compassion.

Let's stop pretending that there is one best strategy to help our children learn. Let's be open-minded, and experiment. Find what you like. Add your flair. When someone else flaunts another strategy that you simply cannot use because it is just not you, accept the fact and appreciate that another guru is using a different strategy that will reach that group of students you will never be able to reach. Celebrate the difference and work together to maximize learning for more students. A rainbow is not a rainbow unless it displays all the different shades of color. We only represent one hue in the rainbow. Let's celebrate differences in teaching strategy like we celebrate differences in our students.

I challenge @mathbutler, @dabennett7, @mr_r_brewer, @ProgresivTeachr and @mathkaveli to share how you #MakeSchoolDifferent

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Touching Stories That Make Me Proud of Working at a 1:1 Device District

I want to introduce you to my room. Inside my room, I have 36 students at any given time. I build relationships with 180 students everyday in this room. I don't know which ones are part of this data, but our School SARC says 90.6 percent of my students receive free or reduced price lunch. There was a time during my tenure in this school when I thought these students will not be able to compete against other students in this country. There are many reasons I felt that way, but that's not important because now I feel a little different.

I am a VERY happy math teacher at  Perris Union High School District. And I became really happy in 2013 when our district rolled out Chromebooks for all our students. I don't want to talk about how I am progressing as a teacher as a result of this rollout, even though if you let me, I could go on and on about that. But I do want to talk about my students and how these Chromebooks have changed their lives.

I want to talk about my star student. Let's call her Elizabeth. She is not featured in the video, but she says that the Chromebook made her life so much easier. She spends half her time at her dad's and the other half at her mom's. She is an A student in my class. But if I asked her to create a powerpoint presentation or Google slides before 2013, she wouldn't have been able to do one, simply because there is no computer or wifi at her dad's. Today, just like the four groups of students in the video, she can easily create Google Slides and present her plan for her 20% Time. This is all possible because students can take their Chromebooks home with them. When she is stuck with a vocabulary word while studying or she can't remember what she learned in class, she simply plays a video tutorial. When she is at her dad's she downloads the videos to her Chromebook before leaving school. When she is at her mom's she just clicks and watches.

But the Chromebook rollout does more than help students learn content and present their ideas at school. This time I want to talk about a student I want to call Jane.

Jane has 2 older brothers and 7 sisters in her family. The oldest sister is 17 years old. Jane is another hard worker in my classroom. She is in track. I found out that she does not have a computer in her household. Her two older brothers are 19 and 20 years old. They need to buy a used car and find a job. The district's 1:1 device initiative has connected her family with the world. Jane's family does not have Wifi, but her 17-year-old sister takes Jane's Chromebook to a nearby Starbucks to search for job listings and used car sales. She then gives the information to her two older brothers in hopes that the two brothers will add to the family income.

Finally, I want to talk about Sarah. She has 2 older brothers, 1 older sister, 1 younger sister and 1 younger brother. She has a computer at home. But every person in the family needs access to the computer either for work, school or play. In a family of 8, one computer at home is just not enough. Thankfully, her mom and her two brothers have their own laptops. But the rest of the family members would have to fight for access to the computer. Sarah says the Chromebook has eliminated the need for her siblings to fight over a computer. "My younger sister is a 7th grader at CMI, so she gets a Chromebook too. And I have one. So my youngest brother can just use the home computer and there are no fights". Sarah told me she does many things with her Chromebook, but at home, she uses it to mostly look for jobs and information that gets her curious when she's on social media. At school, she says the Chromebook comes in handy during AVID tutorial sessions. "I forgot how to simplify fractional exponents so I looked it up. It popped up really fast and I was able to go on with the tutorial".

I wish I had more student stories to share, but all stories are the same. I want you to remember once again the data I shared earlier. About 91 percent of my students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. A lot of them don't have a computer at home. Well-meaning students who wanted to find a job or even write a great research paper did not have the means to do so.  It wasn't their fault. They were born into the low-income family. Since 2013, all students can do what they want and find the means to do so using the World Wide Web. Now, as a teacher, I have learned that it is my job to make sure that my students use the device to do good for themselves. I am learning to help my students so they can help themselves and not rely on me so much. And you see, this is why I am so proud of working at a Title I school district that provides a Chromebook to every student and allowing them to take those home. Not only are we helping them learn content effectively, we are also helping family members of these students by providing them with a means to search for information they need to navigate their lives.