Technology Implementation…the results are in

This week, we were asked to create a survey regarding technology integration and share it with our community of practice, or colleagues we work with on a daily basis. The questions in my survey focus on types of technology teachers regularly use, why they use those technologies, and what changes they would like to make regarding tech use. After carefully reviewing the data collected, I summarized the data gathered from my survey, which you can read about in my white paper response: Technology Integration. Also, shown below is an infographic I created to visually display the data collected in my survey.

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In Terms of Info Diets, I’m a Vegetarian

ImageThis week in CEP 812 we were asked to consider the media we use and reflect on our own personal ‘information diet.’ I will admit, I do not have a healthy “information diet” in terms of variety of sources; yet, each individual source I consume is kind of like a “casserole,” packed with variety and contradicting ingredients that come together and taste like heaven on your tongue- a quick fix that satisfies each of the necessary food groups. My limited diet is actually something that I have always been aware of; I have accepted it and feel okay with it. We live in an age where information on the web is tailored to fit individual interests and beliefs. For some, the ideas discussed in the TED Talk given by Eli Pariser (2011) may feel like something right out of a dystopian novel, where we have no say over what we view, and arguably, because we are only exposed to information that confirms and/or supports our current stance or way of thinking, we will become robots controlled by, cue conspiracy theory: the government. For others, like myself, it is just another technological advancement or marketing ploy, similar to ones put in place prior to the worldwide web.

In my opinion, the idea of “filtering” and exposing only certain pieces of information is something that has been occurring for quite some time. For example, a person subscribed to Women’s World magazine will definitely be exposed to different advertisements than someone who is subscribed to Sports Illustrated or Vogue. However, that isn’t to say that Women’s World is trying to hide their information from people who aren’t subscribed, just as Google isn’t trying to hide information from individuals by filtering their searches. Even more-so, local news stations are known for either their liberal or conservative take on events, which often sways their viewer population. Advertisements on radio stations, commercials on television stations, and music in clothing stores are only a few ways I can think of that have been affecting society’s “info diet” long before web filtering.

Maybe I am in a generation young enough to be comfortable with the idea of the “filter bubble” that Priser (2011) discusses. With as much criticism as Millennials get, I think we have a hyper awareness of how the web “categorizes” [us] or even society. I can think of a time four years ago when my Facebook feed was full of sarcastic posts regarding advertisements the site had tailored to their profiles. More recently, I can recall how the advertisements went from wedding rings to Christian singles after I ended my relationship. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think everyone is as oblivious to the “filter bubble” as one may think. Most websites you have to sign up for ask you to choose interests and build you a unique home page based on those interests…some sites just take out the first step and automatically customize things for you. While some view the automatic filtering algorithm as a bonus feature that makes their life easier, others, like Nicholas Carr (2010) begin to question if this process is actually removing ones capacity to think critically or grow intellectually.

While I would argue that my generation is aware of the filtering process and uses it to their advantage, I can see why it is important to acknowledge one’s information diet. For me, I am comfortable using a few selected sites, yet I am very aware of where to find alternative sources of information on the web as well as individuals with countering beliefs. Like, Jenkins (2010) said, the direct skills needed to change society begin in interest driven networks. So, if younger generations are aware of this “filter bubble” they will know how to seek others to create the diverse experiences Gee (2013) discusses are necessary in order to solve problems of the future. I would argue that what one person sees as a generation of “obsessive device-checking techno-slave zombies” another sees as an innovative army, collectively tackling 21st century problems. The real issue is in how to fuel educators to embrace technology and learn to use it as a tool in the classroom. I have a hard time believing students view facts and forget them immediately; I can testify that students in my classroom make connections to their twitter posts or magazine articles quite often.

With that said, my daily information diet consists of sources such as: Buzzfeed, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Wood TV. I use each of the sources for educational and personal purposes. I believe each expose me to diverse pieces of information or viewpoints in unique ways…my day wouldn’t be complete if there wasn’t a Facebook status with 100+ comments where users debate back and forth over some political or religious topic. So, arguably, while I am still “hanging out” within the confines of my personal “filter bubble” I am not always comfortable, especially when a friend tries to drag me into a heated debate regarding same sex marriage via a Facebook post. I guess I would call myself a vegetarian in terms of the “info diet.” I would say my diet, although limited by variety of sources, is healthy due the complexity –nutrients–within each source. Yet, sometimes I avoid the countering opinions or the controversy all together, which is not healthy, so this week for CEP 812 I am challenging my thinking by purposefully seeking out opinions and ideas that are contradictory to my own using sources that are not currently a part of my “info diet.” Here are the three new sources of information that have pushed my thinking in new ways:

1) I added TED to my Feedly. I added TED to my diet for several reasons. I realized that while I have watched several TED Talks, they have each been very similar in content and purpose, and they were the popular talks that most people know about, too. I have always had a positive opinion of TED, mostly because my undergrad professions showed great Talks and spoke fondly of the site. I followed suit. I shared the handful of videos I had been exposed to and spoke positively of the opportunity and creativity. However, prior to this week, I actually wasn’t aware that TED Talks addressed issues outside of education. I actually found myself interested in the new technological advancements coming to the medical field. Moreover, I watched several clips spanning environment issues, medical research, the business world, domestic violence, politics, and psychology.  I also didn’t know about speaker qualifications. Even with a slogan that says, “Ideas Worth Spreading,” I had never questioned who decides the ideas are worth spreading…after playing around, I found the protocol required to give a Talk and found myself interested in listening to a young kid giving a TED Talk, which was very cool because I thought only “old” people could give TED Talks. Even though some Talks were boring to me, I did enjoy highly controversial topics discussed regarding politics and education reform, which are areas I typically shy away from.

2) I followed @ArneDuncan on Twitter. Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education. Most of his tweets are about federal policy and new education initiatives. Prior to this week I had always prided myself on not being invested in educational politics, or politics in general. I wouldn’t say I am naïve or careless when it comes to either, but I definitely don’t let politics make me jaded about my profession or the future of education. I have always had the mindset that I can’t change or control what is happening, so I should focus on doing what I love most, teaching and building relationships with kids, and the rest will fall into place. I actually had my sister figure out my retirement information two years ago in the midst of all the changes. I really don’t care about that stuff…is that bad? However, even though I felt like I had better things to be doing, I tried my best to scroll through Arne’s tweets. I actually found myself clicking on articles he tweeted about, then clicking similar articles linked at the bottom of that article and so forth. This is a process I typically follow on Buzzfeed, a site in my “filter bubble,” where one article leads me to another and I end up creating this vast web of connections and information. I found myself interested in the variety his twitter account offered. I was surprised to see that amongst the political tweets—healthcare reform, education reform, state testing—there were sweet, uplifting tweets about educators and their impact. I will say that I actually found most of the political articles interesting and easy to read, too. Most political articles use terms I am unaware of and technical language that I cannot relate to, this was not the case with his linked articles.

3) I followed @michillerhee on Twitter. Michelle Rhee is the CEO and founder of Students First—an organization focused on pushing legislators, courts, district administrators, and school boards to create and enforce policies that put students first. Like I mentioned previously, I usually shy away from politics in general and I definitely do not involve myself in the Common Core Debates, however, when deciding what sources to add for this weeks task, I was immediately drawn to Michelle Rhee’s twitter because it was focused on student needs in terms of politics and standardized testing not the other way around. One thing that particularly disturbed me was an article she linked about PBS, a site I previously had very positive opinions of, as well as several articles regarding standardized testing laws that affect dying children or children with special needs. As an educator, my passion is helping kids, and I kind of feel that I have neglected the cause by ignoring news regarding standardized testing and legislature. I hope to stay in tune issues that have been affecting so many children in the US that I had previously been blind to.

In sum, while the first two sources I consumed didn’t change my opinion or thinking in any way, they did encourage me to think more and explore information that I would have otherwise ignored, which I believe is the point of a balanced information diet. Moreover, the last source I added to my diet actually changed my thinking about staying aware in terms of educational laws. Now, I really feel that it is my duty to stay aware to make sure my “kids” are receiving all the supports available to them, and, more importantly, to voice my opinion to help ALL kids who may be suffering due to current laws.

References:

Carr, N. (2011). The dark side of the information revolution [Web]. Retrieved from http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid57825992001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAADXaozYk~,BawJ37gnfAnGoMxEdQj_T9APQXRHKyAC&bctid=1128986496001

Gee, J. P. (2013). The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning.

Jenkins, H. (Performer) (2011). Media scholar henry jenkins on participatory culture and civic engagement [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgZ4ph3dSmY&feature=youtu.be

Pariser, E. (Performer) (2011). Beware online “filter bubbles” [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html

Creative Commons licensed “@plugusin Graphic” by  Bill Ferriter, used under CC BY

Response to James Paul Gee: Solving Big, Complex Problems

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This week in my CEP 812 course I was asked to read the preface, Chapters 1-3, Chapter 7, Chapter 10, and Chapters 15-16 in the book by James Paul Gee (2013) entitled The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning, and then formalize a response based on Gee’s explanation to answer the following question: What limitations prevent us from solving big, complex problems smartly?

In my response linked below, I answer this BIG question by summarizing pieces from each assigned chapter in which I identify what I believe are the three major limitations that result from our current education system and how we currently use technology. Of course, this is my own analysis of the text, and I apologize if the organization of my response is as jumbled as my thoughts. There was SO much information to take in and several complex ideas I wanted to touch on…it was hard to limit myself to three major limitations. Enjoy.

Response to James Paul Gee

Side note: I wasn’t able to get the text shipped to my house in time, so I ended up downloading the book using iBooks on my iPad. Initially, I was frustrated because I felt that the digital text would prevent me from being an active reader (making notes in the margin, highlighting, etc); however, with so many complex ideas presented, I found that the digital book allowed me to organize my notes and made my in-text references much easier to locate. The note taking feature and highlighting function in iBooks allowed me to interact with the text much more efficiently than I previously have been able to with hardcopies. I have used iBooks for pleasure reading but this is a first for informational reading and I am pleased to say that it was a positive change.

References:

Gee, J. P. (2013). The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning.

Image:  James Paul Gee, The Anti-Education Era, January 25, 2014 via Google Images,  Creative Commons  License

Maker Kit Lesson #2 UDL

Part #1: This week we spent a significant amount of time learning about Universal Design. After we read the UDL guidelines and explored free tools online, we used what we learned to modify our  original Maker Kit Lesson Plan to include elements that support the UDL framework . The revision process entailed focusing on how I could minimize barriers and maximize learning by implementing multiple methods of representation, expression and engagement in terms of what I wanted my students to learn and care about. Embedded you will find my modified lesson plan. To see what changes were made, check out my original lesson plan and read my reflection underneath the document below.

Part #2: Reflection

After reading the UDL Guidelines published by CAST Center, I felt slightly overwhelmed by all of the details. For each of the three principals there were several guidelines and within those guidelines there were several checkpoints with various implementation examples. However, after analyzing my notes and original lesson plan, I found that I had actually included several of the UDL components in the activities I originally planned; I just hadn’t specifically stated them as supports. I was surprised to find I could show evidence for at least two of the teacher implementation examples on most guidelines. With that said, UDL is intended to increase access to learning for all students by reducing physical, cognitive, intellectual, and organizational barriers, and although I am confident I provided options and supports, I did realize that I hadn’t considered all learners while planning. I left out supports for HI students, CI students, and ELL students. So, the goal for my lesson plan rewrite is twofold: to go back and add specific details regarding the options and supports that I already have in place and to implement tools and supports for students who are CI, HI, and/or ELL (because I teach students with those specific impairments I am choosing to focus on them).  Moreover, I believe that the changes made for those specific impairments will actually help students without disabilities as well, kind of like how wheelchair ramps also service individuals with strollers or luggage.

My lesson plan is A LOT more detailed and looks different in format. I started by downloading the UDL lesson plan format and copied what I had from my original lesson plan into their design. I added a few boxes to their design that they didn’t have because I felt they were important components and the UDL Guidelines did stress the importance of short and long term goals, which is why I added a box that shows what they learned, what they are currently going to learn, and what they will learn in the future. I also added a box for materials because it is a cooperative learning lesson and the materials were improved to provide supports that would remove barriers, such as headphones for text-to-speech. Aside from that, my lesson plan is true to their format. I really believe this helped me refocus my planning and re-writing because I had to consider what background knowledge my students should have and how I could help them make connections.

In my original lesson I planned for an exploratory cooperative learning lesson & as explained in my original post, the content actually allows for students to learn in way that it makes sense to them.  Moreover, by focusing on constructivism and choice theory, I found that my original lesson actually covered most of the 3 principals in the UDL guidelines. By paying close attention to the teacher implementation examples for each guideline I naturally began to consider small details that I may have left out, such as print documents for all auditory components I use or visuals to support vocabulary and/or instructions. By exploring online resources and reading about UDL before rewriting my lesson, I was able to easily identify barriers that existed in my original plans and I had a better handle on the supports available to remove those barriers. If you read through my new lesson, you will see I added a ton of support for hearing impaired students, ELL, and students who are cognitively impaired. I used the ideas I learned about on the free resources page we explored. Read my tweet!!

In terms of multiple means of representation, the goal of my lesson is to learn how to write a two-column proof, so there isn’t much autonomy in the structure of their written proofs. However, as I stated in my original post, the path that each learner takes to complete the proof is NOT linear. There are choices each step of the way…that is the beauty in mathematical proof. With that said, to help learners understand that there is not one right method to write a proof, even if it regards the same exact visual element, I added the “driving directions” analogy to my lesson plan (you can read it in my new and improved plan). The UDL guidelines suggest that analogies and metaphors help learners make connections and assimilate new information. I did, however, add additional presentation options, different methods of taking notes for reflection, different methods of communicating and receiving feedback, and alternate methods for viewing and playing with circuits (online switchboard/drawn out circuit). I believe that the original lesson plan included appropriate levels of challenge and support, so, in the rewrite, I focused on providing more options and descriptions that would make the existing challenges and supports explicit and accessible to all learners.

By learning about the three primary principals that guide UDL, I was able to rewrite my lesson plans with improved goals that were specific to the purpose, with differentiated teaching methods that provided support and matched the goal, with materials necessary for learners to access, analyze, organize, synthesize, and demonstrate understanding in varied ways, and with informed assessments that accurately measured learner knowledge, skills, and engagement. You can read about each of these specific changes in the actual lesson plan above. 

This weeks activities helped me re-think my teaching practices and supports. I have hearing impaired students that I wear a microphone for, but I hadn’t really considered all of the other supports they could potentially need that would help their classmates as well. The same idea goes for my ELL and CI students. I have some curriculum redesign ahead of me!!

References

CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author.

Hustle & Flow: 21st Century Classroom Design

Classroom Redesign Project


”Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. 
Design is how it works.”–Steve Jobs

This week our goal is to use SketchUp to redesign our classroom, integrating experience design into our new and improved learning space. After watching a short video clip where Tedde van Gelderen explains Experience Design, I had a much better hold on how to complete this week’s task. In fact, watching the video made me realize that I have spent and continue to spend a lot of time planning and learning in accordance with Experience Design; I had just never heard it called Experience Design. In short, Tedde (2009) describes how an experience is a holistic view of how people go through a set of events in time. He stresses the importance of time, flow (or order of events), interaction [with the environment and people], and emotion and how they all play an important role in the overall experience—the experience is funneled by human senses triggered by what we see, touch, taste, hear, and smell. This theory resonates with something one of my classes came up with last year. They decided we should have a “hustle and flow” classroom. That is, our classroom should allow for diverse learning experiences to occur simultaneously…but that there should be “flow” or rhythm to the learning occurring at all different levels, kind of like how various instruments come together to make a beautiful composition. They decided that it may look like chaos to someone who walks in and sees different types of learning occurring all around the classroom, but that if that person sticks around they will see the “hustle” or efficient learning occurring with a natural “flow” or progression of organized activities that allow for multiple perspectives and learning styles. Moreover, I learned that Third Teacher+ & Edutopia just announced a new project called “Remake Your Class.” I watched a short video clip about the project. It reminded me of the TV show “Flip This House.” The group goes through a classroom and evaluates the learning space in accordance with the teaching style and teaching goals. The goal is to match the learning space with the values by identifying what works and what could work better. With the Design Experience and this short clip in mind, I began recreating my learning space.

I tried to be realistic while creating, although I know I wasn’t giving restrictions. I tried to follow the re-design process they did in the “Remake Your Class” clip by identifying what works and what could work better. Since I currently have one of the tiniest classrooms, if not he tiniest, I did allow myself to have a bigger classroom with more resources that I currently have. My goal has always been to create a classroom atmosphere that is both encouraging and stimulating, that develops a learning climate that supports thought and exploration and where the students feel secure and confident to take risks. For this reason, I also felt it was important to keep learning theories that support my teaching style in mind while recreating my classroom environment since the two go hand in hand. I tried to make features available in the classroom that align with Glasser’s (1998) Five Basic Needs – water cooler on my desk, various seating arrangements, etc. Below I have created a list of The Five Basic Needs and how they align with classroom re-design and learning goals.

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The walls in my classroom will be adorned with learners’ work, learners’ goals, learners’ heroes, learners’ favorite quotes, or anything that reminds them of what they are working for. The learners can add or remove items they place on the walls as they grow and change. We all enter class with an ideal image of who we want to be. Typically, we haven’t achieved this ideal persona. My hope is that the learners can reflect on their personal inspirations as they develop who they want to be. I will also have at least one TV mounted on my wall for the gaming system I will have. In terms of my game collection, I will have leisure games and educational games. I hope to have an arcade game in my classroom for strategy as well. I enjoy game theory and especially liked learning about the learning opportunities the Kinect has to offer in a math classroom.

I had a hard time painting one of the walls in SketchUp, so I made them all white instead (my frustration got the best of me), but I would have my walls a pale yellow color like they are in my current classroom. Believe it or not, but I think the yellow walls I currently have are uplifting and mood altering. They are cheerful. Moreover, I would also use whiteboard paint on the tabletop surfaces. This works exceptionally well in the math classroom. Students can work out problems with their groups, by themselves, or with a teacher right on the table surface. I used whiteboard tables a ton during my undergrad work at Grand Valley and during my student teaching experience in Grand Rapids. We could use different colors to show growth as we progressed through a problem or worked with a partner. I believe whiteboard tables in my new classroom will be just as effective as they were in my previous experiences. The tables will support the social interaction and the interaction with the learning environment itself. Working on the tables will probe discussion and inquiry as learners explore mathematical concepts with others around them.

Moreover, I would have more permanent resources available in my classroom. Presently, we have a math computer cart that I have in my classroom twice a week; however, in my new classroom, there will be computers available at all times. There will be a stationary computer station as shown, as well as a math laptop cart that stays in my classroom at all times. Moreover, there will be a library with an assortment of books available for pleasure reading and for learning content, which provides balance. The library will have a sitting area with different light options. This area can be used for but not limited to group work, studying, or reading. Near the library you may notice a fish tank. I would like to bring the idea of classroom pet back into 21st century education. Fish are low maintenance and I believe a classroom pet would bring positive energy into the learning environment. In my math class we could chart the fishes growth, feeding times, or other components that relate to the math content we are covering. Aside from educational purposes, a pet requires responsibility and purpose.

The desk arrangement was the most difficult for me. I had to consider what the set-up I currently have says to students about what communication should look like in class. Currently my desks are in two columns with four desks in each row. It isn’t practical in terms of my teaching/learning style and doesn’t support the collaboration I require during learning activities; however, my space is limited and there are only so many arrangements that allow for thirty desks. In my new classroom, the instructional space will have tables. Although I will make various, alternate seating arrangements available so learners can engage in a manner they find comfortable. The learners can choose a beanbag, the couch, the bleachers, stools, or the tables. I set the tables up with 7 chairs; however, since I have a few larger classes, I could add additional chairs if needed. I chose to go with tables because they can be split apart but they also allow for conferencing in groups and provide a large work area. I anticipate some learners will choose an alternate seating arrangement that matches their learning style, though. With tables set up this way the students are able to split into two groups of four if needed. They could turn away from each other or they could split the tables. The table design and layout in my new classroom matches the design of an instructional space at Grand Valley State University that I particularly enjoyed. I felt the design was practical for all sorts of learning activities and was easily altered to accommodate particular needs. During my class at GVSU, the table arrangement supported group work, individual work, and partner work. The arrangement also allowed for all of us in the room to see the information being projected or written at the front of the classroom, which is a struggle I have in my current classroom design. The layout in my redesigned classroom is spacious and allows for students to spread out and for the instructor to move about freely and facilitate learning. Students are allowed to walk around the classroom freely, and this layout allows for movement without distraction. Further, when students are working in groups, there is plenty of room for me to walk around the class conferencing with groups and providing individual attention where it is needed.

Most learners have been well trained on how to adequately behave in a traditional classroom. Consequently, in order for this re-vamped classroom layout to be successful, it will be necessary for me to model appropriate classroom procedures for group work, resource exploration, and learner responsibility. I will not tell my students what to do, but I will show them how effective learning occurs in diverse settings, like the ones I have created in my new classroom model. Most importantly, my redesigned classroom matches my learning goals, my teaching methods, my collaboration expectations and supports learning and understanding.  I have created a trusting, safe, and fun learning environment where risks are taken and learning is stimulating and challenging.

For a large-scale project like this classroom redesign to happen, there would need to be several sources of support. Grants could be written for the technology, local businesses could be contacted and asked to donate items such as beanbags or books, and the school, of course, would need to be on board with the changes. Items like the bleachers could be donated from sports stadiums. Parents, students, community members, administrators, and staff members would all need to have an active role in implementing the changes. In accordance with Glasser’s Choice Theory and the students’ 5 Basic Needs, the students would have a large part in creating the specifics in the design to ensure individual and holistic learning needs are met. Like I mentioned previously, the teacher will model how learning occurs in diverse settings and will support students as they establish what an effective learning environment looks and feels like. This process should ensure that each aspect of the redesign serves a purpose and supports desirable behaviors and the types of learning we hope to see occur in the new environment.

The cost of the project would depend entirely on how the project was implemented and the types of materials purchased. The overall goal would need to be considered: will the classroom be redesigned efficiently using resources that are available or are low cost or will it be redesigned using a high scale budget, purchasing top of the line technology and materials. The items available for such a project vary greatly. Consider technology, whether it is a plasma TV or laptop, the price ranges significantly based on the product type and functionality. For example, I would love to have MacBooks for my classroom, but the school could choose to go with netbooks instead to lower costs. Either computer would be effective for what my students would be using it for. Things like tables, chairs, and whiteboards are easily budgeted within most districts, so those items shouldn’t be a problem. However, if I would like nice chairs, I may have to seek additional resources. Like I mentioned previously, community businesses may be able donate items or funds for such materials, which would help lower costs significantly. Or, fundraising and grant writing could be done to lower costs for materials as well. There are a lot of small things to consider when taking on a re-design project, from lighting to paint colors, each aspect should be considered in terms of how it will support learning and collaboration in the new space.

Finally, a project like this would probably have to occur over time. Changes would likely be implemented as funds or materials became available. However, depending on the situation, a school district could potentially choose to put all the changes into play over summer vacation or a holiday break during the school year. Typically these types of changes don’t happen overnight. The time frame for the project is directly related to the scale in which the changes are being made and the funds that are available: big changes will require more time and money. Realistically, in the district I work, technology would be purchased and replaced over time; it could be months or years. Lower scale projects like painting would occur much faster over a long weekend or holiday break. Although, I could apply to be a part of The Third Teacher+ & Edutopia’s new project and have my classroom remade that way. A girl can dream 🙂

Resources

Glasser, W. (1998). Choice theory: A new psychology of personal freedom. [Print]. New York: Harper Paperbacks.

van Gelderen, T. (2009). Tedde van Gelderen on experience design. [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB4VFKn7MA4&feature=youtu.be

Maker Kit Lesson Plan

This week our goal was to create a lesson plan that connects learning theories with our Maker Kit. Right off the bat I had no problem connecting Choice Theory (and other learning theories) with my Maker Kit, Squishy Circuits. However, the biggest problem I faced was the interdisciplinary connection between science and mathematics, which seems weird because the two are so closely related. After tinkering and imaging how I could use my Maker Kit in my classroom last week, I came up with several possibilities of how I could implement Squishy Circuits into my curriculum. If I had more tools in my Maker Kit I could build a logic circuit and have students explore truth-values for conditional statements, which would be my first pick. Also, if I had a better handle on circuits, I could’ve had students explore graphing shapes and translating them on the coordinate grid, since we will re-visit coordinate geometry in the near future. I also tried to explore Graph Theory using LED lights as vertices, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it work & make sense. While I managed to come up with a game, I felt like it was a stretch and that I could play a similar game in class without circuits that was just as beneficial but took less time to set up. With that said, after reflecting on my learning process, I decided that making circuits is a lot like constructing a proof.

A mathematical proof is an argument that begins with known facts, proceeds from there through a series of logical deductions, and ends with the thing you’re trying to prove. There are several intermediate conclusions—if I do this, then I get this—that lead to the final conclusion. Similarly, when building circuits, we are given a battery pack, a light emitting diode (LED), a motor, and two buzzers (similar to the picture we receive in a geometric proof). Along with the given materials we have to make sense of circuits using with background knowledge or basic facts: conductive dough lets electricity pass through it, insulating dough does not allow electricity to pass through it, electricity is directional-the current runs from positive to negative, the LED, motor, & buzzers are directional- they have a positive side (the longer leg on the LED) and negative side (shorter leg on LED), and a circuit has to be closed (a continuous loop). From here, we have to have to use what we know to create logical steps that help us reach our conclusion or what we are trying to prove.

As I was building my first simple circuit, I realized that if I did something wrong, like put my LED in backwards (so the positive and negative leg were flipped), the LED would not light up because the circuit was not closed. Likewise, we can use unnecessary information in mathematical proofs that direct us away from our conclusion. Building a circuit is a procedural, logical process much like geometric proofs. Thus, for my activity, as an introduction to proofs I would have my students play with circuits and write a two-column proof for each of their steps towards creating a more complex circuit using the motor, several LEDS, and both buzzers.  This activity seems more practical than the game I created last week and it fits better into my curriculum.

Connection to Learning Theories:

The guiding principles explored in my lesson plan [above] are driven by Diene’s Theory of Mathematics Learning, Choice Theory (Glasser), and constructivist principles. This framework allows learners to take learning from a noun to a verb. It compels learners to think critically within a metacognitive framework that requires them to formulate the problem and reflect on their thinking. Further, by blending progressive pedagogy with modern tools and resources, such as Squishy Circuits, my learners will achieve the skills they need to become innovative, original thinkers.

Writing geometric proofs is about connecting the dots. We have a starting point and an end goal, yet we somehow have to logically fill in the middle so that it gets us to the end (Ryan, 2008, p.49). It’s kind of like giving a friend directions to your house. The coolest thing about proofs is that there isn’t one correct way to reach the destination. You can have them take the back road shortcut, the city streets, or the scenic route. However, regardless of the route you give your friend, if you leave out a step or are too vague, you risk them getting lost. If you think about it, it would be nearly impossible to give someone directions to your house if you have never driven there yourself. You have to experience and understand what you are trying to communicate before you can write it in a logical organized manner. So, you have to play and experiment, make note of your observations, then order your findings logically, filling in the gaps as you go. The squishy circuit activity allows students to do just that. The lesson allows for students to experience different ways of building circuits, make conjectures and observations about how circuits behave, and then go back and write their findings in such a way that not only shows why their process is true, but also allows others to see why their process is true.

This process, in accordance with my squishy circuits lesson plan, is supported by several learning theories. In terms of learning math, Dienes’ Constructivity Principle simply states that ‘construction should always precede analysis’” (Dienes, 1969, p.32). Likewise, in the lesson with squishy circuits, learners are given “play time” to experience and observe before they begin to analyze and deduce. This process allows students to see the “big picture” in a way that fits their unique needs and abilities. Similarly, Dienes’ Theory for learning mathematics states: “When children experience a concept in more than one embodiment, they are more likely to conceive the mathematical generalization independent of the material” (Dienes & Golding, 1971, p.47, 56.). By allowing students to play with something tangible, like squishy circuits, they will be able to form an informal process for writing proofs that is unique to their personal needs. That is, the learners will gain an understanding of how to construct a proof before they actually get a formal definition of what a proof is.

In lieu of learning the learning process, Dienes’ Constructivity Principle (1969) closely aligns with Piaget’s work in that they both imply learning requires embodied experimentation, play time, group work, individual reflection, teacher as facilitator, and student responsibility/ownership. Learning is not a spectator sport. In order to gain conceptual understanding learners must experience diverse learning and make connections between old and new. By using the constructivist approach as a foundational framework in my planning, I was able to ensure that my squishy circuits lesson gave each learner the opportunity to explore and create his or her own understanding through differentiated instruction at a level that makes the content meaningful (Piaget, 1971). For example, as creative problem solvers they will make qualitative and quantitative observations as they build the circuits. Then, they will organize their observations to make sense of their findings through tables, graphs, or other visual representations, which equates to the activity where they write steps with explanation. Finally, they will make connections within their findings and to their previous knowledge by reflecting on the experience (Polya, 1957). In essence, their learning will build on what they already know and will establish new or more extensive relationships within their mental frameworks. Consequently, as learners begin to write mathematical proofs, they will make connections to their squishy circuits proof writing process and use that experience as a foundation that they can build from. This problem solving process is not only relevant to material in the mathematics classroom, it also relates to problem solving skills needed in real life situations and is highly associated with critical thinking skills.

Further, this theory suggests that if the student is given the opportunity to interact with others and question new ideas, they will move from the known to unknown. I personally experienced this during my playtime last week. I really started making progress and understanding circuits when I had my roommate and her boyfriend there to discuss ideas and complications with me. For this reason, my squishy circuits lesson allows the learners to play with the circuits and collaborate in cooperative learning groups, which will help them build of each other’s experiences. Perhaps they will make mistakes within this process, but by accommodating what they thought to be true with what they have found to be true, they are learning from their mistakes and experiences. Moreover, during the creative problem solving process (circuit making) I will act as the facilitator. I will be passive and the learners will be active. By implementing carefully designed partner activities and periods of reflection throughout my lesson, I will be able to create a classroom climate, a “math lab” if you will, that supports experimentation, discovery, and play, while providing learners with choice, which leads me to my final point (Reyes & Post, 1973).

Lastly, this learning model suggests that learners need to have choice in the process. In the squishy circuits lesson, learners will have choice to construct and play with circuits as they please, choice to write their process as it makes sense to them, and choice to create a “masterpiece” that interests them to present to their classmates. In turn, students will feel empowered and will be intrinsically motivated, which aligns with Glassner’s Choice Theory (Corey, 2012, p.402). When learners have a say in what and how they learn, they take control of their learning and achieve a sense of ownership. They will become the teacher when they explain their final product to the class. Their demonstration will show how they consolidated several concepts throughout their playtime and will convey their new understanding of the material.

By using these theories as a foundation for my lesson, I am confident I will be able to appropriately respond to the diverse, intellectual needs of the student body as well as the needs of individual learners who are culturally, socially, and economically different, too. The most rewarding thing that a lesson like this has to offer is seeing the creativity learners bring to mathematics. Processing information, making connections, reflecting, and learning through constructivism are qualities of creative problem-solving mathematicians and innovative learners and defines the educational ideology of the 21stcentury.

References

Corey, G. (2012). Theory and practice of group counseling. (8th ed.) [Print]. Belmont, CA : Brooks/Cole

Dienes, Z. (1969). Building up mathematics. (rev.ed.) [Print]. London: Hutchinson Educational.

Dienes, Z., & Golding, E. (1971). Approach to modern mathematics. [Print]. New York: Herder and Herder.

Piaget, J. (1971). The psychology of intelligence. [Print].  Boston: Routledge and Kegan.

Polya, M. (1957). How to solve it. (2nd Ed.). New York: Doubleday.

Reys, R. & Post, T. (1973). The mathematics laboratory: Theory to practice. [Print]. Boston: Prindle, Weber, and Schmidt.

Ryan, M. (2008). Geometry for dummies (ed. 2). [Print]. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc.

The Squishy Circuits Lesson Plan may be distributed, unmodified, under the Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives License 3.0. All other rights reserved.

Differentiated Learning: Remix, Reuse, Recycle

This week we were asked to read about the “maker movement” and learn about the “remix culture.”  I enjoyed listening to Dale Dougherty’s TED talk on the “maker movement”. I agree with him that we are all naturally “makers, ” but we just don’t realize it or stick with it. I like the idea of having a convention or program like the one he discusses that supports students and encourages them to play and invent. However, I enjoyed watching Kirby Feguson’s “Remix is Everything” four part series much more. I love what he does with songs and how he shows how they change (or stay the same) through time. The first part was especially cool because I love Led Zeppelin…I didn’t realize that people considered them a “rip-off.”

For our activity this week we had to use Mozilla Popcorn Maker to create a short, 1-minute remix video to convey an EdTech buzzword. I chose differentiated learning as my buzzword & decided to use Hollywood classrooms to complete my remix. Instead of typing out exact words or scenarios regarding differentiated instruction, I carefully selected classroom scenes from the YouTube video I remixed that displayed differentiated learning without coming right out and saying it. I think this method is more meaningful and relatable to viewers. I could have specifically shown examples, such as incorporating technology or I could have discussed the constant informal assessments occurring, but I think the clips speak for themselves. I feel like there are enough videos on the web that are made up of technical definitions, I wanted to remix my buzzword in a unique way.

As far as I understand, I can legally use all of the movie clips and songs in my video because I meet the transformativeness standard according to Fair Use Law and Creative Commons. That is, my work serves a different purpose and it is geared toward a different audience. I believe the films and songs were created for entertainment. I am using each clip and song in an educational context to inform my audience and help them understand what differentiated learning is in a meaningful, relatable way.

Moreover, Mozilla Popcorn Maker caused so many issues for me. I created and verified my account yesterday and spent about an hour researching and an hour playing. Miriam Posner’s blog post really helped me, although her layering instructions are backwards. I kept trying to keep the video file as layer 0. Wiki also had helpful instructions. Despite my research, I still found Mozilla Popcorn Maker to be a difficult program to use; perhaps because I am use to using programs like iMovie. Anyways, the real trouble using the program occurred today when I tried to save my remix. I was almost done with my remix this afternoon when Mozilla Popcorn Maker had an unexpected error and closed. It gave me the option to report the error, but my work was not saved. So, I had to start over… On my second attempt when I was completely finished I realized I couldn’t save my video. I was logged into my account, but the save button and share button were not clickable. When I hovered my mouse over the save button it told me to log in, but it showed that I was logged in and only had the option to sign out. Unfortunately, while I was playing I never tried to save any of the video creations I made. I tried logging in on a different computer, but I still had the same issue. I wonder if Safari is causing the issue. I read that it was a compactable browser in my research, though.  Currently I have no solution so I left the unsaved video open in a tab and used QuickTIme to record my screen. I uploaded that video to YouTube, but the quality isn’t great and the ending got cut off. I feel like I could have produced a better quality clip using iMovie in much less time. As of now, I am not a fan of Mozilla Popcorn Maker.

For Now: Differentiated Learning: Remix, Reuse, Recycle (poor quality bc I recorded my screen due to the issues I discussed above)

References

Ferguson, K. Everything is Remix. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://everythingisaremix.info/watch-the-series/

Floyd, M. (2012, November 19). Pink floyd-another brick in the wall. [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpxd3pZAVHI

Hansen, T. (2013, March 17). Inclusion and differentiated instruction: Teachers in the movies do it too [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6rEy3Lqfio

Rich, F. (2010). They don’t care about us. [Music]. Retrieved from https://soundcloud.com/fifi-rich/they-dont-care-about-us-michael-jackson