My 2020 Vision

The year 2020. When I hear that year mentioned, regardless of what it is referring to, it scares me. It scares me for multiple reasons. 1) I will be turning 30 – yikes!! 2) It sounds like a “futuristic” year that I imaged when I was young would have aliens living on Earth and flying cars. 3) It is less than 4 years away.

To think that the year 2020 is less than four years away is quite incredible, and it will most certainly be here before we know it. As an educator it is hard to imagine how much will change in the world of education by next year (2017), let alone by 2020. If I think back to four years ago (2012) I was still in college earning my Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics Education, and we were not learning about hardly ANYTHING that I have been using in my teaching. Of course some of the constants such as IEPs, learning objectives, and lessons plans still exist, but the capacity in which they are used, presented, edited, and accessed has changed drastically. I was taught to type up my lesson plans, print them out the day before, and keep them all organized in a binder, along with all of my other resources. Now, my binders full of lesson plans and resources are worthless, and my folders on my laptop that contain my resources and lesson ideas are a treasure trove that I would freak out if I ever lost.

The way that we gain access to resources and ideas for our lessons has changed so much, that inherently the way in which we present those lessons and ideas must change as well. The blended classroom and its integration into the face-to-face traditional classroom is a major catalyst for this change. Students no longer learn in a world full of college-ruled paper notebooks, large heavy textbooks, and 20-page study guides that their teacher spent hours copying in the copy room. They are now learning from online textbooks, taking notes on their laptops on collaborative documents, and using programs, applications, and simulations to study and learn new concepts.

Changes in the world in which we are living are also a huge reason for these changes. We are not simply teaching students the skills they will need to be successful in a four-year college. We are teaching students who will enter the working world right out of high school as a trade worker; we are teaching students who will be serving our country in the U.S. Military; we are teaching students who will attend a two-year, four-year, or doctorate program in a more traditional college setting. Regardless of what path our students take in this world their exposure to technology and collaboration are things that will remain constant. We are doing our students a disservice if we do not prepare them for the wealth of technology that they will be using in any career that they choose and how collaborative that technology will be, and this is what should drive our decisions as educators to prepare them for this in the best way possible.

Changes in education are therefore also going to be affecting changes in the world. Because we are now producing students who are prepared for technological positions in the work force, the technology that is out there and available for everyone to use is also going to be changing drastically. As more and more students are able to use and manipulate this technology, its capacity will only continue to increase. These students will move into careers where they will create new programs, applications, and software that will inherently change the way that many current technologies that we use operate. The perfect example of this is the iPhone that Apple has created. Just 10 years ago, without the iPhone (or similar devices made by other companies), the entire way that the human race communicated was completely different. Gone are the days when you would wait for the landline to be open so that you could call your friend. Teenagers don’t have to deal with the times when you couldn’t get on Instant Messenger because your parents were using the phone. Now communication and collaboration with anyone and everyone is at our fingertips, and it truly has opened up “a whole new world”.

There are of course advantages and disadvantages to this “new world” of communication, both of which have affected the educational system as well. Our students are now constantly connected to their parents and friends, and texting and using social media in school has become the norm. In my school district we have adopted a fairly lenient policy where we allow phones between classes and during lunches, but not all schools have accepted this as of yet. In 2020 I believe this will be the policy for the majority of schools. Cell phones are not going away, and they even have educational merit if used correctly. Many programs such as Kahoot!, Schoology, Google Docs, Wolfram Alpha, and other school-created applications all have apps and websites that are cell phone-friendly and usable from those devices. By restricting our students’ access to their devices we truly are slowing them down, because in the real world they need to learn the balance of using their cell phone appropriately in a work situation.

For all of the reasons above and more, being a teacher in the year 2020 is sure to be different than it is today. The choices and innovations that I chose to implement and experiment with in my classroom in the next few years are going to be a direct reflection of what my classroom looks like in 2020. If I were to chose to fight back against the laptops, cell phones, programs, and technology that are popping up left and right in schools, I am sure that I might be able to manage to fend off the tech-savvy world that is sure to be coming in 2020 for a little while. But the real question is – WHY!? Why would an educator want to limit the access of their students to these programs, applications, and tools simply because there are some disadvantages. By the year 2020 I hope that educators can get on board with these changes and stop trying to prevent them. By embracing what they have to offer and by focusing more on how to successfully implement them in our classrooms, rather than spending all of our time focusing on how to keep them out, we will be able to find the silver lining that many of these programs have to offer. I look forward to how much the educational system will change by 2020 and I for one am on board and excited to see what the future has in store. ­čÖé

Advantages of Google Docs in my Algebra classroom

Google Docs and its ability to give students access to a document anywhere, at any time, on any device is simply amazing! This allows students of many different learning styles to edit and develop documents and assignments in their own ways and at their own convenience.

Google Docs is extremely helpful for learners who need extended time or resources in order to complete a project that involves other students, such as a paired or group collaborative project. Google Docs allows that student who might need extended time to work on their group project on any other device at a time that is convenient for them, and their partner or group can also access their changes at any time as well. This allows that student to continue to collaborate and contribute to their group long after the class face-to-face time is over, thus improving their confidence to work together with other students.

A perfect example of this is something that I personally experienced last year in my Algebra 1 classroom. Students had to work together in a group of 3 to complete a total of 12 graphs of linear equations using an online graphing software. There were certain students who needed extended time due to their initial difficulties in figuring out how to navigate the software and the assignment. Because the assignment was not due until midnight that evening, that student was still able to complete their contribution to their group later in the evening and then upload their graphs into the group’s Google Doc. This is one perfect example of how Google Docs can help all different kinds of learners!

Paperless Classes

The paperless classroom is definitely the classroom of the future. Being a teacher in a one-to-one school there are many courses in our high school that are on their way toward this type of learning environment. I think that we are able to do this for a few different reasons: 1) our students are high-school age and able to conduct themselves responsibly on their laptops. 2) our devices have all necessary software for students to take notes, complete worksheets, and submit assignments to their teachers. and 3) the teachers have had professional development on how to use these programs effectively in the classroom and to the best of their ability.

Paperless classes change both the classroom and the ways in which the students learning. Due to Open Content, students have access to all of the information that they need for a course online. This eliminates the need for textbooks. Students are then also spending the majority of their school time in front of a computer screen rather than writing down information on paper. Students who have trouble focusing can create some issues when they are off-task while using their laptops, but the majority of students are able to stay on task and complete their work effectively. Measuring learning in a paperless class would consist of online tasks and assessments that measure student learning in new and innovative ways. I do not think that this would make it harder to build a learning network for the students – in fact, it could expand their learning network to outside of their own school district!

In my Algebra courses I do not see myself going completely paperless, as having students complete math problems on paper is necessary for their ability to learn, make mistakes, and complete problems quickly and efficiently. However, I could see myself (and I have made leaps and bounds this year) in assessing students mostly online. Every single homework and quiz that I have given this year has been online – the only thing that is done on paper is tests (in order to provide partial credit). This has been working very well, and I plan on continuing to improve upon my paperless assessments in the future.

Big Shifts: No More Textbooks!

Will Richardson’s book titled “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms” discusses how there are many big shirts that are occurring in the educational system due to the introduction of web tools in classrooms. The one that stood out to me the most is the “open content” shift, which discusses how course content is now available through many different avenues, whereas in the past information was all housed in course textbooks. Students are now able to access information from blogs, wikis, websites, applications, etc. rather than the traditional textbook, which has opened up many new ways for students to learn, compile, and analyze information.

I have personally experienced this in my own courses. Both my Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 courses do not use a textbook for either instruction or practice purposes. While I still have access to these textbooks (they are shoved away in one of my cabinets) I do not reference or use them other than for “section numbering” purposes. As a department we still refer to topics from “Section 12.1” or “Chapter 9”, but most of us do not have our students use these textbooks or use them ourselves. There are simply so many other better options!! I have been able to use other technology to make up for this big shift, and I look forward to continuing this in the future. I have so many applications, worksheets, and programs that my students use that are not only just as good at getting information across as textbooks are, but they are way more interesting! My students enjoy not having to lug around a textbook back and forth from home, their locker, and my classroom as well.

 

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Connecting with Skype

Skype is a wonderful tool that allows students to connect with other students, their teachers, or other educators or instructors around the world. In my school we already have multiple teachers using Skype for educational purposes. For example, our STEM teachers Skype’d with a building contractor in India to discuss building a bridge project that they were working on. Another teacher Skype’s with her students that take her summer course that is completely online to answer questions and conduct a final interview about their experience with the course.

I do not see myself using Skype in my traditional classroom as it is currently, but in my future as an online educator I find that it is important to connect with your students via Skype at least one time during the course, preferably at the beginning. I think that this allows for a connection to be made between teacher and student, while at the same time opening the lines of communication between them. I do see myself using Skype to connect with other colleagues, which I have already done in the past during the summer months. I have used it to collaborate with my Department Head about a new course that I was teaching for the first time, and this was a great way to accomplish things quickly and efficiently, more so than it would have been through email.

How have you used Skype in your own classroom? Or has another teacher in your building used it with great success? I know that I love hearing about how teachers in my high school are using it, so I would love to hear about your experiences as well!

Connectivism & Learning Argument

This is my response to Group C’s statement below on their Wiki page:

 

Group C: “The theory of connectivism goes beyond the individual processing of information to say that a group of individuals working together can build a larger network to draw knowledge from. By creating networks of people, technology, etc., learning communities are established which provides a broader scope of knowledge to link new information too (Davis, n.d.). This too is similar to the ideas of constructivism.”

 

My Response: After reading what Group C has already come up with on their Wiki page, I have to agree with the information that they have chosen to include. The above paragraph describes how connectivism goes beyond one individual’s knowledge base and discusses how a group of people can collaborate together socially in the educational process to combine their knowledge together. This idea is something that I use constantly in my classroom by having my students’ desks in groups. I always encourage them to ask a group member (they are in groups of 4) their question before asking me, because chances are 1 out of the other 3 people at their group know the answer! While this example is not all-encompassing in the idea of Connectivism, it certainly speaks to the idea of a learning community, which Group C discusses as well.

Podcast in the Classroom

Below is the link to an Algebra podcast that I decided to check out:

The Math Dude: Algebra 1 – Unit 3.4: Writing Equations of Lines

This podcast was created by The Math Dude: Algebra 1. The podcast is called Unit 3.4: Writing Equations of Lines, and is an awesome example of the learning possibilities that a podcast provides! The podcast is approximately 9 minutes in length, and I chose this podcast because discusses a real-life application of writing an equation of a line as it relates to buying shoes at a store that provides its employees with commission for their sales. It discusses how the amount of commission they make relates to the slope of the line, while the amount they sell the shoes for relates to the y-intercept.

I would use this podcast in my Algebra 1 course after I had already introduced the topic of writing equations of lines. I think it is important that the students have some prior basic knowledge regarding this concept so that they could work independently while watching the podcast and make the most of the examples provided. I will definitely be storing this podcast in my vault of resources for Algebra 1 and I am excited to see what my students think of it next school year.

 

The Math Dude. “Unit 3.4: Writing Equations of Lines.” Podcast Chart. 8 Feb. 2011. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

Flickr in the Classroom

Flickr is a wonderful way for students to have the opportunity to use images that are available for use through Creative Commons. It is often difficult for students to determine what images are able to be used freely (with citations of course) and which images may be copyrighted and not available for use. Flickr is a great resource for students of all ages who want access to appropriate and reliable images that they can use for projects, presentations, or online collaboration.

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In my Algebra classroom my students have not yet completed any projects where Flickr could be useful. However, a new assignment that I have decided to incorporate this year would be a great way to introduce my students to Flickr. I plan on having my students review for their Algebra 1 Final Exam by assigning each student partner group a topic that we have learned during the school year, and they will be creating an Infographic about that topic. This will serve as a way for them to review for their final exam while also learning important computer and presentation skills. Flickr would be a way for my students to access creative commons images for their Infographic, which will enhance their work by including corresponding images. This is a resource that they can then take with them to use with other courses as well.

 

Image Citation:
Algebra . (2012, December 17). chasethewind’s Photostream. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/chasethewind/8280950854/in/photolist-dBL3bJ-6RFyLR-dTdrN-4RP3e-imHut-6e5f81-7ciCVS-84Dnk-6eb9kf-na73Y-dTdpX-apPnMk-mjx343-mTomZE-7FEZAr-2aAFx-9tsKL-9k3bWj-aFa2NN-4RNRU-4RNRS-dTdnF-dnDMn6-gbtHVU-dnDMpF-iNqeiM-8eNrYM-oZ8ypz-6oevru-7UUpKC-5vvANR-4G6rc-asKs3a-diDavX-aZ7oE4-7ixg7c-eK9qpL-amUVGU-azVu4J-eN2bYk-7dXzM6-aovudw-aBGa8K-7FEZBe-5d76oe-9qA8Hx-2trcpE-ayRd36-axb538-59C5RC.

Wikis in My Classroom

Using Wikis in my Algebra classrooms is still something that I do not see myself incorporating as far as having my students create their own, but I can see a use for my students researching and looking up information using Wikis. There are certain projects that we do throughout the year that require formulas or basic strategies, and Wikis could be helpful in this process. For example, when we begin learning about the Pythagorean Theorem I could have my students do some background research on where it comes from and the history behind it, and this Wikipedia page could be a great starting point for them to learn the basics and gather some information.

While I am still in the process of working on a small group Wiki project, I have learned that Wikis are not only a resource but are also a way to collaborate and share information with others. By combining my thoughts with those of my group members we have been able to combine a good amount of knowledge into one resource page without one person finding or creating all of the text or links to outside sources. For this reason I see how it is a valuable tool that students should be introduced to if it suits their specific course or project.