Sunday, September 29, 2013

Planning is tough

So as I sit finishing my lesson plans for the week, I am left with the thought of how tough it can be to plan a week in advance.  And how I often I deviate from the plan, and if I deviate, and I do, why plan?

I plan cause it makes me reflect on the goals for the next short duration, it makes me consider what I really want the student to understand and be able to apply to real problems in the immediate time frame - always being able to create, revise, and create.  I also hope to instill a belief they can do anything and a tenacity to not stop pushing forward - whether it is revisions or learning new skills or doing what it takes. 

And I consider that every Sunday night as I plan my week.  Nearly all the things I plan happen - but often I find what I would like to get to by Friday is actually the following Monday (that is probably the optimist in me).

It is tough to plan - and plans change, but the reflection is really the important part - because then I deliver on my commitment to reflect on how to make learners.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Turning on the Solar

Check it out!  We turned on the solar today!  Just over 2 years to do the project - and today we started generating about 4 kW right away on a partly sunny day!  (at about 1:00 pm)

It is a pretty sweet feeling -- a student lead project that has real world positive effects.  The only reason I get the glory is that all the students who started the project are at college!

PBL at work.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Green Energy - Week One of Installation

Last week our vendor, Synergy Renewable, came and did some measurements and met their new "project managers" - the 2013-14 Physics class.    We are very excited, and most of the install is now done!  It is really a great finish to a project that started 2 years ago with the Physics class of 2011-12 (we offer Physics every other year at my school).

With effort and tenacity big projects can happen!  Take a look!

The inverter will arrive in the next day or two and then we will be powering our green school!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Flipping pains - still moving forward

So as I try to flip my room I find some small problems and I myself to be a problem.

So one of the issues I am having is trouble with internet and students adapting to watching videos for homework.  In our rural community some students do not have access to reliable internet, so as an instructor I must be prepared to give multiple days for assignments (just have to adapt my plans).  I also must do a better job of checking that they do the videos (notes).

I have always found checking homework to be a task.  Sometimes I collect it or check it at the desk, or just tell the students that it will wait for the next day.  I know some homework has value, but the class time is always more valuable - but the videos are a higher priority.  They need to be watched prior to the class time to be really effective and that means my attitude must evolve.   But as your typical cro magnon man I find that difficult.

I need to keep focus - but all the preps wear on you.  The main thing is that I take small steps - if I keep small stepping the flipping will eventually get there.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Calculators, the math wars and the self-righteous. Where's the middle ground?

The math self-righteous, the all or nothing gang, always right, always my way  - they seem to be everywhere.  I am trying to figure out am I one?

Every week I receive posts on both sides of issues and the bloggers always land squarely on one side of an issue.  I just read a post/comment about not using a calculator as a tool for graphing for y = -2x + 1, one teacher mentioned wanting a paper and pencil understanding and another blog jockey called that just absurd - technology ahoy.

Yet at the same time the paper and pencil person did not mention how we prepare students for the world (maybe he/she does, and feels this is a basic concept), and the tech person made no mention of how we make sure the student really understands lines without simply typing the equation into the calculator (maybe he meant for there to be more interaction from teacher, coupled with deep understanding - but the comment read like an accusation).    

The real thing here is how does the calculator and the paper/pencil person tie the relationship of independent and dependent variables? Or how we estimate from a graph, or how we use slope in a real world application, or y-intercept.  Their statements miss the point of teaching a high level concept that can be applied in our world.  Their just making statements: calculator good ugh!  Calculator no good ugh!

Where is the middle ground?  I blog with no intent of having any feeling of success with this, because the issues lead to polarization.  There has to be a blended approach - basic understanding and an ability to use the tools available.

So there is a middle ground - rarely mentioned.  As teachers our students need to be ready for the world, that means calculators and the tools of the world (and don't let TI {Texas Instruments} fool you - the TI calculator has not been a typical tool in the world).    And the paper/pencil person is right - we need to be able to think of the basics and understand how to do by hand.  Cause without understanding how do you use a tool?

So I feel like I stand in "no-man's land."  I do both - on the basic ideas and concepts I expect proficiency with and without a calculator.  There are times we use technology to discover concepts and other times where I *gasp* lecture. 

Either way we get the skills needed for each student to be successful on their next step away from Juda High.  Problem solvers who are ready to use their tools and can do the basic math that is demanded of the workplace, tech school or college.   We use our tools - calculators, computers, etc. to address big problems and big concepts.  And we can set them down and do the basics.  It can go both ways....

Dammit I am one.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Watched first flipped videos today!

So today, on our first full day of school, I had the Algebra class and Physics class watch my flipped videos and take notes on them in class (links are in titles).  And it went well, the students said they see the advantages and are excited to try it.  They understood the need to take notes and worked through it with me -- best of all it took less time and the students had better engagement.

So the first step is done!  I had set my lessons to watch all videos together this week, doing a few homework problems at home and reevaluate next week.  But I am already thinking of flipping Friday so they can start at home.   I will see how tomorrow goes then decide.

I am not sure what I expected, I did not think they would fight it but also did not think they would buy-in so easy. I am really glad FIZZ has there independent program with steps to getting you to flip (was the motivation I needed to make videos).

So now to get everyone more comfortable and move videos to homework - then the truly new part - getting better in the hour - making students higher order thinkers!