Friday, September 4, 2015

First four days

The first four days of the 2015-16 school year have been completed. It has been a fairly nice start in my opinion. I am enjoying the beginning development of connections between myself and my students, and observing the interactions between the students as each classroom develops its own mini-culture.

There are a few new things that I am implementing in my classes this year. One of them is to use Pear Deck in the classroom. Pear Deck acts as a live, interactive, presentation tool. I have used it twice so far and am quite happy with it and its potential for the rest of the year.

Pear Deck presentation files are stored automatically in Google Drive so Google Apps for Education schools, (GAFE), have a seamless setup. Fortunately my school district is a GAFE district so its setup and use has been very straightforward.

From a technology standpoint, the Pear Deck software performed quite well. There were some minor delays from the session dashboard view on my Ipad to the Projector view and occasionally there was an 8-15 second lag for the slides to project on my students' Ipads. The session dashboad locked up twice, (in 3-4 hours of use), on my Ipad during the lesson presentation but it was an easy fix to get things started again. (hit the back arrow, log back in). A few, less than 10, students did lose their connection for a time, but a quick login brought them right back to the presentation in very little time.

While I have not used all the features of Pear Deck yet, what I liked most was the ability to display student answers to the class anonymously. The chance to be anonymous with your answer in front of the class, especially in math, is huge with middle school students. This feature alone is worth it because I feel it will empower all students, especially the quieter ones, to bring their voice to the class more prominently.

I also liked Pear Deck's aid in formative assessment in two ways. The student responses are saved for each session. I was able to go back and efficiently, and quickly, check what each students' answers were during the lesson. During the second day of use, I was able to address developing misconceptions for individual students in essentially real time in an unobtrusive way like I have never been able to do before. After using Pear Deck for two lessons, I can see that better question design by me will help improve its value even more. The main danger with Pear Deck at this point will be one of overuse because of how much I enjoyed using it.

Friday, August 7, 2015


One of the best things about summer for a teacher is getting a chance to reflect upon the last year, (and years), of teaching and consider how to improve for the next year. There are a few things I plan to change for the upcoming year but the biggest and most fruitful change will be implementing the concept of lagging.

There are several sources of frustration I encounter as a teacher while the school year unfolds. One of the most prevalent ones is the lack of retention of important concepts that many of my students demonstrate when it comes time for the end of year assessment exams. Through members of my Twitter PLN, I was introduced to the teaching and curriculum work of Henri Picciotto. What a resource for math teachers for all levels and subjects!

In particular, he presents the concept of lagging homework. The main idea behind this is to provide an extended exposure to older topics while continuing to move forward with new topics in the classroom. So in practice, homework assignments are on topics addressed in class 3-5 days before rather than the topic that has been studied in class that day. In addition, to give students a chance at even more exposure, topics on quizzes are lagged another week or so. The concept Henri presents addresses the fact that not all students learn math topics at the same rate but still keeps the class as a whole moving forward.

After considering his ideas, (and I recommend reading the other linked articles he has provided in his lagging homework post), they make a lot of sense to me and have the potential to allow my students to become more comfortable with new topics at different paces and hopefully improve retention and understanding of those topics to boot.

Implementing this will require some changes to procedures and processes I have used in my class for awhile. At this time I have not ironed out all of the nitty-gritty details but am looking forward to implementing this change in my practice.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Unaccustomed territory

This post has little to do about teaching - and is associated more with the "other matters" part of the title for this blog.

College basketball, especially mid-major college basketball is something I enjoy quite a bit. (I suppose at times, it could be argued that it becomes an obsession of mine during the winter months). In many ways, it has served as a bond for my daughter and I. We have both liked rooting for the UConn programs over the years and when she chose to attend UConn for her college education, it cemented her bond with the basketball program.

I attended the University of Albany for both undergraduate and graduate school for my training as a meteorologist. Back in those days, they were a strong Division III program which helped fuel my attachment to mid-major basketball. They have remained one of "my teams" as only college teams can be throughout.

Yesterday, for the first time in my memory since we had been following college basketball together, UAlbany beat a common opponent that UConn had lost to. (Yale - a solid Ivy league team this year). In addition, my daughter happened to be in town for some pre-holiday celebrating so I got to share the news of UAlbany's win and the "UAlbany must be better than UConn this year since we beat Yale at Yale and you lost to them at Storrs" joshing that goes along with being fans of disparate teams. Of course, UConn, the defending national champ from last year, is head and shoulders better than UAlbany but it was fun to go back and forth for awhile and rekindle the bonds we share with college basketball and the differences we have for the type of teams we root for most.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Break Approaching

Two more school days until our Holiday Break. The energy level was high this week as can be expected with the anticipation of Christmas and time off from school. It can be a challenging time for a teacher but it also reminds me what it felt like for me back when I was young.

Teaching is tiring for me but it also keeps me connected to youth and feeling younger. With my children fully grown, I think I would feel older, (maybe a bit less tired), and definitely be less connected with the changes that are occurring with the younger segment of our society, social media, and the like if I were still working as a meteorologist.

I am glad to still have the chance to experience the excitement that children provide at this time of the year and have the exposure to the changes in the way they see and experience the world.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Twitter can be a pretty cool thing. Last evening, Dan Meyer, sent out a request to 7th and 8th grade math teachers for help regarding his PhD research. I have benefited from Dan's work so many times the past few years that I was happy to offer.

The task was fairly straightforward. My classes were to answer a question and I was to scan their answers and get them to him for his research. The question involved a picture of a graph and gave a worded description of the graph giving specific information regarding its period and amplitude and asked the student what was an amplitude. The material was a bit above the level of seventh grade, which Dan mentioned when he sent the question.

I was able to have two of my Blocks work on the question and was quite pleased with the way they attempted to answer the question - even though the terms and type of graph were unfamiliar to them. I told them we were helping out one of my Twitter contacts - they like to make fun of my Twitter "friends" that I mention in class at times, especially when we use material from Estimation or

Overall, they seemed happy to have been asked to take part in the research. It showed in their approach and answers to the question. It was nice for me to have been able to help Dan as well.