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Separating Prime Cuts of Educational Technology from Common "Mystery Meat"


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NOT Business as Usual

It’s all about the core…

…as in the Common Core. Another school year is beginning but it won’t be business as usual! Big changes are here in Washington state:

  1. New Standards: The biggest change this year is the complete rollout of the Common Core State Standards. Addressing more than just content, these new standards also include Standards for Mathematical Practice which describe processes and proficiencies teachers should seek to develop in their students. Now we can retire the 2008 WA State Math Standards and stop trying to teach two sets of standards at each grade level or course. I don’t know about you, but I am excited that we will FINALLY complete this transition!
  2. New Assessments: The Smarter Balanced (SBAC) Assessments will replace the MSP in grades 3-8. The EOCs for Algebra and Geometry will be replaced with new Exit Exams that are aligned to the CCSS. And for the first time in Washington state, high school students will be tested on math standards through Algebra 2 when 11th graders take the SBAC Grade 11 Math Assessment this spring. All of these assessments will be more rigorous than our previous assessments and will target all DOK levels.
  3. New Types of Assessments: When students take the new SBAC assessments next Spring, they will take a computer-adaptive test that will include new item types such as multi-select and technology-enhanced items. These assessments will also include a performance task that requires students to problem solve, communicate mathematically, model with mathematics and analyze data.

Big changes indeed! Along with providing information and support for teachers to implement the new standards and prepare for the new assessments, I believe there are specific actions we can take to prepare for these changes:

  1. Eliminate the regular teaching of non-grade level content. Research shows that 25% of instructional time in the typical classroom is spent teaching standards from previous grade levels. We cannot and will not find the time teachers have told me they need if we spend our time teaching content that is below grade level. I do understand the need to meet kids where they are and that the transition to new standards may leave gaps we need to fill in for kids. However, we must find ways to do this while still moving forward and teaching our grade level standards.
  2. Address Depth of Knowledge. The new standards are more complex, and the new assessments will include items and tasks at a range of Depth of Knowledge (DOK) levels. To prepare our students, we must provide opportunities for students to interact with content at a variety of DOK levels through the questions, tasks and assessments we design. In this post by Tracy Watanabe, she shares her thoughts on shifts that schools need to make to address DOK and practical strategies to promote higher order thinking.
  3. Move beyond answer-getting to sense-making. If students are going to be able to think about and use mathematics in meaningful ways, they have to make sense of it. In this talk by Phil Daro, he talks about the shift we must make from “How can I teach my students to get the answer?” to “How can I use this problem to get to the mathematics students need to learn?”
  4. Provide opportunities for TRUE problem solving and mathematical modeling. True problem solving is more than solving a word problem that contains all the information you need to answer the question. True problem solving involves situations that aren’t always so neat and tidy. Giving authentic problem solving and mathematical modeling tasks like these can create situations for us to develop the Standards for Mathematical Practice.
  5. Promote student mathematical discourse. The new assessments will require students to be able to communicate mathematically and I believe the best way to prepare students for this is to make it part of their everyday learning experience. The more we make this part of our classroom culture, the better prepared our students will be to demonstrate these skills on an assessment. Creating opportunities for student mathematical discourse will enable us to develop the Standards for Mathematical Practice.
  6. Make data-driven decisions about student learning. This means embedding formative assessment to inform instruction and help students self-assess their own progress toward the standards.

I believe focusing on these  strategies will help us implement the new standards and prepare our students for the new assessments. It’s a big task, but I think we are up for it. 🙂


WERA 2013

I have spent three days at the Washington Educational Research Association (WERA) Conference in Seattle, WA, learning about Common Core, assessment and teaching. My favorite session was by Tracy Davis, Using Google Tools to Prepare Students for Online Testing. I got several great ideas that I look forward to trying out!

You can find more information about My WERA 2013 Conference Experience on Storify.



Some changes a’coming…

Living here in Hawaii this past year has been a wonderful experience. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the staff and students at Maryknoll School;  teaching in a one-to-one laptop school was an awesome experience!

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My husband is retiring from the US Navy and our family has decided to return to the mainland to be closer to family. We are in the process of packing up our household and heading to the Seattle area where I have accepted a position with the Northshore School District as their grade 7-12 Math TOSA. I am looking forward to another adventure and this new opportunity!



My Kukulu Kaiaulu 2013 Conference Experience

I have spent the past two days at Kukulu Kaiaulu 2013 Technology Conference listening to wonderful minds and getting inspired. What a great way to end the school year!

Keynote speakers:

  • Nirvan Mullick, creator of Caine’s Arcade. If you have never seen this, you really should because it is completely amazing.
  • Laura Zander, owner of Jimmy Beans Wool. She is a fantastic speaker, hilariously entertaining, with a wonderful message of encouraging others to discover the intersection between what they’re good at and what they’re passionate about.
  • Dr. Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist exploring the effects of new media on society and culture. In his keynote, he explored the environments and conditions in which imagination thrives, why those environments are increasingly scarce in our schools and society, and what we can do about it.



You can find more information about these keynote speakers and my conference experience on Storify.

[View the story “My #ksedtech 2013 Conference Experience” on Storify]


Lights, Camera, ACTION!


For their final project, students in my trigonometry class were asked to create a video that demonstrates concepts they learned this trimester. Students
were given handouts of the project guidelines and scoring rubric.

I have used this project several times through the years with my Precalculus and AP Calculus students. Past projects have included “Charlie’s Angles” and a soap opera, “As the World Turns 360 degrees.”  This year’s projects include a version of “Mythbusters” where students use trigonometry to test myths:

Happy viewing!



Our YouTube Channel

Student mathcasts created by my trigonometry class this trimester and teacher-created mathcasts can be viewed on my YouTube Channel at

A few highlights:



Math + screencast = Mathcast

Students in my trigonometry class used Camtasia Studio to create mathcasts of their work.

The first is a movie we uploaded to YouTube. The second is a set of 6 movies we produced with a table of contents using Camtasia and uploaded to our course Moodle. After students created and uploaded their mathcasts, their next task was to present their movie to their parent(s) during a student-led homework conference. Parents viewed the mathcast and completed this evaluation form. Feedback I received from parents was overwhelmingly positive. 🙂

There are plenty of free screen recording tools out there such as Jing or Screenr to name a few. If you haven’t yet created screencasts with your students, I urge you to try it!


Socrative gets pics, and gets smarter!

I have been using Socrative this year and love it, but I did wish I had the ability to add pictures/graphs to questions. And now, I can! In the latest update,  Socrative introduced two important features to it’s popular web-based (and free!) student response system software:

  • Teacher can now add images to questions.
  • Socrative now has the ability to automatically grade short response questions.

If you haven’t tried Socrative yet, I highly recommend it! It is free and can be accessed by students with any internet-capable device.


TI-Nspire workshops

TI-Nspire CASIf you happen to be in Hawaii on June 5 — 7 or June 24 – 26 and have some time in your schedule, explore the potential of TI-Nspire technology for implementing the Common Core State Mathematics Content and the Mathematical Practices for Mathematics.  You will learn ways for using TI-Npsire handhelds, TI-Nspire Teacher Software, Nspire Navigator as well as the TI-Nspire App for iPads to implement CCSS.

June 5 – 7 Getting Started with TI-Nspire™ in Middle Grades Mathematics and the Common Core  Hosted by and held at King David Kalakaua Middle School  

This workshop is designed for educators who are interested in or just beginning to use TI-Nspire™ technology. It will cover the basics to get started with the technology in Middle Grades Mathematics and Pre-Algebra. This will comprise the use of both the handheld and the Teacher Software. TI-Nspire technology will be introduced in the context of the middle school mathematics curriculum. Participants will also explore learning resources such as Activities Exchange and Math Nspired, designed to support further use of TI-Nspire technology and additional activities, along with discussions on the integration of these in their classrooms. At the conclusion of the three days, participants should have a comfort level in the use of premade documents, along with basic skills in the use of graphing and the other applications of TI-Nspire technology.  For further information contact Scott Powell,, 808-383-0359


 June 2426 Implementing the Common Core Mathematical Practices with TINspire™   Hosted by University of Hawaii  Curriculum Research Development Group, held at King David Kalakaua Middle School  

This workshop is designed to equip teachers teaching Middle Grades and High School Mathematics to excite and engage students using the Mathematical Practices. This will comprise the use of both the handheld and the Teacher Software. TI-Nspire™ technology will be introduced in the context of middle grades and high school mathematics curriculum. An emphasis will be placed on pedagogy and the implementation of effective and appropriate use of technology in an interactive mathematics classroom, in alignment with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. Participants will reflect on what steps are needed to get the students engaged in the mathematical practices through case studies, video and task analysis. For further information contact Judith Olson,, 808-956-3939


Each participant will receive:  

• Course Material Package: Instructional Activity Binder

• 1 Nspire CX Handheld ($150 value)

• 1 Single User License of TINspire CX Teacher Edition Software ($150 value)


To Register , visit:

Teacher registration cost: $350

Preservice Teacher cost: $125

Space is limited to 30 participants per institute.

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