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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!



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!



Learning Walk

HAIS (Hawaii Association of Independent Schools) is conducting a “Learning Walk” today. Their goal is to provide teachers from other schools the opportunity to visit schools such as mine where “one-to-one” computer-rich learning environments exist. As part of the Learning Walk, visitors will be observing our classroom today to see how we use technology to increase student learning and performance. I’m looking forward to sharing my experience!


15 Examples Of New Technology In Education

I just wanted to share an article on 15 Examples of New Technology in Education. I don’t agree that all are “new” such as Camtasia, a software program I’ve been using for years and have mentioned in previous posts. I did learn some new things though so it may be worth a look.  Enjoy!


Socrative: student response system alternative

I tried out delivering quizzes to my students today using Socrative. This is a free service (free is good) that basically turns the smart phones and laptops that my students have into a classroom response system. Signing up for an account is easy and I found the interface to be fairly intuitive. Within an hour, I had played with the software, created two quizzes, and learned my way around well enough to try it out with my next class.

When you create an account at Socrative, you are assigned a “room number” where students can find you. Once you are ready to launch an activity, all students have to do is visit, click login as student, and enter your room number to engage in the activity. When you start the activity, it shows up on their smart phone or laptop.

My precalculus class and I tried three activities today: teacher-paced quiz, student-paced quiz, and exit ticket. Here is a recap of each.

Teacher-paced quiz:

I created a short 3 problem multiple choice quiz about solving trig equations. I started this quiz in teacher-paced mode which means that all students are on the same question at the same time. This allowed us to see class results so we could stop and discuss or address misconceptions that I noticed as we progressed through the quiz. Great for formative assessment and checking for understanding. I was able to view a bar graph of the live class results as they entered their answers which showed how many students chose each answer option. After ending the quiz, I was able to download an excel file that shows each student’s response to each individual question and color codes their responses so I can easily check for errors (green = correct, pink = incorrect).

Student-paced quiz:

I created a four problem MC quiz about inverse trig functions. I started this quiz in student-led mode which means that each student can progress through the quiz at his/her own pace. The teacher can choose whether to provide immediate feedback after each question or not; I chose to provide immediate feedback and stressed to my students the importance of giving each student the opportunity to answer the question rather than sharing answers, which they respected. My students are pretty good about focusing on the process rather than just on getting the right answer, but I would probably change this setting if I had students who just focus on the answers rather than the “why” of it all. The live class results during the quiz showed how many questions each student had answered so far and their cumulative score so far, and I was able to download an excel file after ending the quiz that showed each student’s response to each individual question.

Exit slip: 

The exit slip is a ready-to-use template. All you do is start the exit slip and three questions are posed to students. The first question is a multiple-choice question that asks students to rate their understanding of today’s lesson. The second question is a free-response question that asks students what they learned today. The third question asks students to solve the question posted on the board (you can watch my video response here: We recorded it at the Smartboard using Screenr, another freebie). Again, I can download an excel file of student responses. My students thought the exit slip was very cool as they have had a sub for the past two days while I attended the Schools for the Future Conference and wanted to make sure I knew what their concerns and questions are at this point. I think this is a good way to end a lesson, but I’d like to be able to modify it as an entrance slip to see how they felt about the homework and to let me know what their questions are.


I definitely give Socrative two thumbs up! I have desperately missed my eInstruction student response system that I had at my previous school and have been looking for some sort of substitute. While I still want a student response system, this will definitely do for now. It actually has many of the features I used most often with my eInstruction system. I still need to try it out a bit more to use it on the fly, but I think the learning curve for this program is pretty small if you have any experience with student response systems. The downfall I see would be in using this for summative assessment if computer/smart phone access during the assessment would compromise test security and validity.



SOTF Conference

I am attending the Schools of the Future Conference the next two days. Very interesting keynote so far, discussing the use of gaming to promote deep engagement and learning. More to come…


Music Box

Whitney Music Box is a musical realization of the motion graphics of John Whitney as described in his book “digital harmony”. It’s mesmerizing, kinda trippy and very cool to watch. It also contains a variety of patterns and mathematics! It will appeal to your visual students, your auditory students, and even your kinesthetic learners with the handcrank version 17. Check it out here:

If you enjoy the Whitney Music Box, you may also like Wheel of Stars, a musical clock made of stars:


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