Ask How not What

  Excerpted from the Ohio Summit 2.5,  keynote by Karl Fisch, Director of Technology and Mathematics teacher at Arapahoe High School in Colorado. He is the creator of the YouTube hit,Did You Know? Shift Happens 2.0.

“If you put good people in a fundamentally flawed system, the system will win.”

  • The key here is that we must have systems in place that support the 4 Cs (communication, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity). Not only that, there must be a systemic and ongoing process for providing support, advice, encouragement, and a different perspective.
  • Often times our conversations about school reform stall because we are overcome by the entrenched factory system of doing school. Yes, school may have worked for us, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better for our students today and tomorrow. Instead of asking what we need to do differently in schools to meet the needs of today’s learner, we should ask how are we going to do things differently.

He asked a fundamental question that really piqued my interest: What does literacy mean in the 21st century?

  • This is definitely a moving target and it’s deeper than just one’s ability to read. He shared a quote by Jason Ohler that hit the nail on the head:  “Literacy means to consume and produce the media form of the day.”
  • To further hammer home his point he said, “If all we teach students is the 5 paragraph essay then that’s educational malpractice.” The five paragraph essay is extremely important and a skill necessary for effective writing, but I believe his point is that literacy today is much more complex, much more diverse than it ever has been. With social media, we have to teach and model for students how to appropriately and effectively “consume and produce the media form of the day.”
  • This has to include sharing content on YouTube, connecting with others globally through Twitter, Skype, and blogging. Since the audience in these venues is authentic and more public, digital citizenship is paramount.
  • An example he used was the 2008 presidential election. Observers of the debates were able to check facts in real time while watching the debate on TV. Thus, it became an interactive learning process as opposed to a passive exercise of just listening. We must use these same tools in the classroom as a means to teaching literacy.

What should students  (and their network connections) know and be able to do?

  • The first thing that came to mind was, “can my students tell me who is in their personal network? Do they even know what that means in terms of learning and collaboration?” Well, the only way I will know this is to ask them!
  •  He stressed the importance of providing opportunities for students to create globally connected learning networks.  He shared several examples of what this can look like:
  1. History- discover why buildings, streets, or communities are named the way they are by researching primary sources and conducting interviews of local residents.
  2.  American Revolution-Skype or build a wiki with schools from Great Britian about the revolution.
  3. Book Reports- create a movie trailer and post it on YouTube then create a QR code and tape it to the spine of the book found in the school’s library. Talk about a relevant and authentic project!
  4. “Wikify” Research Papers- at the end of each page, students create hyperlinks at the bottom, just like what’s found on Wikipedia.
  5.  Skype with students in another country to discuss books, war, hunger, or other social issues that impact the lives of teens. This can be taken one step further by creating reflective blogs, wikis, or Google Docs about the information shared. (Can we Skype with our current technology? I need to run this one to ground.)
  6. Skype with experts-reach out to experts in any field via Twitter or business Facebook pages and then connect with them via Skype for presentations, interviews, and discussions.
  7. Live blogging about books-instead of doing a traditional book report, have students blog about main characters, key themes, or opposing points of view then share the blogs with others.
  8. Skype with authors-self-explanatory.


A ahem … modest proposal

This is excerpted from a blog authored by David Warlick- 2 ¢ Worth in response to an article posted by Tim Holt in his HOLT THINK tumblr blog. It’s number six of his 10 Bad Trends in Ed Tech 2011..  I have emphasized certain points


  1. “Eliminate paper from the budget and remove all copiers and computer printers from schools and the central office (with exceptions of essential need). “On this date, everything goes digital.”
  2. Create a professional development plan where all faculty and staff learn to teach themselves within a networked, digital, and info-abundant environment — it’s about Learning-Literacy. Although workshops would not completely disappear, the goal would be a culture where casual, daily, and self-directed professional development is engaged, shared, and celebrated — everyday! Then extend the learning-literacy workshops to the greater adult community.
  3. Establish a group, representing teachers, staff, administration, students, and community. Invite a “guru” or two to speak to the group about the “Why” of transforming education.  Video or broadcast the speeches to the larger community via local access, etc. The group will then write a document that describes the skills, knowledge, appreciations and attitudes of the person who graduates from their schools — a description of their goal graduate. The ongoing work of writing this document will be available to the larger community for comment and suggestion. The resulting piece will remain fluidly adaptable.
  4. Teachers, school administrators, and support staff will work in appropriately assembled into overlapping teams to retool their curricula toward assuring the skills, knowledge, appreciations and attitudes of the district’s goal graduate.
  5. Classroom curricula will evolve based on changing conditions and resources. To help keep abreast of conditions, teachers and support staff will shadow someone in the community for one day at least once a year and debrief with their teams identifying the skills and knowledge they saw contributing to success, and adapt their curricula appropriately.
  6. The district budget will be re-written to exclude all items that do not directly contribute to the goal graduate or to supporting the institution(s) that contribute to the goal graduate. Part of that budget will be the assurance that all faculty, staff, and students have convenient access to networked, digital, and abundant information and that access will be at least 1 to 1.
  7. A learning environment or platform will be selected such as Moodle, though I use that example only as a means of description. The platform will have elements of course management system, social network and distributive portfolio. The goal of the platform will be to empower learning, facilitate assessment, and exhibit earned knowledge and skills to the community via student (and teacher) published information products that are imaginative, participatory and reflect today’s prevailing information landscape.
  8. Expand the district’s and the community’s notions of assessment to include data mining, but also formal and informal teacher, peer, and community evaluation of student produced digital products.
  9. Encourage (or require) teachers to produce imaginative information products that share their learning either related or unrelated to what they teach.  Also establish learning events where teachers and staff perform TED, or TELL (Teachers Expressing Leadership in Learning) presentations about their passions in learning to community audiences.
  10. Recognize that change doesn’t end and facilitate continued adapting of all plans and documents. No more five-year plans. Everything is timelined to the goal graduate.

If the institution of education is not transforming fast enough, I do not believe it is because the “gurus” are not getting their hands dirty enough fixing the problems of specific high-need school districts.  I believe that every student deserves educators who are capable of adapting to changing times.”




Ten Marks, (Highly recommend) an online mathematics tutoring service, offers a free program for teachersTen Marks for educators is designed to be a supplement to classroom instruction, not a replacement for it.

Ten Marks provides educators with an online forum in which they can assign mathematics practice problems to students and track their students’ progress. If a student gets stuck on a problem he or she can open a tutorial to help him or her through the problem. Ten Marks provides teachers with the option to CC parents on the assignments sent to students. The online curriculum provided by Ten Marks can be aligned to the state standards a teacher chooses.


Brain Nook is a virtual world in which students can practice their mathematics and English skills. Brain Nook provides students with a series of scenarios that they have to resolve by answering mathematics and language arts questions. The first scenario presented to me when I tried out Brain Nook required me to earn coins to buy materials for a vehicle that I would then use to explore one of the virtual worlds. I could earn coins by answering questions correctly. Brain Nook presents students with questions based on their skill levels which is determined by a quick pre-assessment and adjusted as they progress through Brain Nook’s virtual worlds.


Conceptua Math is a provider of interactive visual mathematics lessons. Conceptua Math’s primary focus is on the development of tools to aid teachers in the instruction of lessons on fractions. Conceptua Math’s offerings are a mix of free and premium (paid) tools. There are a total of fifteen free interactive tools for teachers and students. Each of the free tools has an introductory video and a sample lesson plan.

Learn Your Tables is a neat little site for students to use to learn and develop multiplication skills. The site offers two basic games on two different levels. The most basic game is a simple drag and drop activity in which students match equations to their correct answers. The more “advanced” game has students enter the correct answer to a multiplication question. The easier of the two levels only contains problems from one multiplication table while the more difficult level contains problems from multiple multiplication tables.


Plus Magazine is a free online publication dedicated to introducing readers to practical applications of mathematics. Plus Magazine strives to reach that goal through the publication of mathematics-related news articles, podcasts, and mathematics puzzles designed around “real-life” scenarios.

Yummy Math is a website designed for the purpose of sharing mathematics problems and scenarios based on things happening in the world today. For example, the activity for December 4th was based on Lebron James’s return to Cleveland. Yummy Math lists activities chronologically as well as by mathematics subject area. Two mathematics teachers, Brian Marks and Leslie Lewis, developed Yummy Math and welcome suggestions from other mathematics teachers. 

Web2.0calc is a free online scientific calculator. While it won’t replace the TI-84 Plus, it can do what your average high school student needs it to do. The best part is, you don’t have to use it on the Web2.0calc site because they offer three widgets that you can use to embed the calculator into your own blog or website.

Math Open Reference is a free online reference for geometry teachers and students. Math Open Reference features animated and interactive drawings to demonstrate geometry terms and concepts. The table of contents on Math Open Reference is divided into four basic categories; plane geometry, coordinate geometry, solid geometry, and function explorer tools. Click on any subject in the first three categories to find definitions, examples, and interactive drawings. In the function explorer category users can select linear functions, quadratic functions, or cubic functions to explore how changes in variables affect the graphed output.

When it comes to creative uses of Google tools, Tom Barrett is certainly a leader that we can all learn from. A great example of this can be found in Tom’s Math MapsMath Maps are Google Maps on which Tom and others have created placemarks which when clicked reveal mathematics questions for students to answer based on the maps. There are questions available for every elementary school grade level. The placemarks are color-coded to indicate the level of the questions. Blue = Kindergarten, Red = 1st grade, Green = 2nd grade, Light Blue = 3rd grade, Yellow = 4th grade, Purple = 5th grade. VisitTom Barrett’s Math Maps page to view the existing Math Maps and read about how to contribute to the existing Math Maps.

Math Live is a neat mathematics website developed by Learn AlbertaMath Live presents students with animated stories that teach mathematics lessons. In all there are twenty-three lessons for elementary school and middle school students. The lessons are divided into four categories; Number, Patterns and Relations, Shape and Space, Statistics and Probability. Each animated lesson is accompanied by a mathematics worksheet that students complete either while watching the lesson or after viewing the lesson. Each lesson is divided into sections and students can advance or rewind as needed.

If you’ve seen Dan Meyer’s TED Talk, Math Class Needs a Makeover, you already know that he’s an awesome educator. If you haven’t seen his talk, go watch it now then come back to this post. This past summer Dan Meyer published his entire 38 week Algebra curriculum complete with slides, handouts, and just about everything you need in order to deliver the lessons. You can download each week individually or download the entire collection as one file. Dan Meyer also has his entire 38 week Geometry curriculumavailable for free. Again, you can download each week individually or download the entire collection as one file.

Source: FreeTech4Teachers


Waves 12/31/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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