Category Archives: Technology

LEARNing: Using technology “differently” (#1)

Last week I was “schooled” in using technology by a first grader.  She was invited to write for edu180atl.  Her post was published on 5.2.12.  To draft her post, we selected two pictures to use as inspiration.  She wrote a story for each picture and selected one for submission.  HOW she used technology to write was a HUGE lesson for me.

She took my computer from me and wrote 3 sentences.  There was a word that had a red “crinkly” line under it.


The instant feedback transitioned the technology to teachnology; it caused her to ask herself questions.  Finally, she asked me how to spell inspired.  Then, she read her 3 sentences out loud and decided that she needed another sentence in between two of the current sentences.  (Do I do that when I write?)

She was determined to have 200 words, not 198 words or 205 words.  She wanted 200 words exactly.  She learned how to use the word count feature since both stories were in the same document.  She read out loud and deleted words.  She read out loud again and added words.  It was awesome to watch.  She chose to ask to have a “peer” editor.  “Are there 2 words that I can delete? I want exactly 200 words.”  How much more confidence would I have about my writing if I had published articles and ideas when I was younger?

This experience with my first grader makes me wonder about learning – well, anything – with technology.  What assumptions do we make about what learners will and won’t learn if we put technology in their hands?

“How can we focus on what we do best without missing new opportunities to do better?” (Davidson, 17 pag.)


Davidson, Cathy N. “I’ll Count-You Take Care of the Gorilla.” Introduction. Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. New York: Viking, 2011. 17. Print.

Empathy: Testing and being tested

We regularly test our learners’ progress. How might we “walk in our learners’ shoes?”

On our last professional development day, our faculty participated in  the WayFind Teacher Assessment for Effective 21st Century Teachers, designed by  It was a great lesson in empathy.  There were varied reactions (as you can imagine) from my friends and colleagues about the test and being tested.  I wonder how many of our student-learners feel the same when tested in class.

While clearly described as a diagnostic assessment by our co-Deans of IT, several of us experienced angst and stress about being tested.  I wonder how our students deal with this stress from 7 courses each requiring 4-7 tests per semester that are summative rather than diagnostic.  How often have I dismissed the nervousness of a student when they seek reassurance from me before a test?  (Shame on me!)

The WayFind Assessment was given on the computer.  How many of us wanted and expected immediate feedback?  It was given on the computer; why didn’t I get my results when I pressed submit?  I remember how irritated I have been with the children when they have circled back after lunch and asked if I have graded their papers.  Really?  I just gave the test before lunch.  When would I have had time to grade them?  We wanted to know our results because we were interested in the outcome.  We wanted to verify and see the results of our success.  Isn’t that what every learner wants?

Perhaps the most important of all the questions asked by faculty:  Can I have a second chance to take the assessment?  It was said to me at least a half a dozen times.  As soon as I turned it in, I knew more answers! I would do better the next time.

It is tough to walk in our learners’ shoes. So, what should be learned?

I have the results from my WayFind assessment.  I know where I stand according to the WayFind results.  What other lessons are to be learned from this experience?

I wonder if I (we) will learn the additional and perhaps more important lessons from the experience.


Following Quantum Progress‘s good example, I’m including my WayFind Assessment results below.

TI-Nspire CAS Calculus Labs – Making Calculus More Engaging

Sam and I have been working on improving our Work Smarter Not Harder calculus labs for TI-Nspire CAS.  While we are waiting on the next OS, v. 3.2, we were able to share some of our work at the T³ International Conference in Chicago.

Our give-aways, shown below, included Lab 05 Exploring the Definition of the Derivative, Lab 13 Constructing Trapezoidal Sums,  Lab 15 Constructing Slopefields, and Lab 16 Exploring Accumulation Functions.  Each lab accompanies an interactive TI-Nspire CAS document for learners to investigate these calculus topics graphically, numerically, and analytically.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(If you don’t have the TI-Nspire CAS software and are curious, there is a free 90-day version on TI’s website.)


Calculus Labs – Making Calculus More Engaging 90-Minute Hands-On • TI-NspireTM Family of Handhelds, TI-NspireTM CX NavigatorTM System,

TI-NspireTM CAS Teacher Software

Sam Gough, The Westminster Schools, Atlanta, GA, USA
Co-Presenter(s): Jill Gough

Labs can make the calculus classroom more engaging. We will investigate major topics of differential and integral calculus through hands-on activities. Additionally, we will investigate ways to assess student’s understanding of the concepts.

How to be a boring, bad writer…and other ideas

I hadn’t thought about it this way:

So, if you want to be a boring, bad writer:

  1. Never ever learn new words.
  2. Be afraid to say interesting things.
  3. Read as little as possible.
  4. Always play on your laptops.
  5. Never touch a dictionary.
  6. Copyright.
  7. Never make [the reader] see the action.
  8. Never revise your writing.
  9. Definitely take the easy way.

Since I want to be a better writer, I should practice 1) using new words, 2) saying interesting things, 3) reading as much as possible, 4) leveraging technology to enhance learning, 5) using available resources, 6) striving to be unique and citing my sources, 7) presenting a good story, 8) repeating a revision cycle several times, and 9) understanding to “embrace the struggle.”

I wonder if the same set of ideas can be applied to PBL.  How to avoid PBL:

  1. Never ever learn new applications and strategies.
  2. Be afraid to try interesting, complex problems.  It might take too long.
  3. Read and research as little as possible. Don’t read and watch Edutopia, Apple’s Challenge Based Learning, or It’s About Learning resources or ideas from 12k12.
  4. Always use technology for one-way communication.  Just tell them what to do.  Don’t offer students the opportunity to have voice and choice in learning.
  5. If you try PBL, and it doesn’t work; just give up.  Never seek additional support and resources.
  6. Never collaborate with others on projects and problems that integrate ideas and/or concentrate on community-issues.
  7. Avoid applications and real-world experiences.  Never offer the opportunity to present to an authentic audience.
  8. Never say “I don’t know,” or “let’s find out together.” Answer every question asked in class, or better yet, don’t allow questions.
  9. Definitely do the very same thing you did this time last year.  It’s easy.  Take the easy way. Remember…the E-Z-way!

How about applying these ideas to balanced assessment?  How to be single-minded about assessment:

  1. Never ever try new techniques, methods, and strategies.
  2. Be afraid to try alternate forms of assessment: performance based assessment, portfolios, etc.
  3. Read and research as little as possible. Don’t read anything by Tom Guskey, Jan Chapuis, Bob Marzanno, Dylan Wiliam etc.
  4. Always use assessment to generate grades.  Never try non-graded assessment to make adjustments to learning that improve achievement.
  5. If you use rubrics or standards-based grading, and students don’t respond; just give up.  Don’t allow students to revise their understanding and assess again.  Let them learn it next year or in summer school.
  6. Rely on results from standardized tests to compare students.  Just follow the model set by adults that have not met you and your learners.
  7. Never assess for learning and reteach prior to a summative assessment.  Think that you are teaching a lesson if failure occurs with no chance to revise.
  8. Never offer 2nd chance test or other opportunities to demonstrate learning has occurred.
  9. Definitely use the very same assessment you did this time last year.  It’s easy.  Take the easy way. Remember… E-Z-way!

I find this approach connected the anti-innovation ideas from Kelly Green in her 2/21/2012 ForbesWoman article I found by reading Bob Ryshke’s post, What schools can do to encourage innovation.  It also reminds me of Heidi Hayes Jacob’s style in her TEDxNYED talk I found by reading Bo Adam’s What year are you preparing your students for?” Heidi Hayes Jacobs #TEDxNYED post.

I like the provocation of the video and the anti-ideas.  I appreciate the challenge of rephrasing these ideas as statements of what I could do to get better.  I wonder how we should practice to become better at PBL, balanced assessment, innovation and creativity, etc.  In the comment field below, will you share how would you answer this prompt?

Since I want to be a better ___________, I should practice 1)  _____, 2)  _____, 3)  _____, 4)  _____, 5)  _____, 6)  _____, 7)  _____, 8)  _____, and 9)  _____.

Participating virtually – schedules and spaces that fit learning

My child, A-Sunshine, has not been able to go to school for the past two days.  Yesterday, my schedule allowed me to work from home in the morning while her dad taught his classes.  We then traded locations so I could work while he took care of our girl.  A-Sunshine was mildly annoyed with both of us because by lunch she felt better and wanted to go to school. (She is SO my child – I always want to be at school.)

Alas, still under the weather, she could not go to school again today. Our schedules were not so flexible today.  We both had to be at the same meeting at 7:00 a.m.  I stayed home with A-Sunshine but attended all of my professional obligations using technology.

I participated in our PLC-F meeting at 7:00 this morning via Skype.  We are in the midst of developing a common lesson on PBL for our PLCs.  We used a Google doc to collaboratively plan and document our developing lesson which gave me the opportunity to contribute rather than just listen and interact verbally.

When the meeting ended, I continued collaborating with one of our Math/Science PLC facilitators on the lesson plan for today’s meeting as well as her current project with her student-learners in Science.  Then, Bo and I took a few minutes to adjust our class plan and homework assignment for our Synergy team.  Continuing through my “planning” period, I answered lots of email and took 2 phone calls from colleagues to plan projects.

During the 3rd period of the day, I arrived (virtually) in the elementary school for our weekly CTIS meeting with the Deans of IT.  I joined this team meeting via iChat.  We used several Google docs to do some brainwriting and other gamestorming to think, share, and plan together.

I attended the History PLC meeting via iChat and Google docs during 4th period.  We discussed cryptography, World War II, and numeracy as we continue to work on this team’s SMART goal to integrate numeracy into U.S. History.

Lunch with A-Sunshine was next with an announcement that she wanted to go to school.  “I am not sick; you need to go to Synergy, Mommy!”  Sweet and true.  All of the color is back in her face, and she is very active – art, math, reading, money, and fashion show.  So we are off to school so that I can learn with my Synergy team.

During this week last year we were all at home because of snow and ice.  Part of our Learning for Life vision statement calls for an essential action that utilizes 21st Century Learning Environments.  I don’t feel absent from school today.  I have participated in every activity planned for and by me today.

If we were to have a “Snowcation” again this year, how prepared are we to have class virtually?  Have we considered what tools and strategies we would employ?  Do we have a plan for contacting our student-learners, and do they know the plan?  Have we checked our online presence to make sure our learners know how to find all class resources?  Are we using our technology as teachnology?

FAAR – Connecting Peer Observations to Learning for Life

As part of our formative Faculty Assessment and Annual Review (FAAR) plan, we engage in a process of peer observations. We also have a new Learning for Life vision statement.  With his permission, I am publishing my peer observation of my friend and colleague, BC.  As I reviewed my notes taken during his class, I realized that he, in this one lesson,  seized the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century by promoting all six essential actions called for in our Learning for Life vision statement.


Focus of the observation (if any) and class context:

Algebra I team’s lesson study on Phases of the Moon.

Teaching methods and practices observed (strength-based)/Indicators of student learning.

  •   Integrated Studies
  •   Project-based Learning
  •   Learning Spaces
  •   Teachers working in teams
  •   Assessment and feedback
  •   Content that connects us to the larger world and the world to us.

Assessment and feedback, Teachers working in team, Project-based learning
BC uses inquiry to engage our learners in the context of the lesson.  He solicits prior knowledge to have learners take an active role in driving the lesson.

Integrated studies, Teachers working in teams, Content that connects us
CB used multi-media, a video from the History Channel (, to confirm the students’ prior knowledge and introduce necessary vocabulary not discussed by the students.

Teachers working in teams
In the face of no network access, BC calmly transitioned to the team’s Plan B.  Rather than using  the resources for Phases of the Moon on our Google Site, he used a Keynote presentation.  This modeled for our learners that we continue to learn; we do not stop because “we have no Internet.”

Teachers working in teams, Content that connects us, Learning spaces
While the students did not leave the classroom, they definitely utilized spaces.  The students used their MacBooks to find answers and questions concerning the moon.  CB addressed visual and kinesthetic learning styles by having the learners graph the illumination of the moon over the days of a month.

[Note:  Video evidence inserted here.¹  ]

Some questions to consider:

Did you like teaching graph interpretation this way?
How can we have more classes like this?
Where do we turn for more resources to find integrate lessons that engage our students and connect their learning to many disciplines?

What did I observe that I would like to incorporate into my own teaching/Other notes:

This is an awkward question since we built the lesson together.  We observed each other; we all went to DD’s class as a team.  DD and I went to BC’s class while WB was teaching Algebra II.  It is difficult to say what I would like to incorporate since we observed, learned, and tweaked the lesson as it was delivered to all Algebra I learners.


Our new technology made this observation a richer experience from my team.  I used my iPhone (forgot my Flip camera) to collect video snippets of examples so that we could review and analyze what happened during class.  I used my MacBook with Pages to import the video into my notes in class during the observation.  My team and I had my raw notes from the observation right after class.  (See my raw notes from the observation at the end of this post.)

If a picture is worth 1000 words, what is video worth?

  • How does technology help us learn?
  • Is it “good enough” to do things the way we’ve always done them?
  • Do our learners need different than what we need?
  • How are we practicing?
  • What one thing could you explore, experiment with, and practice that would blend learning?

Our challenge as learners is to learn by doing, to practice new techniques, to use technology do things better, and to make connections.  The video artifacts in this observation allowed us to “view” parts of the lesson over and over.  The video doesn’t just make the observation different; it makes it better.  We have the opportunity to see what we might otherwise have missed.  We have “replay” to continue to question and observe.

As a learner, I had the opportunity to blend my learning.  I observed a colleague deliver a common lesson designed by our team.  I practiced with technology by integrating the use of video into my note taking.  While I don’t have as many written notes, the video tells the story is a way that my written notes could never tell.  As a team, we have evidence that we are taking steps to transform our traditional classes in order to align learning with our vision.  We had the opportunity to learn together as we revised and refined the lesson between “shows.”


¹  School policy prevents me from showing you the video of the learning that occurred during this lesson. [Awaiting permission.]

Guiding Learners to Develop and Practice Citizenship

Our children operate in a connected society  (Gough n.pag.) where they share pictures, ideas, music, etc. with a couple of keystrokes.

We help our young learners prepare for college and for life when we guide them as they learn to navigate through any community.  Just as we review and practice CPR procedures at the beginning of each school year, we should review and refresh our understanding of the rules and regulations of online rights, privacy, and protection for our young learners.  Tom Whitby and Lisa Nielsen co-wrote and cross-posted the World’s simplest online safety policy.  While perhaps too simple as we grow our 1:1 program and more connected learning, it is worth a read and some consideration.

Students can access websites that do not contain or that filter mature content. They can use their real names, pictures, and work (as long it doesn’t have a grade/score from a school) with the notification and/or permission of the student and their parent or guardian”  (Nielsen n. pag.).

If you want to know more, please read their post.  They have good commentary and thoughtful information for teachers about FERPA, CIPA, and COPPA.

  • Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA)
    “The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) is a federal law enacted by Congress to address concerns about access to offensive content over the Internet on school and library computers. CIPA imposes certain types of requirements on any school or library that receives funding for Internet access or internal connections from the E-rate program – a program that makes certain communications technology more affordable for eligible schools and libraries” (F.C.C. n. pag.).
  • Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
    “The primary goal of COPPA and the Rule is to place parents in control over what information is collected from their young children online. The Rule was designed to protect children under age 13 while accounting for the dynamic nature of the Internet. The Rule applies to operators of commercial websites and online services directed to children under 13 that collect, use, or disclose personal information from children, and operators of general audience websites or online services with actual knowledge that they are collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children under 13” (F.T.C. n. pag.).

When considering appropriate privacy, I think about my child.  I want her to learn under the guidance and tutelage of her family and teachers. At 7, she already asks to publish on her blog, and I want her to publish what she values.  I want her to learn to publish appropriately and responsibly.  She wants to learn and share.  I want her to learn, and when she makes mistakes, I don’t want her to hide what she is doing.  I hope she will have a network of caring, concerned friends, family, and teachers to help her self-correct.

A study by the Washington-based Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released early this year found that 73 percent of Americans ages 12 to 17 now use social-networking websites, up from 55 percent in 2006.  (Davis n. pag.)

As learners, coaches, facilitators, and teachers, how should we communicate and collaborate to connect us to the world and the world to us?  How do we continue to learn and grow?  How will we serve and lead in a changing world?

How will we “open the classroom of the world for our students while helping them grow into wise, safe, and responsible digital citizens?”


Apple.  “Apple-iPod touch-TVad- Share The Fun.”  You Tube. Web. 09 Dec. 2011.

Davis, Michelle.  “Social Networking Goes to School.” Education Week. Web.  06 Jun. 2010

Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  “Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).”  Web.  11 Dec. 2011.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  “Frequently Asked Questions about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA).” Web.  09 Dec. 2011.

Gough, Jill.  “Social Media and my family.”  Experiments in Learning by Doing.  Web.  18 Nov. 2011.

Nielsen, Lisa, and Tom Whitby.  “World’s simplest online safety policy.”  The Innovative Educator.  Web.  3 April 2011.

U. S. Department of Education.  “Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).”  Web.  09 Dec. 2011.

Social media and my family

I’ve had an interesting week with social media and my family.  My 7-year-old, AS, and I were talking on our drive home from school last Thursday.  She was reviewing her spelling list with me.  I asked her if she would like for us to write a story that uses all of her spelling words.  No kidding…Her response was “will we write it on my blog or on paper, Mommy?”

Will we write it on my blog or on paper, Mommy??????

So I asked what would be her preference, and she said “well, I’d like to write it on paper first, and then will you let me type it in my blog?”

We started AS’s blog last Christmas while at my mom’s house.  We went to the zoo in Hattiesburg, MS, and AS took photos with her digital camera.  Her photos are posted on her blog with a sentence about each animal.  There is an audio clip of her talking about being at the zoo.  This audio clip took about a dozen attempts before she said “this is Sunshine” instead of her name.  We had to practice, but the practice stuck.

Last May, AS produced a video interview introducing us to her friend Mittens.  (All by herself with no “teaching” from an adult.)  She asked me to publish it on the Internet.  You can tell she’s been watching iCarly.

She explained to me that she had to make the video 4 times because she kept saying her name rather than Sunshine.  I’ve posted two of the prototypes.

AS is growing up learning about managing her digital presence and publishing her work and learning to a public audience.  She has parents who use social media to work and learn.

In contrast, I discovered my 17-year-old niece’s twitter feed this past week.  I was not searching for it; it popped up in the “Who to follow” pane.  JL, my niece, is clearly very frustrated with her family – a completely typical, age-appropriate reaction.  She feels grown-up but has to abide by the rules of the family.   But does the world need to know this?  So I called and asked if she knew I was following her on Twitter.  I asked about some of her tweets.  She asked if she could call me back.  Smart.  She needed to review what she had written in public.

She did call back.  It was not a pleasant conversation.  I have never had a sharp word ever with this child.  I asked if she would say to me what she was saying on Twitter.  Her response was an angry “I was not talking to you, Aunt Jill!”  Using a very direct tone, I explained to this sweet uninformed child that in fact she was talking to me and anyone else that followed her.  And, if I chose to retweet what she posted, she was talking to each of my 300 followers.

JL’s parents use social media to an extent.  They have Facebook pages and connect with their family and friends to share photos, information, and stories.  Are they “friends” with their child?  Their initial reaction was to ban her from using Twitter.  Through a series of questions, I coached them to consider if that was the best solution.

Do we help our children navigate through difficult situations, or do we leave them to fend for themselves? Do we want them to learn experientially with and from their X-year-old friends?  Do we want our children to learn with and from their family and other significant adults?  How can we guide them to becoming literate, responsible citizens?  How are we doing educating ourselves?

We teach our children not to touch the stove, because it might burn them.  We don’t keep them out of the kitchen. And, if they touch the stove, we comfort them.  We help them fix it, learn from it, and feel better.

Gapminder: Teachnology for Integrated Studies

Have you explored Gapminder: for a fact-based world?  Check out GapMinder for Teachers.

Have you seen/heard Hans Rosling use multiple representations to visualize problems and trends?

Here’s a 4 minute start:  Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes – The Joy of Stats – BBC Four


In Curriculum 21, Heidi Hayes Jacobs says:

Geography should be cut as a snapshot unit with an integrated approach continuously woven into the academic year. Rather than the token “let’s start off the school year with our classic unit on geography,” the curriculum should include an ongoing injection and use of geography and a full range of maps. When schools do not use maps of all kinds with regularity in a range of classes (English, science, art), our students do not get to apply geography in a meaningful way.  [p. 36]

If you are teaching about Asia, Africa, Indonesia, etc., can you integrate math into your lessons using this resource?  Likewise, if you are teaching math – from plotting points on the Cartesian plane to graph interpretation – can you use this resource to help your students have a global view of our world?

If you are teaching about the environment, can you use this resource?


And my favorite, Hans Rosling and the magic washing machine, for teaching women’s studies, the environment, and/or the industrial revolution:

Aren’t all of these talks connected?

What questions will our learners have?  Can we make graphing more engaging by using real data connected to the economy, health, education, etc.?  Can we teach writing, geography, history, science by interpreting and analyzing these graphs?

Who will join forces to form our learning team so that we confidently integrate and mashup content?


Jacobs, Heidi Hayes. Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2010. Print.

TI-Nspire Day 2 – Round Robin

We ventured off track from “the plan” for day two.  There are nine National T3 instructors facilitating learning at our site.  We decided to have our teacher-learners change classes so that they could work with and learn from four additional T3 instructors.

The Middle Grades teacher-learners had the following learning opportunites on day 2:

  • Investigating Computer Algebra Systems with Paul Alves
  • Creating Sliders with Josh Mize
  • Data Collection with the CBR with Margaret Bambrick
  • TI-Nspire Presentation View with Alicia Page

I had the opportunity to facilitate the following learning:

Here’s feedback from one of our teacher-learners:

“Hey y’all,

I am so excited!  I gave myself homework, which was to recreate the document that Josh (TI instructor) taught us how to do today, without looking at my notes or the previous document.  I did it!  Change the leg lengths by increasing or decreasing the sliders and the figure changes shape.  It also calculates c (hypotenuse) by measuring, but then look at the second page and you can see where the c value is calculated using c = square root of (a^2 + b^2) and the two columns (one measured and one calculated) match each other.  Too hard for 6th grade but useful in 7th and 8th.


I can also report an interesting story from Josh.  He says that he showed the Middle Grades teacher-learners several documents with sliders and then asked them which one they would like to create.  They said “none of them; it’s not what we teach.” So on the fly, he taught them to use sliders to illustrate the pythagorean theorem just as described above.  He was learning with his “students” to teach them what they wanted to learn.  Exciting!  Isn’t this how it is supposed to be?  Josh dropped his plan when it wasn’t going to work for his learners.  He taught how to use sliders to make math dynamic while meeting the needs of his learners.

When formatively assessed this morning, the Middle Grades teacher-learners could successfully work through the spiral activity showing they had acquired the essential skills of day 2 without marching through the standard curriculum.  Wow!