Archive for the 'technology' Category

To Wiki or Not to Wiki

I know, I know:

“Using a tool for it’s own sake is bad pedagogy.” 

“Have an objective and then find the tool that will help you best meet that objective.”

“If your favorite tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Blah, blah, blah.

What if you didn’t know if your objective was even possible until you tried out the tool?  Then what?

I completely understand Kate’s frustration when it comes to the speed bumps caused when we try to rely on certain tools.  But what about just making the tool available and allowing kids to come and go as they see fit?  Why can’t we do that?  Does everything have to have a lesson plan attached to it? 

I originally created this wiki just because I could.  I let kids take some class time to familiarize themselves with how to use it–in fact, we learned how to use it together.  But the space has taken on a life of it’s own.  I have kids who are now in high school coming back to access the resources they created last year. 

That’s a good thing, no?


Whatever It Takes

Our campus has been having some great conversations centered on developing tiered lessons that allow for differentiation depending not only on ability level but on learning modality.  How can we reach a student at their appropriate cognitive level while respecting whether they are an auditory, visual or kinesthetic learner?  Now, I am no cognitive scientist nor am I an expert at developing curriculum.  But I do know that meeting kids where they are is a good idea.  How we implement that is a different story.  Haven’t figured that one out.

Last year I had a student who would have bounced off the walls if I didn’t keep him engaged.  Getting this kid to do homework was nearly impossible because it interfered with his gaming time. 

“Look over your notes tonight,” I’d say.

“Yeah, right,” he’d think.  “What do I want to do that for? I gotta date with Xbox Live!”

But then I started a channel on where I would upload any mathcasts I created so students would have access to them from home.  Dang it if this kid didn’t subscribe to the RSS feed.  It hit me when one day after a test, he told me:

“Hey Mr. Cox, that test was easy.  I watched the examples on my PSP last night.” 

Do these digital natives process information differently?  Is this a new modality?

Sincerely, Markus Hohenwarter

Every day at 5:00 pm I receive an email from Markus Hohenwarter.  It isn’t a “hey how are you doing?” kind of email, this one is all business.  Actually it isn’t even a personal email, it is one of those mass emails that often ends up in the spam box.  But more times than not, this spam is worth reading. 

Markus Hohenwarter is the creator of GeoGebra which has to be one of my top three classroom tools.  The email is generated by the Geogebra upload manager and lists all of the different GeoGebra files (both .html and .ggb) that have been uploaded to the bank during the previous day.   Many of the dynamic .html worksheets are ready for classroom use and author attribution is at the bottom of the page.  However, if you like the concept of the worksheet but would like to use your own questions, you can download the .ggb file and learn how the sheet was created by viewing the construction protocol. 

The only downside to the upload manager is that the uploads aren’t tagged, so you have to do bit of hunting to find someting worth while.  Regardless, this is yet another reason to love GeoGebra!

What Did They Do With It?

So I took a stab at letting my kids have a go at Dan’s last installment. And to say I was pleased is the understatement of the year.  The first obvious question was “will it go in the can?” But, since we have finished going over parabolas, kids started asking questions like:

  • How high was the ball at its highest point?
  • How far did it travel?
  • What was its velocity?
  • How long was the ball in the air?

The question that really opened one of those “teachable moments” was in regards to velocity.  To this point we have only covered vertical motion.  These kids understand how to model a falling object as well as an object with an initial velocity other than 0.  This led to an interesting discussion.  Does the “falling object” or “thrown object” apply here?  And that is when Lio hit the nail right on the head. 

He pipes up with, “Hey Mr. Cox, if we shoot a gun horizontally and drop a bullet from the same height instantaneously, they both hit the ground at the same time right?”


“So does the fact that it is travelling horizontally have anything to do with how fast it falls?”


“So can we use the stuff we know about falling objects here?”


“But we need heights.” 

“Well I guess we are done here.”

That is when Seth walks over to the trash can and measures how tall it is.  All these trash cans have to be the same, right?


And the rest is history.  The kids opened up the computers, dragged the images into the SmartNotebook software and here is what Group 1 came up with: 





Here is where it gets really cool.  My other Seth asks if we can find the actual distance the ball travels along the parabola.  He thinks that if we can measure the distance between the balls, then we could get a series of straight lines.  He comes to the conclusion that the closer the balls are to each other, the more accurate our approximation is. 

Wait till he gets a load of Calculus.  Did I mention he is 13?

The Easter Egg Hunt

Every nine weeks my district gives benchmark exams covering approximately one-third of the standards that have been deemed “essential.”  Many teachers feel the need to do a bunch of last minute cramming and do intensive review.  For the most part, I see the benchmark as a speedbump; one of those things that I have to do.  I mean, I we already have department CFAs (common formative assessments) that we use to re-direct our instruction, so I pretty much already know where my kids stand.  So for the last benchmark of the year, I decided to change up the review.

I made up a practice test covering the standards that would be assessed, uploaded it to voicethread and had students sign up to create a mathcast for specific problems.  However, this time they were looking for a fastball up and in and I gave them a change away. I asked a few students to do the problems incorrectly (of course, first they had to demonstrate to me that they could do the problem right.) Once everyone had added their comments to the Voicethread, I assigned the Easter Egg Hunt–Which ones are wrong and why? I think I really like this activity. Students not only have to work out each problem themselves, but they have to view another’s work critically. I would love to hear what you think.

They don't know it yet, but I have more questions than they do.

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