Mary Ewart's bPortfolio


To be honest, as we were presented this week with all the amazing ways that students can use technology to present in the classroom in ways that are authentic and enriching, my first (and overwhelming) feeling was frustration. There are so many ways to use technology in humanities or science classrooms in ways that make instruction better and learning more valuable for students. My struggle for the entire 11 years I’ve been teaching is how I can bring those things in to a math classroom. It becomes difficult to teach new math concepts without some sort of direct instruction, and then it becomes an issue of time – how do I fit it all in and still allow students to receive the necessary instruction to cover all the content. The more I consider this, the more I come back to the idea that presentations are a synthesis of information. Presentations are used to take information, connect it to other pieces of information, and make it accessible to others. I think the reason I struggle with putting this in to practice in math is because we don’t have a lot of time to allow students to do this.

This path of thinking led me to consider where I could apply this type of synthesis to my classroom in a way that won’t jeopardize the instruction I know is key to student learning in math. The first place I came up with is during review. My Algebra 1 team gives students 2 classroom days for review each unit. Instead of spending a day on a review game of some sort and a day working problems and taking questions, I think I am going to try an experiment. I love the idea of an infographic – and the fact that students can make one using PowerPoint (a tool they are already very comfortable with). For a future unit, I am going to ask students to work on an infographic to cover the important concepts in the unit. I will introduce it at the start of the unit, so that students know it is coming, and can be thinking about/working on it as we go, but I will also give those 2 classroom days over to student work time. I’ll set up a discussion board or wiki on Haiku and have students post and comment on each other’s work (thanks to Sam for such a great idea in class). I found a great blog about using infographics in school particularly with PowerPoint. The second idea I came up with is related to a weekly problem-solving lesson I do each week. Currently students are required to present their solutions using a 5-step writing structure. While I have had huge success with students’ ability to solve problems by teaching this structure, I think changing the response medium at times could enrich this lesson. I’m thinking that after I have taught a few more problem-solving strategies, I could give each student a problem that uses one of the already taught strategies. Students could have a week to work the problem and complete the standard write-up. Then they could use the next week to come up with a way to present to solution. I am thinking a Prezi or Glogster would be a good way to make that happen. Problem-solving is an area in the classroom where I have more flexibility in timing, so adding another week or two to one problem wouldn’t cause stress with then trying to fit the missed curriculum in somewhere else.

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Digital Citizenship

My students use technology daily. They use technology for school, at home, for work, for social interactions, for reasons even they themselves are unsure of. In my research on digital citizenship this week, I found a fascinating PBS program entitled “digital_nation life on the virtual frontier”. While the entire program is 90 minutes, I think even the first chapter is an eye-opener for educators (and it is less than 9 minutes long, so you can fit it in, I promise!). Our students have grown up in a world where technology has always existed, and yet our society has been inventing the rules for our interactions with technology as we go. This has resulted in generations of students who aren’t quite sure what is and is not appropriate when interacting as a digital nation. As an educator, technology has made my job much easier and much harder. I have amazing resources at my fingertips, and can open my students’ eyes to where my curriculum fits in the world, but I have to teach and model appropriate practices as I go.

One way I can work to incorporate this in my classroom is by modeling appropriate email communications when I interact with my students, as well as parents and other educators. I can also provide explicit teaching and resources on this in my classroom. While researching this topic, I found three great resources for this (a ISTE article, a StoryboardThat activity, and an RIT handout). I teach 2 classes that are primarily 9th graders, 1 class that is primarily 12th graders, and 2 classes that are a mix of 9th – 11th grade students. While I think that the ability to communicate professionally using technology is a “must have” skill in their world, I don’t want to stop there. I would like to also teach students about their place in the digital world; how they can use their power to have a positive impact on others. I would like to put it all together to teach students how they can produce information that can be helpful for others, how they can do this in a way that respects copyright, and how they can present it in a professional manner. Coming up with ways to do this is a priority for me, as I realize that I have a long way to go when it comes to promoting digital citizenship in my classroom.


Here is the activity embedded into Haiku and ready to go!

On a side note, in the process of completing the coursework this week, I was introduced to This is a site that allows multiple users to post comments, or virtual sticky notes, to a board that is visible to others who have the link to that particular padlet. I have been looking for better ways to let my students post their group work in a way that is accessible to others, and will allow me to sort responses by similar “big ideas”. This tool will let me do just that! I am going to try it out on Monday with my Algebra 1 students. I already have a “thought bubble” activity planned asking students to identify difficulties associated with solving a particular literal equation. I was able to put the prompt into a padlet board, and embed it into Haiku. I am going to ask students to work with their groups to identify the difficulties, as I was going to do before, but instead of just having students share out, I am going to ask students to post using their netbooks to the padlet. Then I can revisit it when everyone has completed the activity, and students in my 2nd period class will be able to see 6th period responses and vice versa. I am really excited to see how this activity ends up! I always love to find new ways to incorporate technology in a way that enriches and extends my classroom.

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ISTE Standards and My Classroom

This week we learned about the ISTE standards and were asked to take a self-assessment. In taking this assessment, I became very aware of two basic truths about my classroom:

1. I use technology daily to provide information to my students.

2. My students rarely use technology in creative and collaborative ways .

Those two truths are ones that I have been thinking about for quite a while. As a teacher, I use technology daily; I…

1. Prepare all direct instruction/group work/partner activity instruction in PowerPoint, using colors, size, fonts, images and funny images in order to make the information engaging and accessible to all learners (including IEP, ELL, 504, gifted, etc).

2. Use those PowerPoint presentations in ActiveInspire on my ActiveBoard and with my ActiveSlate so that I can interact with the contact as I teach it and move around the room allowing proximity to students as needed.

3. Save all lessons as PDFs, and post them to my Haiku site daily. This allows students to access information if they were absent, check it if they are unsure they took their notes correctly, and for parents or tutors to see the information as I presented it. I also add instructional videos and sites I find that I think will be helpful if students are stuck or want more information.

4. Create all homework and activities using a computer and with various software programs to allow students a multi-leveled and as engaging as possible homework assignment. Homework and activities are posted on the Haiku site, as well as completely worked out solutions so students are able to analyze their own mistakes and determine where their errors are.

5. Search for activities and instructional ideas to help make the ideas more or accessible for my students.

I’m pretty proud of the above work. It takes time and energy and I think overall, it makes my class better for my students on a regular basis. However, as I read through the ISTE standards, I realized there are many ways my students aren’t accessing the curriculum themselves in creative and collaborative ways. In my reflection on this, I decided to search and see what other teachers are doing to use technology in secondary math classrooms. One idea I found was the It’s A Party lesson plan. This lesson centers on solving multi-step equations, which is coming up in my Algebra 1 curriculum next week. After instruction, it has students work on a wiki to create equations and then solve each others’ equations. This activity seems like something I can easily do with the Haiku wiki options. I am considering implementing a wiki where students create and solve equations  in to my curriculum as a review activity for the end of this unit. I am hoping to find one activity for each unit to implement more student technology use and creation, and this seems like a good place to start.


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Here I go…

Here I go…on to a Masters degree in Teacher Leadership through Seattle Pacific University. After teaching for 10 years and earning LOTS of continuing education and post-graduate units, I have finally decided to bit the bullet and earn a degree for all my time. I’m excited to embark on this adventure, although I am a bit apprehensive about how I am going to manage my time adding more things to do into my already packed schedule!

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