Mary Ewart's bPortfolio

Twitter Chat Instead of Edcamp

This week I wasn’t able to attend the Edcamp in Seattle because I was working with my National Board cohort. I was really disappointed to miss this event, especially because my husband had just recently completed a conference run in a similar style – where the participants drive the sessions – and he had such amazing things to say about it. My make up assignment was to research about twitter chats, and participate in one related to my teaching area. This was also something that I wanted to do as part of my technology growth plan. It is very hard for me to participate in off-site conferences – largely due to the fact that I have young children, so I was really looking forward to a way to connect with other educators without having to leave my house! I did some research and decided to try my hand with the #mathchat chat that supposedly happens every Thursday at 4pm. Unfortunately, I was not successful. My understanding of a twitter chat is that a moderator often posts a question, or series of questions, and then others respond and crate a dialogue. There was nothing happening today at 4pm…I have read through the twitter feed for #mathchat, and have discovered some fun resources, silly stories about teaching math, and plenty of sale pitches, but not the community coming together that I had hoped for. I’m not giving up! I will try to find and participate in other twitter chats, but I can’t say my first try went very well.

I don’t want to focus on just the failure, so I would like to share some successes of this last week too. My Foundations for Calculus students just completed a problem solving project that involved them creating either a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation of their solution to a complex problem, then posted it on a Haiku discussion board and commented on the work of 5 of their peers. This activity went beautifully, and the students were able to come up with some amazingly creative and informative projects. I’ve used Padlet.com in my Algebra 1 class almost daily as a way for students to give me information. I’ve used it for exit tickets, and had students take pictures of their work for the post. I’ve used it for warm ups and to access prior knowledge, and I’ve used it for students to work as a group and then share out their thinking to the rest of the class. It’s a collaborative tool as well – there are times I use one Padlet for both periods of Algebra 1, which allows them to see the work of others who aren’t in their class period. These are all very powerful tools that have allowed me to create assignments that are authentic and applicable in my classroom. Currently, my Algebra 1 students are working on infographics for diagrams of real world functions. I’m very excited to see how it all turns out.

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Research with Technology

This week our online class focused on researching a topic from our technology growth plan by working through the Big6 process. This is the first time I have been exposed to the Big6, although as I was working through, I found that I naturally work through this process as I tackle any large task. The first step is intentionally defining your task. For me, this meant I had to decide which aspect of my technology growth plan I was going to focus on. I opted to research about creating infographics; because that is the most student-centered activity that I am implementing, and therefore, is the one that is going to require the most work on my part to prepare for. Next, we went on a search for information, attempting to find the very best resources along the way. I discovered that, for this topic, my go-to search engine (google) was really the best for providing me with relevant resources. After we organized our links in an easy to access space (diigo), we then synthesized and evaluated as we put our work into an annotated bibliography.

This process was good for me to go through for several reasons. First, this forced me to really think about what I was trying to accomplish. I often get lost when I start researching different ideas online. One site links to another, and before I know it, I am 4 topics away from the one I was attempting to research. This is sometimes really great because I find ideas that I didn’t know I was looking for. Other times, this can be a problem because I lose to good resources I was discovering along the way. Second, this process had me thinking about how I could really use them. There were several sites that I found that I didn’t include because they just weren’t unique enough, or didn’t provide me with enough information. Although I learned from those sites, I just didn’t need to focus my time because they weren’t “the best of the best”. Lastly, summarizing the content and evaluating its effectiveness as it related to my classroom was a huge tool. Just like I learn a topic most clearly when I think about teaching it, when I have to summarize and considering a site’s usefulness the information becomes something I have a hard time forgetting.

Technology is invaluable in this process. I am from a generation that had to learn what a search engine is, but I did have computers and access to web searches from middle school on. The majority of my research in college took place in online databases with full text articles. I might have set foot in the actual library five times in four years of college. Without technology, I doubt I would have access to as many resources that are as up-to-date and pertinent, especially about using technology. I feel that things change so quickly, and new tools are introduced so regularly, that without a way to share them almost instantly, we would all be very behind.

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