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EDU 6975 – Action Research in School Settings – Meta-Reflection Standard 3

As I entered into this course, I had some experience with action research having written and implemented an action research grant in my last school. Interestingly, even though I have this experience, it was very much a “learn as I went” process, so having the chance to start a project and work through it with guidance and a set procedure gave me multiple opportunities to expand my learning and experience.

In the beginning of this course, we focused on identifying what makes good action research. We spent time journaling to identify areas in our classrooms that are places where we could dream about a change (Sagor, 2011, p.17). This made such an impact on me, I loved being able to consider, “If my classroom looked exactly like I want it to, what would it look like?” From my journaling, I determined that I wanted my students to focus on their ability to solve a problem, confidently, effectively, and creatively. From there, we moved into coming up with rationale and literature to support our focus. Here I found many examples of research that supported my action research. Two articles really helped me direct my achievement targets. The first article summarized information from 14 group studies and found that directly teaching problem solving strategies, and then providing students with problems to solve that will utilize the strategies is a very effective way to help struggling math students (Jitendra et al., 2015). The second article that strongly influenced my direction found that combining both verbal strategies with visual strategies was the most effective way to create growth in students (Swanson, Orosco, & Lussier, 2014). Additionally, while researching my focus, I found that the problems I was seeing in my classroom were not unique to just my students. In fact, one article summarized a NCTM report that specified that high school math must undergo a fundamental instructional shift. Our students must be put into an atmosphere that supports and requires critical thinking and problem solving in order to be successful at the common core state standards, and to be appropriately prepared for a global marketplace (Nichol, 2009).

Armed with all this information, the course moved into creating achievement targets, performance continua, and a graphic reconstruction of the process that was going to go into our action research. With all the effort in the beginning of the class about a focus, and true rationale, it was relatively easy to create achievement targets for both students and teacher. I created a graphic representation of the process and changes I, as the teacher, would make, and then connected it to the changes I expected my students would have. This was a huge tool as I moved to create specific changes in my teaching. A copy can be found here – Graphic Reconstruction. I narrowed my focus to one specific type of problem, and determined a progression for instruction that would hopefully create an increase in my students’ overall score on a 10 point rubric (see here – Problem Solving Rubric 2014-2015). I created a sequence where I taught students how to solve a liquid mixture problem in multiple ways. I started with a physical representation, and then used that representation to create an algebraic model. Then I taught students how to use a graphic organizer to create an algebraic model. After that, I connected the 5-Step Problem Solving Process that I use to this type of problem. Lastly, I asked students to transfer their knowledge to a problem that could be modeled and solved algebraically using a variety of options. Together, this process took four weeks to implement. You can see a presentation on this process with sample work here. I designed it as such so that students could see the connection between the content we were studying and problem solving strategies I had taught them, all from problems set in a real-world context.

At the end of my action research, I used the final assignment to gather data on students’ overall score on the 10-point rubric referenced earlier. I found that my class average went from a 7.4/10 to a 9.1/10, which was so encouraging. Although I only focused on a very small area of instruction in my classroom, seeing such results validated the need to continue this type of work in the future.

The concept of action research has really changed the way I am considering my instruction and how I am going to plan in the future. Overall, I believe that great teachers are those that keep learning throughout their career. An action research model allows me to do that. I love the concept of starting with a dream or a wish for my classroom and using that wish to design a focus for new work. I plan to spend some of my reflection time this year, and this summer, to come up with a new wish for my classroom next year. Once I have determined my wish, I am going to make the time to research what others have found works and does not work as related to my goal. Then I am going to create a baseline, and go. My learning will directly impact my students’ learning, and my students should benefit from this. Having a goal that will span a few months, or even an entire year, backed by research, will allow me to monitor my students’ growth and make appropriate changes. I even have an idea about where I want to go with my next, personal, action research. I am noticing throughout this year that Algebra 1 students are struggling with modeling situations in multiple ways, including algebraically and graphically. I intend to spend some time this summer looking into best practice for making this connection in students, designing and creating a change in my curriculum to hopefully help students in a skill that has been notoriously difficult as long as I have been teaching Algebra 1.

This class has empowered me to consider my classroom as a perfect place to make changes that are supported by research, for the best of the students. Change can be hard, and it can be easy to fall into a rut as a teacher where you continually do what you have done before because it worked before. This class reminded me that you can always improve upon what you did before, and that a defined plan, with research to back it up, can be better for everyone.


Jitendra, A.K., Peterson-Brown, S., Lein, A.E., Zaslofsky, A.F., Kunkel, A.K., Jung, P.G., Egan, A.M. (2015). Teaching  mathematical word problem solving:the quality of evidence for strategy instruction priming the problem structure. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 48(1), 51-72.

Nichol, M. (2009, October 28). NCTM advocates teaching reasoning in high school math. Eductopia, retrieved from

Sagor, R. (2011). The Action Research Guidebook: A Four Stage Process for Educators and School Teams. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Swanson, H.L., Orosco, M.J., Lussier, C.M. (2014) The effects of mathematics strategy instruction for children with serious problem-solving difficulties. Exceptional Children, 80(2), 149-168.

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EDU 6655 – Human Development and Principles of Learning – Metareflection – Standard 2

Looking back at my previous at the beginning of EDU 6655: Human Development and Principles of Learning and comparing them to my current understandings and the questions that understanding creates illustrated exactly how much I learned during this course. When I began this course, I did have some fairly recent information about how the brain learns due to an action research grant I wrote and participated in four years ago, but I was able to put together so many more pieces and extend my knowledge in multiple areas. Additionally, I was able to apply more of my learning to my classroom and see the results in my students.

At the beginning of this course, we focused on what happens in the mind of the learner as they are learning. Memorization, categorization, connections, and motivation to remain actively learning were all processes that I knew about, but as we moved through the course, there were many other factors I learned about. In reading Brain Rules by John Medina, I learned that our senses are designed to work together, and that in order to learn best, we must have multiple senses or modalities activated. Students must engage multiple senses in order for their brains to process information most effectively. I teach Algebra 1, which is notorious for being a breaking point for many students mathematically. I have seen many students work hard, struggle over and over again, and simply not get it, only to repeat the course the following year – with me as the teacher again – and be incredibly successful. In How People Learn, I learned that our brains develop at different paces, and that learning physically changes the structure and organization of the brain. This helps me understand how those students who are simply a year older with a year’s worth of knowledge and experience are able to understand what was previously not understandable, no matter how much effort was applied. Also in How People Learn, I learned how important current knowledge, culture and experience, and ability to form connections with that knowledge and experiences is for a learner’s success. This was further illustrated by the video Fish Is Fish that we watched and reflected on. In order for my students to learn the information I teach them, I have to consider what prior knowledge, experiences and skills they will need.

Later in the course we wrestled with the question of why there is often a gap between what we as teachers teach, and what students actually learn. As we started this question, my previous understandings were that prior knowledge matters, as does a connection between what is being taught and its place in the subject or real world. Through additional readings in Brain Rules, and How People Learn, I learned that students’ prior fluency, attention, practice, perseverance, motivation have an impact on the learning gap. I participated with a group to look at the areas of attention, memory, and gender differences when considering how the brain works. Our presentation, Chapter on Memory, illustrated several key points related to those topics, and I encourage you to check it out. Another factor that came up during my reading of How People Learn is that students’ own belief in their ability to learn has a major impact on their actual ability to learn. What stood out to me most in this area was the difference between a student who is an entity theorist, and a student who is an incremental theorist. Entity theorists focus on the appearance of learning – or how others see their understanding. These learners focus on looking like they are smart and successful, and consequently avoid challenges that have the possibility to reflect them in a poor light. Incremental theorists believe that the more learning they do, the more intelligence they will have, and will actually seek out challenges to benefit from the struggle to learn (“How People Learn”, 2000, pg 102). As I learned about the difference between these two types of learners, I wonder how we as teachers can help students transfer from entity theorists to incremental theorists and see a value in their own work to learn as success.

As we wrapped up the class with a final presentation that you can see here, I came up with instructional shifts based on the research we did that I believe will make my classroom a better classroom for my learners. The first of those shifts is explicitly teaching my students strategies for remembering the material. We learned that stronger learners have more studying strategies, and I assert that all learners could benefit from a sharing of those strategies. Secondly, I will be working hard to present as many different strategies related to each topic that I can. This will allow my students to have multiple entry points when attempting to solve a problem. Additionally, with the change to the Common Core State Standards, the ability to use multiple methods to solve a problem becomes a necessity. Third, I will continue to work hard to know each and every one of my students, personally and academically. This can be a challenge with 140 students during the day, and a maximum of 54 minutes at a time with each student; however, the benefits to both my instructional planning and my students’ learning are invaluable. One way I am already doing this is with student surveys and unit pre-tests, but I am sure I can find more. The fourth change I am going to make is to teach students, wherever possible, how to ask the questions needed to make sense of new information. So much of Algebra is simply memorized by students without any effort to make sense of why it is. Modeling the strategies for students will give them the tools they need to attempt it themselves. A fifth shift is a focus on discussion. A traditional math classroom is often lacking in student talk, and I have and will continue to change that in my classroom. Our students need to talk to make sense of information, to help categorize new information with current knowledge, and to find misconceptions that exist in their own understandings. Without guiding discussions, many discoveries and connections do not end up being made. The sixth change is very easy to implement, but can make a huge impact; I will be making sure to break up instruction into segments of no longer than ten minutes. Students need time to process information. They need time to restate it to another person. Above all, they need time to stop and stretch for a minute. By teaching in ten minute segments, and giving intentional breaks with ideas or prompts for students to think about or discuss, I will allow their brains a chance to stop and refocus without losing the importance of what I am teaching. A presentation summarizing my learning and the six shifts, along with student evidence of the changes I have already implemented can be viewed here.

Overall, this course has validated many of my previous understandings on how people learn and extended it in multiple areas. My largest take-away from this course is that I still have so much to learn about how my students will learn, and I am inspired to continue to research and experiment to find the ways that work best for me as a teacher and my students as learners. Teaching is an always-changing profession that requires flexibility and willingness to grow, and I welcome the challenge.


Retrieved from


Medina, J. (2014). Brain Rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

National Research Council. (2000). How People Learn. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Robinson, K. (2013, April). How to escape education’s death valley. Retrieved from:

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EDTC 6433 – Technology – Meta-Reflection – Standard 12


Determining how to best use technology in the classroom is a problem that can be more challenging than someone might expect. At the beginning of the course, we set goals for our growth and technology use, and then worked through the course to achieve our goals. Our learning through the course supported our goals work, and we were able to take our weekly classwork and apply it directly to our classrooms. At the beginning of the course, I felt I had a reasonable proficiency with technology and I wasn’t sure how much I was going to be able to learn. However, as I worked through the course I realized just how much I had to learn. This learning can be seen in my weekly blogs.

My reflection on my growth as related to my goals is below:

  • My digital citizenship goal was, “I am going to intentionally teach students appropriate digital communication skills and appropriate usage of resources found on the internet. I will do this by providing 3 10 minute lessons on appropriate usage of digital content by December 2014.” I met this goal moderately. I found it incredibly difficult to present lessons of any length not directly related to the content, so instead, I chose to teach this while embedding it into assignments. In my Foundations for Calculus class, we had these conversations when they worked on their problem solving PowerPoint presentations and Law of Sines and Cosines problem assignments. As I introduced these assignments, I reminded students of appropriate use of materials, and as I worked with individual students working on these projects, I reminded them of appropriate usage, and how to give credit for work that was not their own. This class is predominately seniors, and many just needed a reminder that the rules that apply in English and history classes still apply in mathematics. For my Algebra 1 classes, I accomplished this by introducing the concept of an infographic by having the students read and explore three different infographics all related to digital citizenship. Students really responded well to this introduction. As with my Foundations for Calculus class, I also worked with students individually as they worked to create their infographics.
  • My collaboration goal was, “ Create 1 Haiku Wiki assignment for students to complete by December 2014.” I met this goal, but I used a discussion board instead of a wiki because I felt it worked better for the assignments. Students created presentations or problems, and then posted them to a class discussion board, where they responded to their peers work in a specific way.
  • My communication goal was, “Find at least 3 resources for each new unit that I can post to Haiku that will help parents and students understand the concept and connections to other units and real world situations.” I was able to accomplish this goal for Unit 4 in Algebra 1, which was the only full unit I taught since the setting of my growth goals. I will continue to do this as I got great feedback on it from students, colleagues and families.
  • My presentation goal was, “Create an assignment where students create 1 infographic related to Unit 4 Algebra 1 material by December 2014.” This was a success. My Algebra 1 students really went above and beyond in the creation of their infographics, and I feel that they understand the way a function can be modeled in the real world so much more than in previous years.
  • For professional growth, I had two goals:
  1. Participate in one twitter chat related to secondary math education by the end of first semester.
  2. Present information about one technology tool to my department by the end of the year.
  • I really tried to participate in a twitter chat, but unfortunately, nobody chatted on the day I tried! I will be doing more research in finding another twitter chat related to secondary math teaching and I will prevail! I have not yet presented a tool to our entire department, but I have shared many resources with the department members who are on the same content team as I am. I will continue to do this, and will be presenting to the entire department before the end of the year.

I worked hard to find technology projects that would extend the teaching I was already going to do. I wanted to make the assignments authentic and not to just add technology. I also wanted to find ways that I could make my life as a teacher easier by using the technology. To achieve that, I focused on picking goals that would help my students learn more by adding technology. The infographics that I used really allowed students to master the concept of a function that models a real world situation. The problem solving PowerPoint assignment was an extension of the normal problem solving process that we use in class, and it allowed the students to use technology to communicate their results in a different way. I chose to do this because in the future, those students will have to be able to communicate using technology in the workplace on a daily basis. As far as my professional growth goal, I just was not able to figure out what to do with a twitter chat. I think if I had found a chat that was more “chatty”, it would have been easier to do, but since nobody appeared to be chatting, there didn’t appear to be a moderator, and there was nothing for me to say, I wasn’t able to participate.

I really don’t like not being able to complete a goal, so I am committed to figuring out a twitter chat. I will do some more research to try to find a chat that is active and related to my content, and I will participate. Additionally, I am going to try to find more ways to integrate technology in a way to make the abstract concepts in Algebra and Calculus more concrete. I’d like to find ways to use technology to investigate future concepts. Overall, and on a broad scale, I am committed to working to add one technology activity per unit to each class this year. Next year, I’d like to do the same thing. By doing this for a few years, I should have a good mix of learning techniques, and I can continue to work on making the projects and activities applicable and authentic. I anticipate being able to gather some ideas for those activities from twitter chats, once I can figure them out.

I feel my role as a teacher leader with technology is two-fold. First, I think my role is to continue to explore and try new technology. Trying technology can sometimes work really well, and other times, be a complete disaster, but you will never find new tools until you try to see how they work in your classroom, with your students, and with you facilitating the activity. Second, my role is to share what I learn and experience with my colleagues both in my department and as a school. Technology can be scary for teachers to try, and I have found that teachers are much more willing to try new things if it comes from a colleague who says it’s valuable. As I continue to experiment and share my results with my colleagues, I hope that they start to feel comfortable exploring and trying out new technology on their own. I feel that is the mark of a good leader; someone who can show and guide others, and also inspire confidence in others to try new things.

Some additional artifacts are:

Annotated Bibliography – Integrating Technology Presentations Using Infographics In The High School Classroom

Tech Final Presentation – Ewart


Gallagher, K. (2014, April 27). How  Real Kids Create Real Infographics. Retrieved

November 4, 2014, from


Manners Matter Infographic. (2014). Retrieved  November 4, 2014, from


Tolisano, S. (2011, September 6). Creating Infographics with Students. Retrieved

November 4, 2014, from

Wong, D. (2013, February 26). 5 Inforgraphics to Teach You How to Easily Create

Infographics in PowerPoint. Retrieved November 4, 2014, from


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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 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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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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