Dinosaurian Technology Use in Math – Time to Evolve

My placement has notably little technology available, at least compared to those of my peers.  Technology includes the teacher’s computer, an Elmo document camera, a projector, and a set of calculators.  Yet I cannot imagine needing much more for this level of math – which includes Algebra I and Algebra II.

As a teacher, I use Google Docs to create and store daily warm-ups and exit quizzes, using the projector to display these problems on the front board.  This is certainly helpful, not only to allow me to organize, update, and plan for each class, but also to be able to present more graph-oriented or visual problems that would take a deal of time to copy onto the board.  Nearly daily, I also use the document camera when I am teaching lessons.  I tend to prefer this method since I can face the class as I instruct, rather than writing on a board and then turning to speak.  Another benefit of this method is having a written copy of the exact lesson I present that I can later show students who missed something or who were absent previously.  Likewise, it allows me to keep a detailed record of how exactly I went about teaching a particular lesson, since this material is not lost once it is erased.  Additionally, this year I have frequently used Desmos Online Calculator to create graphs for my Algebra II class and give students the opportunity to visualize shifts in graphs.  Finally, I have seen my CT create YouTube videos of abbreviated lessons to support students who are frequently absent, have language barriers, or need to hear an explanation one more time.  I view this to be tantamount to the Algebra II class, given that this class does not have a textbook, so students can then rely on something more than just any notes they take in class.

At this level of math, when students are still learning the fundamentals – which admittedly have the propensity to be a bit dry and boxy – basic technology suffices.  Students can focus on learning calculator functions for graphs, but otherwise stick to the concrete, straightforward concepts that are usually best solved with pencil and paper.  While I have seen teachers use online quizzing platforms for fun class competitions or Smart Boards to record student work on the “white board”, I do not see either of these functions as essential or possible solely through technology.

In this age of the ubiquitous use of technology, it seems odd to dismiss its applicability to the classroom.  It can provide new and exciting possibilities for presenting math.  Yet I find it hard to implement creative lessons for math while still covering all of the standards in the given time.  Thus I find myself using only bare bones technology to support straightforward lessons.  I perceive a constant clash between getting lost in the wonderful, creative, exploratory elements of math (which technology could support) and sticking strictly to the schedule of more down to earth, black and white, repetitious elements.  The more I think about it, the more it seems that technology use in math should increase as students move past the fundamentals – perhaps in Calculus or even beyond.  This math is often more abstract or more applied, both of which can be supported by programs and graphics on technology that do not subtract from students’ focus on the crux of the material.  I remain dubious of heavy use of technology in lower levels of math, though.  Perhaps, through this course I will open my eyes to new possibilities availed by technology and discover more of a middle road approach to using technology strategically and in a manner that richens learning.

Image: Dinosaur by Thomas Hawk – Link

The Daily Life of Jeremy Pingul and “Educational” Technology

The EdTech equipment in my classroom are a projector, a document camera, and a Chromebook cart. Other classrooms have the same equipment (except for the Chromebook cart), but some of them are equipped with Smart boards.

Every day, I mainly use the projector and document camera to teach in my classroom. It has been extremely useful in showing everyone where we are at in the lesson (freeze frame), in sharing each other’s works, and in giving more zoomed-in examples to see. The only real difficulty I am currently having is having to line up my documents (worksheets or textbook) with the camera. The camera is set at an angle so that it can fit on the table along with the projector, attached monitor screen, and student “cold-calling” cups. Also, it does not help when the sun’s rays create a glare on the documents that it can be hard to read sometimes.

When I or the students need to write something while in front of the classroom, we would either write on the projected “picture” or on the empty space next to the projection. Writing on the projection gives students a clear example of what is happening next in the lesson, but it can sometimes be tricky to read with the bright lighting of the classroom and the possible glare between white board and projector. Writing on the empty space next to the projection is useful because it is hardly affected by the problems above, but it can be quite tedious in having to switch between pointing at the projection and what is being written.

The Chromebooks are used for class activities such as classwork (ex.: Desmos), Khan Academy, and Coding. The first activity comes up every once in a while when we think that the lesson could benefit from an online classroom. Right now, we have been using Desmos the most. Khan Academy is a classroom activity that we do on the last day of every week (mainly Friday) and we assign targets for the students to achieve and practice what they have learned and are currently learning. You can consider it a class lesson since the students are on it for the entire day. Coding is an elective for all middle-schoolers that my Cooperating Teacher is teaching in 2nd and 3rd Quarter so all of the students in the classroom must have a Chromebook on them to do the work assigned.

Also, the Chromebooks allow the students to see their progress reports and grades throughout the year, which allows them to talk with their teachers about what they are seeing. Mostly about how can they bring up their grades or concerns about how they got the grade they got.

And that is how technology is being used at my placement.


Image Credit: daily routine


Limited Technology at Barlow

During my fall placement, I did not make much use of technology in the classroom.  The most frequently used technology tools in my classroom were a document camera and projector.  I taught almost all of my math lessons by writing notes on paper under the document camera and projecting it onto the whiteboard.  I felt like using the document camera was an effective use of technology for several reasons.  First of all, my classroom had the document camera positioned in such a way that I could be facing my students while going over lessons.  This allowed me to make eye contact and project my voice toward students, which is a nice alternative to turning my back to them while writing on the whiteboard.  Using the document camera instead of writing on the whiteboard also allowed me to save the notes I went over in each class so that I could easily give a copy of the notes to students who were absent.  Finally, students were easily able to share and explain their work to the class by putting it under the document camera and projecting it on the whiteboard.  Aside from the document camera and projector, there was very little technology used in my placement.

Part of the reason why I rarely used technology in the classroom was the lack of technology available to the students in my placement.  There were no Chromebooks or laptops available for my students to use in the classroom.  If I did want students to have computer access during class time, I would have needed to reserve a computer lab and wait for my students to logon to outdated, mismatched desktops.  I feel like this is not an effective teaching strategy when class periods are only 50 minutes long, as too much of the period would be spent just getting students onto their computers.

In this class, I am hoping to learn more ways that I can implement technology into my math classroom.  Technology can allow students to participate in guided exploration to discover mathematics on their own.  It can also provide a way to share visual-learning tools with students to improve understanding.  In addition to using technology in the classroom, I also hope to learn some ideas for how I can assign supplementary tasks for students to complete outside of the classroom that can make use of the technology that they have in their homes.


Image credit to Adam Freidin https://www.flickr.com/photos/-adam/4674856117/in/photolist-886RRx-54G3F9-7MFi3u-5Y8et-aWrnk-9eBxh-4jhjQ-9aKxBs-92nj2T-2XNVQ-Gea4J-4RJSUp-9WNA8B-9kY44t-bc1djK-66GAT5-djjTPy-7qcqsn-mehzo-do77gr-5PmwPt-djkci6-mehsi-5UTQB5-7YRqV8-4nLgbx-9Cv3HE-aYnHpF-5Y8aT-5Y8co-4kzEVP-zGRAz-fRYLeC-4BgAPn-bUf8df-5ndsQu-qwtr1j-4BYSwC-2pUEss-8qvWnw-ckGzJG-9xBJ67-ewpdD-rj9p3Y-jDZPJF-a9Rq2n-bxWuxa-ewxdfS-6Y1Rbx-ewu3v8

Task 1: How I am using tech for science.

I  like to think that I use technology in my class frequently. By that I mean my kids are probably on their Chromebooks every three lessons or so. Even though they are using their computers I have to admit that what they are using them for might not be the most interactive 21-century teaching tool on the market. I am always searching for interactive web modules that animate and provide interactive instruction on the topics we are covering.

Most of the time when I am using technology to teach content it involves dry McGraw-Hill bio videos or step-by-step animations that are supplementing the visuals needed to aid students in their conceptual understanding of molecular processes. There are a few very helpful animated activities that guide students in practicing and applying content that I also incorporate into my lessons. I LOVE to use technology for review games before students take unit exams and I know that they love them too by how excited they are to see them on our agenda.

I know that there are many areas I need to work on in terms of my edtech use one of them being to bring more independence into activities so that students are coming up with the content or applying it as opposed to gaining the content in an interactive way.

I am always searching for interactive web modules that animate and provide interactive instruction on the topics we are covering and I have become quite the fan of website called ED puzzle. ED Puzzle is a teaching tool that allows you to assign videos via google classroom or just via links that you can choose, dub over, edit, and incorporate questions into. I have made quite a few ED Puzzles for comprehension check assessments as well as review.  Not only is the interface super self-explanatory but the amount of information it provides to the teachers in terms of student results and progress on videos makes it easy to quantify the areas that students find most difficult by showing questions response attempts and the sections that were rewatched.

Here is a link to an EDpuzzle that my kids did during our enzyme unit that was used to incorporate the digestive system since we hadn’t put enzymes into that context with the exception of amylase. Enzymes in Digestion

Overall I know that I am only just beginning to toddle with my use of technology and I am very excited to immerse myself with more resources as well as learn about the ways in which my peers are using technology in their teaching.

Task 1: What do I want to learn about edtech?

Technology is going to have a greater impact on education more and more as the years roll by. It is imperative for a teacher to have the knowledge to use devices/gadgets/websites/apps to better prepare their students for life after school. This is why I feel it necessary to learn the basics and beyond about technology in the classroom. First off,  I think it is essential to close the digital divide. In the two classrooms I have worked in (3rd grade and 6th grade), there have been students who had the latest version of a new phone and students who had obsolete versions of phones. To close the digital divide would not necessitate having a fundraiser to get every student on the newest, most updated form of technology, but rather to find a compatible system/app that works on all versions of their technology. For example, I would love how to show students how to use their cell phones as word processors. Since they (the 6th graders) are on their phone any chance they can get, it would behoove them to have homework where they need to write a few paragraphs using their phones. It is counterproductive to try to get students off their phone as much as possible because they are going to be on them no matter what. I believe it is crucial to find some way to use their personal technology (phone) as a method of learning in school.

I’d also like to explore the realms of collaborating digitally. My former 6th graders would have benefited immensely if they had to make a video on a YouTube channel where they spoke about the ancient Romans, teaching the class through their project. What are some different types of platforms on the web that students can use in order to teach the class about something (other than a PowerPoint)? Also, through learning about different types of platforms, I’d like to talk about “sharing” these projects with the student’s classmates. I am not too keen in online sharing and I think that would be essential to a student project.

I think (as of right now, at least) that the two most important modes of technologies in the classroom would be 1) utilizing the phone and 2) using technology for group projects. I look forward to seeing what other people think are the most important uses of technology in the classroom!

Heckity Heck! I’m Using edTech!

I would say that the use of edTech is pretty average in my classroom and my school as a whole. My CT and I are always looking for new ways to use the resources we have available to us to make learning fun and engaging for the kids. It has always been my goal to be the kind of teacher that lets the kids do the learning and the teaching. I am a HUGE advocate of project-based learning, and it’s kind of easy to do with math. Since it is my first time teaching, however, I thought that it would be better for me to build confidence and practice using just the basic methods that I’ve seen previous teachers use, just in case the school I end up working at doesn’t have the resources that I’m used to.

I have been encouraged by my CT to share whatever “new methods” I come across. I figure if I share them with her, she’ll use them and I can observe and sort of use her as a guinea pig…in a good way, of course. I am definitely going to be sharing what I learn in this class with her because she’s always looking for other ways to present material and engage the kids in learning. We mainly use edTech for supplemental learning or as a break from all the paper and “boring” work they usually do. I’d like to incorporate it a lot more as time goes on and find new ways to incorporate, not just screens, but other forms of technology as well.

We’ve really only gone so far as to use the iPads and the Apple TV, and even then we use them sparingly just because we have yet to actually incorporate a sort of rhythm regarding edTech in the classroom. The kids do get exposed to it more frequently in their other classes, though, so I guess it’s alright if we don’t really use it that often.  I do like to use an app called Show Me, which is an interactive whiteboard that we sometimes use for notes or for classwork and project with the Apple TV.

All in all, I would like to be able to use more edTech in the classroom as often as possible because I feel that it would benefit the students to be able to interact with technology (if they aren’t already doing so at home) in an educational way.

That’s it for now!


Featured Picture: Pensive Squirrel by Seth Wilson @ flickr.com

Where is Technology?

Technology is everywhere yet at the same time its hard to find. My students are continually on their cell phones in class and sometimes it can be a battle to get their attention. And yet media and technology is so useful that I wish I had more of it. My cooperating teacher used to have about six desktop computers in his classroom but they were removed in anticipation of Union High School becoming a 1-to-1 school in the next couple of years. You would think that they would not remove the highly prized connection to the outside world until they established a new one. However that was not the case, so instead we have to reserve one of four chrome book carts that is supposed to serve 2,000 students.

As you can see its sometimes difficult to integrate interactive technology into the classroom for my students. Every classroom has a desktop monitor that hooks up to each teacher’s Microsoft Surface Pro. Every classroom has a projector and a document camera but that’s where the technology ends. Meaning that I can show my students a PowerPoint and use the document camera to go through assignments and worksheets. However getting my students to be active with technology is sadly a challenge, unless its on their own smartphones.

Technology literacy would have at one point in the past seemed absurd. However now it is expected and valued. I know my way around the basics of a computer and many different operating systems. But I do not consider myself technology literate in a classroom setting. To me you have to go beyond using PowerPoints, and showing Bozeman Science Videos to be consider a technologically literate teacher. What about flipped classrooms using technology, or Google Classroom? What about Edpuzzle and kahoot, plus so much more?

I feel that I have been stymied in being able to become technology literate in my classroom by two separate things. My lack of knowledge and in some cases determination to learn what I do not understand. But the larger issue is the demographics of my school. Almost every teenager now has a smartphone, but I cannot always assume that. I know that some of my students do not. And since we do not have enough chrome books to go around I am somewhat limited in technology. I cannot do kahoot unless I group the kids up. I cannot practice a flipped classroom  if I know that not every child has access to technology at home.

I feel that these are the things that set me back. However, I also feel that I just need to get more creative. I am sure there are more ways to try and integrate technology into the classroom and I just have not discovered them yet. I hope that through this course I can discover new methods of technology integration into my classroom, in a way that is interactive for the students and promotes their learning.


Assignment: First blog post

my first blog post
HOMEWORK for Jan 19

Task 1:  For your first blog post write a reflection on your use of edtech and where you hope to go with it. The post is due by midnight Sunday Jan 22. Read student responses here.

Students can access our YouTube Playlist for assistance with WordPress.

For specific prompts consider some of these (just some ideas starters, you don’t have to write about all of them):

  • What’s my current use of edtech tools in my placement?
  • How does the “tech landscape” of my current placement impact my use of edtech in the classroom?
  • How do the tech skills / demographics of my students impact my use of edtech in the classroom?
  • What are my personal uses of edtech tools to learn and network as an educator?
  • Where do I want to be in my use of edtech tools in 3 years?
  • What are you hoping for in this edtech pilot?

Task 2: Before our 1/26 class, comment on at least 3 student posts. It’s a conversation, not simply a “nice job.”

Class 2: Digital literacy

This class will lead off with a review of our thinking on this pilot course design. We will gather our ideas using this shared Google Doc.

Next, Peter will do a presentation “Teaching and Learning in a Digital World.” It explores the impact of new technologies and answers the question: Digital literacy handout 2.1 MB pdf

“So what happens in schools, now that life’s become an open book test?” 

We will explore the “new digital literacy:”

  • Find, decode and critically evaluate information
  • Curate, store and responsibly share information

To hone our digital literacy skills, we will explore search techniques with a focus on finding public domain or Creative Commons licensed content: including images, video, and audio. For more information on public domain searches visit our edtech methods toolkit / Digital Hygiene

We will incorporate some note taking tools to explore digital storage and curation – Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, Google Keep and Google Spaces. This will allow us to also do a comparative analysis of these note taking tools.


See assignment page – Find, Curate, Store

Classroom Tech: When Less is More

This was first posted Jan 21, 2015

I recently was a guest on the UP Tech Talk Podcast produced by University of Portland’s Academic Technology Services and hosted by Maria Erb (Instructional Designer) and Sam Williams (Dir of Academic Tech Services). Kudos for the great ATS podcast studio!

We had a lively 18 minute discussion about my UP social studies methods class and technology’s role in instructional design – it opened like this …

What’s the least amount of technology you could use to get the job done?

Maria: Peter, so glad to have you on the podcast. We just had a great conversation … you managed to rattle off probably half a dozen Web 2.0 tools that you’re using just like you were a fish swimming in water; it just seems so easy and natural for you. I’m just wondering, how do you go about choosing which tools you’re going to use for these great projects that you’re working on? What piques your interest?

Peter: I think it really begins with seeing yourself as a designer of a learning experience. You work with the tools you have and with the setting you have. You’ve got X number of students; you’re meeting once a week; you’ve got three hours with them. You think about the instructional goals that you want to achieve, and then from there, you say, okay, so what kind of tools are out there. For example, there was a situation where I wanted them to collaborate and design some lessons. I wanted them to be able to share their work with one another and be able to comment on it. I also think it’s important that there always be a public product, because I think we find our students producing content for their instructor as opposed to … which is kind of a ritualized thing as opposed to real-world content.

And ended with this exchange …

Sam: Are there any words of wisdom around it’s not about the technology that you could leave us at the end of this podcast?

Peter: I would say the big question is what’s the least amount of technology you could use to get the job done. Taking something and making it prettier by putting it on a white board when you could have written it up on the chalk board really doesn’t get you anywhere. I think that the transformative part of technology is getting it in the hands of the students so that they can research and create and produce in ways you couldn’t do without it. For me, those are the essential elements that I’m looking at, not simply just something that’s a bright shiny object.

Text transcript (word file) | Show notes and links | Podcast at iTunes: #12

The University of Portland uses the SmartEval system to gather student feedback on courses and faculty. Here’s a few comments from my UP students that are relevant to this podcast:

  • Peter challenged us to think and be designers of curriculum, instead of just lecturers. We learned how to get students working and thinking critically in the classroom.
  • I liked that the focus of the class was on making a product.
  • He also showed us how to move from the lecture mode to engaging students as architects in their own learning process.
  • Very well connected with other educators on Twitter. He has promoted every student in the class using his connections to help us build professional connections and build a professional online presence.

Class 1: What do you want to learn about edtech?

edtech - what do you want to learn?

Image credit: Jason Michael Mac Keyboard

First off we’ll explore our ED 424 goals and foundations.

For our intro we will explore the question “What do you want to learn about edtech?” We’ll split into four groups and each use a different means of collecting collaboration to gather input on the question – CogglePadlet, a shared Google doc, and an “old school” poster board. Later, each group will present their findings and we will discuss both responses and how the different tools helped or hindered our progress.

Next we will all get logged into our new WordPress account. Students will get a quick overview and be pointed to our YouTube playlist.


Task 1:  For your first blog post write a reflection on your use of edtech and where you hope to go with it. The post is due by midnight Sunday Jan 22. Read student responses here.

For specific prompts consider some of these (just some ideas starters, you don’t have to write about all of them):

  • What’s my current use of edtech tools in my placement?
  • How does the “tech landscape” of my current placement impact my use of edtech in the classroom?
  • How do the tech skills / demographics of my students impact my use of edtech in the classroom?
  • What are my personal uses of edtech tools to learn and network as an educator?
  • Where do I want to be in my use of edtech tools in 3 years?
  • What are you hoping for in this edtech pilot?

Task 2: Before our 1/26 class, comment on at least 3 student posts. It’s a conversation, not simply a “nice job.”

Student brainstorms completed in class – first 3 enlarge with click

Coggle Brainstorm 1

Coggle Brainstorm 2

Coggle Brainstorm 3

How to teach edtech to future teachers

I’ve been asked to pilot a new edtech class this spring for undergraduate ed majors in University of Portland’s School of Education. I’m still in the brainstorm phase and I thought I’d like to share some of my initial thinking.
First posted 10/19/16

First off  – a few things that I don’t want to do:

  • Oversell edtech. Too often educators try to force the latest edtech tool into the classroom because they think it’s cooler. Faster. Shinier.
  • Focus on teaching apps. Oh how I hated being forced to sit in a computer lab and suffer though PowerPoint professional development as a teacher. When I need students to use a specific app, I typically create a YouTube channel of short screencast how-tos. Or students can use the University’s Lynda account for more.
  • Take sides in the platform / device religious wars. These students will end up teaching in different settings, each with it’s own unique edtech landscape. They’ll need to be able to use what ever they find in their placements.

Instead I’d like to first “teach” adaptability – the mindset that’s helped me navigate the ever-changing edtech environment since I began my career in the early ’70s – an era of filmstrip projectors, 16mm movies and ditto machines. I’ve always thought first about my instructional goals, then tried to leverage whatever resources I could find to reach them. That calls for flexibility and a willingness to figure things out on your own. I couldn’t wait around for some school-sponsored PD.

A second, equally important goal would be to teach critical evaluation of the intersection of good instruction and technologies. A good teacher is skeptical, always re-assessing what’s working and what’s not. That’s especially important in the dynamic edtech world.

I envision a problem-based approach where I layout a series instructional challenges (opportunities?) and invite student teams to come back with a plan for achieving the goal using as much or as little technology as they saw fit. They would be expected to find a way to share their work in or out of class (why not flip that as well?) We would then go though a group evaluation, reflecting on what worked and what didn’t. Was the juice worth the squeeze? Move on to the next instuctional challenge. Reflect, rinse, repeat.

Here’s how I thought I might open my first class:  “Good instructional often begins with a pre-assessment. This is an edtech class, so as a starting point we need to get sense of where everyone resides on edtech landscape.”

  • What would be useful to know?
  • How should we gather that info?
  • How do we store and share (represent) what we find out?
  • Would any digital technologies be useful in this task? If so, which ones?
  • How do we set that up so that your peers can be successful participants?

Brainstorm over: Any thoughts on this approach? Anyone else out there teaching an edtech course and care to share?

Image Credit: Civilian Conservation Corps, Third Corps Area, typing class with W.P.A. instructor ca. 1933
National Archives and Records Administration Identifier: 197144