5 minute later update

Well, they're giving us a different plane, and it should be ready to be in the air by 9:30. I'll believe it if it happens. That, and I doubt I'll get on. Maybe I'll just rent a car tomorrow...

Stuck in Charlotte

I got to the Atlanta airport this morning, only to be told that they did not have my seat on my flight. Yippee!! From there, things just got better.

First, they were able to get on me a flight out of Atlanta at 1:35. I was originally supposed to arrive in Harrisburg at 12:51. As you can see, it was a great start to a day. Anyway, they got me on the 1:35 flight, but they were not able to get me on a flight out of Charlotte. They just told me to arrive at the gate and get on the standby list, so I did that. Well, first, they tell me that the 5:20 flight (the one I was going to be on standby for) has been postponed until 7:20. Ok. So I go get some dinner and meet a few other people waiting for a Harrisburg flight as well. I find out that the 5:20 flight basically wiped out the 7:20 flight. How does that make sense?

So think about this. They take a full flight, cancel it, and then move a full flight into its spot. Does this make sense? Anyway, they board the flight and get to standby. I am the second-to-last person called for standby. Awesome! I'm going home! I call my parents to let them know. I get on the plane...and they're out of room. There are three of us that get shuttled back off the plane. Yay. I am so happy. Call the parents back and tell them I didn't get on the plane. I get back off. The ladies at the gate tell me I need to go to gate B2 (I was at gate E26, which was moved from E16, which was moved from E19). They didn't say anything about having to get back on the standby list. I thought I already was! Anyway, as I am walking toward B2, the one family I was talking with said I should check that I am on the list, so I did. Whattaya know? I had to be re-added to the list!

Then I get to gate B2. First, the guys at the gate know that there is a huge list to get on the flight, and I feel bad for them to have to take the brunt of the attack. But the one dude makes the following announcement: "We know you have questions about the flight to Harrisburg. It is currently overbooked by 30 guests. We are also waiting for the plane to come in from Houston. It was originally expected to arrive here in Charlotte at 9:48. It has yet to leave Houston."

I don't think I will be getting home today.

We have also been told that there are no openings on flights tomorrow at all, so we will have to wait until SATURDAY until they can get us a flight. I didn't know this was going to be a week-long trip.


And it's all done

I find it so hard to believe that my first NECC is over. It was such an amazing experience. I was so glad to have had contacts down here, as they helped me get through this tremendously. First off, Jeff Rothenberger, thanks for EVERYTHING you did in helping me get the most out of NECC. From getting us into special sessions to getting contact information for me, you have been spectacular. To the Pennsylvania CFF contingent, it is amazing to see how much people from other states know about what we are doing. You are all doing a great job of making connections and furthering our cause.

I feel like I should wrap up my whole experience. My experience started on Saturday, when I got down here so I could get my bearings and figure out what I wanted to do ahead of time. There was a CFF meeting on Sunday that a good number of people were not able to attend since their plane hadn't landed yet. The opening session with Andrew Zolli was interesting. It set up the week well, and got a lot of people fired up for the week.

The conference really started up in Monday. I began by going into the exhibit hall. It took up the same area as five football fields! CRAZY! I hit only a few booths, and began to realize that most of what I was getting would not all fit in my computer bag. As time went on, I ended up going to the Best Buy booth to get one of their gargantuan bags. It was definitely an attention getter. I got to sit through a few sessions, and I blogged them all. I have a lot of new t-shirts. I won a Planet Earth DVD set. I can't wait to watch it to see what's on it. Unfortunately, I didn't win any of the iPods or computers, but at least I won some stuff. Today, at the one booth, Jeff and I ran into Jim Gates. Jim mentioned he hadn't won anything yet. About a minute after that, the presenter asked a question, which I answered. I got a prize for the answer. I told Jim he just missed his chance. All I had to do was say the name of the company!

However, I feel that the best presentation was the very last one, with closing keynote speaker Dr. Tim Tyson. I had emailed Tim a few months about to find out more about what they were doing in his school. I HIGHLY recommend that everyone check out what they are doing at their school by checking out MabryOnline.org. Dr. Tyson was stressing that the idea in education is that it must be authentic. It must be something the kids care about and that matters to them now. We shouldn't be preparing them for "next year." I mean, if we're always preparing for next year, what's the point? We'll never be where we need to be.

I'm heading out to the Braves game tonight to round out my stay here in Atlanta. It has been an amazing stay in this city. There are so many friendly people here, and I'm still trying to figure out where all the traffic is. I hope to be able to do this again next year when NECC is in San Antonio.

Also, I am so glad that I will still be able to get more info out of NECC 2007, as I can read all of the other blogs and watch the archived sessions. I will be going back to NECC 2007's site a lot throughout the next year. That was probably one of the best things they could have done for NECC this year. It is allowing me to "see" sessions I couldn't get in, and allowing those who could not make it to NECC to experience it, and maybe it will inspire them to make it next year.

Creating to Learn: Integrating Technology Into Your Classroom, Grades 5-12

This is a presentation by Jacqueline Keane. The session begins with a recap of where she has come from and how she began to incorporate technology into her classroom. She found that when she assigned students to create PowerPoint slides, there would be too much emphasis on the bells and whistles of PowerPoint instead of on the content that was being delivered. To try and learn more, she began visiting other teachers, schools, and attending conferences. She found that there were many schools that were doing the same thing she was. One problem that was prevalent was that there was no curriculum plan for the computers! The schools would brag about having the equipment, but there was no plan to incorporate them correctly!

There was a book and folder that was distributed, but there weren't enough for everyone. The handouts in the folder were shown on the overhead. This session is feeling a lot like it is going over the main ideas behind properly incorporating technology into the classroom. Don't focus on the technology, focus on what it is being used for.

CIDE Process:

Begin with a Concept. The kids will need to continuously refocus on this to remember what their goal is.
Investigation. The students need to do this themselves. If you want them to use data, have them collect it as well. Of course, all sources need to be verified.
Jacqueline says she often has her students reject one of the sources they find and give a reason as to why they are discarding it. It could be a personal webpage or is not verified as a reliable source.
Design. Students will lay out their project, including synthesizing the data and choosing how to put it together.
Execution. This is the phase where the students create their final project.

As an educator, when you are choosing a concept, you need to focus on the core concepts of your curriculum. The first day, you need to introduce the concept. Students will create graphic organizers and reflect on the goal. Students should vary their sources for an investigation. As a student designs their project, it should be something that showcases their talents and vision, not someone else's. Help them to embrace their strengths. The execution phase should be divided into separate tasks to keep the student on task. They should do this themselves.

In her book, there is a rubric on CIDE to help guide the use of the process. This process requires students to demonstrate refined research, critical thinking, communication, and analytical skills. I am having trouble keeping up with a lot of the info that is on the PowerPoint slides. There is some good info on it, and she's not just reading off the slides, but it is difficult to try and get all the info I want off of them. I hope I can get some more of this info from the Creating to Learn website. The session has ended by 12:30. Maybe she could have slowed down a little more to better allow more of the info to sink in.

Even farmers need love

We all know that farmers use technology in farming, but did you know that they're using it to meet other farmers now?

See it on Yahoo!
Farmers only!
They have a commercial, too!

Drupal: Content Management for the Web 2.0 World

I arrived a bit late as there was a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge line waiting for the shuttle and I decided to hoof it instead. It was the first time I went out to the shuttle and there wasn't at least one already there. I am really excited about this session, as Jim Gates told me a bit about Drupal, so I wanted to learn more so I could (hopefully) get it at our school.

We begin by logging in to a sample class that Brett Hinton of Gilbert Public Schools (Arizona) has set up. We created usernames and passwords, and the first thing we did was take a poll on what our experiences with Drupal and CMS's are. Most of us have used a CMS before, but not Drupal.

This session is designed as a hands-on session, where we are encouraged to click around and check out the site. It's a great way to learn. However, with a large group, it is difficult to get questions, so he has set up a link where we can submit a question within the Drupal page. Neat function to be able to do that!

Next, Brett talks of the history of Drupal. Also, the 'handouts' for the session are online. Drupal was originated by Dries Buytart in 2000 to keep in touch with college buddies, ans has expanded to over 150,000 users.

The requirements are you need a web server (Brett recommends Apache), a database server (MySQL & PgSQL are most common), and php.

Brett then also gave us two links for Drupal providers:
Next, we look at the blog functionality of Drupal. We see how it gives the ability to name your blog, put a description with it, etc. Wiki pages are also part of the package. I will have to get a little more info on how they work in Drupal.

We also look at the podcasting function in Drupal. Brett plays a song that one of his colleagues created called "The Drupal Song." Very catchy. How do we add a podcast? Let's watch Brett show us! He explains how it is possible for both the teacher and students to create and post the podcasts. Hmm, you can only submit a podcast with the following formats: mps, wav, ogg, and mp4. That's something to keep in mind.

As I click through some of the examples, I noticed that one of the pages (CoreWEB) is using Drupal and moodle together. It's nice to see that there is a mixture of usage of the different tools out there. That is something that will need to be stressed with the non-tech teachers. I know there are a few in my district that would look at this as the only thing to use, when they should choose the tool that best fits what it is they want to do.

Brett shows us the calendar function on one of the sample pages. There is some functionality to it, but it doesn't do quite everything you would hope for from a calendar. There were a few questions that people were asking, and Brett did a great job of answering them. It doesn't quite check for conflicts, but there are other calendars that can do that. Brett talks about using the calendar to reserve a computer lab. I know we use AirSet in our district to reserve computer carts, though I don't worry about it too much as I have my own carts.

An observer mentions Bill Fizgerald and DrupalEd. It is a site designed to help people start up their own Drupal page. Brett then takes us into the Drupal admin demo pages. He talks about creating the page. You need to create a username and password, and it creates you as an admin. You can have more than one admin for a page. We are able to see how the admin functions appear. There is also talk of being able to test out the different open source CMS packages. It is unfortunate that there is only an hour allowable for this session. This has been an excellent session, and I would love to learn more. I hope I can talk our district into getting Drupal.


The Dynamic Classroom: Teaching and Learning Mathematics with Technology

We are forewarned that there will NOT be 7 presenters, as was originally advertised. Five of them could not come, so we are down to two presenters. We are also told that all of the information that is covered in the presentation either already is or will be posted on this site.

Ihor Charischak is the project manager of CIESE (pronounced "sees") and presenter.

Part 1: Set the stage. Ihor lets us know he sets up the presentation into three parts: Set the stage, do an activity, do the debriefing. In other words, it seems like preview/warmup, then complete the objective, and summarize and see if the students achieved the objective.

Knowledge domains:
1. Ability to use tech resources.
Geometer's Sketchpad, spreadsheet apps, web-based microworlds and applets, graphing and green glob, and other software. He also mentiong digital whiteboards, which he shows a slide of a teacher using NLVM. HE next mentions TI-Navigator (he does not seem to like the TI-84). It is interesting to hear him talk about a resource he does not seem to like. It is nice to hear views like this, though, as he may be biased against it, but he still mentions it.
2. Create technology-oriented learning environments. Use a computer to model for the whole class. Use computers in small groups. Use a computer lab.
3. Personalizing the curriculum. It's more than just a textbook. It is a guide for content, learning, teaching, and assessing.
4. Math background and attitude towards learning math. The teacher must have a passion for teaching and learning math. If the teacher is enthusiastic, so will the students.
5. Pedagogical strategies and discourse. Break out of the "telling habit" and move toward asking the students to help guide toward discovery. This opens up to conversations and debate about math.
6. Assessment strategies.
You have to meet the standards, but you know you're reaching the students if they're still talking about it after they leave the class or the lesson is over.

These are the domains that Ihor believes makes up a dynamic classroom.

Part 2: Do the activity (in story form). Now we are referring to the site for the presentation. We starts out with the sign problem. Common responses are:
  1. the total should be 6,122
  2. There should be a comma between 1 and 8 in 1802
  3. The answer should have some kind of units
This is a classic example of what's wrong with many word problems. The students did not sit and look at the problem to make sense of it. They went into what I like to call "automatic mode," where they automatically do something without first thinking.

Then we look at the bus problem. Most kids give an answer with a decimal, but do not figure out that they're dealing with buses and need a whole number of buses, rounding up. However, students who visually represent the problem have no problem figuring out how many buses are necessary. What does this tell us about how students think? What does this tell us about how we should teach?

Fraction darts: as we look at this example, Ihor wants to show the game. However, he did not link to it from his presentation, and there is poor communication between Ihor and the gentleman running the computer. It would be great to have an interactive whiteboard, or at least a better setup for being able to use the computer with the presentation. As we are looking at the game, we see that equivalent fractions are able to be presented within the game (i.e. 5/8 = 10/16). Ihor mentioned about how students figured out that if they added one to both the numerator and denominator, it would move the dart up slightly. Also, by playing around with other relationships shows how to devise different ways of working with fractions.

I have to wonder if this presentation was rehearsed ahead of time, as there are many things that are stalling getting the info to us. This leads to a good lesson. As you incorporate more technology into your classroom, it is imperative to practice and test out what you are doing.

Next, we look at a dice-rolling simulation. Again, we are having a problem with using the computer...Why did he not check his power supply before beginning? Anyway, there is a dice-rolling simulator on the TI-84, as well, in the ProbSim app. I use it quite a bit, and there are other simulations within it. You can vary the number of rolls, sides of the dice, etc., and it will keep track of the outcomes for you. If you roll two dice, you will see a certain outcome arise. A nice way to explain this is by creating a matrix that keeps track of the sum of the two dice, and you will see that 7 has the most possible outcomes, while 2 and 12 have the fewest.

Next we look at the pizza problem. This is a variation that I think we have all seen in Algebra courses. We see the variation between toppings, sizes, etc. Looking into the end of the problem, the people who run the site ended up making this a piecewise function, where everything levels off after 5 toppings.

The jinx problem is one of those classic "math magic" problems, where no matter what you start with, you get an answer of 13. All it gives is an algorithm where the final answer will be 13. The main idea behind Ihor speaking about this is stating that most students don't know what a variable actually is. AMEN to that! I agree with that, and it is one idea that I constantly stress in class.

As I am following along with this presentation, I think to myself that this would be great to share with pre-service teachers to help ignite this type of teaching for use as they develop their own methods for teaching.

Finally we look at Green Globs, which allows students to explore how equations work. They are able to discover about linear and nonlinear equations.

Part 3: The debriefing. What did we learn today? I learned that I would have gotten as much out of just going to the website as by sitting through this session. It's not that it wasn't necessarily a good presentation, it was just not anything new to me. Again, this needs to be aimed more at pre-service and novice math teachers.


Investigating Mathematical Models and Concepts Using Virtual Manipulatives and Applets

Unfortunately, there is no microphone in here, so everyone needs to be very, very quiet...

The person sitting next to me (from Indiana) just noticed that this is aimed at K-5 education, but I am interested in seeing the different applets that I have not seen before.

"How can we appropriately use virtual manipulatives in Mathematics education?"
  1. Needs to be done in context
  2. Address worthwhile math with appropriate pedagogy
  3. Take advantage of technology
  4. Connect different math topics
  5. Incorporate multiple representations
It is important to use as a presentational model by adults in instruction and as a representational model by students.

The first site that we looked at was the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (NLVM). It was mentioned that after using the algebra balance scales in practice that students would draw a scale to help solve problems. It is important so have these models to take students from looking at tools as models of thinking to models for thinking. A very interesting idea, as isn't that what math is all about? A student should be able to take a situation, analyze it to figure out what the problem actually is, decide upon a way to solve, and then apply it. And of course, this is for more than just solving math problems.

...for some reason, I lost part of my blog. BAH!

Well, trying to get to what I was covering...There were a few other sites that were mentioned, such as Shodor, Illuminations, and FunBrian. FunBrain is aimed at K-8, but Shodor and Illuminations have content for all grade levels.

Another applet I would like to mention is the Seeing Math applet. You can download it to your machine and run it locally without a need for an internet connection.

To leave comments or learn more, visit Jennifer Suh's site. Another site that is credited for the presentation is Educational Java Programs.

Algebra + Geometry + Technology = Student Success: Math Technology

This session is one that will be showing a model math lesson using various pieces of technology. I am sure that some of this will be stuff I have seen before, but there is always something new that will come out of a session like this.

As I am sitting waiting for the session to begin, all I have to say so far is "Wow!" I have been able to visit two vendor booths so far: Apple and TI/DLP. Both were giving various demonstrations on various topics. I learned a little about TI Nspire and some more on TI Navigator, but unfortunately they are only for Windows. I guess I could always push for parallels on my cart of computers to be able to run these. Or, I could just survive without Nspire and Navigator. I do want to stop back for a presentation on Nspire to see how it works. They are also offering training and hardware for $225 at various times and places around the country. It's an idea...

*NOTE: This session is being video-taped, so you should be able to watch it at a later date.

Let's begin. This is set up as a model lesson, where there are people on the floor acting as the class, while those of us on the sides and back are passive observers. We start out by trying to solve a problem:

A rectangular kitchen table is three times as long as it is wide. If it were 3m shorter and 3 m wider, it would be a square. What are the dimensions of the rectangular table?

A volunteer comes up to the interactive white board to explain the problem. The gentlemen who solves the problem also points out that the table is quite large. We move into working with Geometer's Sketchpad (I assume to help solve the problem...) I open GeoGebra on my computer since I don't have Sketchpad. We start by drawing a line segment, then finding the midpoint. We then draw a circle where the midpoint is the center. It seems to me that it's a bit easier to do this on GeoGebra than it is on Sketchpad, and this is the first time I'm doing most of this on GeoGebra. I need to play around with labeling. That's something to play around with.

But we labeled the circumference and diameter of our circle, and then showed how as we move around the endpoints of the circle, the circumference and length of the diameter changes. We use this data to graph a line that shows the relation between the two variables, which gives us a direct variation, where the slope of the line is pi. A question is posed: "Have you ever thought about teaching the concept of pi as a line?" Very interesting question. But from here, we know we can show the slope in a label that shows the relationship as pi! As further proof, we take the data and tabulate it to show that no matter what we do with the diameter, we will get the same relationship. I guess we shouldn't say "further proof," as we're are only looking at examples that support the construction.

This is a nice look at how to use Sketchpad in a somewhat constructivist approach. One thing I noticed is that the teacher is just talking us through the process. Why aren't the students leading the learning? Isn't that what we're aiming for with 21st Century Skills?

Now we are moving from working with the circle to looking at patterns. There are four different patterns that are squares (3 X 3, 5 X 5, 7 X 7, and 9 X9). We are asked to find the side length, area, and perimeter and to see if we can find the pattern that exists. While we do this, the teacher walks around the classroom to make sure everyone is on task and working through the task.

We next go to enter the info into a graphing calculator (she is using TI-Smartview for the TI-84 Plus Silver). Someone comes up to show how to enter the info into the calculator. Now we're working through some of the basics of entering lists. We are warned to never it DEL when trying to clear a list because we will "lose our list!" That's not true, as you can always run the SetUpEditor to bring back the list (as long as it is listed in L1 through L6). I hate to say "never do this" to a student, because it is inevitable that there will be a student who does it! But it is nice to know that you can retrieve the list.

But we are entering the sides, area, and perimeter into the lists and finding equations by plotting two of the lists and using the LinReg function. For anyone who has used the TI's in class, this is most likely second nature.

Oh, no! She is using the terms x-axis and y-axis. I'm not a fan of that, as I prefer the horizontal/independent and vertical/dependent axes, as I don't like having my students thinking of it as just x and y. They need to be able to understand why the variables are what they are, at least in my opinion. It leads to better understanding of what they are doing. I have been doing this type of teaching for as long as I have been teaching (four years now!), so I will be stepping out at this point.

One piece of software that was mentioned is CPMP Tools. This is a java program that offers some free tools. I'm not sure how they work, but I did download it to play with it.

Overall, this was a good sample lesson, as it is similar to what I do in my classroom and have seen in others. I would have liked to have seen how to make it more student-centered instead to the teacher just walking them through it step-by-step.

NECC 2007 Atlanta GA

Well, here I am in Atlanta. Yes, I realize this is a new blog. Edublogs has been making me angry.

Here is a picture of the plane that I took out of Harrisburg. I left Saturday morning and had a layover in Charlotte. From there, I landed in Atlanta. They didn't have any of the baggage claims checked as to having our luggage, but I was able to pick it up from the US Airways luggage area. I then took MARTA up into the city, and my hotel is right next to the Peachtree Center stop, which is nice.

I liked getting into the city early, as I was able to get my bearings. I had never been to Atlanta, so I wanted to know where everything was. They have shuttles running all the time, but the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) is only a 12 minute walk, while it took 10 minutes to return on the shuttle yesterday, and that was with Sunday traffic. Although, I do have to say, the traffic here does not seem that bad. I think there's more traffic in Harrisburg.

As I walked around, I saw the Georgia Aquarium (they have two whale sharks in there), Coca-Cola World, CNN Center, Phillips Arena, and the Georgia Dome. They're all right next to the GWCC. It's my hope to be able to blog about the sessions I am going to. Hopefully the wireless network doesn't get overwhelmed by all of us trying to log on to it like at PETE&C. I know that eventually we'll figure out how to get a strong enough network.

Yesterday, we had a CFF meeting. I sat with Kim Prevost from Moon Area School District. We sat and talked about different ways to incorporate technology into math classrooms, as that seems to be where most of us are having trouble. I showed her how I am using blogs and how podcasts can be helpful. We ended up talking about things until about 4:30. Then, at 5:30, we had the opening keynote, which started out with the Atlanta Drum Corps. It was enjoyable. Then ISTE's president Trina Davis spoke about where we are in tech ed today and where we're moving, including the unveiling of the new NETS-S today, with NETS-T and NETS-A coming out each of the next two year. Then Andrew Zolli spoke. He was an interesting speaker, and he talked a lot about trends and where they were taking us. He had some interesting information, but truth be told, he lost my attention in the last 10 minutes. It's not that he wasn't an engaging speaker, it was just that my brain was done with that session at that point. Had he gone before Trina, it may have been different.

Today begins my first NECC experience in kind. I have sessions lined up, an exhibit hall that is the size of five football field to explore, and many people to talk with. I am excited about learning about new things and becoming more familiar with those I have already been working with.

One thing the PA people have done for us is to have a wiki page to keep track of things. And the NECC veterans gave us some advice about having exhibitors mail stuff to us at school, or to mail stuff back home to ourselves, as they have often received A LOT of stuff from vendors in the past. We were also told that we would be tapped for info for the next time NECC is in Philly (2011).

Check out my Flickr page for photos from NECC and Atlanta.