Let's start off with a little reality check. Almost none of what goes on in my classroom is new. I beg, borrow and steal from every brilliant teacher I meet. Barbie bungee has been around at least since the late 1990's--that's when I first encountered it.
However, newness or uniqueness has nothing to do with student engagement. Students eat this stuff up! The last time I had a student ask me when we were every going to use this was when we were calculating percentages for tips in a restaurant. Eh, it probably happened when we were looking at rational functions last year but I bet I blocked it out to pretend I was doing a better job with that unit than I actually was.
For weeks in advance I have students bring in their childhood Barbie dolls. This year I even had some of the staff raid their kids' toy boxes. Even though we do all sorts of other experiments while we wait for the stock of plastic dolls to reach a critical mass, this experiment is what the kids are waiting for.
I don't give a lot of directions with this activity. At this point, we've spent the last two weeks looking at messy data. We've gotten really good at making lines of best-fit and then creating an equation from two points on the graph.
This is the only slide I put up on the screen. We talk about how I will drop the Barbies come show time--feet touching the bottom of the board. We talk about some way to get Barbie's hair to stay down so we can get good measurements. We talk about being respectful of other classes while we're in the halls. And then they go for it. We spend the rest of the first day gathering data, creating scatter plots, drawing lines of best-fit, creating equations and figuring out how many rubber bands we will need to get as close to the ground as possible.
After a couple of years I started requiring some certain work in order to meet my objectives. Each student must: gather data, make a scatter plot, create a line of best fit, find the equation for the line of best fit, and show work for finding the number of rubber bands they want to use.
On the second day--the day of truth--I begin class by asking for some help.
-a videographer (uses my iPad): We use this for instant replay while I'm on the roof. Any disputes get settled quickly by going back to the video.
-a photographer (uses my phone): I attended a technology conference years ago. The keynote speaker--whose name escapes me at the moment--said if we don't tell our stories someone else will. It's why I started blogging. It's the day I got a Twitter account. I want my parents and my admin to know the awesome things that go on in my class. I want to steer the conversation in the direction I want it to go rather than hope my principal comes in on a 'good'; day.
-2 measurement experts: These are the folks that are in charge of the scoreboard. They corral everyone into putting their group names on a piece of masking tape and then placing the masking tape at the appropriate height on the scoreboard. All while I'm on the roof.
And of course, if you give students your devices, they will take selfies. *sigh* I deleted lots of them this year.
You don't have to use a roof. I've done it from the ceiling of my class. I use a roof for the spectacle. I want students to feel like this is special compared to what we normally experience in a school day. Plus, the kids from the other classes stare out the windows and wish they were in math class. Love it.
My videographers hard at work. Plus a student who had slow motion capabilities on her phone so she volunteered to help out.
Here's an example of instant replay on the iPad. I ask students to take screenshots of the close ones so I can fire off an email at the end of the day to parents without having to sift through all of the pictures.
One of the side benefits of taking video is that people outside my classroom get to hear the students' reactions to math class. Never underestimate the power of a parent hearing their child squeal with delight in your classroom. I've seen tears of joy on more than one occasion.
It's not that I'm a better math teacher than most. I decided to start telling my own story instead of letting my students, my admin, or the broader culture tell it for me. The rest of the world doesn't know the awesomeness that is math class.
Here's my presentation for tomorrow's Boyne Technology Conference. I had a really hard time paring down what I wanted to say. I decided to make this more of a hands-on workshop learning how to use the free Tracker video software. I'm not making this an apple-only event. This isn't about all the neat techy things you can do in your classroom. This isn't about how to create or incorporate problem based-learning (though it does touch on it). This is about how to expand the types of fun things students get to do in math class: throwing stuff, dropping stuff, racing stuff, breaking stuff, etc. Without expensive sensors, getting reliable data from the experiments is next to impossible--having to create functions based student collected data is why "Attend to Precision" is one of the CCSS math practices. I'm sure of it.
With this tool, anyone with a way to capture video and access to a computer can do most of the experiments associated with 1st semester high school Physics courses without all the fancy instruments found in well-funded physics labs. Which means math teachers can now get in on the fun without the funding.
As always, people are interested in more detailed instructions for the DIY iPad stand, I edited the original post. I hope it's helpful.
My 126 MB PowerPoint slides stripped of the videos as a 2 MB pdf:
And here's my speaker notes for anyone interested on the topic:
"We all want students to see relationships between the world around them and the math they learn in school. We want them to become curious—seeing math as a tool to aid in their explorations. As my classroom incorporates rich contexts and experiments, I’ve found even a single iPad to be an indispensable tool both in mathematical modeling and classroom discussions."
I presented at MACUL 2014 on how I use technology in my math class. For those of you who don't have access to the conference app, I thought I'd post my materials online as well.
Presentation as pdf
Along with incorporating technology into my classroom there has been a process of working out the kinks. You can see the process pretty well in the evolution of my classroom iPad stand.
Here are more detailed instructions for the DIY iPad stand.
L: Ring stand, M: D.I.Y. PVC version, R: MaxCases Handstand DX
I had enough requests for pictures that I made our 1st Barbie Bungee extravaganza into a video.
This last week we ended our focus on linearity in Algebra 1 (finally!). The Barbie Bungee has been around for as long as I've been a teacher (I had conversations with other teachers about it back in 2001). I've never done it before because generally because of my deficit in Barbie dolls. Well, this year I decided I wasn't going to let a little thing like having no Barbies stop me from doing a fun math lesson. I put out an all-call for Barbie dolls, preferably with their clothes (I teach in a Christian school after all). The response? Nothing. Not one doll. It took some doing but I finally convinced my Algebra kids to bring in some kind of figurine to drop. Here's what they came up with.
I had a couple of guys not wanting anything to do with Barbie--hello batman and dude from Halo.
Day 1: Data collection
Gathering data and making inferences is slowly getting better as the year goes on. I guess it really comes as no surprise that the more they do it the better they get. When I do this again next year, I need to make sure they have more time to gather data and make connections. The 20 minutes we had in class after questions on homework, the intro, and gathering supplies wasn't quite enough. I had to break my vow of silence and give suggestions on data collection to a group. Maybe it would be a good idea if your collected more information than simply one drop with all of the rubber bands. No, really. I felt bad, but I did it anyway. I'm on a timeline people: can you say 7 snow days?.
Many of the groups looked at the table and found the average rate of change and the y-intercept (both the winners and the runners up did this). One group graphed the points and used the line of best-fit (I love it when they see those connections!). One group doubled their data from 7 rubber bands and saw that it wasn't enough and then tripled it. They saw that it was too much so they found the average stretch per rubber band and then took away as many rubber bands as it took to get under the height from the floor to the hook in the ceiling (282.5 cm). Novel but unfruitful. They didn't take into consideration Barbie's initial height so they ended up being pretty high off the ground when all was said and done.
Day 2: The moment of truth.
I used a hook attached to the ceiling as the starting point for out plastic daredevils.
Then we used the iPad and the Apple TV to video and show the happenings up on the screen. The video came in handy several times for the "instant replay" feature (see below).
We had a hair's difference between first and second place. Our winning group had the photo finish above right. Their Barbie's hair just touched the ground but not her little noggin. We all agreed if you got twigs in your hair on a bungee jump and didn't die, that might just be the best bungee jump ever.
All in all, this was a great project to end our study of linearity in Algebra 1.
We're looking at how inertia affects objects. We decided to try this experiment to see what would happen if the object was in motion. After taking a look at the change in x-values, we were impressed with the results. The free fall allows for a frictionless environment and video allows us to actually do some calculations. Nice.
I've seen several do it yourself stands meant to turn the iPad into a functional document camera (along with an Apple TV). One thing I find lacking in all of them is functionality (and style but I didn't fix this). Sure, I would love to have the Max Handstand DX but at $199 my Principal laughed at me when I put in the request. So, like any other cash strapped teacher looking to implement tech into their classroom, I started asking other people to make me things. God bless those who have the ability to make things and garages full of tools.
A document camera stand must be adjustable: the height definitely and the angle of the camera preferably. A stand must also be cheap (did I mention that he laughed at my request?). After drawing out a schematic, one of the retired awesome people in our community (*cough* Bernie Mulder) volunteered/relented and made me one. I had to tweak it just a bit with a hacksaw and some files (since he doesn't actually have an iPad at his house to work with) but the finished product is worthy of its own YouTube video.
Below I've included my schematic for the iPad document camera stand (hand drawn of course) along with the diagram for how I envision it working with the Apple TV and the video projector (again, hand drawn). If you've got any ideas as to how to improve the design l'm all ears.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR D.I.Y. IPAD DOCUMENT CAMERA STAND:
I've included some detailed instructions and pictures at the bottom of this post.
Okay, here's some more details on the DIY stand:
All the straight pieces and the elbows and T's of the arm and base are made out of 3/4" PVC. (Note: the measurements are the inside diameter of the pipe NOT the outside.)
List of supplies:
-A couple feet of 3/4" straight pvc.
-2 end caps
-2 3/4" T's with no threading
-a 1"tee with no threading at all,
-a 3/4" tee with threading on the middle connector,
-and a 3/4" adapter from Lowe's (barcode number 0 25528 13172 2). (directions for making the swivel at the bottom of the post).
-1 3/4" threaded to 1" non-threaded adapter
-1 bolt with nut and two washers to hold it in place. (I don't remember the specific size of the bolt. I rummaged around until I found something that worked. (See image below)
Here's a closeup of the bolt piece:
The swivel is the complicated piece.
(EDIT: I have a better explanation of the swivel at the end of this post).
The tee attaching the arm to the vertical, the one with the bolt drilled in, is 1" allowing it to slide easily over the 3/4" straight pipe. The large 1" tee has a 1"x3/4" female threaded insert (bottom left). Generally, they are smooth on one side and threaded on the other. This then connects to a 3/4"x3/4" male threaded insert which is glued into the 3/4" tee of the arm (bottom right).
The threaded pieces do not need any adhesive to keep them together. The plastic threads have enough friction after several turns to hold the weight of the iPad in any position.
Next, the 3/4" rod connecting the base to the arm is drilled at regular intervals to allow for height adjustments. I strongly suggest NOT gluing the vertical into the base. I know we usually glue every piece of PVC in place but trust me on this one. This allows for flat storage and portability. After two years of use, I have never had a problem with the vertical pole slipping out unexpectedly.
Also, the picture below shows several holes drilled into the 1" T either for additional bolts or changing the position of the one already in the stand. I have never found this necessary and would skip this step the next time I make the stand. The bolt mechanism consists of a bolt (I don't remember what size) with a nut on either side of the washer generously glued into a 3/4"x3/4" female threaded adapter (just like the one above left only smaller).
Additional note about the base:
It is VERY important that the T on the base is NOT centered. The camera on the iPad is on the right side, not the middle. This model is 1" off-center; I will increase that next time. Also, make sure the legs of the base are at least 11" apart to allow for a standard piece of paper to fit in any orientation (we chose 13").
INSTRUCTIONS FOR MAKING THE SWIVEL
Here's a bit more detail on making the swivel portion of the document camera stand. I just recently moved to CO and my hardware options changed--I couldn't find the pieces in the pictures above. I also changed school districts and had to write a grant for a new iPad Air. That meant I needed to make a new stand. Curses. Here's my back of a napkin design for a document camera stand for my iPad Air.
I couldn't find my linchpin piece so I had to wing it. It was waaaay too much work. Like I seriously thought about buying a stand. All my complete stands are at school currently so I drew a basic picture. Don't judge my schematic skills. I had to grind down two different pieces to make this work. I would NOT do it this way EVER again.
Here's the preferred method. Notice how much simpler it is? This is easier than the way I did it the first time and I made sure to document my key piece. You just need: a 1"tee with no threading at all, a 3/4" tee with threading on the middle connector, and a 3/4" adapter from Lowe's (barcode number 0 25528 13172 2). Seriously, pay $0.38 for the piece and $5 for shipping. It is soooo worth it. Glue the adapter into the 1" tee and you have your swivel!
I'd love to hear about how it went in the comments. Let me know if you need more help. Let me know if you've improved on the design.
I want to change the way I introduce problem solving and the creation of math models for situations to my Algebra 2 students. Let me give you some background to my class. The first two chapters are all about jogging students' memories on math functions they've seen in Algebra 1 and then introducing them to new models--mostly variation: direct, inverse, joint, combined.
The way I've always taught this is to give students a situation and the information that goes along with it then ask them to explore the information and figure out how to model it. Here are some of the situations:
I found the following 2 options. Project #4 on the left and Activity 4 below. I think both are great ideas but leave something to be desired from an inquiry perspective. They do a little too much leading. I want the students to figure out on their own whether they want to use a table or a graph. I want them to think through the process of needing to find a variation constant. If the book tells them exactly what to do all the time, where is the problem-solving in that? If you look at Project #4 above, part e just gives away the extension. That's lame.
Directions - Flashlight
This could totally turn into an Act 3 lesson except that instead of showing a video, I would do a quick demonstration on the board by placing a student at set distances from the whiteboard and then draw circles around the illuminated portions of the board. At this point the students could guess at the relationship, figure out what information they need, and then hop to doing an experiment of their own to figure it out.
Use a small flashlight and a sheet of paper or poster board. Use a measuring tape or a ruler to shine the light from various heights on the paper. Measure the diameter of the circle created by the flashlight. Create a math model describing the relationship between the height of the flashlight and the diameter of the circle.
Make a prediction about how large the circle should be from a different height. Test your prediction.
(If there is time at the end and I can find a light meter, checking the relationship between the distance of the flashlight and the intensity of the light would be brilliant)
Directions - Ball Drop
Either use a CBR to measure or use an iPad to video a ball drop.
CBR: Place the CBR above the ball to get data relating the distance the ball drops in relation to time. Transfer the information from your calculators to something the whole class can see.
iPad: Video a ball being dropped next to a tape measure taped to the wall. Start the zero at the height the ball is dropping. Using the stop and forward options on the video bar, measure the distance the ball dropped over time. Transfer the information to something the whole class can see.
Both: Create a math model based on the data and make a prediction about how long it should take to drop from a different height. Test your prediction. Be ready to share how you arrived at your conclusions.
In a rather surprising turn of events, in the last month, our school has gone from gearing up on the possibility of going 1 to 1 with iPads at the high school to abandoning the idea completely. Of all the school-owned device options we've looked at iPads were most affordable and we thought had really good potential educational benefits. But after talking with schools who use them, we don’t think they’re worth the money. The iPads are just too limiting in what they can do. (See my last post for students’ opinions of iPads vs laptops)
Transferring media on and off is a hassle. I just spoke to a math teacher in Traverse City yesterday who is doing video assessments of his students. He loves the idea, but getting student-created content off the iPads has been an issue all year.
Mobile Safari’s lack of flash support hurts terribly. I don’t know how many people have told me flash is dead but that’s not the reality I see around me. Much of the free inquiry-based interactive content on the internet is flash. In three years that might change. In three years iPads may be a good fit for our school.
Teacher’s are unfamiliar with the tool and feel uncomfortable and unsure about how to utilize it effectively. This isn’t just a professional development issue as some suggest. Changing pedagogy simply to incorporate technology is bad practice. The technology must fill some need in the classroom or it’s just an expensive way to buy student interest. Please understand I’m a strong proponent of tech in the classroom but not if it’s forced. Sometimes paper and pencil really is a better option than Penultimate. Sometimes asking for a show of hands or using individual marker boards is better than using Poll Everywhere.
It looks like small laptops aren’t the answer either. Traverse City isn’t thrilled with their laptops. They’re too small (11 inch) to do what the teacher’s want them to do; students constantly end up scrolling back and forth across the page. 13 inch models worth getting are out of our price range as a school (you do get what you pay for).
So… that leaves us with the BYOD (bring your own device) option. I’m not thrilled with the idea more from the financial standpoint of parents. BYOD is an increase in tuition. There’s no way around it. However, it’s also financially sustainable from the school’s point of view. I wonder what these local public schools are going to do when the bond money runs out. In order to make it work, we would need to specify minimum device requirements, give parents purchasing recommendations, and get community buy-in before attempting to do anything. If technology is just an add-on or a way for us to keep up with the local public school, then I would vote against it. As an school community, we need to agree on a vision for education and the role technology plays in implementing that vision.
If you are 1:1 in your school, I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.
I recently took a delegation from our school to tour a large public school in its second year of a one-to-one iPad initiative. The district (which will remain unnamed) currently has about 4000 iPads deployed.
My initial impression: underwhelmed.
The day started out like most other tech visits I’ve done; the administration greeted us and then we went on a tour of the building. This time, we had 3 junior students as our guides. When we walked around the school and stopped in several classrooms, on the whole, it did not seem like the iPad was integral to what was happening in the classroom. I asked the student tour-guides about it and they said most teachers don’t use the iPad very much. Surprisingly, to me anyway, they said the math teachers used it the most (for pdf versions of textbooks and video lessons—more on that later). As a math teacher, I’ve had to do quite a bit of thinking of how to incorporate individual technology into my classroom in a non-trite way. It’s doable, but takes much more effort than let’s say a physics, chemistry, geography or history classroom—all of which I can come up with substantive applications of the iPad without much effort. My guess is that this not such an iPad issue as it is a teacher/leadership issue.
Let’s talk about the teachers first. To be fair, I only walked in a couple of classrooms for 5 minutes or so at a time. Such a snapshot is not a good representative sample of what actually goes on in a classroom. With that said, many of the teachers were sitting behind their desks--that’s a no-no in a one-to-one environment. In my perusal of the classroom I saw several students off-task--some desperately trying to close out an application before I came close (panic in a sophomore is easy to spot). Of the 7 classrooms I visited, 2 had teachers engaging the class. One of them was doing a brilliant job of incorporating the Pad as a part of the ongoing classroom discussion. In another classroom some of the students were working on iPad projects but they had no defined workflow. When I asked the student how the teacher was going to collect the project (a simple research report with pictures), she didn’t know. When I prodded her and asked about turning in the work via Evernote, Edmodo, or Dropbox, the student thought the teacher was going to come around and check the iPad screen—I was so shocked I didn’t know how to comment.
After doing a bit of reflection on the poor showing in the classroom, I think the teachers are only partially to blame; the root is a lack of leadership at the administrative level. In my several hour discussion with the principal, assistant principal, tech coordinator, and several teachers, the administration wanted the iPad to be a tool in the classroom that teachers could use if they felt comfortable. It’s my experience that very little will change this way. Unless the expectation is that teachers will use this as a primary tool in the classroom, business as usual will continue to happen. If I’m already comfortable with how I teach and my students are reasonably successful, why would I substantially change my classroom?
When asked about standardized test scores, they gladly said there was no change. They had expected a dip due to a new process but were pleasantly surprised. Granted, it may be too early to tell but I think the lack of change in test scores may result from not substantially changing anything. The students have iPads but the school has not changed how learning happens in the classroom. The iPads I saw were simply really expensive notebooks/textbooks.
We also asked a question in every class we visited and with most students we talked to—we asked about whether they, the students, would prefer iPads or laptops. Every student, save for one, said they would rather have a laptop. Contrary to our notions that students won’t miss the keyboards, they do in fact miss them terribly. Apparently, after the new shiny toy syndrome wore off, the students wanted to be able to do more with the iPad than they currently could. They missed multi-tasking; they missed flash video; they missed a word processor and presentation tool that had depth to them. I didn’t expect this at all. I thought the kids would love the iPads; I was wrong.
I do wonder about whether this will change as the school continues to dig in. Granted, they are only in their second year, but if the next two years go like the first two I wouldn’t pass another bond for technology if I were in that community.
I’m going to skip over some of the obvious neglect from the tech department (wireless MDM, printing, etc) and point out some legal problems with what I saw. According to the students and administration, many of the teachers scan in their textbooks and create pdf versions for their students. The thinking goes something like this: we own textbooks for every student so it’s no big deal if we create an electronic copy for our students. My understanding of the situation is that it is a very big deal. I talked to a friend of mine who was a lawyer and is now in the education publishing field. She relates:
“Unless the school purchased a digit license along with the hard books this is a blatant copyright violation. My family's business is education publishing and we encounter this type of issue a lot. It really hurts everyone in the whole scope of the education process. We have pursued legal action in some cases. You may want to let the offender know.”
To make matters worse, the teachers are posting the pirated pdf books on the web—no password required for access. Some may rationalize this behavior by talking about how the textbook publishing industry needs to change. I agree, charging $15 per year for a high school textbook is outrageous (I pay about $60 for my math texts and use them for at least 10 years). Whether or not we like the current state of the education publishing industry, what the school is doing is illegal. If they get sued, I’m guessing it will be for several million in damages.
After some reflection, I think my disappointment stems from seeing tech integration done well. Holland Christian is a perfect example of this. When we visited Holland Christian’s campus, we were in awe. It was obvious they had a vision for who they wanted their students to be and what they wanted them to do. Once the vision was cast, technology was adopted which fit the vision—not the other way around. After touring this still-unnamed-district, I saw the harm lack of vision can do. This district thought technology was important (rightly so) and gave it to their teachers and students saying, “use it however you feel comfortable.” In my opinion, they’ve wasted lots and lots of taxpayer money.
I’m determined to learn this lesson well. It is time to take a step back and clarify our vision for education at Northern Michigan Christian School. What do we want? What do we not want? Technology is only useful when it serves the educational vision of the school.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
I teach Math and Programming at Summit Middle School in Boulder, CO.