Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Review of Illuminate: Technology Enhanced Learning by Bethany Petty

While I may not have been blogging here much this year (seeing as this is only my second post of 2018), I have been reading up a storm. This is part of a commitment to myself to continue using my time to trying define surviving life after cancer. I've set a goal to read 100 books this year, and the majority of them have been thrillers, and only one from January to May was about teaching.

However, I recently received an email from Bethany Petty, who I originally connected with through my former work with Breakout EDU Digital (which gets a shout out in one of the chapters - always cool to see Justin Birckbichler in print, and kudos for spelling is correctly).

She had just published Illuminate: Technology Enhanced Learning through EdTechTeam Press and wanted to share her message with the world. I told her I would be happy to read and review her book, though she may not need it since as of this writing, it is the number one new release in the Amazon store for Science and Technology Teaching Materials! About a week later, it showed up on my doorstep, and approximately 24 hours later, the book moved from my "Currently Reading" shelf to my "Read" shelf on Goodreads.

I highly recommend this book.
Click here to order your own copy.
This is more about the book being so easy to read more so than it being a short book. Bethany writes in a very conversational tone and shares many engaging anecdotes about her personal experiences as a learner, a teacher, a mom, a friend, and a blogger to back up her points.

The book is broken into ten chapters, with each one covering using technology to engage, explore, create, communicate, think critically, assess, reflect, motivate, design lessons, and connect. I learned something new from each chapter and wish I had read this when I didn't have just five days left in school, so I could implement them this year.

I loved that the book was not based entirely on the tech tools, but more on applications of each tool. New ideas that I had never considered before were presented in each chapter. A ton of stickies now adorn my copy with things I'd like to try in my own classroom.

While the focal point of the book is the "why/how" to use different tools, the "what" tool to use is also addressed. I consider myself pretty in the know about educational technology, but there were about six tools I had never heard of or knew what they did. The 35 tools are helpfully categorized in the "Tech Tools Index" at the back of the book, which made it easy to count up how many I need to learn about soon, but even more nuggets of wisdom are sprinkled throughout the book, making the grand total much higher. Luckily, blank notes pages are included at the end of each chapter to keep it all organized.

A common fear about print books about technology is that they will be outdated within a year or two. Bethany has helpfully included QR codes (which she shares a number of educational uses for throughout the book) to blog posts she has written about the subject. In my interactions with Bethany, I know she is on the ball when it comes to educational technology, and these blogs will be updated as current technology is refined and new, better tools are developed. Essentially, you are getting two books for the price of one - the one in your hand and the future iterations of her blog.

Thank you for allowing me the chance to read and review this book, Bethany. I thoroughly enjoyed every page of Illuminate: Technology Enhanced Learning and look forward to seeing your work continue to grow!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Digit Detectives: Student-Created Number Talks

“Since the heart of number talks is classroom conversation, it is appropriate for the teacher to move into the role of the facilitator.”
- Sherry Parrish

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Before reading this piece, I strongly suggest you read my original number talk piece here. After reading it, come back here to read about the next level. 

A critical part of our daily math routine is beginning with a number talk. As a brief recap, they're 10-15 minute experiences where students are presented with a math prompt and have to work out various solutions using only mental math. Most number talks can have more than one answer and follow similar formats. Various norms (such as hand signals) are established to ensure that the experience runs smoothly.

Leading the tape measure Estimation 180
One thing I am very passionate about is giving students ownership and control over their learning.

They already write the weekly newsletter, lead our daily morning meetings, and help develop flipped classroom videos. In reflecting on where I could turn over more control to my students, I realized they could run number talks.

Teacher's assistant (the student who basically acts as a miniature version of me) is a highly coveted classroom job in Room 31, and it felt like a natural place for passing off the task. Once other students saw the teacher's assistant running the show, they begged that person for a chance. I'm always impressed by how gracious the teacher's assistant is in allowing others to have a chance.

The number talks all follow certain patterns and routines, based on the specific type (see the original blog post for an explanation of the types). One type that I didn't explain in the original post was Estimation 180. This is a fantastic website where various pictures are shown and students must make estimations based on other information in the picture or previous days' information. For example, a student recently led a five-day long continuous number talk about tape measures, in which a new, larger tape measure was introduced every day and the students had to estimate the new measures length.

Before and after students lead a number talk, I conference with them about what I'll be looking for while they lead. I want them to reinforce the norms and to push student on their thinking, which often times can be as simple as asking, "Why do you think that?" I encourage them to model it as if I were given the number talk.

A physical plan before
I converted it digitally
Generally speaking, I open up that day's number talk from this Google Slidedeck (feel free to make a copy of it) and turn it over to the student. As I do while I'm leading a number talk, I stay out of it and let them run the show. On occasion, I will put my thumb up (indicating I have an answer I'd like to share). Sometimes I will give a "correct" answer and model my thought process, and other times I will purposely give a wrong answer and see if other students catch it and use the disagreement signal (raising their hand). Spoiler - they usually do and love saying, "I disagree with Mr. B!"

While allowing students to lead number talks are great, they're still basically regurgitating information I'm giving them. I want them to be creators and true leaders of their learning.

I decided to ask the teacher's assistant for the month of January to start developing some of her own number talks, based on the "Mystery Number" and "Balance the Scale" format (again, see the original post for in-depth explanations).

Full disclosure - this girl is literally the shyest girl I have ever had in my entire teaching career. Asking her to lead number talks was one thing, but creating one was a whole new ball game. Nevertheless, she stepped up and developed both in a matter of minutes. Since I store all of my number talks on Google Slides, she wrote it on paper and I quickly converted it to digital.

She absolutely rocked it. I really wish I filmed it, because she did a great job. Her first talk was based on balancing the scale for the value of 12. In addition to her choosing an ideal number (since 12 can be created so many different ways depending on the operations used), I was absolutely floored by the responses of her classmates. We have been working on polygons, and one student said, "hexagon plus hexagon." This opened up further polygon-based discussion, which brought a single tear to my eye.

 Leading his own "Mystery Number."
Immediately, former teacher's assistants asked if they could retroactively make some. Of course, I wasn't going to turn them down! The following day, a student created and led another "Balance the Scale," while another did a "Mystery Number" later in the week.

If you're planning on trying this with your students, I definitely recommend beginning with the two formats I began with (Balance the Scale and Mystery Number), in addition to "Which One Doesn't Belong." These seem to be the three easiest to develop and lead to rich discussion.

In the future, it would also be cool for students to begin developing some talks in the Estimation 180 set up. This would take a bit of prep work ahead of time, as this would require students to take pictures at home and send them to me. Who knows - this may be on the docket for my February teacher's assistant!