Wednesday, August 13, 2014

NPR on Robin Williams and Teaching

There have been many tributes to the actor/comedian Robin Williams in the past few days. Many reflect on the tragic loss of such a talented man, while many speak of the horrible toll that depression takes. This piece by NPR, What Robin Williams Taught Us About Teaching, is worth reading prior to the start of another school year. The second-to-last paragraph is particularly meaningful to those of us who believe in student-centered learning.

Article from down under about teaching

While we are gearing up for the start of another school year, teachers in Australia are halfway through their school year. Here's an interesting article, however, that's appropriate for the start of the year: Expert panel: What makes a good teacher? Enjoy and above all, have a great year.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More useful sites

Being a non-techie, I'm the perfect person to write about tech things. I learn about them well after the fact and love to share them with other "slow learners." I figure if I just heard about it, it is entirely possible I might not be the absolute last to find out...

These have to do with researching on the web. In Google, you can type site:edu (subject) and get a list of websites that end in edu and reference the subject. For example, if you type site:edu Barak Obama you get a list of all education sites referencing Barak Obama. You could also type site:com (subject) and get a list of all commercial websites referencing the subject. You can also type filetype:ppt (subject) and get a list of all PowerPoints (or other file types, like doc) referencing the subject.

Have you ever typed in a URL only to find the website no longer exists? Wayback Machine, an Internet archive site, will find old URLs and deliver the archived website. Here's how it works: when you go to the Wayback Machine website, you enter a URL that no longer works, like (remember they used to sell speakers and other audio equipment?). Then, you get a timeline that shows when the website was active and when it went under. If you click on any of the years it was active, you get a calendar with certain dates highlighted by blue dots. Clicking on a highlighted date will get you to a screen shot of what the company's webpage looked like on that date.

Finally, something useful!

I usually stumble upon this kind of stuff well after everyone else...

Ever copied a link to paste into a document or email and the link was four lines long? Well, there are ways to shorten these links. Bitly has been around for a, er, bit and there is also a Google URL Shortner (thanks to Vi Richter for the heads up on this one) as well as Tinyurl (thanks to Frank Griffin for this one). All you do is copy the lengthy URL into one of these programs and a new, much shorter URL will be produced that you can then copy and paste into your document.

Tired of going to your email and finding loads of emails from LLBean, Macys, RedSox, and other sites your either consciously or unconsciously subscribed to? Periodically, I was unsubscribing to these emails, one-by-one. Well, another useful little program is called It scans your email, identifies subscription emails, lists them and allows you to either delete them or include them in a "roll up." Then, each day (unless you weren't sent any subscription emails...yeah, right) you get a "roll up" email that lists all the subscription emails which you can scan through, decide if you really want to look at any, then delete the whole lot with one click.

I've found these little programs to be very useful and, as far as I know, no Nigerian princes are involved.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How Twitter can be used as a Powerful Educational Tool

One of the keynote speakers at the recently held 30th Annual Anja S. Greer Conference on Secondary School Mathematics, Science, and Technology was Alan November, a leader in educational technology. Throughout the week there was a lot of tweeting going on! Here's a nice article, by Alan November, on Twitter in education. And, his website contains many other interesting and relevant articles.

The Noble Academy

I'm currently working (for three weeks) at The Noble Academy in Chicago, IL. Johnny Griffith and I have been working with the Noble Charter Schools Network for the past two summers, teaching classes - Johnny three English sections, me three mathematics sections - using the Harkness philosophy developed at Phillips Exeter Academy. The past two summers were spent at Pritzker College Prep, a very successful school in the Noble Network. This was the result of an partnership formed by Exeter's Director of Summer School, Ethan Shapiro, and Pritzker's principal, Pablo Sierra. Last year the Noble Network decided to add two new schools to their network, one, The Noble Academy,  being based on the Exeter model of teaching around a table (a Harkness table) in a student-centered classroom. So, this summer, Johnny and I are teaching one section each and observing Noble teachers as they teach summer school courses around "Harkness" tables. The Noble Academy will open it's doors this fall to a class of ninth-graders, then add a class each year until it becomes a full four-year high school. It's exciting to see Exeter's philosophy of teaching used outside the friendly confines (that's a tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Chicago Cubs' Wrigley Field) of Phillips Exeter Academy.

If you're interested in reading about the Harkness method being used in schools elsewhere, here are two good sites...the blog Harkness for Thirty and The Southridge school website.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Phillips Academy, Andover, MA

I had a great two-day visit to Andover this past week. The mathematics department took two days out of classes to hold a technology workshop in which they looked at various programs and Apps. Topics ranged from Latex, GeoGebra, Desmos, Notability, and Canvas, the open-source learning management system used by Andover.

I also learned about Andover's collaboration with Khan Academy to create calculus problem sets for student practice. Andover is also developing an on-line calculus course which include some fantastic videos produced by Chris Odden. Both of these projects are quite impressive and well worth a look - see the links below. Andover is making great strides in moving to a technology-based curriculum. To paraphrase department chair Bill Scott, "Kids today live in the high-tech/video world; we should be part of this world."

To see what Andover has produced for Khan Academy, go to the website, click on LEARN in menu bar, click on Math, then slide over to a topic - Differential calculus, for example. Then click on a topic - Taking derivatives, maybe. Now you will see a list of topics and, within each, a list of videos that show examples. These are marked by u

Items marked by a  consist of exercises developed by Andover teachers.

To see the amazing videos created by Chris Odden, click here.

Campus Reaction to iPad initiative

Click here to read an article from Exeter's school newspaper, The Exonian, about reaction to Principal Hassan's decision to require all students to have a tablet device beginning in the fall, as reported in an earlier blog post. If students currently own a device, they may bring it; if they do not currently own a device, they are being asked to purchase an iPad.

Friday, May 2, 2014

iPads at the Harkness Table

Vi Richter, Academic Technology Coordinator at Phillips Exeter Academy, produced five videos in advance of the faculty discussion of iPads at Exeter. They are terrific and well worth the time to watch. It's worth noting that four of the teachers shown in the videos would probably consider themselves "non-techy," but were willing to spend the time to experiment with how iPads could impact their classes.

To watch the videos, click here.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Cate School

I had a great visit to the Cate School in Carpinteria, CA the week of April 14th. I've been to Cate a few times but always in summer to visit my good friend Frank Griffin. It was a treat to see the school in action, especially the mathematics department, chaired by Frank. There are eight teachers in the department and I saw each teach a class. Over the course of the week it became evident that the entire department works together in an effort to provide the best experience for Cate students. They've created a curriculum that addresses the needs of individual students while preparing them for advanced courses and AP Exams. They have decided to teach topics from statistics across the curriculum and make great use of technology in the form of iPads, MacBooks, and SmartBoards. Moreover, they are all dedicated to staying abreast of what's happening in mathematics education. They regularly attend conferences and most, if not all, have attended the Anja S. Greer Conference here at Exeter. Frank has taught a course in the conference for many years.

Something that has been troubling mathematics teachers at Exeter regarding iPads is access to the Internet and/or messaging during exams. While at Cate, I learned about a feature that allows an iPad to be "locked" into a single App. Here's how you do it...

Go to Settings, General, and click on Accessibility. Under Learning, turn Guided Access on. Then, Set Passcode. This is the passcode that will be used when Guided Access is enabled. Now, Now, open an App, like Desmos, and and triple-click the Home button. Press Start in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. A brief message Guided Access Enabled will show briefly, then the App is available and one cannot access any other App or quit the current App. To end Guided Access, triple click the Home button and enter the Passcode, then click on End in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

So, while a bit clunky, a teacher can fairly quickly set each student's iPad to access only a single App, then, at the end of the exam, enter the Passcode and return the iPad to full access. Thanks to Taylor Wyatt for teaching this to me.