Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Through the eyes of a student

Asbury Park High School, NJ, where my father used to teach.
I am excited about this article on Grant Wiggins’ blog entitled, A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned.

The first sentence is “I have made a terrible mistake.”

The reason the author made this statement is that shadowing students for a few days was an eye-opening experience. Her regret is that she didn’t do this early in her teaching career.

“...I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!”

This article is a heartbreaking read. Typical students at this high school sit passively in their classes for almost the entire day, an activity that left the author feeling “drained” and “icky”. Doing any kind of homework felt impossible.

“I was so tired by the end of the day, I wasn’t absorbing most of the content, so I am not sure my previous method of making kids sit through hour-long, sit-down discussions of the texts was all that effective.”

Gosh. More educators should shadow students for a few days.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fibonacci and Fractals Links

I had the pleasure of being the co-presenter of a workshop called “Fibonacci, Fractals, and the Common Core Math Standards” at the VCTM conference at Saint Michael’s College on Friday. My partners were Professor Tim Whiteford of Saint Michael’s College and Laura Sommariva, a math teacher at Colchester High School.

The three of us shared what we’d done with students during a fifth grade field trip to Tim’s famous Penny Arcade. Here is Tim’s original write-up about that.

As promised, for the participants in our workshop and others, here are the resources we used to teach about fractals and Fibonacci numbers.

The Fractal Foundation Fractivities. How to draw Sierpinski triangles, do fractal cutouts and more.

Worksheetworks. Create your own graph paper and triangle paper.

On Being a Plant, Part 1, the 6 minute Vi Hart video we watched. She explains Fibonacci numbers, and demonstrates how to count the spirals on pinecones, draw realistic pinecones, and use graph paper to make a golden spiral.

Laura teaches summer math classes for elementary students in Switzerland. She has photos of her students here doing wonderful, related activities like building giant tetrahedrons out of mini marshmallows.

Have fun!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Shelburne Farms Mini Maker Faire

I went to the Maker Faire at Shelburne Farms today for the first time.

This is what I did.

I made a magic wand with an LED light that turns on and off by touching a wire to a battery on the wand. I first had to figure out how to connect the LED to some wires, then run them to the battery correctly. After that part was working, I added sparkly silver ribbon to the stem of the wand and encased the LED light in crumply clear plastic tape for light refraction purposes. Voila! I am ready to put spells on people. Joanna Elliott, Flynn Elementary parent and teacher, was the wizard behind this project. See her fabulous art blog.

I made a puzzle book, a square flexagon (a previously unknown-to-me relative of the hexaflexagon) for comic-book type story-telling, and a mini book that could contain anything from math facts to the secrets of the universe. A matchbook size mini book can be made and then kept in an actual matchbox. Book Arts Guild of Vermont people helped me do this. Students might want to make these after reading the Red Clover Book entitled The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman. This is an activity for any budget.

I spoke with Richa, who is going to assist with a course called Intro to Relational Databases at Girl Develop It Burlington. There are classes and meet-ups. I want to go.

Champlain College Emergent Media Center folks explained what they are working on. Their new Maker Lab that had its grand opening party last night.

I saw a robot-building challenge and presentation by Joe Chase and his team of students from Essex High School. Joe is my neighbor and it was great to see him up there advocating for more design and engineering work in schools. My daughter took his robotics class a few years ago and loved it.

I saw and did many other cool things, including experimenting with magnets with Frank White from CreateItLab and speaking with the effervescent Michael Metz of Generator, Lucy deLaBruere, Courtney Asaro, and Graham Clarke, both of Flynn Elementary School in Burlington.

What a great day! Takeaways included an Arduino Robot Kit made by YourDuino.com and the knowledge that so many people are working on creating engaging opportunities for people of all ages in the Burlington area.