New Project is Under Construction!

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I am pleased, and very excited to announce that I am in my final graduate class this summer before completing my Master’s degree in Educational Technology at Michigan State University.  It’s bittersweet to talk about because I’ve enjoyed my time at MSU extensively.  The MAET program has been challenging, motivating, rewarding, and especially fun.  As I reflect back a bit as I complete coursework for my final Capstone course, it’s awesome to see all of the work that I’ve put in, the experiences that MSU has given me, and the countless classmates that I’ve worked with from all over the world.  Wow!  Technology is amazing!

For my next project, I am working on my Professional Portfolio.  I’m extremely excited about this because I get to showcase myself as an educator, work that I’ve completed during my graduate studies, and much more!  It’s such a neat experience being able to build something that you know others will be looking at, and hopefully admiring!  While it’s still under construction at the moment, it’s coming together quite nicely if I do say so myself.  Stay tuned for the big reveal!

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User Test

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While there are many different options to choose from in the fifth mode of design thinking in the Stanford Design Model, I chose to make observations and interview the test group.

For my test, I chose two activities from my newly designed curriculum, of which I had my second graders complete.  The first activity was called “Scoot”.  During this activity task cards with different problems on them, along with a number, are placed all around the room.  Students have a recording sheet to write their work and answers down on as they make their way around the room completing these problems.  Students cannot be at the same task card and they cannot talk to their classmates during the Scoot so that they don’t share answers, or the classroom does not get chaotic.  Students are able to move freely around the room when the music is playing and work at their own pace.

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For the second activity, I chose to take my students to the computer lab to work on the computers.  We used MobyMax and a list of websites and games related to measurement, our math concept for the week.  Students were first expected to go through the lesson on measurement and complete some of the problems that followed.  After that, they were able to explore some of the websites on their own and play a measurement game upon completion.

At the end of the week, after these activities were complete, I selected five students, all different levels of learners to interview in addition to my own observations during the activities.  I had a list of questions that I used as a guide to this interview, but also fed off some of the responses I received.  I had a student worker record the interview for me, that way I could refer back to it for quotes and information to use in the retesting of my prototype.

Some of the key takeaways from the User Test mode, which included the observations and student interviews, include:

  • 100% of the students were engaged 100% of the time during both activities.
    • By laying out student expectations prior to the activity and thoroughly explaining rules and boundaries during these activities to prevent classroom chaos, students were able to work efficiently.  Students were not distracted, nor were they disengaged.  Discipline was not an issue during these non-traditional teaching methods that students are used to.
  • Students loved the “Scoot” activity and actually preferred it over the computer lab because they were able to move freely around the classroom.
    • This actually surprised me a bit, because I know how much my students love going to Computer Lab for their special class.  The simple concept of allowing students to move freely around the room proved to be the favorite.
  • Students enjoyed the computer lab most when there were incentives to earn in addition to a high score. (Ex. For every five high scores, they earned game time and a badge.)
    • I try to stress to my students about intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.  The MobyMax computer software was great because students were proud of their hard work.  They didn’t expect a prize, but by earning the badges, this kept them motivated and continually working toward a higher goal.  It gives them a whole new level of motivation and excitement, which is great.  I was happy to see students pulling for one another, giving one another “high-fives”, and the excitement they all had for learning.  This may have been one of the top teacher moments I’ve had to date.
  • Students do indeed enjoy completing worksheets from time to time, but not daily.  The ones they enjoy most require them to do more than just answer math problems, but to color, cut, and paste things in place.
    • I thought this was great to reinforce the drill-and-practice section of my newly designed curriculum, as well as the interactive notebook component which allows them to cut and paste into their resource notebook, while also completing math problems.  This feedback was crucial to a quality design because I know the benefits of practice, especially in math, and sometimes the best way to do that is through a worksheet.  It was nice to see that students do enjoy the occasional worksheet, but that they also reinforced my initial problem statement and cause for the curriculum re-design; worksheets should not be the foundation or sole component of the curriculum, but a supplement.

I learned a lot from the interview process.  Ultimately, this curriculum design is for my students, so their feedback was great to keep in mind.  It was also neat to see them get excited about their learning and take ownership when they were being interviewed.  I may continue to use the interview process periodically just to be more in touch with the thoughts of my students about different activities and ideas in my classroom.  From their feedback, I felt like the activities I had chosen reinforced their presence in the re-designed curriculum, but also pointed out a few things that need a second look. I will make a few tweaks to the design prototype and keep their responses in mind for the duration of the school year when planning math activities.

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Problem of Practice: Test Mode

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Below you will find a video illustrating the fifth mode in the Stanford Design Model, test.  I chose to test my newly designed math curriculum by implementing two of the activities from my design into my classroom last week.  After my students completed these activities, I then conducted an interview with five students from my class.  These students range in achievement level from low, average, to high.  I thought this would be important as well because I want the curriculum to appeal to all learners.  Once I selected the students to interview, I was able to take a lot from their feedback of great quality to revisit my prototype again.  Check out the video below.

Math Curriculum Prototype

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Moving on through the design process, the next stop is the Prototype Mode.  My prototype design for my re-designed math curriculum is very simple, yet quite structured at the same time.  However, it is meant to be flexible according to the various concepts taught as well as the teaching style of the teacher.  I wanted to focus in on one week of math to see what ideas and activities I definitely wanted to include weekly, yet other activities can be swapped in and out very easily.  My whole goal was to get away from using a worksheet and only a worksheet every…single…day.  I think, by laying out the week’s activities, I’ve done a solid job of that, but I did include a day and a few other activities scattered throughout the week where students would get the repetition of more traditional drill-and-practice methods associated with the fluency of mathematics. I started by laying out the week and found myself reverting back to the format of a few of the early online courses that I took at Michigan State University.  I liked how they were formatted in that there was an introductions, learn activities, exploration and collaboration, and evaluation.  I chose to implement that into my math curriculum so that each day had a theme that each activity was blanketed under.  While the prototype is still very much in the rough draft stage, I think it’s already a drastic improvement to my school’s current math curriculum.  My re-designed math curriculum prototype is below.

Math Curriculum Prototype

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My View of the Meaning of Life

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The fourth Design Thinking mode from the Stanford Model is prototype.  Prototyping deals with the construction of something, putting ideas into action, formulating concepts, and taking the abstract ideas from your mind and making them concrete in a representational form.  For this module’s assignment, I was asked practice this idea of prototyping prior to experimenting without actually using my Problem of Practice ideas, but instead, I was to choose from a list of very broad “Big Ideas” to create a prototype representation of using objects around my home.

The Big Idea that I chose was “My View of the Meaning of Life,” and, while I didn’t necessarily struggle coming up with the ideas that make up my meaning of life, I struggled finding items to represent those things, because they were so abstract. I did the best I could and here is a picture of what I created with a short description below.

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The meaning of life for me consists of some of the simplest of things; FAITH, FAMILY, LOVE, HEALTH, HAPPINESS, FUN, TRAVEL, DISCOVERY, MEMORIES, and BEAUTY.  Here is my philosophy and the items around my home that represent those things.

The basis of life and, therefore the center point of my creation is FAITH, which is represented here by the open Bible. It is my dose of daily strength and includes what I hope to convey in my daily routine of life.  It is at the epicenter of my creation because it’s connected and interwoven in everything I do and serves as the foundation for the other things in the photo.

Next, I believe that family helps to create meaning in life and is truly the support and backbone of why I do the things I do.  The FAMILY component is represented by the picture frame which holds a picture of my immediate family members.  In life, I want to represent my family in a positive way and I also have their support in all of life’s endeavors.  One day, I hope to have kids and a family of my own.  Without my family, I am nothing.

I have included love letters in my design creation that my grandparents wrote back and forth to one another when my grandpa was in Korea.  Their love for one another is an example for me and truly displays the love and affection that you should not only have for one another, but for life itself.  LOVE your life and those in it.

The pineapple and running shoes are a representation of HEALTH.  In order to make the most and get the most out of life, we must nourish our bodies in a healthy way and maintain quality of life.  I try my best to maintain a healthy lifestyle, with the occasional cheat time of course, in order to stay active and able.

The dominos are a representation of HAPPINESS and FUN.  This means a great deal to me in life because it’s too short to be nothing but happy and it should be a journey packed full of fun along the way.

The suitcase represents TRAVEL and DISCOVERY.  You are not able to experience all that life has to offer if you don’t get out and travel to new places and discover new things.  It only adds to the quality of life and also creates happiness and fun.

The camera encompasses the idea of MEMORIES.  In all you do, get lost in the moment and retain those memories that you create all along the way.  Capture them and hold on to them.  Lots of things can be taken from you, but the memories you create cannot.

Finally I have included a bouquet of flowers to represent BEAUTY.  Beauty means different things to different people, but, in all of life’s situations, try your best to find the beauty in all of them.  Each obstacle, each triumph, and all those experiences in between were all meant to happen, good, bad, or indifferent.  The key to living the best life is to find beauty in all of life’s moments because each of them are precious if we look for it.

All of these things are connected together by twine.  Part of my life philosophy includes finding balance.  While some of these things are the most important things to me, it’s important to find balance in any way possible.  I am a teacher, a coach, a learner, a daughter, a sister, a niece, a granddaughter, and so on in life.  I spend a lot of time serving others, which is crucial in life but, I also need to make time for my own fun and my own happiness which is why I included some of the other items and connected them with those foundational ideas.

Finally, there are puzzle pieces scattered throughout my prototype design.  The puzzle pieces represent the fact there are all sorts of pieces that can be connected in your life, but you must take the time to find the right ones that work in your puzzle of life in order for them to piece together.  This takes time, just like a puzzle.  It’s okay to work on small sections at a time, walk away from certain areas only to revisit later, and look for connections along the way.  You will eventually fit every piece in its place.

Problem of Practice: Ideate Mode

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The third mode of design thinking is Ideate.  During this process, I did some brainstorming and incubation in order to develop more ideas about my Problem of Practice in order to consider later in developing the design even more.  Take a look at the brainstorming session I conducted with my peers and the notes from the incubation process below.

Part One of Ideation:  Do a Brainstorm Session

My brainstorm session took place during one of our grade level team meetings and the few days following the meetings.  First, I briefed my peers on my Problem of Practice and what I was hoping to accomplish by the end of the project.  I asked them to help me brainstorm ideas about what lesson ideas we could replace worksheets with.  I told them to imagine that we had endless resources in order to redesign our math curriculum; there was nothing too far out there that wouldn’t be considered.  We threw out a few ideas during our meeting, but time didn’t necessarily allow for much more, therefore I asked them to take some time and think about any other ideas they could come up with and send me those ideas as they came in.  I then took those ideas and created a Stormboard that would visually show the brainstorming process and ideas that everyone came up with.  As I began getting more ideas come in, I posted those to the board and shared it with my peers, hoping that once they saw the ideas of others, that would spark new ideas of their own as well.  I was right!  They came up with some really great activities that could be incorporated into our math curriculum, specifically the unit on Money.   You can see our Stormboard below.

Stormboard

Part Two of Ideation:  Incubation Journal 

I used Evernote as the format for my Incubation Journal to take notes as something came up regarding my Problem of Practice project.  As I wrote my notes, I added some of the ideas to the Stormboard above.  My notes are below.

Problem of Practice Notes

Part Three of Ideation:  Reflect on the Ideas

I enjoyed this stage of the process and felt like it was very applicable to my daily life in that any time I am looking to expand my ideas, I look to others.  Ideas that are thrown out by others tend to spark even more ideas of my own, which, in the end, creates a better final product.  I found it easier during the brainstorming process, and ultimately later on in the prototype stage, to focus in on one particular unit for redesigning rather than the entire math curriculum.  I also found out that my brain works better and develops quality ideas when I take a break from whatever I am working on and come back to it later on.  I thought the incubation process was a little more difficult than brainstorming just because of my busy lifestyle.  I had to decide on a note-taking method that was handy and available to me on the go.  I also found that I do most of my thinking at night, while lying in bed rather than during the hustle and bustle of life’s daily routines.  I am looking forward to the prototyping stage in order to filter some of my ideas and put them into curriculum form, and ultimately being tested by my students.

Prime Your Mind, Then Rest & Reflect

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As we move through the design process, edging closer and closer to the development of a solution to the Problem of Practice I chose to tackle, improving the math curriculum in my grade level, we come to the next mode of design thinking, Ideate.  During this stage it is important to brainstorm all possibilities, whether whimsy or wacky, focused or serious, obtainable or far-fetched; the objective is to develop a wide range of possibilities.  Once that is completed, it’s equally important to take time to incubate, or rest in order to come back with a fresh outlook for even more ideas.  After reading Part One, and article from Psychology Today, I was able to prime my mind by brainstorming (you’ll find my brainstorming list below), then take some time to incubate, and finally being able to think and reflect some more.  I have found this process very effective and extremely rewarding that I incorporate it each time I sit down to work on something.  Take a look at my design thinking stage of idea development below.

Improved Math Curriculum

Part Two:  Prime Your Mind

Thoughts

  • Do not get overwhelmed!
  • Remain focused throughout the process.
  • Many schools experience similar problems within their curriculum and are constantly redesigning it.  What works for other schools may or may not work at mine.
  • This is the trial and error stage of the process.  We must try things in order to fail or succeed.  Learn from failure and build on success.
  • You don’t have to tackle the entire year’s math curriculum all at once.  Complete in stages and take small bits at a time.

Possible Solutions or Ideas to Incorporate

  • Online module for housing tools and resources according to each concept, unit, or lesson
  • Teacher created videos or screen casts
  • Create on unit at a time incorporating technology to see how it works
  • Use MobyMax regularly
  • Create an online platform and have each student equipped with an iPad
  • Supplementary resources housed on teacher’s web page
  • Math curriculum coach
  • Look in to new text book
  • Build on the idea of binders, but in digital form.  Documents, websites, videos, etc. can all be included in these online binders instead of worksheets only
  • Format into Introduce, Learn, Explore, Evaluate
  • Produce assessments to incorporate periodically (weekly?) into curriculum
  • Math manipulative lab where students may learn and explore mathematics
  • Teacher professional development
  • Math specialists and coaches for interventions
  • Team teaching
  • Math Groups
  • Math Centers
  • Flipping the classroom in mathematics only to begin
  • Incorporate play into the math lesson daily
  • Reciprocal teaching to peers
  • Math groups work together one day a week on a collaborative unit project

Questions

  • Should every day’s lesson follow the same format?
  • Would math groups be effective for more personalized math instruction?
  • How will I fit everything in?
  • Should I keep the hour time block for math?  Increase? Decrease? Space out?
  • Should homework be included everyday?  Flipped classroom model?
  • What do students want to see in their math lesson?  What to other teachers want to see?
  • Should I follow a Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, and Day Five as assessment type format?  Day One would be a pre-assessment and vocabulary to follow.  Day two would get into the concept itself with various web resources, presentation, etc. Day three would be more practice on the concept and some sort of game, app, activity, etc. that supports the concept.  Day four would be more practice with a sort of review of the week and Day Five would consist of a short assessment to monitor progress.  ???

Improved Math Curriculum

Part Three:  Incubate and Take a Break

Finally the weather here in the midwest has calmed down from all the snow and, although there are still piles lingering around, I was able to get out and enjoy the sixty degree day on my “incubation break”.  I was able to walk away from my Problem of Practice and the initial brainstorming process to take my dogs on a walk while enjoying the first spurt of spring weather.  Yay!

Improved Math Curriculum

Part Four:  Back to Work and Reflection


After completing the incubation process, I was able to come back and develop my initial brainstorming list even more so by adding a few more possible solutions and thoughts about the project in general.  What I found to be especially intriguing was the fact that I actually take incubation breaks throughout projects, homework, lesson planning, etc. already.  This helps me to not only take a break, but hopefully come back with a fresh look and new ideas to create an overall better piece.  I actually learned about this while reading a rather interesting book during my undergraduate studies called Brain Rules.  Since then, I will work on something for my classes or for school, and purposefully take a break, whether it’s just to get up a take a lap around the house, to grab something to drink, or a bit longer break while running to the grocery store, I take frequent breaks.  I feel like if I don’t, my work is forced and often times, not my best.  If I don’t take these breaks, I almost feel a fog coming on, and really begin to lose focus quickly.  I am a firm believer in the incubation stage for developing ideas.  My brain definitely needs it! Anytime I feel stuck, it’s almost a guaranteed thing that if I take a short break and return, I will be much more focused and much more productive.  This was the case with my Problem of Practice brainstorming session as well.  I was able to lengthen my list and come up with more thoughts, possible solutions, and answer/ask more questions.  I hope that, in doing so, this helps with the development of my overall design for an improved second grade math curriculum.

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Problem of Practice Define Mode- Part One & Two

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Part 1 of the Define Mode

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

Why does the problem of a poor established math curriculum exist?

The current curriculum has been in place for five years, when it was first put together in a one-month span by the second grade team teachers, according to the Missouri learning Standards.

Why?

Teachers had an existing math series at the time that did not follow the standards or allow for flexibility within the lessons. Teachers wanted the option of being able to add to the established content, but didn’t feel as though they had the time, based on the schedule of the math book, nor did they feel students were getting enough practice of each concept.

Why?

The book did not spend enough time on a concept to where students were reaching mastery level prior to assessment or prior to the continuing of more new content.

Why?

Because there was much more content in the textbook as opposed to what the standards laid out that must be taught in second grade. The additional content was taking up time and did not allow for students to reach a deeper level of understanding of prior concepts. Due to the fact that the textbook was the only option, teachers wanted to disregard a textbook altogether.

Why?

Because of the ever-changing standards and the thought of Common Core being instated, buying a new textbook that would soon be outdated once the standards were in place didn’t seem like a feasible option at the time.   Due to time constraints, researching other options was also not an option, thus the development of the worksheet binders for math.


 Why-How Ladder


 POV Analogy

A school loving, math struggling, willing to work hard second grade group of students needs to be successful and achieve higher things with the help of a math curriculum that is more like the Google Play store (innovative with variety) rather than a video store (nearly obsolete).

POV Want Ad

Unengaged, unenthusiastic, average to below average achieving second grader seeks an exciting, innovative, math curriculum that includes challenging, thought-provoking tasks. These tasks may include, but are not limited to, project-based activities, multimedia presentations, hands-on manipulatives, learning opportunities that include “play”, etc. The opportunity to use varied forms of technology is a MUST!


Part Two of the Design Mode

Define Statement

The Problem and Audience: My Problem of Practice is the current state of the math curriculum in second grade. The problem directly affects the learning, understanding, and ultimately, the achievement of the second grade students in my school district. The second grade team teachers also serve as audience members because they have been using this teacher-created curriculum of worksheet binders for longer than they should and are leery about straying from the binders or incorporating any new supplementary items that are content related. I hope that the renovations that I come up with inspire them to make changes and adopt this new way of teaching for the benefit of our students. The administrators also play a role because they want to adopt a new curriculum, but keep in flexible to the teacher’s liking.

The Situation: There isn’t a textbook, and much of the curriculum as been developed by a hand full of my peers prior to my move to second grade this past year.   Our current math curriculum consists of a one inch, three ring binder for each quarter. In those binders you will find a title page that has the concepts that need to be taught that quarter. After the title page are tabbed dividers with several worksheets, to teach these concepts. There is not an assessment piece to see how students are progressing, or digressing, exceling or struggling. I have expressed both interest and concern about this matter to my building principals and they have asked me to come to them with ideas, changes, etc. for next year on what could/should/needs to be done to increase the value and richness of the math curriculum.   While it has great potential as far as personalized curriculum goes and there’s no tie to the idea of having a textbook that may be obsolete in a few years, I definitely feel like the curriculum itself needs revamping to allow for greater success with our students.

The Direction: First and foremost, a lot of what I would like to see are things that I’m already incorporating daily because I strayed away from what some of the others were doing after I discussed my vision and concerns with my building principal. I feel like technology should be used in the lesson and content presentation, manipulatives and other hands-on tools, videos, computer lab time, projects, and the option for games that tie in to each concept. Also, I would like to see individualized and personalized practice by utilizing classroom tablets for each student.

In the end, handing a student a worksheet after a short mini-lesson, the student working on it to turn the worksheet in, and never revisiting the concept for assessment worries me greatly, not only for my grade level, but also for the future of these students. It is very startling that a worksheet is the only dimension of mathematics that these students are seeing, when the resources and the effectiveness of these resources is outstanding. Their level of understanding goes no deeper than completing those problems and hoping for a good grade at the end of the day. Students are missing out on key concepts that deal with critical thinking, problem solving, and higher order thinking that is starting to have an effect on their overall achievement. I hope to alter and bring change to this startling idea.   I hope to key in on one unit, make the changes, and present those changes to my second grade team and administrators as a pilot before undergoing the entire curriculum itself.