Tuesday, November 20, 2012


If had been smarter, I could have been involved from the the very beginning.  But I chose to sit and watch instead.  Last spring, Eric Simons reached out to me to ask me about teacher collaboration.  I answered a few questions and let him do his thing.  Maybe I didn't understand what he was trying to do. Maybe I was too busy trying not to drown in the end of the year festivities.  At any rate, I didn't get involved till just recently.

Back in the spring, it was Classroom Connect.  Now, the name has been shortened to Claco, but the concept remains the same: Give the teachers a chance to collaborate and learn from each other.  Sure, we can do that in a variety of methods, but here is a centralized location where we can all meet and swap ideas. Think of it as the teachers' lounge, but without the fattening pumpkin bread and stale coffee.  I'll leave it to other people to expound on the founding of the web site.  Instead, I'll focus on my use of it the last few days. 

Claco is still in its beta format, but I was fortunate enough to start up this fall.  I spent the last couple days sick at home and was finally able to take the time to sit down and look at the genius of this site.

I've never been on Pinterest, but from what I've heard of that crafting idea site, Claco has a similar feel. You post ideas or sites that work for you on your personal page.  However, that page is visible to all others on the site.  Your online colleagues have the chance to come along and find your posts and "snap" them to their page as well.  

So far, I'm using this site as a chance to organize myself.  If I find a site I like, I bookmark it and move on.  I may or may  not come back to it later, but when I try to find a bookmarked site, I have to wade through a ton of stuff to find it.  "What was THAT site for?"  After an hour or two of work, my bookmarks are now cleared out.  I'm using Claco to hold them for me. 

Next, I'm going through and posting iPad apps that work for my classroom.  This will help me decide which ones are really worthy of sharing with the public.   I'm also rooting through my Google Docs finding lessons and activities that I've done.  

Obviously, I blog because I want to share what I'm learning with the larger community.  Claco is going to help me keep do that in a more organized fashion.  If you want to see what I'm doing in math class, you may find it on this blog, but it will take some searching.  Claco will make it easier for you to steal... I mean, borrow.. from me. 

I'm having fun with this.  Since I can create portfolios on any topic I want, I'm not just doing my content areas, but I've also included Common Core, Educational Technology, Social Media, Apps I Use, and plan to add a Bio portfolio.  In addition to useful web sites and Google Docs, I can also direct you to people who have influenced me and helped me in my learning journey.

And I haven't even started visiting other people's pages to see what I can learn from them!  I envision myself sitting at my desk one Friday trying to come up with a lesson idea, skipping over to Claco and a digital colleague to find the perfect tool to help me teach that hard to learn lesson. And I don't think I need to tell that this is a very good thing.

So, I suggest you visit Claco, sign up for the beta program, subscribe to my portfolio, and start organizing your content and collaborating with us! While you're there, zip me a message and say hi!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Yummy Math and the Election

Common Core.
Yummy Math.
Electoral College.
Conservative Christian School.

What do these all have in common?

I teach at a private Christian school in a battleground state.  While I don't know for sure, I would venture a guess that 90 percent of our school voted for Mitt Romney in the recent election... if the general somber mood around here the last few days is any indicator.

We, like most other schools in the country, are pushing toward alignment with Common Core standards, which has consumed much of my focus the last couple weeks.

I still love educational technology. In my blog reading, I recently stumbled upon Yummy Math, which is a blog which attempts to teach math in a fun, interactive way.  The best thing about it is that nearly every lesson  has the Common Core standards that it meets listed at the bottom. Hmmm... Math. Fun. Technology. Common Core without thinking too hard.  What's not to love?

Digging deeper, I saw a lesson on the electoral college, and I knew that this was the place to start my math yumminess. I started Monday morning with my 5th and 6th graders in the computer lab, where we watched the electoral college video by New York Times then dug into the questions provided by Yummy Math.  Now, you need to realize that I teach advanced math, and many of these kids are used to things just clicking for them.  They don't need to try to understand stuff; it comes naturally.  So, a number of these kids struggled with getting started.  I was amazed at what they didn't know about senators and representatives.  Then it hit me that they would have no reason to know it since they probably haven't had a civics course yet. We did discover that Google helps considerably when researching a topic we don't know.

Once we got past the initial hurdle of figuring out the changes in representatives and electoral college votes, things went smoothly.  In all, it took about a period and a half for most kids to finish the activity.

Tuesday, I gave the students a blank electoral college map to color that evening. I encouraged parents to allow their kids to stay up late and color the maps in as the night proceeded.  In exchange, I made math class the next day a "blow off" day allowing books and iPads with no formal teaching.

As I said early in the post, we are largely Republican around here. That lead to some interesting conversations come Wednesday morning.  The good news is that we already laid the groundwork by discussing electoral college and how the entire process works.  Later in the day, a student who did not do this activity with me looked at all the red on the map and couldn't understand how Romney lost.  He didn't have the electoral background that the other kids did.

Overall, I give two thumbs up to Yummy Math for helping me teach a difficult concept.  Thanks!  I'll be using your yumminess again soon.

Oh, and Brian Marks at Yummy Math makes for a great Twitter conversationalist.  You know how I love to interact with the developers!