I want to take a minute to expand upon my current obsession with Detroit Tigers Baseball. From as far as I can remember, I never really had a hobby or anything that I would do regularly for leisure. Immediately after high school, I went to college. Every summer during college I came home and took classes at the local community college. Immediately after college, I went to graduate school. During graduate school, I took summer classes and worked during the summer. After graduate school, I started working part-time at six different colleges simultaneously. Yes, one semester I taught 38 credits combined between all of the colleges.
The point is that I have worked hard for the majority of my life without a summer break or evenings and weekends free for as long as I can remember. So, as far as I am concerned, this new full-time position I have right now has been treating me very, very well. I get to focus more of my time on making things as good as I can for my students, without having to worry about jetting off campus down the road to another college to teach yet another class. It feels very good to be able to do all that I have been able to do for my students so far in just the one year that I have been at my college. But I know there is more that I can do. There is always more that I can do.
However, the one realization that I have come to recently is that I cannot do more for my students without doing more for myself as well. I have realized that it is time to reward myself a little bit for all of the hard work that I have done to get to where I am today. All of the experience that I have gained over the years of being in school year-round and teaching year-round has paid off as I now have a plethora of knowledge that I can draw from to help me figure out the best teaching methods for my students. But I think it takes a little more than this to make me a good teacher. It takes more than just education and knowledge. It takes a little bit of personality.
And somewhere along the line I think I may have lost a little bit of my personality in the stress of going to school and working all year long. So, it is time for me to not only reward myself a little bit, but also my students. It is time for me to pick up a new interest – something that I can talk about in the classroom openly with my students to bring a little of my own personality into the discussion. For me, this interest has become Detroit Tigers Baseball. Who out there can’t relate to baseball? Even if someone doesn’t like baseball, I think that there has to be at least some sense of pride that someone has in their home team. I truly believe that baseball can help bring people together and I have no regrets that I have chosen Detroit Tigers Baseball as my new interest.
During the Summer 2012 semester, I decided to have my Math for Education students use Jing to send me a diagram of something that they were supposed to do using Geogebra. If you aren’t familiar with Jing, it is a free screen-capturing and screen-casting tool from the people at Techsmith, located in Okemos, MI. And if you aren’t familiar with Geogebra, simply put, it is a free alternative to Geometer’s Sketchpad, but it can do lots more.
First off all, I have to say that I had always wanted to use Jing and screen-capturing with my students, but I wasn’t sure from what angle I wanted to approach it. Many instructors have students create their own screencasts (a fairly well-known example is Mathtrain.tv). Of course, I already use screen-casting on the instructor end by creating screencasts for my students on topics they are struggling with or by providing video feedback on student assignments. I just hadn’t ever had my students do the screen-casting.
Frankly, I was worried. I was worried about how students who didn’t have easy access to a computer would complete the assignment and I was worried about the amount of class time it would take students to learn about Jing (some students insist on writing down every single detail). And of course, there were a few students who struggled. For example, A librarian told one of my students that her Geogebra file was damaged, but what actually happened was that they librarian was trying to use Quicktime to open the Geogebra file instead of Geogebra.
Overall, this was a very good exercise for me and my students. I learned a lot about what my students actually knew about the topic based on the drawings that they submitted and so the next time we worked on something in Geogebra together in class, I was able to clarify a few of the details of what the students needed to do in the computer to get the diagram that they were supposed to get.
And of course, this was a very low-stakes assignment. I didn’t want to put a lot of points or pressure on students for an assignment in which they could have very well had a friend or relative complete at home without me even knowing. And I made sure to stress the importance of the fact that this is the type of software they will need to know how to use when they are teachers in the classroom.
If you don’t know what Ignite is, simply put, it is a format in which speakers are limited to using 20 slides and each of those slides automatically advances every 15 seconds. Thus, a speaker must get their point across within a maximum of 5 minutes.
I learned about the Ignite format from past conferences that I have attended. And I have attended several Ignite Events in the Detroit, MI area (they have them all around the country).
This semester, I decided to have my Math for Education students give an Ignite-style talk on the last day of class. They had two major content goals – they were supposed to summarize what they learned during the semester and they were required to have at least 5 slides on a topic that I pre-assigned to them (e.g., hexagons, pentagons, etc.). The other catch is that they only had 30 minutes to prepare their slides and presentation.
I learned quite a lot about my students from this activity. I saw many of them crack under the time pressure of having only 30 minutes to prepare. Only about half of the students actually had 20 completed slides. I heard many of them use mathematical terminology incorrectly. And many of them were not able to talk an entire 15 seconds about each slide and left a lot of dead air time.
Many of my students complained that they are not good at thinking fast on their feet. Unfortunately, this is a skill that they will need as teachers. This is a skill that cannot be taught, but I do believe that it can be learned through practice. I thought that this was a great way for the students to practice this skill in a ‘safe’ setting.
In terms of assessment, I made it a very low pressure situation and students simply got ‘participation’ credit. But I learned a lot about my students from this activity. A lot of students surprised me. Some of the students who know the content well were the worst speakers and some of the students who didn’t know the content as well were the best speakers in the class. I had the students vote at the end of class on who was the best speaker and the top two vote-getters got prizes (one got a lesson planning book and the other got a school supplies kit).
One of my students graciously agreed to be recorded and her recorded talk and slide deck are below. Enjoy!