Tag Archives: Conferences

Student Engagement In and Out of the Classroom

On November 7, 2014, I attended the ETOM Conference at St. Clair Community College in Port Huron, MI. One of the underlying themes of this year conference was student engagement in and out of the classroom. As an instructor who hasn’t taken classes in quite some time, sometimes I forget how difficult it is to be a student in the 21st century. Between the rising cost of college, the changing nature of technology, and the demands at home, it is often a struggle to engage students in the classroom. This conference helped give me a different perspective of how I can look at my classes in a new way.

The opening session focused on Open Educational Resources and how the cost of textbooks has an impact on which classes students take and how engaged the students are with the college. The statistics are clear that higher textbook costs lead students to take fewer classes and sometimes not to take any classes at all. Although I don’t believe that textbook cost should be the only reason to use an Open Educational Resource, I believe it is an important factor to consider. Besides the cost, the idea of being able to customize the material to include videos and interactive materials to increase student engagement is also appealing.

My favorite session of the day, though, was titled, “Engaging Students With and Without Technology.” In this session, the focus was on classroom response systems. Most teachers have heard of clickers. At my college (Macomb Community College), we have Turning Point technology available for use in the classroom. All of these clickers are nice, except for the cost and the inconvenience of setting up the system correctly. At the ETOM Conference, we were introduced to KahootIT and Plickers as two free alternatives to the traditional classroom clickers. I plan to use KahooIT with my calculus class in the upcoming weeks as a way to engage students with a quick in class assessment.

One of my favorite parts of ETOM Conference was that the online students were not forgotten, either. Engaging students in the online classroom can be extremely challenging, especially with asynchronous courses. One of the sessions that I attended focused in on using individualized quizzes and individualized feedback using podcasts in order to engage students in the online environment. The idea was initially developed as a tool for teacher-to-teacher interaction, it was soon discovered that students benefited from this individualized instruction as well. This helped me to realize that how we engage with each other is often very different than how we engage with our students. If something is working for teacher-to-teacher interaction, it is worth a shot for teacher-to-student interaction as well.

Overall, the ETOM Conference was a very enriching experience and I would highly recommend that others attend future conferences. The amount of information was definitely not overwhelming and I walked away from each session that I attended with at least one idea, principle, or best practice that I could immediately apply in my classroom once I left the conference. Student engagement is a very serious matter and it was refreshing to see so many different perspectives on the idea of how to engage students from all directions. Student engagement starts from before the time students even register for a class, but student engagement needs to extend beyond the classroom as well.

See you at #MichMATYC13

As part of MichMATYC’s Fall 2013 Conference coming up on Friday, October 4 – Saturday, October 5, I was asked to create gift basket to be used as a raffle prize during the conference.  I gladly agreed to help out by making a donation!  A picture of the basket and a description of what’s all inside it is below.  I hope to see you at the conference and good luck winning the raffle prize!

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Jon Oaks’ Favorite Things Basket

This raffle prize is quite unique and includes the following items:

  • Really Useful Boxes 16 Box Organizer
  • Targus Back-Up Battery for Smartphones
  • PNY 16 GB Flash Drive
  • Pentel Twist Erase 9.0 mm Pencils
  • A Gift Certificate for a 2 hour professional development consultation with Jon Oaks*

*Offer must be redeemed with Jon Oaks before October 11, 2014.  Jon Oaks is a math instructor at Macomb Community College in Warren, MI, and the Professional Development Coordinator for AMATYC (The American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges).  The topics and format (in-person or on-line) of the consultation are negotiable.  Please contact Jon Oaks directly to schedule the consultation.

What I Learned at #BloggyCon13

This weekend I attended my first blogging conference ever: Bloggy Conference 2013. My intent for attending was as follows:

  • I wanted to get tips for becoming a better blogger myself.
  • I am considering having my students write blogs themselves (similar to this idea), as I truly believe that if my students write about what they are learning, then they are more likely to retain the information long-term.
  • I have a few students this semester who are homeschooling their kids at home and have asked me for suggestions for teaching their children mathematics and I heard there were some home school bloggers coming to the conference and I thought that I might be able to network and get some ideas from them.

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The conference was at Cedar Point, a place that seems to primarily be known for its great Roller coasters. Cedar Point was a great place for the conference. The hospitality was great and I learned that there is so much more to Cedar Point. I enjoyed my time on the beach, walking on the boardwalk, the entertainment, and the really good food at all of the restaurants (they have a Perkins, which was a real treat for me since the ones in Michigan have all closed). Despite all of wonderful distractions, I did learn some things, the biggest takeaways being:

  • In terms of being a better blogger myself, I learned that I need to have a Facebook Page for my website. I feel like I could definitely reach more people with all of the great ideas that I use in the classroom if I have a Facebook Page were I can share things that don’t necessarily fit onto this website. Right now I am doing this using Twitter by sharing links that I like and so forth, but the general public isn’t on Twitter– most of them are on Facebook.
  • I was part of a home school blogging discussion in which I learned that I need to have a regular blogging schedule. I was given several tips for setting up these schedules – from very simple to very extreme. The plan I liked the best is just to set-up a schedule of topics at the beginning of each month that you want to write about in the next month. I can definitely relate to this as it is very similar to what I do in writing lesson plans for my classes.
  • Most importantly, though, was all of the networking that I was able to do during the conference. I heard a talk by Honda on #HondaLove about the Top 10 Tips for Making a Perfect Pitch. All of the tips were very helpful for me in terms of the type of checklist of information that I want to create to give my students to help them as they are creating their blogs so that they will have the information that they need if it’s ever requested of them in the future.

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Although I was one of the few males there (I felt the need to mention this), I still learned a lot and I met a lot of great people who I hope that I will be able to work with in the future. I would highly recommend that anyone interested in blogging or using blogs in the classroom attend Bloggy Conference or some similar conference in the future.

Wrap-Up of the Fall 2012 Conference Season

Note: This post got lost in e-land and is just now making its way to the Internet.

As the end of this semester approaches, I have decided that I need to take a few moments to just get some ideas and thoughts out of my mind from the conferences that I have attended this fall.  Here is a short wrap-up of some of the events that I have attended this semester.

This semester I presented at the Michigan Center for Student Success Summit.  My biggest takeaway from this conference is the fact that other colleges are way ahead of my college in terms of their student success initiatives.  I want to look into creating a student success class that is linked with my college’s pre-algebra course.  I think the advantage to having it as a separate, but linked, course instead of simply weaving study skills into the pre-algebra course lies in the fact that it is easier to monitor that the teacher is actually teaching the study skills to the students.

I also presented at the MichMATYC Fall Conference.  The theme of the conference this year also seemed to be about student success.  My college has a new Everyday Math course and after attending this conference I am now even more convinced that we need to have an alternative pre-requisite for this course that involves Algebra, but just enough Algebra that students would then have the choice to either take our Everyday Math or Intermediate Algebra courses.  I recently told someone that not everyone needs to know how to factor a binomial, but if the person is in an Algebra class, I would expect the person to know how to do so because that’s what is taught in an Algebra course.

I also attended TedXDetroit this year.  This was definitely not what I expected.  There were a lot of cool speakers there, some time for networking, and time to just see some great and unique things in the TedXLabs.  The biggest takeaway from TedXDetroit for me was that I really need to define what innovative, creative, and critical thinking is for my students.  I always expect my students to be able to use their critical thinking and analyzing skills to solve application and word problems without actually showing them some skills for doing actually doing them.  I met some representatives from The Henry Ford at TedXDetroit and they told me about their curriculum called ‘On Innovation’ that I intend to use with my Everyday Math students next semester.

I also found out about the Alliance for Excellence and Online Education’s Fall Symposium.  This conference was interesting to me because it’s the first time I was made aware of the fact that there are actually like-minded people at my college.  Up until this point I had really thought that my college was a technology wasteland where old technology came to die.  I walked away from this conference that with the realization that it really is important to step back and look at what’s around you, get a new perspective, and see what’s actually there.  Yes, this was a highly sponsored conference, but I would recommend it if you are into technology and looking to hear about the latest trends and looking to see ‘what’s possible’.

I was also pulled away from my classroom to attend the AMATYC Conference in Jacksonville, FL.  AMATYC is near and dear to my heart, especially now since I am officially the Professional Development Coordinator and a member of Project ACCCESS.  As the Professional Development Coordinator my primary duties include hosting the AMATYC Webinar Series and serving as a liaison for any professional development needs that our members might need.  I am still learning the position, but I am very excited that I was able to step into a role where my skillset will be put to good use.  As a member of Project ACCCESS, I am officially in one of the greatest mentoring programs for new two-year college math instructors in their first three years of full-time teaching.  I have met a lot of great people so far and expect to learn a lot from them over the years to come.

To summarize, obviously I have been very busy this semester, not including organizing the Russian Mathematician fair that my students put on at the library, working on grants for supplemental instruction and service learning projects for next semester, serving on the Multicultural International Initiatives Committee at my college (hint: I’m organizing a Mathematics Film Series next), dealing with issues with on-campus iPad and technology use, and working with my department’s new Work-Study student.  Until next time… :)