Jul 152012

I am hurriedly packing to leave for the MathCamp next week in St. Louis, but I also want to share what I will be doing along the way. I take a motorcycle trip every summer, and I do math on the trip (as if anyone needed to be told that about me).

After the trip, I put together a little video about me and the trip to introduce myself to my learners. I have made 2 so far. Last year the trip was so close to school, and I was hired into a new position (dept chair) that I never had a chance to make it. That means this year I will have 2 years worth of materials to put in there!

This is 2009’s video, the first one.

Intro Movie 2009 from Glenn Waddell on Vimeo.

And 2010’s video, the second one.

Intro Movie 2010 from Glenn Waddell on Vimeo.

The point of these is to show my learners how I see the world around, and how I actually use the math as I go. I find these problems as I travel and from what I see. I usually have 8 or 9 mapped out in my head and edit them down to 4 or 5 for the video. It makes much more sense that way, and it creates some great pictures I can use later in the year in my classes.

So, my Made4Math this week is not something I have made for this school year, but examples of what I will be doing over the next week and a half while I am on the motorcycle. Fun, a math geek’s way.

I would do more for this week’s #made4math, but it won’t happen. I need to get the laptop packed into onto the motorcycle. Tomorrow morning at 7am I board the blue beast and head for St. Louis! Next week’s probably won’t happen at all, unless I get time to post in advance something I make at mathcamp.

2012-04-15 09.41.43 (Just in case you wonder what the blue beast looks like.)

Jul 102012

First off, I am a math teacher, so I think it goes without saying I am incredibly … detail oriented … anal … and, possibly, a pain in the butt (depending on when you ask my wife.)

I absolutely have to save every single receipt from vacation, reconcile with Quicken within 10 hours of arriving home on vacation, and that reconciliation must be to the penny. Driving to Montana? Great, that means 7 gas receipts, organized by location, along with the mileage at every gas stop.

Hotels? They give a full page receipt, not a little strip like gas stations. Dining out? Who was there? Where was the restaurant? What city?

Okay, you get my drift. I like to keep good records of our vacations. This used to be a major chore. My wife said this was not necessary, but to me, those little details hid some nice surprises. For instance, in our 11 year old car, that now has over 100000 miles 2012-05-20 18.33.18 we are still getting over 33 miles per gallon on the freeway. If I didn’t take good records, how would I know that! See, it is important!

Enter Evernote. When I first heard of Evernote, I was not that interested. A note taking software for my phone. Whatever. On the computer too! Yawn. I use OneNote.

But, I had a recently thought to myself, “What if I took a picture of the receipts as I traveled?” That would mean I don’t have to keep them. [After all, these are vacation receipts, not store receipts. I won’t need them to return merchandise, so this won’t apply.]

So I did that on our most recent trip to MT. Here is what it looks like.

evernote [Click the pic to embiggen]

Notice that if I don’t put in a title when I click “New Note” it GeoTags my picture! Now I have a running record of my location by date! Love it. At each stop, I also put in the milage in the car. Now I can easily calculate the mpg.

This also solves some additional problems. In Missoula the machine was out of paper. I did not need to go in and ask for a receipt. All I needed to do is take a pic of the gas pump. It automatically captured the location, and all I really needed was purchase price and gallons anyway.

evernote2[Click the pic to embiggen]

By clicking the “Show Details” or “Hide Details” in the upper right you can see additional info, and by clicking the Map Icon or city name above the pic, you can view a Google map of exactly where you were.

evernote3[Click the pic to embiggen]

Now I am thinking of much better uses for this information. I used it only for receipts this time, but what if I also included neat locations along the way? Now I am kicking myself for not having my phone out and Evernote open when we had the herd of 6 bighorn sheep in the road with us. (And no, I don’t have ANY photos of that. Dang.)

The only drawback I saw was it was slow. Evernote was communicating with the camera and the GPS all at once. I don’t think I would record a whole vacation in there yet. My phone needs to be faster, and the cell connection needs to be much faster (still only on 3G) before it would get fast enough and error proof enough to make me trust it completely.

But, I came home from vacation with no receipts bulging in my wallet and stuffed in my suitcase. I didn’t need to spread them all out on the desk and examine them for dates to put them in order. All I did was fire up the computer, log into Evernote, and go down the list.

It saved me about an hour in my data entry, and actually made my life much easier. Now, how can I leverage this in my classroom? Hmmmm.

Something to think about on my next trip. Which is tomorrow. Must go pack.

May 302011

I am very much a fan of repurposing objects and creating my own solutions to tech problems. Often times, you can do for your self much cheaper and get better quality if you think outside the box and create your own solutions instead of buying a premade solution.

A long time ago, I wrote about how I used a KVM switch to connect multiple sources to my projector. After two years, I am very happy with it. I use it daily to connect my Elmo to my projector, along with my laptop and 2 empty ports all through a single wire. It makes me very flexible with my tech usage.

When my Elmo finally dies (it is a fairly old model, the precursor to the HV-110u Digital Visual Presenter that I bought on eBay for around $80) I think I will make my own instead of buying another. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Elmo. I use it often. I also won’t spend a couple of hundred dollars to buy what essentially is a webcam on a stick.

Speaking of webcam on a stick, guess what! Another math teacher figured out how to mount a web cam inside of an old light mount and accomplish the same thing the Elmo does!

Now that is awesome. When it comes time to replace my old trusty Elmo, I will be using a web cam, purchased on sale, some inexpensive LED lights from Target or Walmart, and a light arm scrounged from a garage sale. At that point, I have a $200 Elmo for a quarter of the cost. Even better, because I can upgrade the webcam and modify it as needed. It is more flexible and useful than the Elmo ever could be.

We are only limited by our imagination, once we give up the idea that things have to be made for us.

Mar 312011

My AP stats kids are really not wanting to learn the calculator skills. It is killing me! They want to do it all by hand and then type in the math in the normal screen instead of using “stats” and “ttest” instead. KILLING ME!

So, to force the issue, and give them something interesting to work on I turned to the intertubes and my Google Reader for inspiration. As I was reading this morning, I came across this article.  Hmm, that sounds worth while. I am not a huge baseball fan, but I do like the stats!

Hmm, now the article used the data from every player, and I don’t want my learners needing to use a computer. They need a data set that is manageable on the calculators.  So I poke around on one of provided links and find this link that has team data

That looks promising. But I better look at it myself before I give it to them, right? I take the team data and graph it using JMP and find out it is no-where near normal. That is good. It means that the learners will run into problems doing the t-test if they actually LOOK at the data as I keep asking them to. If they don’t graph the data, they will get a happy answer, and it will be wrong. Nice.

I did the t-tests, and no matter how you slice it, none of them are significant. The means are all around .26 (hmm, regression to the mean comes up here as well.)

Then I think I will give them Barry Bond’s highest batting average (2002, .443 found here) and ask the groups to decide what data they need (and then give it to them) to determine if Barry’s batting average is significant.

So, the instructions, purposefully vague, will be:

Is the National League or American League’s batting averages significantly different in 2000? How about 2010?

Are the averages significantly different between 2000 and 2010?

What information do you need to decide if Barry Bond’s batting average is significantly higher than the leagues, and then is it significant?

The learners, working in groups, will need to write an appropriate Ho, Ha, do all conditions checks, and then, if appropriate, do the appropriate tests.

The conditions checks will fail on the nearly normal condition, but I will ask them to continue anyway and explain the problem in their conclusion.

Any feedback on this project?

Mar 142011

Tomorrow I will be doing a short presentation at our district’s Tech Café on some google tips. The hard part is figuring out which tips will be most useful.  Here are 4 different cheat sheets for google docs, search and mail.

Google for Teachers II

Google for power users

Google Cheat Sheet

Gmail tips

In addition, the nice folks who created GoogleGuide have some very excellent tips for searching effectively. And WebDesignLedger (WDL) has a nice guide with 11 different cheat sheets listed as well. There is so much information out there!

The bad part is, these things go out of date so quickly. Someone spends a ton of time making and formatting it only to have Google add features that make the “tip” irrelevant. Keeping up is a hard thing to do. And then, looking towards the future here in Washoe County, we are planning on moving to live@edu with Microsoft. That takes away the need for Google Docs, because we will all have access to 25 GB of storage as well as Word, Excel,  and Powerpoint.

Hmm, what to do, what to do. Relevant and useful, while still teaching things.

Here is my list:

1.  Searching with the “filetype:” command. Not many people know that you can specify a particular filetype when you search. For instance the search command, “modular mathematics filetype:ppt” will give all results for modular math that are powerpoints! How handy is that when creating lessons! Acceptable common formats for filetypes are: pdf, ppt, doc, xls, rtf. If you go to www.google.com and click “advanced search” for the rest of the types as well as more options.

2.  Using multiple calendars to keep track of different types of events.

3.  Publishing a calendar and allowing parents or students to subscribe to the calendar to keep updated on events (sports calendars, speech & debate calendars, etc)

4.  Enabling the calendar lab to post the birthdays found in your Google contacts on your Google calendar (making Google calendar and contacts to work together.)

5.  Using Google Bookmarks to store and communicate all those bookmarks you have to other people (I set up a new bookmark list for every speech and debate topic and share it out with my debaters).

6.  And, if that does not fill the 45 minutes (and I am pretty sure it will!), I will go over these last 2 ideas. I love these, and will be using the “homework hotline” idea next year for sure!

A homework hotline using google docs and creating quizzes (self grading) with gdocs.

Jan 292011

What a difference a year makes. Or not. No, it did make a difference. A year ago, I was in the middle of my 3rd year of teaching. Do you remember your third year? If it sucked, because you felt like an utter failure at every single lesson, every single exam, and everything else you did, then yes, you remember.

So, I stopped blogging. I am still looking for success, and I am finding some better success now, but a year ago, no.

With that explanation, I am going to explain what I learned, and then re-launch my blog.

What I learned by taking a year off. First off, I didn’t really think I had anything to contribute to the larger community of teachers as a whole. I now realize that I was horribly mistaken! I do have something to contribute, and I am not a horrible teacher. I may not be a great one, but I am not horrible. What I have to contribute is the successes I do have! My learners are awesome! My fellow teacher ROCK! And together, we have done some amazing things. I can share those amazing things.

You know that model of competence? Yea, that one one that has Consciously Competent, Unconsciously incompetent, etc. You know, this one. I learned that I have Unconscious Competence in technology. I dealt with some teachers and had it drilled into me that it is not necessarily a good thing to be unconscious about that!

Damn. That is why I was so frustrated on some issues with fellow teachers! I just assumed that everyone can write in html (you mean they can’t?).  So, I spent part of the year thinking on how I can help. How can I do better at teaching my co-workers?

So, in the end, I learned a lot about me. My goal is to have one substantive post about my learners and classroom every week. I also post a daily or every other day link on Twitter about tech and / or interesting idea about teaching.

I also started the SLF (Student Learning Facilitator) program with Washoe County School District. I will be writing about this process. Honestly, it is the best training I have had, hands down.

Bon Voyage, my friends. So begins a new chapter in finding Success!