This summer, the DigitalJLearning Network enjoyed the distinct pleasure of taking 16 educators, from 16 different schools, to the 2014 ISTE Conference in Atlanta, GA. We asked each participant to share what they learned with you, our readers, here on our blog. Deanna Zenn, a Math Teacher at the Solomon Schechter School of Long Island, shares her reflections in this second installment of this new blog series.
The ISTE Conference was an amazing and eye-opening experience for me. I am a change-of-career teacher. Coming to the profession late in the game, I assumed that I would teach math the way I learned math with pencils and textbooks and that's about it. It has become so clear to me in the past few years that students today are different.
While I still sometimes get anxious in the midst of technology, I see that my students are comfortable with it. The world of technology is their world and, that being the case, it is where they will learn most effectively. I need to get there to be with my students and so much of what I saw at ISTE instilled in me the confidence that I can actually do this.
ISTE helped me to realize that I do not have to change my teaching style or my classroom all at once. I spoke with a physics teacher from Minnesota at one session who encouraged me to try the flipped classroom model one lesson at a time. He referred me to his own website and I am finding it to be very helpful as I decide which of my lessons are most appropriate for the flipped model.
Making my way through the convention center, I also learned that there are a lot of startup companies out there that are looking to make money during this time of sweeping change in education. There is nothing wrong with that, and some products are truly amazing. (ELMO’s document camera was a favorite of mine.) However, we all know that most schools cannot budget for all the dazzling technology out there. That's why I was so happy to see that there are a lot of cool, FREE educational tools out there! Just keep in mind that although free is great, sometimes you get what you pay for., So it is our job to separate the really useful offerings from the, well, junk.
Three sites I will be using as I explore blended learning are:
- gregtangmath.com: This site offers games that are truly useful in building math fluency. Even though the site is geared toward elementary and middle school students, I plan on using it during math labs for my high school algebra students who still struggle with foundational math.
- tammytang.com: This site describes how to use all the wonders of Google to organize information, write research papers, categorize all kinds of materials, and the like. I know many of us teachers use Google already, but I am hoping to teach my students how to access many of these useful, free, and easy to use applications. I plan on using a lot of Google products in my statistics class for high school seniors, which I will be teaching for the first time.
- pbs.org: I saw several presentations that highlighted the depth of offerings by PBS. I grew up watching PBS and loved it, but I was still blown away by what I saw at ISTE. PBS has a video on just about every topic. Their presentations are typically engaging, well-researched, and are generally quality productions. I trust PBS and will use their videos to highlight different math applications and engage students
I am so excited about the coming school year and eager to make some changes!