Rethinking Touchscreens


Bacterial colonies on a computer keyboard.

The local school district does not include any touchscreen PC’s on its approved technology list.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been considering the possibility of including them due to the habits of incoming kindergarteners.

After seeing how well the students have done with creating regular polygons with a mouse, I’m not sure at this point that it’s necessary.  If anything, I think that they just need more real estate on the monitors, or dual monitors.

I’ve been wanting my math students to be able to use a stylus with Khan Academy, but the old tech whiteboards and dry erase markers work just fine.

Besides that, I’ve always believed that the hardware and software are not the point of technology education. It’s the thinking.

I recently substituted for a teacher at another school who was using their Dell wireless projector to involve the students in the daily calendar activities.  The technology was slow and tricky, so I scrapped the tech and used the whiteboard for a fast and easy mini-lesson on skip counting.  The technology is not the point. It’s the thinking.

Math Brain Glitches Illustrated


OK, here are a few examples from the minds of some very brainy math students working way above grade level:

Example 1: Move on before you finish the problem


Example 2: You got WHAT when you subtracted?


Example 3:  20% the same as /20?


Example 4: Answer only part of a 2-part question.


Example 5: Are you sure that’s lowest terms?


Example 6:  We love equivalent fractions.mathglitches4

I keep sayin’, “Check your answers to the easiest problems. Those are the ones you’re going to miss.”



Math Brain Glitches

Last week my advanced math students completed another unit assessment.  These kids are amazing, but every one of them got some answers incorrect because of brain glitches.  There’s no reason why just about every one of the students couldn’t  have gotten all of the answers correct.

I’m going to ask for their tests back, scan their answer sheets, and snip out the ones they missed.  I’ll upload them here and show you what I mean.  Should be pretty interesting.

Banish the Bane of Bulletin Boards

BB’s: one of my least favorite teacher responsibilities.

I just never kept up with them, they get ripped and faded, and at the end of the year there’s a million staples that have to be pulled out.

So the wish list now includes four large panel LCD displays that would replace the bb’s with revolving or static images of lesson examples, instructions, student work, messages, etc.

Market-driven Education

We’ve got to realize that the real “movers and shakers” in education are not the innovators in the classrooms, but the players in the board rooms.

If there’s millions to be made by adoption of new materials and methods,  you can bet they will be.

Why else would a textbook on CD cost as much as a hardcover textbook?

Adolescent Brain Development

In order to most effectively teach the students in my advanced math class, I need to have a better understanding of adolescent brain development.

These students are not just ahead of their peers as far as math skills go. It is possible that the massive rewiring and efficiency upgrade their brains are experiencing is also ahead of schedule compared to other students their age.


Time-lapse movies of brain development can be found here.

Gaming Approach to Education: Adults Thinking Like Children

Minecraft, Minecraft, Minecraft! Come join us any time during the day to immerse yourself in the game that’s all the rage amongst your students aged 5-18. We’ll have a set of iPads ready to go to explore the mobile version of Minecraft (Minecraft Pocket Edition), as well as demonstrating the version of Minecraft tailored to education (MinecraftEdu). No prior experience required! Although we will have a handful of loaner laptops available, you are encouraged to bring your own laptop.

In addition, throughout the conference we will have a server running in the cloud to allow people to jump in at any time, from any place, to join in the fun.

What’s wrong with this picture?

In order to motivate children to be well-educated, responsible, socially healthy, productive adults, we feed their addictive, irresponsible fantasies with head-down technology.

The American education system is failing miserably, so let’s find ways to make kids like school.  Let’s make school parallel to the things they like.  Kids obviously like video games, so let’s make education one big video game.

Kids don’t like healthy food, so feed them french fries, candy, and coke.

What I remember about being a kid was the anticipation of being like an adult.  It was “awesome” to have freedom, to be like my dad, to fly his airplane, to steer his car, to skipper my own skiff miles away to get gas, to ski all by myself down a huge mountain, to go traveling with a team a long way from home, to get a job, to get my driver’s license, to have a girlfriend, to grow a moustache…

Kids don’t need fake accomplishments. They need tangible rewards and power. Gaming rewards are fake, and deep down kids know that. Real life rewards and accomplishments don’t dematerialize when the power is off.

What a traditional approach to education will get you:

Khan Academy Certificate of Completion

Currently, there are no course completion certificates provided by Khan Academy. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t develop my own and make them available.

A simple form letter with MS Word/Excel would be all it would take, and coaches can supply their own details in a few appropriate categories.

Here’s an example of a Master document with merge fields:

Click for a larger view.

Here’s an example of a completed merge:

Click for a larger view.

 Merge fields are in an Excel file and can be easily changed to match specific conditions.

These files can be downloaded from here:


APB SBRC Presentation 11/18/14

5 Minute Presentation

Before beginning, open the MS Excel 2QMath Grades Workbook and all of the linked files listed below. On the Excel 2QMath OVR tab, remove the link to the Classlist file for all students except #9 so their scores can be shown without compromising confidentiality.

  1. Display example of my 2nd Quarter SBRC. Identify and label parts:
    • Grading Key
    • Standards
    • Saxon, Excel, Effort sections
    • Comments
  2. Where the standards come from:
    KA Coaches page
    KA2 Excel file from OneDrive
    Math 7 web site
    Individual student sheets on Home page
  3. Benefits
    • Continuous connection to SBRC
    Common Core State Standards, Grade 7 correlated to Saxon Math Course 2  need corresponding evaluation instruments
    • KA Student Progress pages allow detailed, specific history of attempts at mastery