Thing #18 – Dig the Data

Spreadsheets and Charts from School Data!

Using Google Sheets, I was able to take a closer look at my district’s data for the 7th Grade MEAP testing in math.  I looked over a 5 year time-frame, and I was able to investigate how the economically disadvantaged students compared to those without an economic disadvantage.  I sorted the Sheet in the year column, only because it made the most sense.  You can find the Sheet as well as a bar chart by following the link.


Perception and Process Data!

I had to change the questions a bit in my Perceptions and Process data from Thing #17 in order to get some data that I could actually analyze.  I ended up re-asking teachers how many hours they spent outside of the regular class time with students per week, on average, and then what they actually did with students.  From there, I asked teachers if they felt the school was safe and how many referral forms they handed out to students, on average, per week.  The results were quite interesting.  It looks like the more teachers were involved and willing to be advisors, coaches, and tutors outside of the regular class time, the more likely they were to view the school as safe and to give out less referral forms.  I was able to sort the data by first names only, which are fictitious to protect those that were willing to help me out again, and I calculated both sums and averages of the numeric columns.  The chart gives a clear picture of the information.  You can see that they higher the time spent with students, the lower the referrals.  Also, the less time spent with students, overall, the more referrals.  You can find this information in Google Sheets.

In the Classroom!

Online polling could be used in the classroom at the end of a unit exam or test.  I could quickly ask students how much time they spent studying for the assessment, total.  I could then ask them to reveal their letter grade.  I could take those two pieces of information and quickly create a quick and easy spreadsheet and chart that would allow students to see (hopefully) that they more time spent studying does pay off in the end.  This would be done anonymously, of course, to protect student grades.  We could also collect data about how much time students spend watching tv or browsing the internet and compare that to the current grade in the classroom.  I am pretty sure the results would not be surprising to educators or parents.

ISTE Standards

1a Promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness – Collecting data and analyzing into some form of useful information certainly models that creative and innovative thinking.

2d Provide students with multiple and varied formative and summative assessments aligned with content and technology standards, and use resulting data to inform learning and teaching – Taking the information from a recent test or even an informal exit slip will give the instructor enough information to inform the direction of the curriculum.

3b Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation – The data that is collected and analyzed could be shared with students, parents, and even members of the community so show progress.  It’s difficult to just say the students are performing better in math, but when you can show them a tangible piece of evidence that supports that claim, the results are difficult to argue.

CITW – Best Practice

Setting objectives and providing feedback – With spreadsheets, it is easy to set a specific objective and track the results.  Perhaps an instructor collects data, ensuring that all students will perform at grade level by the end of the school year.  Through frequent assessments an analysis of data, an instructor can adjust the instruction methods to make every student successful.

Reinforcing effort and providing recognition – That same spreadsheet could be used to determine which students are still struggling and need some extra help.

Cues, questions, and advanced organizers – The very format of a spreadsheet and the chart itself lend themselves to belong in the advanced organizer category.  Encouraging students to look for and understand what the spreadsheet means can allow them to begin to clarify the information.

Non-linguistic representation – The quick and easy charts that can be created with the information provided in the spreadsheet can simply tell the story of the data.

Assigning homework and practice – Students could be assigned the task of creating a spreadsheet and chart, and then analyzing the information.

Identifying similarities and differences – Through some quick analysis of the information collected in the spreadsheet and the chart, the user will easily be able to find some comparisons.  For example, in the chart provided above in part 1, a pattern quickly develops, showing that the economically disadvantaged students are doing poorly both in our district and across the state.  Gaps in the data can be found.

Generating and testing hypothesis – The analysis of this data will allow students both to make a prediction of what the data will show, and to test that prediction.  Students can predict what will happen if they study more, and when the spreadsheet and chart are created, chances are that they will see that the more you study, the better your grade on the test.


Thing #17 – Evaluation and Assessment

FERPA/HIPPA Quiz Results and Reflection!

I was quite surprised on how poorly I did on this quiz.  I have been aware of FERPA and HIPPA for quite awhile now, but there are still aspects that I obviously have not recalled properly.  The part that pertains to my own part of the world in my classroom is pretty solid.  I’m perfectly aware that I cannot post grades…heck, I don’t even recycle old student papers because recycling…well, anyone could get in there.  I even had quite a discussion with the aunt of one of my students…she wanted to know more about her nephew’s grades, but I had to let her know that I couldn’t discuss it with her.  Mom was home sick, and so there were a few “words”, but I stood firm.  I won’t even tell an older sister how her brother is doing in class.

I need more information on how the school handles FERPA and HIPPA, on a larger scale.  I guess I assumed that when we sat down to analyze data, the student’s records were available for all teachers.  Now I see that it is only on a “need to know” basis.  If a particular teacher does not have the student, and never will, he/she really shouldn’t have access to those records.  I need to remember to keep the data results anonymous, leaving the names off of the information I share.  I also have had parents question me when their son/daughter goes away to college, wondering why they no longer have access to grades.  I didn’t realize that there was hope of looking at those grades, if the school chooses to release them.  I feel better knowing that I have accurate information to share with these parents.

Data Report Gaps!

This is certainly something that I knew was an issue, but to see the actual results in front of me, it’s a little hard to ignore.  For my district, I pulled up the 7th grade math scores, and I found students that were economically disadvantaged scored much lower than those that were not economically disadvantaged, and this is something that continues to happen year after year.

Marlette MEAP


I compared this same group, same grade level and content area to find similar results.  There is a huge gap when it comes to comparing economic status.

State MEAP

Perceptions and Process Data Questions!

I was eager to see how teachers really felt about certain processes and perceptions about leadership and the learning environment in our school district.  I asked a few of my closest colleagues to respond.  These were all junior high teachers, and I felt these would be the teachers that would give the most honest responses.  Here are the questions.

  1. What do you find takes up the most of your time with students outside of the regular class time?
  2. What extracurricular activities are you participating in with students, either as a leader or co-leader?
  3. Do you believe the environment at our school is safe?
  4. Do you feel that the Responsible Thinking Classroom is working for students with discipline issues?

I used PollEverywhere, and the results were amazing!  This is definitely something I could use with students on the days when we have the iPad cart in the classroom.  I could post the results right up on the interactive whiteboard.

Filling the Gap!

To address the economic status gap that is apparent in our school, there are several questions that we could use to try to get at the source of our problem.  Students could be asked…

  • Do you have someone at home to ask for homework help if necessary?
  • Do you have internet access and/or a computer to contact your teacher if you need homework help?
  • Would you be willing to stay for after-school tutoring if you needed help?

These questions would certainly let staff members know which students had parent support at home and which ones were able to access the internet resources to help with assignments.  After teachers are aware of which students are in trouble, they would then be able to provide additional assistance through after-school tutoring, or even adjusting assignments to help those that are economically disadvantaged succeed in the classroom.

ISTE Standards

1c Promote student reflection using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify students’ conceptual understanding and thinking, planning, and creative processes – Through the use of such assessment tools as PollEverywhere, the instructor can quickly reveal how well students are understanding the material.

Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments – Again, with the use of PollEverywhere (I love to use Socrative as well, but it was giving me trouble today), students are exposed to digital age assessments that can quickly assess what has been learned.

Model digital age work and learning – Through the use of such collaborative assessment tools, the instructor is modeling and exposing students to a variety of digital age tools that will certainly engage and appeal to their interests.

CITW – Best Practices

Setting objectives and providing feedback – I can’t think of a faster, more convenient way for instructors to give feedback to the class as a whole.  Simply asking an exit question, such as “Where can you find the slope of a line when the equation is in slope-intercept form?” will allow the teacher to immediately see how well students are understanding where to find that slope.  From there, the teacher can immediately correct any misconceptions and/or adjust the next day’s instruction to fit the needs of the students.

Generating and testing hypothesis – Using a quick poll through something like Socrative or PollEverywhere, students can take a risk and relay what they are thinking.  They are generating a hypothesis, and when the students see the classroom results, they will determine whether the hypothesis is correct.

Identifying similarities and differences – I love the open-ended feature in PollEverywhere.  You can set it to generate a word cloud, and the words that are used the most often get larger.  If I were to ask students to compare linear and exponential functions, noting their similarities and differences, students would begin to see this amazing word cloud with so many new and different ideas to their own.  This is an outstanding feature!



Thing #11 – Content Area

Audio and Video Resources!

AUDIO – I found the PBS Learning Media site to be very helpful for locating strong lessons paired with audio resources.  The site is incredibly user-friendly, and given that it’s a PBS site, it wouldn’t take much to determine that the high quality of the resources and lessons provided.  One particular lesson that fit with math content was a lesson called “Double Charged: The True Cost of Juvenile Delinquency”.  This is a Youth Radio special edition that focuses on the statistics and costs behind courtrooms and house arrests for juveniles and their families.  As more and more of my students find themselves in the world of courtrooms and probation (and oddly enough, they are proud of this status), this may be an eye-opening experience.

AUDIO – Another great site that could be used to locate audio resources would be the M.O.R.E. section of the Michigan eLibrary at  Simply typing in “audio” in the search box will give a list of audio files that could easily be used by English teachers.  I found a number of audio files that contained authors reading their own work, an invaluable experience for students.  This is another site that is very easy for teachers to use, and I plan to use it frequently!

VIDEO – I used the Khan Academy ( extensively last year as I stumbled across it over the summer.  This was the basis of my remediation math class for students.  I was able to do a quick diagnostic check on students early in the year, and then I assigned them specific skills to complete each week.  They could use hints to help them if they did not understand how to do particular problems, and there were numerous videos that would show them each and every step to find solutions.  This was a very easy site for students to access, and as a teacher, I was given weekly emails that highlighted student progress – we had much to celebrate at the end of each week!

VIDEO – The Teaching Channel ( is another resource that I found very easy to use, and I definitely would share this one with my colleagues.  While it is not directly geared toward student use, teachers can find a number of videos to enhance a variety of teaching aspects.  There are videos for new teachers, classroom management tips, divergent questioning techniques, team teaching strategies, etc.


The sheer number of audio/video resources located in the iTunes stores with their selection of podcasts is simply mind-boggling!  In the math content area alone, you can get tips on Mental Math, 2nd grade math, math history, math songs, Algebra 1 help, and so on.  One resource that I found particularly interesting was the Math Dude that gives a weekly podcast that gives quick tips to make math easier.  There are a variety of topics that you can quickly scan and locate, and will certainly share this resource with my students in the fall.  For now, I was able to share this information with the other math remediation teacher in our building, and she was thrilled!  She hasn’t taught math in awhile, and she was planning to use The Math Dude herself to help knock off the rust in her math mind.  For my students, this will be yet another provided tool that reminds them that math is not as scary as they can make it.

M.O.R.E., Michigan Learns Online, and TWICE!

There is a Bouncing Tennis Balls lesson that I was able to locate through the M.O.R.E. services.  It appears as though the NCTM Illuminations site that I was directed to has undergone some renovations, and I needed to do an additional search to find the lesson.  At any rate, the lesson itself is wonderful!  Students are asked to bounce tennis balls and collect the data from the height of each subsequent bounce.  This leads to graphs, regression lines, and further predictions.  This lesson does a much better job of giving students real world examples of exponential functions than what I have done in past years from the textbook.  I am so excited to try it out on students.  (

TWICE is another resource that I am excited to use this year.  Our 8th grade classes traditionally take a trip to Washington, DC, every April, and through the TWICE program, a teacher could set up a visit with a legislative staff member, either before or after the trip.  (  The cost of this “field trip” video conference is free, but the benefits to students would be priceless.  It looks like students can prepare questions before the video conference on current issues.  This is definitely something that I will be sharing with the social studies staff when we get back to class.

ISTE Standards

1a Promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness – The instructor can open up an entirely new world of instruction to students through the use of audio and visual resources.

2a Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity – A cooperative learning group of students could be asked to solve a real world math problem through text and video resources located at Khan Academy or any of the other numerous resources that were listed in this “thing”.

3a Model and facilitate effective use of current and emerging digital tools to locate, analyze, evaluate, and use information resources to support research and learning – As an instructor works with students as a facilitator of student learning, he/she can consequently provide students with the numerous content tools available to enhance their learning.

5c Evaluate and reflect on current research and professional practice on a regular basis to make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning – The Michigan Learns Online as well as the Teacher Channel provides educators with articles, videos, and even online professional development designed to help them implement the most current digital tools in the classroom.

CITW – Best Practice

1 Cues, questions, advanced organizers – With every type of audio and video resource made available to students, it will be a simple question that the instructor can pose to the class, small groups, or even individual students.   From there, the students can use the resources to help them find solutions to the questions.

2 Generating and testing hypothesis – Given a topic or simple real world problem to solve, again, students can simply head to the seemingly infinite number of resources to develop a strong hypothesis and then find the resources to test that hypothesis.

Thing #10 – Search Strategies

MeL Educational Databases! I sincerely think this course name should be changed from “21 Things for Teachers” to “21 Things Teachers Will Immediately Fall in Love With”!  I am embarrassed to admit, although here it all is for the world to see, that I’ve heard of MeL, but never really considered it as something my students would use.  WHAT??  This is a resource that every Michigan student MUST be made aware of….as soon as school starts!!  At any rate, moving forward and never looking back at my ignorance, I took a look at two databases recommended for the middle/high school level.  I used SIRS Discoverer Deluxe and SIRS Renaissance to do a search on Pythagoras.  I typically ask my students to do a little of thinking and research on mathematicians that made significant contributions to the content we are studying, and Pythagoras comes up quite often.  SIRS Discoverer Deluxe brought up articles that were very brief and straightforward, and some of the articles even included a brief glossary of terms within the article.

SIRS Discoverer Deluxe Sample  “Pythagoras of Samos.” Mathematicians Are People Too (National Center for Education Statistics). Jan. 7 2002: n.p. SIRS Discoverer. Web. 25 Jul. 2014.

Discoverer Deluxe

SIRS Renaissance Sample  Williams, Michael R. “He Lived with Numbers.” World & I. May 2001: 140-147. SIRS Renaissance. Web. 25 Jul. 2014. Renaissance

The SIRS Renaissance search provided some longer articles that had more in-depth information, consistent with what a high school or even college student would find helpful for conducting research.  Overall, in the fields of appropriateness, usability, content, and credibility, SIRS Discoverer Deluxe is a perfect match for my 7th and 8th grade students while I would recommend the SIRS Renaissance database to my colleagues that teach at the high school level.  As for the Best Practice of generating and testing hypotheses, MeL has provided a wealth of resources that are appropriate, usable, related to content, and credible for students that is beyond the garbage that can be found with a regular Google search.  The handy citations at the bottom of each article make it incredibly easy for students to properly cite their work.

MeL Databases to Share With Students!

I have shared GeneralOne File with students on my website.  Rather than answering their incessant “When will we ever use this?” question, I would like to encourage students to look for current articles that have some type of relation to math.  This goes for InfoTrac Junior Edition as well.   The Learning Express Library would be a great place for students to see which types of jobs require a math background, and it even looks like there are some practice math tests provided.  Here is a quick shot of what my Math Resources page is starting to look like on my Weebly account.

Weebly Resources

Bogus Sites – BEWARE!

  • I checked out a couple of websites and used Joyce Valenza’s criteria  using the ADVANCED (Secondary – CARRDSS) level.  The first place I went was The Time Travel Fund site at  Clearly, as you will see, there is no WAY this is a legitimate website.  It fails every portion of Valenza’s test.

C – Credibility – The site looks sketchy from the start.  The picture on the homepage has a load of people gathered around a Christmas scene holding up some very amateur-looking certificates.

A – Accuracy – The site directly states that they “do not know” what they can do, but they can only make “reasonable guesses”.  Warning flags!

R – Reliability – In once spot, it says that international orders are not being taken, but then right below, it says that international orders take an extra dollar to process.

R – Relevance – The entire site is based on whether someone in the future would want to bring you to their place in time, and you have no choice as to where you go.  Why would anyone not want to have that choice?

D – Date – There is not a date located anywhere on the page.

S – Sources Behind the Text – There are no sources listed at all.

S – Scope and Purpose – There is no real purpose behind this site other than to collect $10 from you.   I’m a little worried about the PayPal certification, too!

C – Credibility – The PRNewswire logo at the top of the page looks pretty impressive, but there is nothing aside from the logo to indicate there is anything credible!

A – Accuracy – Redistributing the condiments 180 degrees so that the burger fits better for left-handers?  Just turn the burger around and you’ll get the same results!

R – Reliability – The burger is said to become available in the UK on April 1?  Perhaps the April Fools date will tip off some readers.

R – Relevance – It’s a round object, there is no reason to even consider how it would “fit better” into a left hand or right hand.

D – Date – There is no date located on the article or on the page itself aside from a 2013 copyright logo.

S – Sources Behind the Text – The source is list simply as “Burger King”.  Quite generic if you ask me!

S – Scope and Purpose – There is no distinct scope or purpose behind this article.

Consequently, after investigating the PRNewswire contact information, it appears that ANYONE can submit a story to this site.  Interesting! Having a few simple things to look for to evaluate the legitimacy of a website will go a long way towards making students more computer literate.

Citation Makers!

I have used these citation makers in both of my Masters programs, and I can’t imagine life without them!!  I had to write several papers, each requiring a number of various resources.  Creating the citations by hand early on was overwhelming and frustrating, but the moment I stumbled across a citation maker (I used the LandMark Citation Machine), life became much more pleasant.  Through Google Scholar, I went back and searched my good friend Pythagoras and located a couple of quality articles that would be great for student use.  For this assignment, I chose to use BibMe mostly because I’ve heard so many people talking about this one and wanted to check it out.  WOW!  This one is so much more user-friendly than what I was familiar with, and I was quickly able to locate two sources (a book and a website), and the citation was created with the click of a button.

  • Boyer, Carl B.. A history of mathematics. New York: Wiley, 1968. Print.
  • “Digital Commons @ Butler University.” – Undergraduate Research Conference: From Pythagoras to Johann Sebastian Bach: An Exploration in the Development of Temperament and Tuning. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 July 2014. <

ISTE Standards

1b Engage students in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources – Through the exploration of real world problems and their solutions, students will be required to do research.  Using smart search strategies will help them to find reliable and accurate information for their solutions.

2a Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity –  Honing in student searches to assignments that are relevant to them will certainly engage them and keep them on task.  If the cumbersome task of citing resources can be made less overwhelming through citation makers, students can continue to focus on solutions to real world problems.

3a Demonstrate fluency in technology systems and the transfer of current knowledge to new technologies and situations – Through the use of MeL and the databases, the instructor will be able to take the old-school library searches to something more current and accurate online.

4b Address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources – Again, the MeL databases are so diverse, there is certainly a resource and problem-solving opportunity available for each and every learning capability.

5c Evaluate and reflect on current research and professional practice on a regular basis to make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning – I cannot stress enough how valuable the MeL databases can be.  There is a particular section just for teachers that has what seems to be an infinite number of lessons and topics to keep teachers apprised of the current pedagogy and research in the education field.  The MeL site should be visited regularly and frequently by EVERY teacher!


Generating and testing hypothesis – Having the MeL databases available to students as well as the citation generators will allow groups to formulate and research their real world problems.  If they are able to approach each resource with a critical eye for what is accurate and credible and what is complete garbage, they will become better users of internet resources rather than straightforward consumers!

Cues, questions, and advanced organizers – A teacher could pose a real world problem to students, allowing them to use internet sources and smart searches to discover potential solutions to those questions.

Assigning homework and practice – An instructor could assign students to look up the origin of the idea of quadratic functions, finding the history of this concept that they could be addressing in math class.  They could be required to write a short paragraph using credible sources that must be cited.

Identifying similarities and differences – A potential assignment for a collaborative group could be for them to research and locate the similarities and differences between how the Chinese and the Greeks contributed to mathematics and how their viewpoints on problem-solving compared.