Thing #19 – Digital Storytelling

Digital Storytelling!

I was able to play around a bit with the Storybird tool ( and create a story problem for my students to solve.  In the spirit of Dan Meyers and his Three Act math problems, I created a problem that didn’t necessarily give every piece of information to students, but instead gave them the chance to explore a relatively real world situation and answer in a way that makes sense to the student.  I probably gave away too much information as it is, but it’s a start.  After going through and solving the problem that I have presented, students will be asked to create their own digital story problem.  Not only have I modeled digital storytelling, but I have redefined and modified my original lesson to make a richer, more meaningful experience for students.  I would say that creating their own story problems, sharing, and solving would be much more beneficial than completing a worksheet of story problems.  Every year, I have students that routinely skip the story problems in the homework assignments in the book because they say they are too confusing.  If they begin to create their own story problems, students will be looking at the problem from the other side, hopefully not nearly as intimidated by all of the words anymore!  Here is my Storybird, entitled “Karl Gets Lost”.

Karl Gets Lost


Reactions From Others!

Two of my colleagues looked at this, and they were both amazed.  One happens to be an English teacher, and she couldn’t wait to get her students working on one of these this fall.  The other was a math teacher, and I don’t think she’s stopped talking about it yet.  We have been struggling in the math department for years trying to get students to tackle these story problems.  Perhaps by putting the power of the students’ education into THEIR hands, they will have more of an investment and interest in moving forward.  As much as I loved Storybird, I felt a little limited by having to make my story match the pictures, and I would like to try another source the next time.  Using my own photos and videos to create real world problems might be easier.

Practice with SoundCloud!

I created an account in SoundCloud, and discussed the benefits of digital storytelling for students.  Students reach a different level of thinking as they go through the assignment, and they are provided with multiple means of expression, content, and technology standards.  The audio file is linked below.

SoundCloud Audio Clip on Digital Storytelling


ISTE Standards

1b – Engage students in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources – Though the original intent of this thing was to create a story through digital means, I was able to turn this into a story problem for students.  Students can solve the problems and then create their own through the use of the digital storytelling resources.

2c Customize and personalize learning activities to address students’ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources – Not every student thinks like I do, especially when it comes to math.  I am very linear and procedural, but more and more students crave that need for creativity, especially in this digital age.  With digital storytelling tools, students are able to access those types of learning styles that they maybe couldn’t before in the typical math classroom.

3d Model and facilitate effective use of current and emerging digital tools to locate, analyze, evaluate, and use information resources to support research and learning – The use of digital storytelling tools allows the instructor to model a different way to solve math problems, opening the door for student learning.

4a Advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources – Though I have been guilty of  letting this idea slip in the past, through consistent modeling, students will learn the importance of protecting themselves, their creations, and their ideas.  I was sure to include the Creative Commons license on both my Storybird book and my audio recording.

5d Contribute to the effectiveness, vitality, and self-renewal of the teaching profession and of their school and community – The SoundCloud resource allowed me to easily share my thoughts and ideas about digital storytelling and its benefits.  Sharing these thoughts on my face of the classroom and the blog shows that I have made a contribution to the teaching profession.

CITW – Best Practices

Summarizing and note-taking – There were a number of storyboard organization sites that were shared in this thing that would allow students to take notes and include the elements of digital storytelling.

Non-linguistic representations – Using photographs, videos, and provided artwork is the essence of digital storytelling.  Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of objectives without the use of the written word.

Setting objectives and providing feedback – A SoundCloud or Audacity audio recording would allow the instructor to upload and provide feedback to a student’s work directly.

Cues, questions, and advanced organizers – The digital story problem book that I created includes questions within the story.  Students are asked about halfway through the book as to what information would be necessary to complete the problem.  Also, there are elements of creating a storyboard for a student’s own story problem that help him/her to organize thoughts.

Identifying similarities and differences – As students work collaboratively and explore the work of others, they will quickly be able to compare the similarities and differences in their stories with that of their peers.  In my particular situation, it would be great if they could see that the stories that they are creating all result in linear functions!




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 #13 – Digital Images


Have you noticed yet that there are exclamation points behind every one of my topics in these postings??  It’s only because each and every “thing” I encounter is better than the last, and I’m SUPER excited about sharing all of it in my classroom!  The newest, most exciting thing of all was found at Voki.  I was able to create my own ultra-cool avatar at, I included a background image of my favorite place in the world, Aruba, and I recorded a welcome message before posting it all to my Weebly site.  Take a look at that!


Voki Avatar


I plan on including the link to my Weebly site with the orientation letter that will go home to parents in mid-August, and I’m anxious to hear reactions from students when they encounter my Voki!



This is another site that I can imagine using frequently.  My Student Council representatives take a lot of pictures for the yearbook, and I have typically stored everything on my classroom computer.  This year, the switched out my computer halfway through the year, and I ended up having to download all of the pictures all over again.  With a photo-sharing site such as Snapfish, this would have been so much easier!  As I am looking at this site, I see that there are so many gift options and projects to create.  The possibilities are endless!  I uploaded a beach scene, taken from our last vacation.  The site below should take you to my saved Snapfish photo.


I have heard educators talking about Photopeach before, but I was never sure what all the fuss was about.  Wow!  Yet another amazing “thing” that has immediately sent my mind racing.  With students always wondering where in the world they will ever use math outside of the math classroom, I put together a few slides that will get students thinking about the fact that math is indeed everywhere!  This is a quick icebreaker that I would like to start students with on the first day of school, and perhaps they could even add their own photos to upload to me.  That would definitely make the Photopeach slide show even BETTER next year!  You can find the brief show by clicking here…

ISTE Standards

1a Promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness – My Voki avatar that appears on my Weebly site will be the first indication to students and parents what kind of year it will be experienced.  My intention is for my students to be more engaged, opening up that innovative and inventive thinking.

2a Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity – With the photo sharing and editing capabilities of the resources that were shared, student creativity has not limits.

3b Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation – Again, the photo sharing and editing resources will make for an excellent yearbook this year.  Academically, students can use their own photos to create unit projects that will speak volumes as to what they have learned.

4b Address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources – When students are allowed to edit and share their own photos, they quickly become aware that they are in charge of their own learning.

CITW – Best Practice

1 Non-linguistic representations – Working with photos, editing them, and even creating their own avatar, students will be working with the best practice of non-linguistic representations.  There are no words, but each pictures if worth a thousand of them.

Identifying similarities and differences – Students could take a look at two different pictures, determining what the similarities and differences are in each set of pictures.  Furthermore, they could create a Photopeach slide show that would highlight the similarities and differences in two different math concepts, such as linear and exponential functions.

Cues, questions, and advanced organizers – The instructor of a math classroom could have students create an advanced organizer that will show real world connections that can be made when discussing integers.  There is just SO much that can be done with this “thing”!

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.