031: Math Masterpiece PBL

Project based learning is hard. Anyone who tells you differently has not done a high quality projects that leads to deeper learning. The reason in implementing project based learning so difficult is that the mindset has to change. There is a massive upfront preparation phase of mapping out the project with all the necessary elements, determining the authentic audience, how to weave in experts, and figuring out the final place for the project to reside. This all requires an invested time and energy focus months ahead of time. It requires the teacher(s) to do the the project, map things out, and have all bases covered knowing things will change and adapt based on the development of the students.

However, I have yet to meet an educator or student who has been part of a quality project that has not been changed for the good after completing and being part of a quality project.

As we explore projects I think many people would agree that math is probably one of the most difficult to create a high quality learning project, let alone integrating it with other subjects.

Recently, my wife who teaches 8th grade algebra and pre-algebra completed a project that was a pivotal moment for her, the students, and the school where she teaches. I know this seems quite dramatic, but it is true. Let’s cut into the project(pun intended).


 

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She was trying to find a way to enhance her math instruction and learning. Her department is already doing some great work to get to this point. They don’t use a textbook and essentially have created their own curriculum from scratch and other resources to enhance instruction. They also have a powerful PLC established where the teachers and instructional coaches have some high quality conversations about data, instruction, and how to constantly improve.

The general challenge of this project was to create art using the Desmos website by creating vertical and horizontal lines and lines with positive and negative slopes as well as multiple other functions that allowed students to create their desired masterpiece. This may not seem like much, but have you ever tried to create a minion or logo of your favorite team or coffee using nothing but math? I thought so!

Students were also given the parameter of a minimum of 75 lines. As students began to brainstorm and come up with their designs they had to have approval of their plans from the teacher. Once they were good they were given time to write their “code” to bring their art to life.

Students had to think. They had to teach one another, brainstorm, and do additional research as their ideas developed. How do I stop the line from going on endlessly? How do I create a curved line? What if I want to do this? or that? Many things were left open for them to explore and solve on their own. This is where the power in learning took place.

As they began to finish their designs the prints were then formatted to be cut in a vinyl cutter. Students would email the teacher their Desmos graph. From there the grids and all backgrounds would be removed within the software.

Art with all grids

Art with all grids

Remove all grids and lines from background

Remove all grids and lines from background

 

Clean background

Clean background

Choose the "Image" option

Choose the “Image” option

Save this file and load to your vinyl cutter

Save this file and load to your vinyl cutter

We use the Silhouette Cameo to do all of our cuts. It is a very easy to use vinyl cutter that makes great cuts and is very easy to learn.

For the sake of costs(vinyl is not the cheapest) students images were printed within a 5 x 5 in square so we could get 4-6 prints per 12 x 12 inch vinyl sheet. This was also large enough to see all details and small enough to add to computers, cars, and more.

Once they were all printed, students were given a day or two to pick all the pieces out. We had them do this part because it is their design and they understand what they want to be removed. Keep in mind that allowing students to do this will lead to mistakes. We had to cut several more than once. Students had a hard time understanding what to pick and what to leave. I would suggest having examples to show them so they can understand negative space.

In the end all students were able to take their designs home. However, this was the not the end. She decided to host her own exhibition during the day. We went back and cut out  about 40 of them again for a display. We placed colored cardstock that matched the vinyl behind it.

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We also made a poster of every single design(even the ones partially completed) using collage.com because we needed a site that would allow us to upload over 100 images. After several various exhibit design layouts(some were amazing) time got the best of us and she ended up with this very nice looking display at the front of the building.

 

(If you are interested in other layouts reach out to me)

The next step was to have the students own the learning. This is something that they have not had to do before. She invited staff to her room for a showcase day. She also emailed a letter to all parents inviting them to the school. For her exhibition day, staff and parents came during the class period. The students took on the role of the teacher and taught the adult how to write math equations and formulas to make simple shapes. This allowed them to showcase how difficult their own art was to create, gave them a sense of pride by how the adults struggled and really gave everyone a chance to bond over math. So often parents see kids doing work, but have no concept of what they are doing or how to engage with the content. My wife teared up several times watching the kids and parent interact.

 

This Sway has a massive amount of images to help you understand what was all created.

Despite the kids and teacher being super nervous, it turned out to be a glorious day. Since this project has ended(just a few weeks ago) she has already developed and launched a bigger and more massive project and is already sketching out plans for another project.

Just when you think you cannot do a project or thinking that pbl does not fit your curriculum, I challenge you to think again. It can be done. It is simply a matter of putting in the time, effort, and planning. It is finding people who can help you. It is removing the mental barriers you have placed on yourself as well as the limitations you have placed on students by deciding what they can and can’t do.

Nothing is impossible once you decide it is not.

All documents for the project can be found here

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030: November 2015 Month Goals, What Are Yours?

My podast is back! Check out this episode where I discuss my four goals for the month of November. I have 4 big goals

  1. Weight under 230
  2. Donation of 500 books
  3. Build a robot that delivers coffee to teachers
  4. NaNoWrimo nonfiction style to finally finish my book!


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2015 Goals: 31 Days Gone and 28 day goal plan

January has come and gone already. Hard to believe 31 days can go by so fast. I have been keeping track of my goals and doing things to help me stay focused. Here is how the month developed and ended up and also where I plan to go in February.

Before I get into all the details one tool that really helped me with life this month as well as my  goals was using my Moleskine notebooks for my logbook

My big three goals for January were

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Goal 1: 2014 Lists were successful. I posted many blog posts about reflecting and making changes for 2015 based on these lists.

1.03.15 Coffeechug YouTube Success and Suck in 2014 

1.02.15 Using Evernote Moleskine Planner To Prepare and Plan in 2015 

1.01.15 234 Posts and What I Learned from 2014? If Anything 

I gathered more data, but did not blog about them all because not everyone cares. Looking at data allowed me to see what was working and not working. It has really helped me develop a vision for 2015.

Goal 2: Sphero Workshop

I am not where I want to be with this quite yet. I have not moved beyond the brainstorming and sketching stage. I took the amazing day at #CentCon15 to see what worked well and this month will be expanding the Sphero session to a full blow workshop for Deeper Learning Conference in San Diego at High Tech High.

Goal 3: Drop 5 lbs

I started the month weighing an all time high in my life of 243.4 As of weigh Saturday after working out I dropped to 230.6. Almost 13 lbs which I am quite proud of. Not too bad for one month of work. I am hoping to drop 5 lbs this month.

I completed 52.84 miles of running

I completed 204.3 miles of biking

Total 257.14

I missed a few workouts and ate not the smartest. It is time to clean both of these aspects up a bit more in February.

 

February Goals

Based on how January went and looking towards another one month milestone here is what I am after. I have more than 3 this month. They are all important and fit into the three main goals of 2015. One goal  not shown in the picture is to drop 5 lbs this month.

IMG_2460

Overall Year Goals Progress

Looking back at January I feel that my year goals are right on track.

Year Goals

1. Get back to healthy weight and lifestyle. Here is what I have done so far……

  • Dropped almost 13 lbs
  • Biked 204.3
  • Ran 52.84
  • Total Mileage 257.14

2. Streamline life so I can be more productive in specific avenues. So far so good…..

  • LEGO EV3
    • Sketched out framework for new videos with EV3
  • Sphero
    • Workshop plans are ready to be implemented
  • Productivity
    • Discovered new tools to help me stay focused
  • MakerEd

3. Be Home More. Toughest one, but I did work on this.

  • I did not go to EdCamp due to be gone too much the previous weeks
  • Said no to some commitments
  • Looking to reduce after school commitments for next school year.
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029: Kristin Galle – 2014 PBS Digital Innovator and Therapy Classroom

Towards the end of 2014 I put out for a challenge to help spread the positive vision of educators. I asked educators to nominate themselves or others to help share the amazing things in education

Increasing Teacher Voice: Challenge and Nominate a Teacher 

The first episode for this season is with an amazing educator named Kristin Galle from Wisconsin.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 1.34.07 PM

Kristin is a 2014 PBS Digital Innovator and is doing some really intriguing things with therapy, mental health, and more in her classroom. It really is something worth hearing.

I hope you enjoy this first episode. Remember if you know someone who would be good to have on the show make sure you nominate them so we can get connected.

Increasing Teacher Voice: Challenge and Nominate a Teacher 

Shownotes

http://www.symbaloo.com/

 

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028: A Few Bad Apples: #Stuvoice Social Experiment Part 1/5

I am so pumped to launch this five part series about how a class of 8th grade language arts students took a project and made something happen. I was lucky enough to see this project unfold through the lens of one of our amazing educators at Bettendorf Middle School.

Lisa Barnes, an 8th grade language arts teacher took a chance. She pushed her comfort zone and took an idea she developed to a new level. She had the kids move from just research and regurgitation which so often happens in schools into a phase of Doing Something! They students had to act on their own learning.

It was interesting to work with them briefly when I had time.

They did not believe that it mattered.

They did not believe that their voice held any power.

Some still are not quite sure that their voice matters.

However, they stuck with it and through the journey they found their voice.

This week I will be sharing a post each day for five days. Today the goal is to simply introduce you to the project. I will share a short podcast we recorded so you can hear from the teacher herself about this project. There is also an project outline form.

I will also share a few other things as well. This is the setup. The next four days I will share out the projects the students developed. They are really good. We have all types of students involved in this project. This is what makes it so special.

Please reach out. Leave comments, ask questions, let the students what you think of their work. The more we can bring back to the classroom the more powerful this all becomes.

Enjoy


Lisa Barnes, 8th grade Language Arts teacher explains the project in this podcast

 

Project Resources



 

To get them thinking about ideas to enact upon we did a brainwriting activity.

Brainwriting Activity, not Brainstorming http://wp.me/p4covo-121 

If there are other things you want information about please let us know.

Tomorrow we will show you the first batch of student work.

If you want to reach out to Lisa Barnes here is her email lbarnes@bettendorf.k12.ia.us

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027: Allison Edwards – Author of Why Smart Kids Worry

I recently read an amazing book. This book is called Why Smart Kids Worry by Allison Edwards. I found this book helping me learn more about my own children and how to be a better parent. This book is not only helpful for parenting, but also for educators.

Why Smart Kids Worry by Allison Edwards

Why Smart Kids Worry by Allison Edwards

A very powerful read to help parents and educators understand anxiety and the ways in which in can affect children. The book provides a great overview of they types of anxiety and then provides many tools and tips to try to help work through the anxiety. This is a read that all parents should read! More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon

 

This podcast episode is my wonderful chat with the author Allison Edwards. It is well worth the listen to gain some insights about anxiety in children and some new ideas that are not in the book. After you listen please take time to read her book. It is really helpful.

Show Notes
Follow this podcast on iTunes and please feedback and ratings.If you would like to watch the podcast check that out here
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026: Weekly Dose of Caffeine 10.31.14 Podcast for Newsletter

1_CoffeeBrainLogos_v2

This is a new experiment. I am creating a podcast to go along with the newsletter.

Check out the newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/6PDQL

If you want the backstory and reasons for what I chose watch the video or the listen to the podcast.

If you like it please review on iTunes, like on YouTube, and let me know your thoughts.

Enjoy!

Follow this podcast on iTunes and please feedback and ratings.

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025: Living on the Edge of Chaos – Story of George

No music for this podcast. No intro songs. Just a story. A good story. A story to hopefully get you think about simplifying your life and remembering what it is like to create things with pride and passion and more importantly purpose. Enjoy1413581522

We would love to hear from you about your thoughts on these topics.

Follow this podcast on iTunes and please feedback and ratings.

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Living On The Edge of Podcast Q&A: Share your ?’s

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I have a few more episodes left in Season 2 of Living on the Edge of Chaos podcast. This podcast has been a personal passion of mine. It is something that I wish I could develop more time to publish more episodes and is something I working towards going bigger for Season 3 in 2015.

As I wrap up some final recordings over the next month and clean those up for publication, I wanted to try out a new type of episode.

I wanted to create more interaction with the audience of those who listen as well as those who read this blog.

I am going to create a Q&A episode(s) where I will answer questions around education, productivity, technology, etc. based on what others want answers or my opinion(for whatever it is worth).

Below is a short form. If you have something for me to cover and address please fill out the very simple two question form.

Submit some questions. If you have not yet listened to a podcast make sure you check out the latest podcast which is really good.

I will grab my cup of coffee and share what I think! For better or worse.

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024: Living on Edge of Chaos – Book Discussion: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell with Lisa Van Gemert

Today I bring to you a new podcast and one that I am very excited to bring to you. This podcast has been one that Lisa and I have been wanting to do for quite some time. I was lucky enough to have her on the show last year which is well worth the listen for Episode 5.

In this episode we hold a book discussion. We discuss the book

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Author:
Genre: Non-Fiction
A book that will make you think about things in a new way by changing the perspective of stories and the concept that what it means to be an underdog will give you much food for thought. A must read! More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon

This is well worth the read. You don’t have to read the book to understand the chat, but hopefully it will inspire you to pick it up and read.

We would love to hear from you about your thoughts on these topics. Leave a comment here, iTunes, or YouTube.

Follow this podcast on iTunes and please feedback and ratings.

If you would want to watch the video as we recorded via Google Hangout below.

 

All Social Media for Lisa Van Gemert – Please follow and learn from one of the best!
Websites
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Links to items mentioned in the podcast
Malcolm Gladwell books worth reading
Other Books
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