Skip to main content

Write anywhere

As folks know, I'm a big fan of #digitalink -- as a math teacher, as an aspiring creative person, I always want to scribble. I write on everything at home, and always have.  The back of envelopes (when people use to send them), post-it notes, boxes... I scribble everywhere.  I also doodle a lot when I'm bored. Lots of geometric figures, fractals and attempts at people.
But it's also math -- math is drawing, sketching, inking the patterns & graphs we ask them to provide the algebra for.  And algebra! Lord, the notations.
That's why, when we were rebuilding our classrooms and someone asked me my opinion, I asked specifically for desks that would allow whiteboard markers.  And it's been great!  My students aren't encumbered by the limits of paper or the laptop's screen and they don't have to go up to the board to collaborate.  They use the desk-top and a whiteboard marker.  In this digital age, they then use the Office Lens app on their phones to push their work into their OneNote -- it's important not just to do the work, but document it and reflect on it later.
We also use the windows that run down the length of my classroom to write mathematics -- usually I just write the important ideas during a class for them to always have visible (the primary trig ratios during our trig unit, or the quadratic formula) -- and then drop the blinds when I don't want them there.
It does take a few days at the start of the year for students to get over the "don't write on the tables" that elementary school often drills into them.  Yes, I take humourous advantage of knowing that internalized rule and just cavalierly write on the desk at the beginning of the year when they have a question and watch them squirm -- "Sir, you're writing on the desk!" -- acknowledging that they had that rule, and that neither the rule or the ink is permanent helps to break the fear quickly. And other teachers (and guests) will often react negatively -- but once they realize the students can wipe it off and are using it constructively, I begin to see things start to appear on other classes' desk & windows, too.

I do talk to the cleaning staff and ask them to leave the window content up (good ole "PLO" helps) and the students are required to clean the desks off at the end of class (or sigh, I do in case I'm not sufficiently vigilant).  It's not the staff's job to clean up our learning - they're occupied with just the daily remains of our existence.
I also rip up my old towels and use them as table/window/whiteboard erasers.  They're fuzzy enough to get all the marker wiped off and quick to thrown in the wash at home. They are also popular enough that I noticed that other teachers have stolen them for their rooms.  Reminder: bring another few old towels to school tomorrow.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Escape Room / BreakOut in OneNote

[[Part 2 of this article is here: Link]]

So when I was visiting Anna in Edinburgh during March Break, she showed me how she used Password-Protected OneNote sections within the OneNote ClassNotebook to help students check their work -- she set the password to the correct answer, so they knew they had it right when the Section opened up.

I figured I could use this for Math Review, so I set aside a couple of hours (turned out to be 3 hours but a fair chunk of that was solution-time) the other night to put an Exam Review together for my Grade 10 Mathematics course.  I pulled together as many multiple choice questions and short answer questions on the topics as I could Google and tried to balance each Section with a mix of topics and then threw in a couple of pop-culture questions, too.  The students worked on the problems in each section and used the answers as passwords to unlock the next section until they got to the Prize section.
Result?  Near total continual engagement for the 60 min…

Desmos, OneNote & Replay

So using Desmos activities are a great way to encourage exploration and discussion in math class -- if you haven't tried them, I encourage it.  They're collected at 

But ... Desmos doesn't give you quite enough.  It doesn't have a way of capturing the work that the student does within their space, and it doesn't allow for annotation of class contributions as we come together to discuss.  Well, not surprisingly, OneNote comes to the rescue. 
Using the Windows shortcut Windows-Shift-S it is really quick to snag the Desmos screen and pop it into a waiting OneNote page.  From there, we can grab our pen and (using wireless projection) talk about what all the different responses mean and where to go from there.
(An aside : one of the nice features of Desmos activities are the way you can hit PAUSE and it will pause all the screens of the students working.  I always give them a heads up "10 seconds to pause..." and it's refreshing…

Teacher Professional Development and Microsoft OneNote

During the first three weeks of July, I have the amazing opportunity to work at the Park City Mathematics Institute.  It is, without exaggeration, the best professional development opportunity for teachers of mathematics.  Participants spend three weeks thinking deeply about mathematics and mathematics education.

There are three main aspects of PCMI:

learning mathematicsreflection on practice (RoP)becoming a resource to others.I'm part of the team for RoP and in charge of the third aspect, in which participants consider a gap in professional development back at their home districts and work in small groups to help fill that hole by developing a rich PD seminar on that topic.

It is not easy to develop professional development.  Teachers who haven't written PD have to patiently learn how to write (essentially) lesson plans for someone else.

This year, I used Microsoft OneNote to facilitate the process.  We have a central OneNote Notebook through which I lay out the daily schedule…