Thursday, December 17, 2009

My New Technology Theory

Wow ... I know, I know. Two blog posts within a month of each other? No way!

Yes Way!

Anyways, I have a new theory about integrating technology into the classroom for the leery. (Is that the right word there? I teach Math, not English)

I am trying my hardest to convince fellow teachers of the value of technology in the classroom and for those that are still not so sure, I think here's how you start.

You give it as extra credit. You say, "here, do this and turn it in here."

While I am not leery of technology, I recently assigned this to my students. I was inspired by @fouss and her Conics Project, so I tweaked it, added some things and instead of doing it in class, I am having them do it outside of class. I am letting THEM learn the technology, I am letting them WORK with the technology and I am NOT teaching them how to do any of it.

Now, yes, I will answer questions, of course. But, seriously, they're on their own. So much so, they're doing it over Christmas Break.

So, teachers, if you don't know how to integrate technology, assign it and let them free.

Let them teach YOU.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

You aren't allowed to read WHAT?

Okay, heads up. This post has nothing to do with math.

And, yes, I haven't blogged since October 6th. Sorry. Get over it. Read on.

Yesterday, I had a student come up to me and ask me to fill out an AP English Survey about banned books. It started off the usual (age, gender, ethnicity). The rest of the questions looked (something) like this (ish):
- Did you know our school had a banned book list?
- Lord of the Flies, Gone with the Wind and The Great Gatsby are all on the banned books list. Do you think they should be?
- Do you believe books should be banned from high school students?

Okay, first ... WHAT? WE BAN BOOKS HERE? I got over my internal shock and asked the student in a calmer way. "Yes, we do. But (so and so) is about to read Great Gatsby in class, so I guess it doesn't matter." Next, I looked at her and I said "So, you're telling me, you don't read these classics in high school?" Her response "Nope, we don't."

I kept my internal fire of banning books and my opinions of it to myself, wrote a little bit on the survey and went back to helping students with ... wait for it ... math.

So, this being at 8:30 in the morning, I was set to spin my wheels of thought going on this all day long. And, it lead me to my thoughts about internet filtering. I mean, isn't banning books the exact same as internet filtering? Aren't we protecting our students from the inevitable?

I let it all stew inside of me until my planning period and I went down to talk to none other than Julie. She's my accomplice during my planning period, #1 helper for keeping me from doing work. But, it's worth it. Some of you know her as Julie Sugarplum. Others as @ejulez. If you know her, you know she's awesome.

So, I brought up this conversation I had in class with her and we started talking about the banning of books. I brought up my comparison to internet filtering and we both agreed that we are way over the constant chatter of internet filtering. It comes up each and every day on Twitter. I think everything's been said that can be said. Eventually, we'll get over internet filtering. Until then, let's talk about ... banned books. Julie went on to tell me about how when she was a TF in an elementary school, the debate over banning Harry Potter came up. Crazy! Okay, elementary school, maybe, perhaps, possibly, not really, but maybe I can see it.

Julie told me how many schools have committees set to discuss and determine which books get to be on (and sometimes get off) the banned book list. She then had an "aha" moment. "The kids can access these banned books on the internet. Shouldn't our filter be in line with our banned books list?" Novel idea. A kid can't check out The Great Gatsby in the library, but I sure bet they can find it on the web.

So, is banning books similar to internet filtering? No matter your belief of either idea, should they go hand in hand? If we ban the book, should we ban it online?

At the end of a very insightful conversation (we rarely have those! :) haha!), I was still in shock that schools choose to not let our students read classics. So, my next stop? The librarian.

We have a totally hip and awesome librarian. She has completely turned the concept of a library around and the kids LOOOVE going in there. She's awesome! Anyways, I brought it up with her and she went on to inform me that there are no banned books at our school. The list she gave the student was a list of previously banned books from around the world. My heart went to ease as I heard these words. But, she said that it is not uncommon for schools/districts/states to ban books. She also went on to tell me about the recent debate of Jack and the Beanstalk. The giant holds a can of "ALE" in one of the pictures.

Dana (my librarian) put it best. "Use it as a teaching moment. Kids, we don't drink ale. Did you hear what Chris Brown just said? Yeah, we don't say those words ... ever."

So, again, is banning books similar to internet filtering? Where do we draw the line? What do we do about it?


The librarian sent me this later in the day. Check it out:
As long as there have been books, there have been people opposed to what is said in some of those books. Authors who challenge the accepted norms in their literature are often the target of angry people who do not understand or appreciate their literature. The following books are excellent examples of great literature that has become banned or challenged in an attempt to shield the public from what some see as inappropriate.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald - Challenged at the Baptist College in Charleston, SC (1987)
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote -Banned, but later reinstated after community protests at the Windsor Forest High School in Savannah, Ga. (2000).

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck - Burned by the East St. Louis, III. Public Library (1939) and barred from the Buffalo, N.Y Public Library (1939) on the grounds that "vulgar words" were used. Banned in Kansas City, Mo. (1939); Kern County Calif, the scene of Steinbeck's novel, (1939); Ireland ( 1953); Kanawha, Iowa High School classes (1980); and Morris, Manitoba (1982).

Native Son, Richard Wright - Removed from Irvington High School in Fremont, Calif. (1998) after a few parents complained the book was unnecessarily violence and sexually explicit. Challenged in the Hamilton High School curriculum in Fort Wayne, Ind. (1998) because of the novel's graphic language and sexual content.

The Call of the Wild, Jack London - Banned in Italy (1929), Yugoslavia (1929), and burned in Nazi bonfires (1933). Source: 2004 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.

The Lord of the Flies, William Golding - Challenged at the Owen, N.C. High School (1981) because the book is "demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal";

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell - banned from Anaheim, Calif. Union High School District English classrooms (9178) according to the Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Do you wanna TOONDOO?

So, I've made it my goal this year to stop after every two chapters in Algebra II and review. I have decided that I want that review to be completely technology driven. So, my first attempt, after Chapter 2, was Glogster. Turned out not all the proper URLs were unblocked, so that didn't work out. Instead, I had them edit the wiki pages with information and it went OK.

After Chapter 4, I had decided to use ToonDoo. I was all a go for ToonDoo and then I heard about the educational side of ToonDoo, called ToonDooSpaces. While this side costs money, it's completely safe and private ... it reminds me of a mini Facebook. You can get a 15 day trial for free to test it. And, if you do decide you want to keep using it, the price is VERY reasonable. You pick how many users and how many months, it doesn't have to be a year subscription. 50 users for 1 month was $14. Not bad! Plus, think, divide the students into 5 groups, that's 5 users, not 30.

Okay @msgregson, how in the world did you use ToonDoo for math when you can't type math into it?

Okay, you got me. You're right. No math can be typed except what you can type via the keyboard. So, I picked these two chapters because they dealt with processes. I gave them directions via google docs (see earlier post about my love of google docs) and set them to run. They had to describe the process without actually solving a problem. They submitted their embed code here (a google form) and I put them into our class wiki. And, look at what transpired!

1st Period - Chapter 3 (Systems)
3rd Period - Chapter 3 (Systems)
1st Period - Chapter 4 (Matrices)
3rd Period - Chapter 4 (Matrices)

While they did have a blast using Obama, Bush and MJ in their comics, they GOT it. They talked their way through a PROCESS. It wasn't memorizing how to do something, they talked their way through the math.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

True Life: Google Saved My Life

I want to start this post off by saying that before May 2009, I had no clue that Google had a documents side, or even an application side. I thought Google was a search engine and a place for me to check my email, that's it. In five short months, I have been saved by Google thanks to @ejulez. She showed me the light.

I wanted to dedicate this post to how Google saved my life and what applications I use on a (somewhat) daily basis in my classroom. Some of the following topics are things I have not actually implemented, but either have seen it work or plan on making it work.

Gmail: Students in one of my classes (read: it's about slow integration) are required to have a Gmail account. I don't use it so much for the email aspect, but I do believe every student should have an appropriate email account (something that includes their name in it, etc) as they prepare to apply for jobs and colleges, so I require them to have one in order to communicate. Personally, I have four Gmail accounts - my personal, my school, my swim team and my BETA club. I can sort them and keep them separate.

Google Calendar: Embedded in my wiki is a Google Calendar. Each day, I update it with their homework assignment(s) and sections covered for the day. This way, they have no excuse for not knowing what we covered that day because it's always on the calendar.

Google Sites: I have created a Google site for my SAT Prep Course. It has become their SAT Study Guide. On the days before tests, we go into the lab and they edit their study guide. They transfer their notes into the wiki for them to study from and enhance understanding. Through this, they have learned how to type math and communicate their notes via typing. It's been a struggle, but beneficial. My big goal was to have a final place for them to visit when they prepare for the actual SAT. I plan on having one for my PreCal class as their main class webpage (instead of my wiki on Wikispaces above). Google Sites can be made private or public which keeps your students protected.

Google Photos/Picasa: Picasa offers you a place to store all photos. While you may just want this on a personal basis, it does have collaborative effort to it, where multiple people can share an album and upload to the album. Students could upload images or work to Picasa for your viewing and so they would have it at school for use. Just like facebook, you can tag photos. You can also create collages and slideshows.

Google Reader: I use Google Reader, not so much in my classroom, but as a professional development use. It tracks blogs that I follow and other RSS feeds in a one-stop shop.

Google Groups:
I have not used Google Groups, however, I have sat in on a training (by @ejulez) about Google Groups and think they have lots of potential. You can make them public or private to keep students protected. Students can have pages to themselves, you can post assignments. There is a discussion board. You can send out mass emails via a group. You can post homework answers, collect homework answers. It's a great common meeting place. And, because it emails out for every update, it's easy to monitor from a teacher standpoint.

Google Talk:
You could use GChat in a variety of ways. I use it for professional development to discuss and bounce ideas off other educators. You could also create a back channel for students to talk and discuss projects, homework, anything. It allows an easy way to ask questions and get answers from anywhere. I hope that perhaps I can stay logged into GChat in the evenings to help students with homework questions.

Google Books:
It is completely shocking (and amazing) to me that Google has all these full texts (for free) in Google Books. Check out this SAT Workbook, for example. It is a full text SAT help guide. FOR FREE! Students can search through this and find books they can't get in libraries, look for help with a research paper or just find a good book or magazine to read. Teachers can use this as a professional development guide.

We talk about all the applications, but we sometimes forget about great Google is. You can search for images, videos, maps, news, and so much more. What an amazing resource for your students to have at their finger tips. Yes, they may search inappropriately. Yes, they may find inappropriate stuff. But, as a teacher, let them know your expectations and how to handle inappropriate stuff. It'll be OKAY! Allow your students to use its wealth of knowledge. And, you, as a teacher, can benefit it. I have found some great lesson plans, worksheets and project ideas by googling ideas. Do it. I dare you.

Google Earth:
What another great resource to have at your fingertips. Allowing students to see a map, satellite or terrain view of anywhere in the Earth (and Mars!) is unbelievable. Allow them to plan a trip. Teach them to use the scale. Calculate gas mileage. Calculate proportions. Research longitude and latitude. Research locations and landmarks. Research terrain. The possibilities are endless.

Google Documents: Okay, google docs are my baby. I use them and abuse them and they have made my life so much easier. If my students had laptops, I would be a paperless classroom due to google documents. I started off the year by collecting student information via a google doc form (Students & Parents). The information goes directly into a spreadsheet (I'd link to it, but there is a lot of personal info there, I'll show one later) for your access via web. Nice, easy, spreadsheet. Each weekend, my Algebra II students have a weekend assignment (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5). Their answers go into a spreadsheet. I color code incorrect answers and grade accordingly. I also collect results from students via a google doc form. Two weeks ago, they were working on the iPods, so they submitted their results here. The results looks like this. I am also using a google doc form to collect service hours for my BETA Club. Why both having a paper log, when you can do this? Also, in my classroom, I use a similar form to collect embed codes so I can embed their review projects onto the wiki. Back to my BETA Club stuff. I have a google spreadsheet (I can't share b/c of the personal names of students), where I can keep track of who has turned in what and store email addresses and t-shirt sizes. The best part of this is that I can share the document with my co-sponsor and we can both edit it and have up-to-date copies without emailing back and forth. Not to mention, I don't have to have my thumb drive to edit it! I use the google document (read: Microsoft Word in Google) to write out instructions for projects. I will be using this document on Thursday (if you are reading this Tuesday or Wednesday, the document is there, but not complete). All I have to do it share the document with the students, they can open it up and read the directions. No copies necessary! Lastly, a colleguge and myself wanted to create a presentation to express the importance of community service. We don't have a lot of physical time to meet, so we did it via Google Docs. We created a presentation, shared it with each other and edited it simultaneously. I could watch her type and see what she was changing and adding. Also, you can directly embed YouTube videos into these presentations and play them directly in the presentation without having to travel to the YouTube website! Here is an example of a spreadsheet used by all educators on Twitter. They have stored their information, so you can find great people to follow. And, lastly, yes, I have even tested via a google form. Head over to and watch the Love Letter video. Not only is it hilarious, you will see the POWER of collaboration via Google Docs.

Are you intrigued? Open up your Gmail and in the top menu bar, click More, then Even More to see all that Google has to offer!

Don't know where to start? Ask me! I would LOVE to show you how to do it!

Friday, September 11, 2009


I am now in year #4 of teaching. It feels like just yesterday that it was year #1. Crazy how times flies, right? Well, as I move through a flawless year #4 currently (more on that later), I can't help but think of where I've been.

Via twitter, @misscalcul8 and @samjshah have put me in a reflective mood tonight, so I thought I would take a moment to reflect.

Year #1 - I moved to Concord NC with my best friend and we got to teach at the same school in classrooms beside each other. I thought life was going to rock. I had Foundations of Algebra (Algebra IA) and Algebra II, first semester and Geometry and Tech Math II, second semester. What? I can't teach Algebra IB and PreCal like I student taught? What? I have to create everything new in my first year? I have no help? Geesh. But, I walked in with my head held high determined not to be a doormat, determined to be the best teacher ever and determined to share math love.

I'll never forget September 15th, 2006. It was a Friday. It was first period. We were taking a test on Matrices. Here's how it went down:

Student #1: Ms Gregson, I really need to go to the office. I really need to talk to someone.
Student #1 goes to the office for about 10 minutes, returns, takes a seat, works on her test.
Knock. Knock. On the door. It's the school resource officer and an assistant principal.
SRO/AP: We need to see Student #2.
They escort her down to the office. I'm just a low first year teacher. I didn't think much of it. I kept monitoring the test. Nothing new, nothing fancy.
The door opens, it's Student #2.
Ms Gregson: Oh great! Glad you're back! Go ahead and get working on your test!
Student #2 doesn't respond.
Instead, she walks over to her desk, instead of sitting down in her seat, she starts being the you know what out of Student #1. Student #1 is pinned in her desk and is getting nailed left and right. Hair is being pulled (you know, girl cat fight). I had that moment --- "Do I go call the office? Do I yell for help? Do I break it up?" I yelled and went to break it up. Yep, I know, they tell you not too ... but I tell you. It's instinctive. It's your gut. It's what I felt, so I did it. I pulled Student #2 back. By this time, I had four teachers in my room, two male teachers (thank goodness), each took one of the girls into the hall way in opposite ways. By this time, when my best friend (in the classroom beside me) heard me scream, her reaction? Ann doesn't scream! Something must be wrong! I'm going to call the office. She saved me. Administration was already up there. I walked out in the hall to take a breath and I started BAWLING. A fight? My third week of school? In my classroom? All before 8:15am? Why? How? What? I eventually calmed down, I mean, I had two more classes to teach that day! The day wasn't the same, but I made it through.

Now, you want the back story, right? When Student #1 went to the office, she informed them that Student #2 had drugs on her. So, they came and got her. They did find some on her, so the adminstrators went into another office to discuss punishment. Well, Student #2 SNUCK out of the office, ran up to my room and beat the ever living daylights out of the girl. Yep. That's what happened.

After I got over my shock and scaredness, I began to reflect. Was there something I could have done to prevent it? Was it my fault? What went wrong? And, well, I eventually realized that there was no way for ME to prevent it. There was no other way I would have dealt with it. It happened, we dealt and we overcame. Now, that being said, I did learn one lesson ... LOCK YOUR CLASSROOM DOOR. Had my door been locked, she wouldn't have gotten in. Well, until I let her in, but whatever. :)

For the remainder of my first year, I worked my tail off. I reflected. I learned. I re-did. I changed. There were many days where what I planned completely and utterly didn't work. There were days when things rocked and my kids learned. I learned that you have to analyze what you do and admit to your wrongdoings. It's okay to be wrong. It's okay to fail. It's okay to make mistakes. The kids appreciate you MORE if you admit to them. I had discipline issues and had to try atleast four different ways of managing my classroom. I changed my rules time after time (and now as I look back, I realize that probably was my problem).

Year #2 - Hands down my worst teaching year ever. I taught Foundations of Algebra and Algebra I all school year long in addition to a section to SAT Prep. Even though I had taught Foundations before, I was still redoing my lessons because I wasn't content with my first year lessons. I had freshman all day every day and I wasn't happy. I went home every night crying. I wanted to quit. I thought I wasn't meant to be a teacher. I wanted to call in sick all the time. I hated it. I dreaded it. It was one of the lowest years of my life. I reflected, but I couldn't find any good in what I was doing. I had discipline issues every day (atleast 2 - 5 write-ups a day), I had curriculum issues, you name it, I had it. I thought I couldn't do it. At the end of the school year, I told them that if I ever had to teach freshman again, I would leave, walk out and never come back.

Year #3 - I came into my third year skeptical, scared and worried. After the year I had had, I wasn't ready for this, I wasn't confident, I wasn't interested. But, I came back anyways, looking for a fresh start. Let's see, first semester, I had Precal, Algebra II, SAT Prep. And, second semester, I had Honors ALgebra II, Algebra II and SAT Prep. Note: no freshman (except for the extremely smart ones taking Alg II). My precal students revived my love of teaching. They wanted to be there, they wanted to learn, they opened up to me. They inspired me to be a better teacher. They challenged me. They were my shining light. My other classes were great. I had finally gotten a handle on discipline. I had finally gotten a handle on grading, time management, lesson plans, etc. I knew what I was doing. It felt good. I wanted to go home and grade papers (to see how they did) and I wanted to go home and do lesson plans to inspire and reflect. I had a great year. I had a new found love for teaching and math and I was rejuvenated. Now, don't get me wrong, I still had a few issues here and there. I still did fail at some lessons (especially in PreCal!). They still bombed tests. But, we regrouped and moved on. It was a great year. I was ready for year #4.

Year #4 - Now, we're here. It's present day. I walked into my classroom on the first day, not nervous. Totally chill. I was laid back. I wasn't scared. It was the most calming feeling ever. It was like I was home. It was like I was supposed to be there. I don't panic anymore. If I need another day to teach something, it's okay. I'll make it up later. They bomb a test? Reflect ... was it me or them or just hard material? We re-evaluate and recharge.

One major thing I learned in my last two years is that everything doesn't work for everyone. Just because it works for another teacher in their classroom, doesn't mean it's going to work for you. Sometimes you have to take others ideas with a grain of salt, adapt and change it to fit YOU, YOUR classroom and YOUR students. You can't trust that because it worked for someone else, it will work for you. Every single classroom is different. Therefore every single classroom should have a different lesson delivery. And, it is with this comfort and feeling of home that I feel ready to incorporate technology into my classroom, try different things (and admit when they don't work) and try a more discovery-based, problem-based learning activities. I have also learned that I do love my SMARTBoard, document camera, etc. But, sometimes, paper and pencil is the best way to do math. There are some topics that you can't make fun. You can't make a game out of it. You just have to teach it. No matter how boring it is, you just teach it. And, yes, they just work problems. It doesn't have to be ALL fun and games. We are preparing them for college. Did you play games in your college math class? I didn't think so. Sometimes, notes and book problems rock my socks off.

Moral of the Story? Don't panic. Don't worry. Don't freak out. They will get the material. They will understand it. They will fail. They will learn lessons. Don't let them out easy. Make them work hard. Be mean. Be sarcastic. Be fun. Build relationships. Get to know your students. Find balance. Find balance in your classroom. Find balance in your homelife. Don't work 24/7. Take breaks. Breathe.

It WILL get better. Now, that's not to say it won't get worse before it gets better. But, it will get better. You will succeed. You will be the best teacher you can be. You will inspire your students. They will come back and visit you. They will beg for you to be their teacher in the future. They like you, even though they'll never admit it now.

Stick with it. Don't quit. Live your passion.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Hodge Podge of Things ...

I'm long overdue on a blog post and there are so many things I could write about. So, I am just going to touch briefly on several different things ...
  • First Week of School: ... was amazing. For the first time, I feel 100% comfortable in the classroom. I am FINALLY teaching something for the second time. In my first three years, I taught Algebra 1A, Algebra 1B, Algebra II, Geometry, PreCalculus, Tech Math II and SAT Prep (the math section). It is so nice to have found my niche in Algebra II. Truth be told, I hated Algebra II in my first year of teaching ... now I think it's wonderful! :) I have fabulous classes of extremely studious students. I'm at the point when I assign homework, they have no questions ... it's wierd. I walk and walk and walk and nothing ... wierd, but fullilling. I am excited that our school is smaller (another high school opened in the county and took our students & teachers), easier to walk around, filled with great teachers and great administrators. I am blessed to be in my school where integrating technology is becoming a must and is well supported.

  • If you follow me on Twitter (@msgregson) and don't live under a rock, you recently saw me debut my summer project: Links for Educators. It is a searchable database of education-related websites. There are still many things that we would like to incorporate and I already have a list of about 100 websites that I need to add to it, but it's there and has about 200 great websites already. We've been using Google Analytics to track visitors and I've been shocked at the different countries that people have visited from. I guess that's the power of the Twitter PLN! :) We also decided to add Google AdSense to the website. We've embedded Google Ads into the website and for each click on an ad, we receive money! It's like magic! We make money by visitors clicking links. It's unheard of! We've had a slow start making money, but I have no doubt it'll pick up. We broke even, so that's all I can ask for right now! I keep saying we, I know. We includes my boyfriend - the computer programmer. Without him, this website would not exist. My programming skills are there, but not where they need to be to do something like this. He's a genius! There will be a Version 2.0 of L4E coming soon. If there's anything you'd like to see, just let us know!

  • Twitter: Where do I even begin? I have met so many amazing people on Twitter. I have expanded my network, I have great conversations, I pose questions and get answers, I get to help other teachers. I mean, it's an amazing resource. I don't think I've ever thought THIS much about my classroom. But, my fellow Twitterers have helped me to do so and make me think of things I wouldn't normally think of! Thank you to my PLN. Life is wonderful with you! I am still learning how to balance school and twitter, but it's a great resource!

  • Technology In The Classroom: I have to say, I'm overwhelmed. I sit at my desk during planning and after school trying to wrap my head around all the technology I'm using. Making sure it's linked, relevant and great. I feel like I'm using too much, but then again, it's all working. I'm introducing a class study guide wiki tomorrow, nervous about that. I am introducing the Glogster Project for my Algebra II class next week. We're going to be using Google Docs this week. Lots of new things and I'm nervous it'll blow up in my face. But, we'll make it work. I love our new iLab. Teachers aren't using it yet - which leaves it for me whenever I want! Maybe they'll never realize it's power and I can use it all the time! :) Hahaha ... no no, I want them in there too! My projector for my SMARTBoard went down last week, so I've been whiteboarding it up lately. I know I did it for two whole years, but man, I don't like it! :) But, we make do with what we've got!
I could write forever ... the thoughts in my head are spinning. I've got my classroom, clubs, technology, grad school, you name it, I'm doing it. And, it's thrilling. I love my job, life, school, friends, family and my PLN. I grow everyday. Thank you.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Prezi (the NEW powerpoint!)

It's Friday afternoon ... I'm sitting in my classroom on this teacher workday working away. I'm working the concession stand at the first football game of the season tonight, so I'm waiting to head down to the field. While I am waiting, I started to reflect on the past three workdays and the one we have left before students arrive on Tuesday.

I love my school. I love the people around me. I love math. I love teaching. I love my job. It is so wonderful. My life has turned to technology this past summer and everyone in this school is so supportive of technology and its use in the classroom.

I want to share my newest love. It's called Prezi. It is the NEW powerpoint. It is so interactive. It created a giant map of your information and you create a path through it. It is so innovative and it really helps your thought process. It doesn't have to be a linear presentation like powerpoint, very broken up. It moves and flows and I'm in love. While it is about near impossible to type math into, I have been using it in SAT Prep, where less math and more words. I could never use it, in its current version, to teach Algebra II or any other core math class. But, for words and information, it's amazing. You can imbed videos, images, etc. It's web-based, so no software! Your presentations store online and can be accessed online. They even have a way to download it to be used offline. It's great! Check out my presentations for the first four days in SAT Prep.

Real Numbers, Fractions & Decimals
Percents & Proportions
Factors, Multiples, Remainders and Divisibility

I hope you enjoy Prezi as much as I do and find ways to incorporate it into the classroom. I'm looking forward to Tuesday and seeing what the kids think of it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

the past and present ... and future!

Whew, it's been a long time since my last post. But, I don't think I have that many followers, so I don't think anyone was really missing out.

I've been busy planning away for the start of the school year, now just two weeks away. I've already incorporated so many new (for me) things into my classroom. I've got a classroom wiki ( now with information for students and parents. It is so much easier to use and update than our School Center sites, so I hope it works. I've embedded a Google Calendar in it to post section numbers, homework assignments, quiz/text dates, etc. So, hopefully that will keep me (and my students) more organized. I can update it from MY gmail account, which is easy access for me. I have been creating away Google Docs ... using them in lieu of student information sheets and for a new parent survey (student:, parent: I've created weekend assignments ( and presentations via Google Docs. I'm investigating the power of a Ning in a classroom, but not sold on it for a MATH classroom. (It looks GREAT for English & History discussions.) I'm planning uses for the iPod. We've incorporated a wiki ( as a way for our BETA Club students to sign up for service projects. And, I've created a SAT Prep wiki for reference for my SAT Prep class as well as all students at my school. (

I have (just this week) found some amazing math people on Twitter and my world has opened up. I found a guy who created an Algebra II Google Group and an Algebra II folder where people have posted ALL their Algebra II stuff. It excites me greatly to look through what others do in their classroom. I just found a gal who is teaching Honors Algebra II with laptops in the classroom. I've gotten in Twitter discussions about homework, bell ringers, technology - anything, you name it. I am so glad to have found these math people. While I was valuing all the technology talk, I was lacking the math talk ... until now.

I sat in on a Second Life session (via @ejulez and @mohax) at my school and while I didn't learn a whole lot of new stuff myself, it was equally enlightening to watch new teachers become SL newbies and see it's power. I had forgotten about that newbie feeling. It was great to relive that.

I recently posed the thought that I am not motivated to plan because I don't have a planner. The obvious response from my PLN was that I don't need a planner because of google docs and google calendars. I agree and have been using those, but I still love the paper and pencil planner. It can sit on my desk, I can reference it whenever I want too and I don't have to stare at a computer screen to know my agenda for the day.

Also in my research, I am finding so many lessons by teachers that are videos. Powerpoint slides, etc in a video format. And, it got me to thinking ... is technology going to replace teachers eventually? It's a scary thought that already teachers are just showing videos to teach instead of the teacher-student interaction method of teaching. I love my students, I love getting to know them, I love the back and forth in the classroom ... I hope we never lose that. @jimwysocki had a good point: "if people were able to self-motivate regularly, yes. until then, there is no replacing a motivating teacher." @mctownsley came back and said "the answer to that question might depend on whether or not you believe quality education involved not only rigor, but also relationships." and, lastly, @jmiscavish said "somebody will have to run the technology ... but yes, soon enough, i'll be obsolete." I love technology, don't get me wrong. But, I hope that technology will NEVER EVER replace teachers. We are too important. For some kids, we are their only role model, the only positive adult in their life. Students need to learn how to talk to adults and learn from them. Teachers need to be there to motivate, push and show. I sure hope I never live in (or my kids or grandkids or great-grandkids) live in a world where technology has REPLACED teachers. I only hope to live in a world where technology works right along with teachers to enhance learning.

Alright, I think I've vented enough for the day.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I'm Sold!

So, I have to admit. I never thought I would twitter. My technology facilitator, Julie (Julie Sugarplum or @mrslachance, depending on your world) told me that I just had to join and see it's power. I was quite skeptical, but joined anyway. I couldn't comprehend how everyone else's answer to "What are you doing?" in 140 characters or less could change my life. But, I logged on and still, didn't understand it. Julie's answer? I was following the wrong people. So, I finally found a core to follow and have been absolutely amazed by it's power.

Every night, I sit down and review the day's tweets (unless I've been following them all day) and my diigo account has grown exponentially (yep, math passion there!) since I started tweeting. I have 109 bookmarks in there already. I open up a link, bookmark it and move on. (Man, that makes me think - I really need to go organize those!) I also saw it's power during NECC09. I wasn't at NECC09, but I really felt like I was from everyone's tweets. People were tweeting from all their speakers and sessions and I feel like I got all the links they got and I was 8 hours away. I saw the conversations between people, I saw the dinner plans and I saw the fun. It was amazing to see the connection between these people 8 hours away from me. I felt like I was at NECC09. It was unreal.

This summer has been a different one for me. I'm more attached to my computer. I'm more attached to the web, twitter, facebook and other web 2.0 tools than I've ever been. I've created wikis for clubs and classes for when we return in August. I am searching iPOD apps to use in my classroom when we return. I started my grad school classes after all and have been overwhelmed by technology, instruction and all the work behind it.

I have to step back though for just a second and thank Julie for all of this. While I am overwhelmed by all of it, Julie has shown me my new passion. Math and swimming have always been my passions and now I have a new one on my list: technology. It is inspiring to see her introduce new technology and continually find new technology to help us teachers in our classrooms. I know there is a constant battle with "old" teachers and technology integration, but she doesn't let that get her down. She never stops researching. Her twitter page is evidence of that. I am so glad that she came to Northwest and I'm so glad that she has helped show me technology's power.

Now, the problem: while, I am so excited for all that I have found and all that I want to implement into my classroom but at the same time it scares me. How can I balance all this technology and still make sure my students get all they need to pass the EOC? I don't teach to the test. I never have and never will. But, I also don't teach whatever I want. I have to teach all that Algebra II so my students will do well on the EOC and move on. How can I get through the crammed material (10 chapters in 90 days) and still integrate all this awesome technology? I truly believe this technology will re-engage and re-focus them and hopefully instill the math passion that I have, but will I have time?

It's a never-ending battle and I hope I'm ready to take it on.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Web 2.0

So, I've dedicated my free afternoons to research. I've been researching lesson plan ideas, new technology and post importantly Web 2.0 tools. I'm already using facebook, twitter (@msgregson) and Ning ( I've become an avid explorer of Second Life. My newest research is how I can use the school's new iPod Touch in the classroom. I'm focusing that research on the SAT Prep class that I teach. But, in my research, I've found many Web 2.0 tools that could become beneficial in the classroom. Here's my list so far:

Obviously this is not every Web 2.0 tool - just fun ones that I've found so far. I'll keep updating as I go. Feel free to let me know of new ones you find. And, now apparently, researching Web 2.0 is on the out and researching Web 3.0 is on the in. I'm going to finish Web 2.0 first before I move into the new uncharted territory.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Back to being a Newbie

I've never blogged before. I always read other people's blogs, but never done one myself. But, I'm at a turning point in my life right now where my job is on a new path, I have lots of ideas floating in my head and decided this might be the place to organize them!

In July, I am starting my Masters Degree in Instructional Technology. This mere step has opened my eyes to using technology in my math classroom. I am exploring Second Life, IPODs in the classroom, Google Docs and other classroom resources that will re-engage my students into loving math.

Students hate math. They hate coming to my classroom. They hate learning the new material. But, my goal is to get them focused and engaged to hopefully change the world's idea of math, one student at a time.

I hope to document what I do through this blog as I embark on my next step - Graduate School and see how it impacts my math classroom.

I hope you'll go for the ride with me and help me with new ideas. Keep checking back. I'm gonna give this a try!