Friday, August 31, 2012

Quarter I, Week 0: ScreenCasts, SmartNotes and Code, oh my!

Please note, school hasn't officially started yet. SO, I don't have any new ScreenCasts, SmartNotes or Code as of yet!

However, we had two Staff Development Days this week (8/29 and 8/30) concerning the new teacher evaluation procedures replete with APPR stats, writing SLOs, calculating HEDI scores and meetings, meetings, meetings! Even so, I had very little time to prepare my classes for next week. I barely got my new edmodo groups up and running with some first day info and the first syllabi. 

I did get to set up my computers that were all in disarray since custodial had to move everything around to clean as they do every Summer! Also, I got to do a bit of decorating:

This is a view of my classroom as you walk in the door which is in the right, rear corner. Please note the fractal art!

Here's a view of of the right side of the room from the left side. Note the cluster generated ray tracings and that door!

Now we have a view of the left side of the room from the right side. Can you see our industrial strength A/C unit? All the blinds are drawn in anticipation of Youtube Wednesday!

This is a view of the front of the room from the back. See how I got all my Linux Boxes up and running for my students? Let's play a little game of "Where is Shadowfax?"

This is my view of the back from the front when I'm standing by the SmartBoard. My desk is in the middle in the back. I teach from there when I have to type code.

Now for a close up of my new bulletin board from the back wall with even more CGI.

Here's the other bulletin board on the back wall and even more fractals!

Here's a Welcome Back memo for my students that I have on edmodo already.

Now for a little Biographical Info:

Here's a little background music from John Williams:

I hope you enjoyed this week's update!

Learning with Technology,

Saturday, August 18, 2012

PAEMST: The Nobel Prize for STEM Teachers!

For several years now, The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) has been touted as The Nobel Prize for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Teachers. So, why have I never heard of it until now? What's even more surprising is that 3 of the past year's awardees are well known to me from their work on AP curriculum in Calculus and Physics. Congratulations to the following 2011 PAEMST winners!


Frank Noschese is the awardee from Cross River, NY in Science for 2011. I have seen his many insightful posts on the AP Physics listserv and on Twitter for years without knowing anything about PAEMST. I just liked his ideas for student centered, interactive and discovery based instruction in Physics class. The video above is a TEDx (Technology, Education and Design extra) about his philosophy of teaching. Frank also started the $2 Interactive White Board movement!

Dean Baird is the winner from Sacramento, CA in Science for 2011. Dean is known for his online Physics textbook called the "Book of Phyz!" As you can see from these links, Mr. Baird shares a wealth of knowledge through his blog and textbook not only for his own students but for any student or teacher who would like to benefit from his expertise via the web!

Dixie Ross, who hails from Pflugerville in Texas, is a 2011 finalist for Mathematics. After reading many of her great posts on the Calculus listserv, its no wonder why she won! Here's her great blog about being an AP Lead Teacher!


"So, how long has this been going on behind my back and in plain sight???" I hear you ask! Well, the PAEMST has been giving out awards for Elementary and Secondary teachers of Mathematics and Science since 1983! I was curious to see if I knew any other winners over the years. So, I went to their database and searched for the New York winners that would be local to me on Long Island. I discovered I knew several that I had met personally at local Math conferences such as LIMACON. Here's a small sample:

1985: Steve Conrad (Roslyn HS) was at LIMACON several times. The last time I saw him speak, in the mid 90s I think, he taught me everything I know about the "Comparison Test for Absolute Convergence of Series with all Positive Constants." Believe it or not, his talks have gone a long way in helping me teach Power Series to nearly all my AP Calculus BC classes over the years! Steve is also known as the founder of The Math League!

1987: Joseph Quartararo taught at Dickinson Avenue School in Northport , New York. I know Joseph primarily through his work as President of the Continental Mathematics League now in St. James, NY. The CML has a Calculus division where my students compete against other schools internationally in the style of Mathletes. The competitions are done in class as a test roughly once per quarter. Each exam has very good practice questions like MCQs on the AB Calculus AP exam. A student can score up to 10 points. The best 6 papers are reported to CML for a max score of 60 points per meet and 240 points for the year. My school is usually in the top 3 in the TriState (NY, NJ, CT)!

1990: Judy Broadwin (Jericho HS) is one of the pioneers of the AP Summer Institutes. I took her institutes at SUNY Old Westbury in 1991 and 1992 for AB and BC Calculus respectively. Her joy of teaching the topic was so infectious that I had to start teaching AP Calculus BC in 1993 myself. What an inspiration she is. I learned everything I know about the TI-81/82 from her during those summers. She has spoken at LIMACON many times too. The last time I saw her speak, however, was at a T^3 conference a few years ago at Molloy College. Judy, long since retired from Jericho HS, is now teaching at Baruch College in Manhattan.

2001: Ann Davidian (MacArthur HS) is a co-author of the now famous Reformed preCalculus book entitled "Functions Modeling Change" also by Deborah Hughes-Hallett of the Harvard Consortium. I've seen Ann presenting about the many uses of the new TI-Nspire Graphing Calculator at several LIMACONS recently!

So, herein lies the rub: are you up for the challenge? Make no mistake, the PAEMST is not only an award for past achievement, but also a challenge to up your game. While you may think that you're the best at what you do at your school, there's always room for improvement! I continually try new techniques, new curriculae and new technology in the classroom. Not only does this constant reevaluation of my teaching philosophy and practice keep things fresh and exciting for me, it benefits my students as well. When they see my enthusiasm about something new, they pick up on that spirit and rise "to my level of expectation," as the wise Jaime A. Escalante used to say. Don't forget, if you choose to enter the fray and apply for the PAEMST, you are going to go up against the best STEM teachers your state has to offer. Note that your application has to go through a state panel first. That state panel then recommends up to 3 Math and 3 Science teachers each year out of who knows how many other applicants! 

So, are you an innovative educator? Do you challenge your students to go above and beyond what they themselves think they can accomplish? Do you motivate your students as a role model of a STEM professional yourself? Do you have a PLN (Personal Learning Network)? Do you self evaluate and try new methods? Do you make your classes fun, varied and challenging? Do you change it up in the classroom: lecture, discovery, group work, projects, labs? Do you make each student feel welcome in your class? Do you give your students choices? Do you empower your students? In short, is your instruction student centered, hands-on and interactive? BTW, how are your student assessments doing?

As I mentioned in this blog post, I'm going to try something new in my Math class next year that I term a "modified flip." So, I've changed my stand on "flipping the classroom" a little as per this post. I've debated these issues with many colleagues for several years on my blog, at conventions and on listservs such as the AP Educational Discussion Groups (EDG) where I love to share these ideas and learn new techniques.

Many teachers have "flipped" their classrooms in recent years. Since there's lots of video content on the web in the form of mini lectures and tutorials, many teachers have their students watch a video BEFORE class and maybe complete a related worksheet BEFORE class on a given topic. This technique seems to work well in Science classes whereby the students get more lab time. In other words, "flipping" a class means the students do what is traditionally termed as classwork for homework and may even do homework in class with the teacher in the role of facilitator or as his/her own TA. I don't think that will work well in Math class. Once in a while I may "flip" my class that way. However, I'm thinking that most of my classes will start the tradtional way, say with some SmartNotes on new material and then continue with a discovery lesson of exploratory assignment done in groups. However, the homework for that night will include watching my video on the topic of the day as well as reading the text and doing practice exercises. IE: my "modified flip" will have students watch MY video AFTER the topic is taught in class. I even added this to my syllabus under "View/Notate Later!" In this manner, my students will get a double dose of my exposition on that topic. More importantly, however, I get more time in class to vary the presentation with more exploratory projects and group work!

Don't get me wrong, I have all these elements in my class now. However, I want to make the most of class time so as to maximize my students' learning and understanding of new and challenging concepts! I've been blogging for years now about new and better ways to teach and learn math and science with technology. Said technology could be "computer and web" based or "pencil and paper based." Whatever works best is what I'm after. I use Youtube, BlogSpot, and Edmodo on the web. My students learn to use SAGE and Virtual TI on the PC or an actual Graphing Calculator on a daily basis. I use SmartBoards and ScreenCasting equipment every day. However, I'm not above using good old fashioned trig tables and slide rules! Remember mantissas, characteristics and interpolation?

I also try to vary the delivery of my lessons from one day to the next, if not from one minute to the next. I may start a lesson with a "Do It Now" which I call "Read/Write Now" or SmartNotes right off the bat. Then I'll switch to a group activity with an exploratory problem or lab. Most classes have elements of "I Do," "We Do," "You Do" problem solving sessions. Sometimes we'll break into a "Think," "Pair," "Share" session. Also, ever since my exposure to Graphing Calculators by Judy and Harvard preCalc/Calc by Ann and the local college where I adjunct, I make sure to teach my students to approach each problem via the "Rule of Four." Actually, I call it "GNAWing at every problem!" IE: most math and science problems can be attacked Graphically, Numerically, Algebraically (analytically) and Wordily (verbally). Usually, we use a combination of these modalities, if not all of them, in any given real world application or word problem!

In addition, most weeks I'll have MCQ Monday (practice AP multiple choice questions), Try It Tuesday (exploratory questions and discovery lessons), Youtube Wednesday (short documentary or funny video related to current topic or current event plus a short discussion to begin the class), Think-A-Lot Thursday (preTest review session in groups with bonus points) and FRQ Friday (practice AP free response questions).

OK, let's look at the current winners to get a feel for what PAEMST committees are looking for. What do Frank, DeanDixie, Steve, Joseph, Judy and Ann have in common? Well, Frank and Dean seem to like "Think," "Pair," "Share" classes. Steve and Joseph started their own Math Leagues. Dean and Ann are published. Dixie, Judy and Ann present at several conferences. Last, but not least, all these winners have something to do with AP Central, the College Board or teaching an AP course! Come to think of it, I've done all that too if you count my Computing Independent Study instead of a Math League and my TechBooks on EBay as self publishing. Should I apply too?

The application process seems somewhat convoluted at first and changes slightly each year. As far as I can tell, it consists of 2 parts: Administrative and Individual. The Administrative part includes your Resume, 3 Letters of Recommendation and some sort of Confirmation of Employment filed by your school. The Individual part involves making a digital video recording of yourself for a whole class period (30 minutes or more) and a 16 page essay where you describe what you did in that lesson and why! Here's last year's application for Elementary Teachers:

You must be nominated by April 1st (you can nominate yourself) and the application must be complete by May 1st. Here's a sample recommendation letter and here's Dean's resume as an example:

Here's 2 sample video entries:

Here's Dean's essay as a sample:

Lately, the Secondary awards have been given on odd numbered years. Hence, the latest awards I've mentioned are from 2011. The even years see awards given to Elementary teachers. Each year one Science and one Math award is granted with a $10,000 honorarium for past work. This pattern of awards has not always been the same, however. In fact, the monetary award used to be a grant to stimulate future work. There were even several years with 4 awardees: Elementary Math, Elementary Science, Secondary Math and Secondary Science! 


  • Alfred Kalfus Babylon Jr.-Sr. High School Babylon , New York 1983 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Annette Saturnelli Marlboro Central High School Marlboro , New York 1983 Award | 7-12 Science


  • Chirakkal Krishnan East Islip High School Islip Terrace , New York 1984 Award | 7-12 Science
  • Mark Saul Bronx High School of Science Bronx , New York 1984 Award | 7-12 Mathematics


  • Steven Conrad Roslyn High School Roslyn Heights , New York 1985 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Kenneth House Huntington High School Huntington , New York 1985 Award | 7-12 Science


  • Arthur Eisenkraft Fox Lane High School Bedford , New York 1986 Award | 7-12 Science
  • Lawrence Zimmerman Brooklyn Technical High School Brooklyn , New York 1986 Award | 7-12 Mathematics


  • Joseph Quartararo Dickinson Avenue School Northport , New York 1987 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • George. Stevens Lansing High School Lansing , New York 1987 Award | 7-12 Science


  • Robert Gerver North Shore High School Glen Head , New York 1988 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Paul Hickman Cold Spring Harbor High School Cold Spring Harbor , New York 1988 Award | 7-12 Science


  • Joanne Gallagher Corey Tamarac Middle School Troy , New York 1989 Award | 7-12 Science
  • Philip Reynolds Niskayuna High School Schenectady , New York 1989 Award | 7-12 Mathematics


  • Michael Bannon Brentwood High School Brentwood , New York 1990 Award | 7-12 Science
  • Judith Broadwin Jericho High School Jericho , New York 1990 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Nancy Rinehart Geneseo Elementary School Geneseo , New York 1990 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • Baiba Vasys The Baldwin School Bryn Mawr , Pennsylvania 1990 Award | K-6 Science


  • Denise Goffman Sweet Home Middle School Amherst , New York 1991 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Judith Ferris Paul D. Schreiber High School Port Washington , New York 1991 Award | 7-12 Science
  • Ann Caren Cayuga Heights Elementary Ithaca , New York 1991 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • Carol Taylor Mast Landing School Freeport , Maine 1991 Award | K-6 Science


  • Kay Toliver East Harlem Tech New York , New York 1992 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Virginia Perino Munnsville , New York 1992 Award | 7-12 Science
  • Margot Banke P.S. 216-The Arturo Toscanini School Brooklyn , New York 1992 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • Roma Geiger Groton Elementary School Groton , New York 1992 Award | K-6 Science


  • Timothy McNamara Irondequoit High School Rochester , New York 1993 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Kenneth Appel Yorktown High School Yorktown , New York 1993 Award | 7-12 Science
  • Mary Altieri Van Cortlandtville Mohegan Lake , New York 1993 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • Jane Clark Caroline Elementary School Slaterville Springs , New York 1993 Award | K-6 Science


  • Cornelis de Groot New Paltz High School New Paltz , New York 1994 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • David Pysnik Sidney High School Sidney , New York 1994 Award | 7-12 Science
  • Joan Eschner East Elementary School West Seneca , New York 1994 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • Tonia Thompson Benjamin Franklin Elementary School Binghamton , New York 1994 Award | K-6 Science


  • Mary Ann Harasymowycz Transit Middle School East Amherst , New York 1995 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Walter Sharp Liverpool High School-Annex Liverpool , New York 1995 Award | 7-12 Science
  • Merri Earl John R. Harshaw Primary School Binghamton , New York 1995 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • Ronnie Hartman Smithtown Elementary School Smithtown , New York 1995 Award | K-6 Science


  • Gerald Peters Gouverneur High School Gouverneur , New York 1996 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Floyd Holt F. D.Roosevelt High School Hyde Park , New York 1996 Award | 7-12 Science
  • Susan Jacobs Grant C. Madill Elem. School Ogdensburg , New York 1996 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • James. Steele Highland Elementary School Tonawanda , New York 1996 Award | K-6 Science


  • Martin Rudolph Oceanside High School Oceanside , New York 1997 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Carl Laterza Division Avenue High School Levittown , New York 1997 Award | 7-12 Science
  • Therese Drew Follow Through Magnet School Buffalo , New York 1997 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • Lynn Gatto Henry Hudson No. 28 School Rochester , New York 1997 Award | K-6 Science


  • Elizabeth Graham Christ the King RHS Middle Village , New York 1998 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • George Wolfe Wilson High School Rochester , New York 1998 Award | 7-12 Science
  • Cynthia Smith Apalachin Elementary School Apalachin , New York 1998 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • Daniel Gard Main Street Elementary School East Aurora , New York 1998 Award | K-6 Science


  • Susan Kornstein Rye Country Day School Rye , New York 1999 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • James Kuhl Central Square Middle School Central Square , New York 1999 Award | 7-12 Science
  • Laura Klein Osborn Elementary School Rye , New York 1999 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • Donna Kellum Follow Through Urban Learning Lab Buffalo , New York 1999 Award | K-6 Science


  • Christopher Herte Carle Place High School Carle Place , New York 2000 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Richard Townsend Sidney High School Sidney , New York 2000 Award | 7-12 Science
  • Tyra Webb-Johnson Martin Luther King Jr., School #9 Rochester , New York 2000 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • Beverly Thompson 2000 Award | K-6 Science


  • Ann Davidian MacArthur High School Levittown , New York 2001 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Frances Hess Cooperstown High School Cooperstown , New York 2001 Award | 7-12 Science
  • Margaret St. Clair Coryer Arthur P. Momot School Plattsburgh , New York 2001 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • Emily O'Brien Plainview - Old Bethpage Middle School Plainview , New York 2001 Award | K-6 Science


  • Donna Roberts Liverpool High School Liverpool , New York 2002 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Scott Jordan Cuba-Rushford Central School Cuba , New York 2002 Award | 7-12 Science
  • (NONE New York 2002 Award | K-6 Mathematics)
  • Carolyn Skoczylas Winchester Elementary West Seneca , New York 2002 Award | K-6 Science


  • Mary Gavioli Clarkstown High School South West Nyack , New York 2003 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • (NONE New York 2003 Award | 7-12 Science)


  • Lee Cervini Terry A.Taylor Elementary School Spencerport , New York 2004 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • Angela Battista-Greco Old Mill Road Elementary School North Merrick , New York 2004 Award | K-6 Science


  • Christopher Lewick Byram Hills High School Armonk , New York 2005 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Susana Hernandez Automotive High School Brooklyn , New York 2005 Award | 7-12 Science


  • Heather Shaw Canal View Elementary School Spencerport , New York 2006 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • Kenneth Huff Mill Middle School Williamsville , New York 2006 Award | K-6 Science


  • (NONE New York 2007 Award | 7-12 Mathematics)
  • William Leacock Wellington C. Mepham High School Bellmore , New York 2007 Award | 7-12 Science


  • James Brown Sand Creek Middle School Albany , New York 2008 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • Suzanne Pilon Quest Elementary School Hilton , New York 2008 Award | K-6 Science


  • Camsie Matis East Side Community High School New York , New York 2009 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Jeanne Kaidy McQuaid Jesuit High School Rochester , New York 2009 Award | 7-12 Science


  • Julie Broderick The School at Columbia New York City , New York 2010 Award | K-6 Mathematics
  • Gregory Benedis-Grab The School at Columbia University New York , New York 2010 Award | K-6 Science


  • Elisabeth Jaffe Baruch College Campus High School New York , New York 2011 Award | 7-12 Mathematics
  • Francesco Neal-Noschese John Jay Senior High School Cross River , New York 2011 Award | 7-12 Science


Well, that's all folks!

Teaching with Technology,