Grading papers on the iPad

Just saw this, an alternative to Explain Everything that I will explore this summer:



While I had never officially taught the Quadratic Formula, nor expect to anytime soon, the process of co-creating a lesson with MattB and JasonM proved a valuable experience in itself. Working with some great minds really offered a look into the mind of more experienced instructors who have experimented far more than I have within my first two years. I will take this opportunity to give what Joel likes to call a “shout out” to both of these guys. I would have been satisfied if I had just merely observed the brainstorming, discussion of objectives and the thinking process required to complete our finished product. I learned much from the creative process as I watched these two debate the merits of different techniques and styles. In the end, I played a fairly significant role, I think, getting the code up and running smoothly. We left feeling, I hope, with a nice, interactive Mathematica module for public consumption and a positive response toward the creative process. 

This level of collaboration, while not entirely feasible, opened my eyes to how much more thought I could invest in my lessons, how much more care I could take in planning. I think I already invest a fair amount of time, thought and care. Were we saddled merely with teaching responsibilities, time for such such adventures might be a possibility. The truth, as we know it – we are not. Still, this provided a robust discussion of how to make this happen more regularly. Is it possible with in a group of teachers responsible for teaching the same section? Is it possible within an individual department to share materials, ideas, strategies and results of our experimentation more regularly and more efficiently? Could it be possible to arrange meetings, similar to this venue, of an inter-departmental nature to do exactly what we have done this week? Judging by some of the reactions at dinner last night, it appears that other TLI groups benefitted from similar conversations and would also be interested in pursuing something like this.

Will made such a great point yesterday and I thank him for this reminder. There are many reasons teaching advanced classes is great – sharp, motivated students, engaging material, the extent you can push the pace and investigate in depth. Still, these courses can be stifled in red-tape. They are, at the same time, often content or curriculum driven, tethered to a common exam, and occasionally filled with students whose chief concern is “what do I need to know to get an A?” Will’s point was: teaching some of our regular courses offers an opportunity to experiment (not without consequence entirely) in ways we are not free to do in others. I don’t think that I will eschew AP courses, but if I do end up teaching another non-AP Calculus section this year, I will make even greater efforts to incorporate the PBL (problem based learning) approach that has worked so effectively in my Finance sections. Students are forced to work hard, but (most) take far more away from the experience. Public speaking, writing, group work (which I view as an absolutely essential skill to impart) become prized, and our students learn how to contribute to something greater than their own problem set.

People have raised the question: if students will encounter a lecture setting in college, isn’t it our responsibility to prepare them for what they will see? Thus, are we doing our students a disservice teaching them to learn in a different way than they will in college? To those I say, if we can effectively do what we purport: teach these minds to read, write, analyze and think, it won’t matter. In fact, students will be better equipped to supplement lectures or teach themselves in college or beyond. They will have some skills to help them navigate new problems they haven’t before seen. And really, isn’t this the entire point of an independent school education?    

Change on the Fly

Yesterday, I was fully committed to working with Google Sites, but after a near meltdown today, I decided to simplify my goals, choosing instead to focus on mastering  This was a wise decision, as I was able to achieve my goal of creating a blog while at the same time maintaining my sanity.  I will still continue to try to develop a website on Google Sites this summer, but by this afternoon my patience had reached its breaking point, and I knew that I wanted and needed to master something before leaving Choate.  This, I did.  Sadly, I had to exit the conference a day early, and I was unable to say goodbye to most of you.  Thanks to all who helped me out this week, and I hope that we can all stay in touch and share what we have learned during this week.  A special thanks to Kris Wiemer for his kindness and patience this week and to Chris Edler who pulled me out of the depths this morning.  Have a great final day, everyone.

Thursday evening

The week is just about over. While Michael and I had carefully planned out every day, we found ourselves adjusting the plan every afternoon to meet the needs of the group. We wound up with more open discussions than we had planned on, but we are both grateful for the great ideas put forth by the group. We are convinced that this was time well spent.

Mathematica was a highlight of the week for me, and I am grateful to Will and Nick for their presentation and help with this program. It is fussier than I would like, but that’s the deal with most programming languages. This makes me want to dig into GeoGebra again, and see what if offers.

And thanks to Joel for a masterful job of preparation and gentle prodding. It’s been a great week, made extra special for me by the opportunity to work with my bright and creative son.

Dick Peller

Today I spent t…


Today I spent the free time working in Google Sites trying to create a web site that I can bring home (without using my normal Dreamweaver tool).  I wanted the site to contain as many of the apps and information I have heard over the last week.  If there are things that I left out, I would be glad to add them in.  So, if you have the time to view the site, please let me know either in the comments or in an email.  I am so glad I had the opportunity to be a part of this weeks workshop.


Today was another success. I was initially skeptical of the value in prepping a sample lesson on the quadratic formula, but in practice, I much enjoyed the experience. Emily, Mike, and Chris and I worked to create videos. In addition, I made a sloppy Mathematica demo and Mike and Chris worked on a VERY cool project-based application involving projectile motion.

In addition to this session, we returned from lunch and had a very fruitful discussion on LMS’s, grading methods, and potential professional development meetings in the future. Everyone in our group was engaged and passionate about the subject, which was inspiring.

Afterwards, I spent time finally working on my statistics class for next year. I have grand plans that I hope to successfully implement. This year, I think that I had many engaging and fun lessons, but I can do better.

My plan for next year is to begin each week with a group project to be presented on Friday of that week. In addition, I will give them a list of topics relevant to the successful completion of the project, and then let the students loose as they work together to initiate their project and learn about the topics introduced.

My goal is to have them work together and use their iPads to research these topics. Then, at the end of the period on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, I will give a brief lesson on the topics that the students demand. This will require some fleet-footedness on my part, but I hope that this “lecture by demand” style will increase the level of engagement of my students.

The unfortunate reality is that my students will need some extra motivation to keep up with the work in this less structured environment. Thus, I will likely add in a more traditional assessment at the end of class on Friday, and maybe couple this with a take home component.

Hopefully, we can move quickly enough to make these weekly presentations a reality. In addition to statistics, I hope to use the course as a means to introduce presentation skills. They should see statistics as a method for making an effective argument, and the data should be seamlessly incorporated into their presentations to achieve this end goal. To improve in this regard, though, the students will need feedback and a model. I will need to think more about effective presentation strategies and how to give my students helpful feedback when their presentations fail to live up to expectations.

Hopefully this ambitious plan has some merit. If anyone reads this and has input into the feasibility of such a project, please comment on this post.

I plan to introduce this idea to the group tomorrow during our final hours together and try to get input from all of the bright minds that are here. This week is getting better and better as time goes on and we all grow more comfortable in one another’s company and shared better and better ideas.


Thursday Walls

I made it on to WordPress. small victory. It has been a day of changing direction – hitting a wall – trying to find something new. With the app store there seems to always be a new tool a new direction a new app… there is always another app

We have explored more apps than I can count… some more useful than others but all entertaining. I feel a bit inundated yet inspired. There is a way to flip some of my content I just have to find the right mode, the right tool, the perfect app… or I need to get real that there is no such thing 🙂