Tag Archives: instruction

Teacher Uses Webcam to Deliver Lessons

While reading one of my email feeds, I came across a story that I found fascinating about a teacher who is out on medical leave and is using a webcam to conference online with his students. Frank Wilson, government teacher at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, Ohio, recently had knee surgery and didn’t want his students to fall behind while recovering. Wilson is a veteran educator of 47 years and teaches his Advanced Placement (AP) government students from the basement of his home.

According to the article in the Columbus, Ohio newspaper titled “Government teacher conducts class from home basement“,

With the support of Watterson administrators, class was in session live from Wilson’s basement.

The Web cam allowed Wilson to see, teach, and carry on discussion with his students from his basement, Winters said. They could see him on the projector screen, and he could see them on his computer.

“My students all have Tablet PCs, and our government classes are almost paperless,” Wilson said.

“We use the computers for everything, including testing online.”

“To be honest, this program has allowed me to continue to teach,” he said, adding the classes went well with minimal disruption.

“I could not have done this without the support of our technology department and individual staff members who were willing to sit in the classroom and take attendance for me.”

For liability purposes Wilson had an adult in the classroom at all times but I can certainly relate to being concerned that your students will not progress or lose direction whenever you out. Twenty years ago when I  first started teaching we were out of the classroom for staff development quite often. It was always difficult to pick up the pieces upon my return and leave meaningful instructional activities while I am out. Several times throughout my career, I have been asked to step in and take over a class while a teacher is ill or on maternity leave. A teacher cannot risk not having students adequately prepared for performance on high stakes tests and trust part of the preparatory work  be done by a substitute teacher. We all know good subs are out there although they are hard to find and keep for an extended period of time. The idea of using webcam to minimize a loss of instruction is a novel idea, although not brand new.

Teachers/trainers have been using webcam/videoconferencing equipment to provide distance education for a number of years. The number of virtual high schools is growing by leaps and bounds and the use of this technology greatly benefits small, rural districts that have limited funding and a lack of teachers specializing in the math/science content areas. I have become a huge fan and proponent of using this medium to enrich instruction and started a wiki to serve as a repository of resources, training and discussions at http://caisefiles.wikispaces.com. I would love the opportunity to teach or facilitate a class online – certification issues and not having a master’s degree have hindered me personally in this area but the opportunities are out there.

While Wilson finishes recuperating at home, his students are benefiting from the interactive technology he is  using to deliver his government lessons online. The success of this venture comes from the support of the administration, network infrastructure to facilitate this endeavor and the dedication of the teacher and students. A deficiency in any one of those areas will severely impact the project but when each piece comes together to provide interactive and quality instruction to students there is no finer instrument to provide distance education.

“Teachers are Missing the Mark in Math”

I came across this article last week entitled, “Teachers are Missing the Mark in Math“. The article reviewed a national study about the capability of teachers to teach mathematics, primarily at the elementary grades. The study recommends that colleges and universities develop more difficult tests to certify teachers upon graduation of teacher prep programs. The study attributes the poor preparation as the reason that US students perform much lower on standardized mathematics tests.

Because teachers are not prepared to teach elementary students math, Walsh said American elementary school students continue to lag internationally in math and science rankings.

The study looked at professors’ syllabi and textbooks to make the determination. While I am a novice researcher, I am not sure that one can gain great insight into the instructional strategies and practices professors used to design and deliver instruction. The study found the following:

. . . that 87 percent of schools studied, including all three Texas schools (the University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas at El Paso and West Texas A&M University ), failed to adequately prepare elementary teachers for the math demands of the classroom.”

After teaching elementary and middle mathematics, I concur with the findings that many elementary teachers struggle teaching math at a level that helps students develop a solid foundation of mathematics concepts, algorithms, properties, etc. As a result, students progress to the next grade level ill prepared. Today, as I am sure you are aware or you wouldn’t be reading this post, there are tons resources available to assist teachers in designing effective math lessons.

I find it very interesting a comment made by Scherry Johnson who is the UT-Dallas Teacher Development Center Director. She oversees the teacher prep program at UT-Dallas.

. . . nobody at UT-Dallas knew that the National Council on Teacher Quality was evaluating the school, and suspects the study is full of mistakes because it looked only at syllabi and a textbook.

Unfortunately, many college professors have not taught elementary grade levels and have only experienced the result of poor mathematics at the elementary levels when the students reach them in secondary grade levels. In my opinion, elementary teachers carry the burden of providing students a foundation in all content areas without being able to focus solely on mathematics as in secondary grade levels.

When I taught middle school math, the level of instruction I delivered was much higher than when I taught elementary grade levels as I only had to focus on my math preps. I hate to admit it but my students didn’t receive quality instruction in content areas that were not tested with a standardized test. Although I was responsible for teaching social studies, social studies lessons and activities took a backseat to language arts and mathematics.

Over time, I became skilled at integrating content areas into the areas of instruction that were assessed by standardized tests exposing my students to effective lessons in all content areas. It was difficult and time consuming but I felt my students were well rounded as a result. Integrating technology components definitely upped the efficacy of activities, lessons and units that I designed.

I say this to make a point. Read the following quote from the Scherry Johnson from the article:

“I was totally surprised,” said UT-Dallas Teacher Development Center Director Scherry Johnson. “Right now, I’ve been sitting in on that methods class, and I am just blown away. They use manipulatives so the students are learning hands-on math, which is the best way for elementary students to learn math concepts.”  (Italics and bold styles used for emphasis)

“Blown away” by using manipulatives? Surprised by the instructional strategies the professors employed in the teacher tech program which she oversees? Teachers in the elementary prep program only have to take one class on teaching mathematics and Johnson was commenting on “…that methods class…“. No wonder teachers are ill prepared when supervising advisors and professors have not kept up with trends, instructional strategies and technology tools to enrich instruction. Teacher prep programs are only as good as the professors. If the professors, or faculty members are experienced with many years in education but have not kept up to date on the latest educational trends and strategies to improve instruction teachers just entering the profession will struggle and quickly become frustrated and leave the profession.

Statistics show the turnover for teachers in the first five years is very high and I am sure the number is growing each year. I am not a professor and don’t proclaim to know all there is to being an effective teacher but I definitely make an effort to reflect, grow and learn to employ strategies that are research based to improve instruction. Incorporating technology components is a big focus in my lessons and activities although I have worked with ‘dinosaurs’ that believe in paper/pencil instruction and working out of the textbook with out supplementing with quality, motivating activies. It is a vicious cycle of generating ill equipped teachers producing ill equipped students who become ill equipped teachers over and over. The question now is how do we stop this cycle and generate effective teachers producing students who received quality instruction at each grade level? What are your thoughts?

Read my Reflections Please!

I just finished reading a post by Miguel Guhlin entitled, “Fervent Prayer – Read Me Please“. I can definitely relate as I work hard to start and promote this blog although Miguel has blogged for years. For a short while I worked in his department in his school district and I have great respect for him as my mentor but his superb writings. Shortly before reading Miguel’s post, I was reading a post from Wes Fryer’s blog, he mentioned a post from Jon Becker’s new blog about a similar notion.

Wes Fryer’s post:

“I hear you Jon. It can be lonely to write when no one is listening or seeming to pay attention. (I flashback to April 2001 again.) Our opportunity to have conversations which both change our practice and potentially change the thinking and practices of others, however, is unprecedented TODAY in human history. I am both humbled and electrified by that reality. Yes, I blog for many intrinsic reasons. Blogging helps me process and document my own learning journey, and I frequently benefit from this virtual bread crumb path as I refer back to old posts as well as social bookmarks in tags I’ve used.”

Jon Becker’s post:

“This blog is ONLY just over 3.5 months, but I find myself obsessed with figuring out if I am contributing to any networked learning. Scott McLeod has written about “measuring” the impact of a blog and I commented that I’d like to consider some combination of comments/post/reader and number of pingbacks. In other words, I will feel like my blog is useful/valuable if it is generating discussion. People may come and learn by simply observing, but I don’t feel like that’s enough.”

This appears to be a common notion at present time and I am heartened that I am experiencing similar feelings from the ‘heavy hitters’ in educational blogging. Just as in start up venture, whether it be writing or a new business, an investment of time and reflection is necessary. The creative process can be daunting and taxing and I felt comforted that even the ‘superbloggers’ feel a twinge of uncertainty at times.

Mentioned in these bloggers’ posts throughout their respective blogs was the importance of the reflection process for growth. While the topics of the posts in the superbloggers of ed tech’s blogs seem to come and flow naturally, I struggle with what to write and will anyone care what I have to say or read what I have shared. It is difficult being vulnerable, yet striving to be a prolific writer at the same time, in my humble opinion. But the mention in Miguel’s post about the importance of the reflection process is to affect change and growth struck a chord with me.

When I was working to achieve national board certification, critical questions requiring reflection on the learning process were asked throughout the entries I had to submit. Although I had already taught for 15 years or so, initially I didn’t see how important the reflection process was or how valuable and significant to professional growth that the reflection process played. After achieving national board certification, it has become ingrained that a reflection upon the lesson I just delivered to ensuring success for my students – whether they be K – 12 students or adult students. So I thank Jon Becker, Wes Fryer, and Miguel Guhlin and all of the other ed tech bloggers for making themselves vulnerable, taking a risk and sharing their own personal reflections with the rest of the world.