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Cogito Ergo Nerd


Summer of 2020, I worked all summer. I was part of a team providing tech training for my school and really planning what the pandemic year would look like. I made lots of things to help facilitate the transition to individual, digital work.

Then the school year started. Our school did great. We were face-to-face, distanced and masked. We only went remote as a school for a week after the winter break. BUT, we still had some students virtual (quarantine and international students). Teaching virtual and in-person at the same time was draining. I had a good workflow, but as the year wore on, I was exhausted. I did not create new things and I avoided social media.

Now, after a June and July where I have done nothing school related, I have slowly started to check Twitter more and more. The #backtoschool posts, both good and bad, have re-ignited my passion (a little) to work on school materials.

I have two new ideas for this year, as we may be in the same boat as last year. One of the most depleting repercussions of last year was the lack of discussion in my classes. Sitting six-feet apart makes it difficult to work collaboratively. This led to me answering the same questions individually for all students. So, my co-worker had an idea to use restaurant style stands to help facilitate guided discussions. Genius! When I answer a question for one student, they get a stand with an index card in it to mark which questions they are now the "expert" for. Students who need help with that problem go see that students rather than me. Hopefully this will help...

I also had this idea to completely revamp how I organize my lessons. Normally, I just keep a running list of the topics I teach each day so I can refer to it each year and adjust as necessary. I keep these in Google and sometimes link to a note page or activity. However, for my students, I post all the details of everyday in the Assignment Center of our LMS. This includes all links and logins necessary. The problem is that our LMS is not very user friendly in accessing previous years posts, and I cannot access them over the summer. So my new plan is to create a Google Sheet that houses all of the information in one place. Each day will be its own sheet and the Table of Contents will link to that page. I can easily edit in Google and just copy~n~paste to the LMS.

If I share this with students, I can work on lessons and just hide the tab until I am ready for students to see it. But most importantly, I have an easy way to access all of my lessons!

Here's to a new school year with even more new things!

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On Monday, we start week 5 of pandemic teaching. We are face-to-face for most of our students (and a few remote students). Progress reports will be out next Friday. bananas! My students are all facing forward in rows, 6 feet apart, while I teach from my desk in the back of the room. It is quiet, and exhausting, and sad.

My only advantage is that "I am one with Force (of technology)." I can create digital activities pretty quickly. I have access to a computer, iPad, doc cam, and projector. I am fluent with them all and can transition pretty seamlessly. It is one less stressor for me that I know others may have. But, that has not made my classes any better.

In 20 years of teaching, I have never taught from my desk. I have never taught in rows. My classes focus on collaboration and communication, and I am struggling to bring that into my classes this year. I am exhausted from personally answering every single question from every single student when I have previously built my classes to work together and trust others in the class to help them when needed. When they sit in groups, I can answer one question for four students. Now I repeat myself, for every "challenging" problem, for every student, because they have no discussion with other ideas to build from.

I am sad that my students just seem to be doing an endless stream of digitized worksheets. Alone. Individually. Too quickly. Without the rich discussions, they are missing out on the deep understanding. Digital collaboration tools just do not provide the same level of discussion.

And then, at the end of last week, I FINALLY made an activity that had the kids talking and working together! And I only had to answer half of the amount of questions.

Students have their own, self-made, dry erase board. It is made of a sheet protector and two pieces of white card-stock (for sturdiness). They worked their problems on the dry erase boards.

I partnered students based on who was next to each other 6 feet away. Not really random. BUT, they could hold their dry erase boards up and show each other what they did. And help each other. It was glorious!

I could watch which problems they were working on. And which students got the problems right. And my remote kids were partnered together. I muted myself and listened to them work through my speaker while I listened to the class work. When they asked for help, I could show them how to work the problem through the doc cam. It was ALMOST like a normal class!

...and a tiny, tiny bit of the weight was lifted.

If you would like to play, you can make your own copy of the activity (since you need editing privileges to play). I will also add it to my Digital Activities blog post.

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A couple of years ago Sarah Carter, of @mathequalslove fame, created an activity called Question Stacks. She posts many great activities and you should definitely spend time on her blog.

Since then, I have used many from the repository and created some of my own. It is one of my most used practice activities in class. It promotes collaboration, communication, and self-checking.

And then the pandemic...

All work moved to online. We scrambled to teach remotely and I missed doing all of my activities. As we face starting a brand new year virtually, I wanted to take of those activities online.

So, I started digitizing my question stacks and card sorts. You can check out the example of a question stack I posted on Twitter. I use this example as a template. Using the old original question stack documents and my snipping tool, I digitized new ones in minutes. Super excited that it does not take a lot of time!

I also started to digitize my card sorts.

I did not want to post each one individually to Twitter, so I thought I would use my rarely used blog to post all of the files together. Please feel free to use them as-is and post for your students, or make you own copy to edit as you like. I have provided both links.

KEEP CHECKING: I will continue to add as I create them.

*I am trying to work in the order I would use them in my class*


I have tried to credit those who created the original activity. If you find I have digitized your activity without credit, please contact me and I will fix it. Some of the files had no author and a google search came up blank.

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