Thursday, March 21, 2013

They Had to Fail to Prepare for Success

I am observing my class work on an assignment due yesterday. They spent 4+ days pretending to do what they were supposed to. I say pretending because they obviously (today) weren't prepared to share. For all intents, they failed. The obvious question is "Why?"

I am sure that the responsibility lies with me. I intentionally keep my mitts off the students work. If they ask questions I send them to other students to have them answered. Typically this works very well. It requires the students to get over their fear of asking others for help (others who are not the adult in charge.) It didn't work this time because none of the groups really understood what to do.

It wasn't that they were not capable or that I didn't show them (several times). Their problem is they excel at school so much they don't know that they can't figure it out even when they aren't really paying attention. Basically they get started before they hear the instructions and assume they can figure it out.

I have known this and yet I am still surprised by the failure. I could have lost it; I could have blown up. I didn't, instead I redirected them to work and now I am watching them finally work together like they should have done in the beginning. I suppose they had to fail to prepare for success.  I guess the next question (or extension as I call it in science) is 'Will they remember this or will they repeat it?'

This post was inspired by @Philip_Cummings's post: Asking for Help

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lunch Project Days 6-10

I haven't forgotten the project, we have just been working through a bit of the drudgery. The first thing we had to do this week is get our survey and instructions created. I wrote the instructions intending for them to sound like the instructions students during our high stakes test. I was hoping the tone would convey to the students the survey was important and they would then take it more seriously.

Instructions to be read to the students taking the school lunch survey.

Thank you for participating in our lunch program study. The survey that will be handed out has a list lunch choices. These are actual lunch choices that have been given this year. You will look at all of the lunch choices and then pick your favorites.

You will assign your most favorite choice to #1, your second favorite choice to #2 and so on. When you have chosen your top ten favorite choices you are finished with the survey.

You must be silent from the time we hand out the survey until everyone is finished. If you or anyone in the room talks during the survey, it may become invalid and the whole groups’ surveys may be thrown away. Are there any questions?

At the top of the survey you need to write your grade on the line next to the word ‘Grade’.  I am going to hand out the survey now, please write ______(grade) as soon as you receive it. You may begin as soon as you write the grade number on your paper.

(Make sure you circulate the room and check that the correct grade is entered.) (If there is any talking during the survey, note what the speaker says so we can decide if the survey is compromised when you bring it back.)
The survey included all of the items that had been offered over the period we looked at. The students read the instructions and then handed out the surveys.

We discussed the number of surveys we needed to take to get a good 'sample'. Many of the students wanted to survey every student in the school. I explained how impractical it would to be survey all 360+ students. I convinced them that getting 20 surveys at each grade level would be enough, that is still 120! I think after having to go through the surveys they would agree.

One of the things I wanted the students who gave the survey to watch out for was students sharing their choices aloud. I really stressed to the students before they gave out the surveys the need to emphasize to the students they should not talk while the survey was being filled out. Interestingly, we actually had two classrooms where one or more students 'shared' what they were choosing during the survey. We decided to throw out those surveys and give another survey to a different class. 

We spent three days collecting the surveys, working around the schedules of each classroom. This week we will finish going through those surveys and on Wednesday the plan is to aggregate the datum. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why Blogging Isn't Transformational for Our Students Yet

Dr. Chris McGee wrote a blog post wrote a post on his blog Coaching in and out of the Classroom on the importance of blogging. It helped me verbalize some thoughts that had been swimming through my head for some time:

There are many things more important than blogging, especially how it is often used in the classroom. As you know I argue that blogging and other forms of social media have the potential to be transformative when they are used to connect students with others around the world. Unfortunately this isn't the norm of blogging or social media use by our students. 
When teachers refer to authentic audience they often confuse it with a larger audience. Authenticity means that the readers want to read the writing. They choose it, they don't have it chosen for them (even when they are assigned to do it through comments4kids). We don't develop authentic audiences with our students because that requires we give up control of where the students go and what they read.  
If we want blogging and commenting to be transformative we have to let students choose to blog, choose to respond, and choose to not participate. Then the power of connections can truly transform our students thinking. I truly believe that connections made by future generations online will help bring about a more peaceful and caring world, the question is will educators lead the way or will we continue to stifle it through our lack of understanding?
What do you think? Is this right or am I full of crap? I would love some dialogue about this.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Interesting Student Observation About Peter Pan

While discussing the movie Peter Pan (2003) I asked the question, "Why is Mr. Darling and Hook always played by the same actor?"

One of my students came up with a brilliant observation. He said that because Mrs. Darling had given her secret kiss (read the book Peter and Wendy) to Peter, Peter was jealous of Mr. Darling and imagined him as the villain of Neverland.

If that is the only thing any of my students discover during our year long project, it will have been totally worthwhile! This is why sharing a long term project is so valuable, students have opportunities to revisit information and draw conclusions. Here is a link to our project. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lunch Project Day 5

Today was a turning point day, after we figured out the mean, median, mode, and range for each choice  we discovered that the first choice (average) was picked 62% while the second choice was picked 24%, the third 7% and 8% on average brought their lunch. There was a large discrepancy between the ranges of the first and second choices, while the third and fourth choices were very consistent.

After we discussed that I decided to let them think about where we need to go next, this is where I got into trouble. Instead of making a statement that steered them into one direction, I left it too open ended. I had that deer in the head lights stare looking at me. Then everybody had an idea, but it was about changing specific items or how often items were on the menu. None of which we can control, especially since we have no data showing that a large number of students care.

I decided to take over the show and pick an activity we could do to gather more data that could be used for decisions they wanted to make. I didn't want to do it, but they simply aren't ready to understand what is needed to move to through the process. In retrospect I should have had them think about the project overnight and come up with a plan of action to be submitted in the morning. While I don't think most would have come up with something, there might have been a few who did and because I didn't give them time to think about it I won't ever find out.

To tie the math we are doing with science I pulled out my old standard the steps of the scientific method. I identified the problem, we don't know what entrees the students like the most. We came up with a plan. We will survey a random sampling of the students. We decided that sampling 20 students per grade level will give us enough information to work from. Tomorrow we write the survey and the instructions the students will give when they administer it.

Because I made a mistake and didn't let my students attempt to come up with a plan of their own, I have decided that after this survey is complete the students will come up with an extension that they can follow up with based upon the information we receive. Hopefully this will engage a few of the students to really think of something interesting for us to do next.

I can think of a few things they could choose to do next:

  • They can come up with a new menu with different choices.
  • They can create a petition for the students to sign that addresses the choices that were liked least.
  • They could survey the kids to see what choices are liked least. 
  • They could research the nutritional value of the top 10 choices to see if they are healthy enough to want to eat.
  • They could design vegetarian or vegan entrees to be added. (This may seem strange, but there was a lot of discussion about vegetarianism and veganism this week.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Maybe This Is Why We Don't Share Our Failures

Photo by RusselDavis
I presented a session at METC on students creating video reflections. As you can (if you know me at all) imagine the emphasis was less on the technology, more on what the students were reflecting. I also spent a large percentage of the time discussing my mistakes and failures throughout the process.

Today I received the feedback from the session. These are the two comments that I received:

Terribly boring. No new information. Hardly any technology.

The presenter showed us examples of video reflections but they weren't good examples. He even admitted that they were bad! No instruction was given on how to record the videos or how to upload them. He also didn't share how these reflections could be an instructional tool but just a fun project. I wish this session went deeper and was more meaningful and applicable.

No wonder so few choose to share their failures.

The Lunch Project Day 4

Here are the observations that some of the students made after looking through yesterday's datum:

  • Francisco: Chicken patties are selected >80% each Wednesday
  • Jace: 'Brought' stayed between 5-10%;
  • Nicole: Salads range between 3-10%
  • Katlynn: Pizza are selected >80% Fridays
  • Brittney: When 2 popular items are on the menu, they have a really close percentage (nachos and chicken rings)
  • Juan: Salads are never more than 10%
  • Cheyenne: When it is Chicken Patty or Pizza, fewer salads are chosen
  • Julian: Chicken Patty and Pizza seem to be the most popular
  • Johann: Chicken Patty was 85% 3 weeks in a row
After discussing these observations the students began to work on finding mean, median, mode, and range for each lunch choice. 

Students asked a few questions about the food. They were interested in how the food was ordered, how they decided how much quantity to order, and other things like that. One of the students decided to ask someone in the kitchen to come and talk about this with us. Hopefully they will agree and come talk about it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Lunch Project Day 3

Today we worked on finding the percent each lunch choice had been chosen daily. Then we started looking at that data. The students are looking now at the datum to find any interesting or seemingly significant trends or observations. I am not expecting much, I am not sure they have ever been asked to look at data and draw conclusions from it in this manner before.

Just a few of my own observations:

  • The Friday that we had Valentine's parties had the largest attendance of any day.
  • Chicken patties easily squash any other choice on Wednesdays.
  • Chicken rings and nachos seem to be equally popular.
  • Pizza is constantly a twelve to one choice over PB&J.
  • Wednesdays seem to have better attendance than Fridays. Does this mean kids come for chicken patties that miss for pizza?
  • Some of my students are beginning to find this interesting, others not so much. I am fascinated.

The Lunch Project Day Two

Friday the class came together and we looked at the work they were supposed to complete, finding the frequency of the second choice of meals. They found nineteen different choices over the thirty-three day period.

Next we identified the number of choices that had been used as a choice one and a choice two, of which there were four: hamburger/cheeseburger, nachos, tomato soup with grilled cheese, and grilled chicken.

We figured the percentage of time each choice was given throughout the period. Luckily we collected data for 33 straight days (not on purpose, but I will take all the luck I can get) and soon discovered we could multiply the number of times a choice was given times one percent. The largest percentage was with the salad which is the third choice daily.

The question I asked to the class was, "Is it significant that 33% of the choice opportunities is one food item?" They thought that it was, but I explained we wouldn't know for sure until we saw how often students chose a salad. We are going to have a lot of tough discussions about salads as a choice when they discover (as I have seen while glancing through the data) that it is going to be a pretty small percent of students that choose it.

I also spent some time surveying the class and asking out of the four most offered choices, which ones did the students like the most. Chicken Patty was the favorite with twelve of the twenty students picking it as their first choice.

After we did the informal polling we watched a couple videos on how samples are used statistically. Next we will be looking at identifying the percentage each was chosen daily. We should be able to identify the more popular food choices and also start to look at if the position of the food choices are important.