“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” – Bill Gates

CEP 811: Reflection

After seven weeks of immersing myself in Maker Education, it it time to reflect on my experiences and what I’ve learned. Overall, I found the Maker Movement refreshing and exciting. I love that makers innovate, create, and collaborate with one another, with curiosity and passion at the forefront of their learning.

“Making” has positive and negative aspects, though. The maker kit with which I experimented was Squishy Circuits, a straight-forward and engaging tool that had LED lights, a buzzer, and a moving piece. While I can easily see how my students would be excited to use this kit to perhaps learn about electricity, positive and negative charges, and insulators and conductors, I do not think that I would ever use my fractions/decimals game board in the classroom. I am proud of my game, and I do think that my students would enjoy learning from it, however, putting play dough on the back of the game board simply isn’t practical. After only 5 days, the dough on my pilot board had dried up and crumbled off. Considering how long it took for me to construct the board, make the dough, and assemble the pieces, I cannot see myself remaking boards on a weekly basis. Additionally, my game had ME doing all of the “making” – the students were just the beneficiaries of my product. If I were to incorporate Squishy Circuits into my classroom, I would want to have students experimenting with the kits.

Squishy Circuits aside, the idea of allowing my students to become “makers” is an intriguing one. In science especially, I can easily see my students creating and innovating. One of our science kits in particular (Mixtures & Solutions) is already very hands-on and project-driven, so I would like to look into taking this unit a step further. Perhaps students could try to develop a process to determine a solution’s solubility, or come up with a ranking system for pH level (before being introduced to the pH scale). As Gee (2008) stated in the video provided here, science is learned by doing!

I can also see myself applying the ideas of Wiggins (2012) regarding assessing creativity in the classroom. As an educator, I spend hours every week drafting rubrics so I have a “fair” and “unbiased” way to score my students, but I have neglected to include a “creativity” component in fear that such a category was too subjective. As Wiggins suggests, though, being engaging and creative is part of the purpose of making something, so it is important that students are assessed on this aspect in order for growth to occur. Perhaps I need to consider having fewer specific components on my rubrics to keep expectations simple and to-the-point.

During the course of CEP 811, I grew tremendously both as a learner and as a educator. One quality that I developed over the past seven weeks was that of perseverance. Working with Squishy Circuits, it took several attempts, failures, and re-imaginings to get things right. I had to learn to take a deep breath and use my frustration as motivation to keep trying. I also noticed that as time goes on, my tech-savvyness continues to improve. At the beginning of CEP 810 in May, I had trouble simply posting a hyperlink to the ShareTracker. After a few weeks of practice though, I got the hang of the process. When CEP 811 began, I thought editing a video (with music AND videos AND pictures AND text?!) was the most daunting task that could have been set. Now, however, I am able to create and edit a three-minute video in an hour or two. The more I immerse myself in the MAET program, the more tweets I read, the more people I communicate with (EdCamp! Blogs!), and the more I practice using the technologies, the more of an “expert” I become.

I also enjoyed becoming more familiar with prevalent learning theories, like Universal Design and experience design. It is fascinating how theories that apply to other aspects of the world also align with educational principles. While sometimes these theories seem like common sense, it is nice to be reminded of the foundations on which our practices should be rooted.

Despite some of the challenges I faced during this course, I know that I am now a better-informed and more motivated educator. It is a great to feel so inspired by the Maker Movement as I am gearing up to head back into the classroom!


Gee, J. (2008). Grading with Games. Retrieved from:

Rose, D.H. & Gravel, J. (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines (V.2.0). Wakefield, MA:

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from


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CEP 811: Incorporating UDL into my Maker Project

The goal of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is to reach the maximum number of learners possible (Rose and Gravel, 2011). Rather than developing curriculum for the “average” student, UDL seeks to create lessons that will meet the needs of the learners in the margins. Designing curriculum this way actually benefits more students, for all students profit from curriculum that adheres to UDL’s principles. The three main UDL principles are:

1). Provide Multiple Means of Representation

2). Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression

3). Provide Multiples Means of of Engagement

After learning about UDL, I reimagined my Fraction and Decimal Equivalences game to better adhere to UDL’s main principles. A link to my new and improved lesson can be found here. The template I used to revise my lesson plan can be found here.

While I believe that my changes make my lesson more accessible to all types of learners, parts of my lesson were already UDL-friendly. For example: I already had a review component in place to help activate background knowledge, groups were expressing answers in various ways depending on the game card drawn, and feedback was provided through reviewing and discussing answer submissions.

When reading about the Universal Design for Learning framework, however, I realized that there was much more that I could do to reach more students in my classroom. The highlights of my revisions are listed and explained below:

  • Review Portion: Before diving into the game, students will review the vocabulary and concepts that will be drawn upon during gameplay. Students will be asked to activate background knowledge and rememberings as we create a KWL chart together. All vocabulary terms will also be recorded on anchor charts, with both text and a visual for each term. Our review will be recorded and uploaded for later viewing (if needed). Enacting the review through multiple modes will ensure that a greater number of students understands the underlying concepts needed for the activity.


  • Directions: Directions will be provided in several formats: they will be displayed digitally, explained orally, and demonstrated live with a volunteer. A short video with an explanation will also be provided on iPads so students can view the directions again once in small groups.


  • Means of Expression: Answers may be recorded in the format of the student’s choice to ensure that the student is able to fully explain himself/herself in the format that works best. Options include performing work using pencil and paper, using the National Library of Virtual Math Manipulatives, typing on Evernote, creating a short video demo, using VoiceThread to put together a digital presentation, or some combination of these options. The only requirement is that the student’s thinking and explanation is clearly expressed.


  • Assessment: Process will be highly valued: are students learning from mistakes? are they responding to feedback? are they problem solving? can they explain their mathematical thinking? Feedback given will identify patterns of errors and wrong answers and will help turn errors into positive strategies for future success.


  • Time: Because all learners work at different speeds, I will provide more game boards than there are groups. This way, students can switch boards at their own pace without feeling pressured to rush.


A summary of my shift in lesson planning can be found below, in the infographic I created using


*Click image to enlarge



Rose, D.H. & Gravel, J. (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines (V.2.0). Wakefield, MA:

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CEP 811: My First EdCamp Experience

This week in CEP 811, I had the opportunity to participate in EdCamp for the first time. EdCamp is essentially a place where educators (or anyone interested educational topics) can get together to discuss and share ideas. My EdCamp was held via Google Hangouts, but there are a variety of on-site offerings around the country every week.

The aspect that I enjoyed most about EdCamp is its casual, non-threatening environment. There weren’t any full-blown presentations, and I didn’t have to sit and listen to one person talk for an hour. With EdCamp, the experience is interactive. One person offered some ideas or questions regarding a particular topic, and everyone had the opportunity to add their own insights. EdCamp was also a great space to collaborate with other educators. While those other educators were strangers to me, it was amazing how quickly we started to mesh due to our shared interests in educational technology. I appreciated hearing how other districts handle certain issues (such as “Bring Your Own Device”) in places from Michigan to New Jersey. The map below demonstrates just how huge the EdCamp movement is, connecting people from across the globe:unnamed

CC licensed (BY) flickr photo by Kevin Jarrett

There were only two components of EdCamp that I didn’t like. One was the time limit – having only 15 minutes to discuss a topic felt rushed, and I don’t feel like my group and I were able to delve into our topics as deeply as we would have liked. In the future, I would like to do away with time limits and let the conversations flow more organically. The other aspect that I didn’t like was the presenter’s frontloading of information before the discussion started forming. Even if I had a comment or question, it felt rude and unnatural to interrupt the presenter. I believe that this issue could easily be overcome in the future with a little more practice and a higher comfort level with the EdCamp setup.

EdCamp has an enormous potential for professional development, for it encourages discussion and collaboration between and within districts. Rather than sitting through a dull series of workshops, educators have the opportunity to contribute something of value to the conversation. In my school, I can see EdCamp changing the way we go about professional development. Technology is a big focus in my district right now, and I can see EdCamp helping to inform my colleagues about the possibilities that exist. When teachers hear about the successes of peers firsthand, I think it makes them more willing to try things out for themselves.

If I were to organize an EdCamp for my colleagues, I would have to consider a few different factors. The first would be to find an appropriate venue: one that was both convenient and equipped to handle the technology load. I would also have to recruit other teachers who were passionate about EdCamp to promote the session, and perhaps someone to act as an MC to tie everything together. Additionally, I would want to have some topics or questions prepared that might engage and guide the audience. If the majority of those in attendance were unfamiliar with the EdCamp setup, I would expect that they would need a bit more scaffolding for their first experience.

Overall, I enjoyed participating in EdCamp. I believe that EdCamp is a valuable way to interact with other educators to share ideas and to continue to grow as teachers.

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CEP 811: Classroom Revamp Through Experience Design

Creating an ideal classroom environment is something most teachers strive to do. While many may believe that redesigning a classroom requires an exorbitant amount of money, this simply isn’t the case. A 21st century classroom is all about creating an open space where students feel comfortable and are given opportunities to explore. In Chapter 2 of the book “The Third Teacher”, the authors stress the necessity to redesign classrooms for a new age (2010, p. 58). As Jean Piaget explained, “The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done” (2010, p. 57).

My old 5th grade classroom layout was designed for a different era: there was a definite “front” of the room, students sat at their desks, and there was very little room to move around. After watching David Kelley’s TEDTalk, I realized how important it is to design with the human experience in mind. So, taking the needs of the students into consideration, here is my revamped classroom:

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 3.44.53 PM

The new features include:

Literacy Center – This area is located in the corner of the room, with a rug, throw pillows, and beanbags. According to TheThirdTeacher (2010), “Children are ready to learn only when they’re safe and secure, so address those needs before considering any other aspect of a child’s environment”, so I made the literacy corner a comfortable place to relax and learn.

Tables – Students sit in groups of 4 at round tables to encourage discussion and collaboration. Students naturally want to interact with one another, so this new seating formation allows students to learn in they way they wish to learn.

Windows – Plenty of natural light! TheThirdTeacher says, “Increasing daylight in classrooms has been shown to cut down on absenteeism and improve test scores.” I also chose pink for the walls – a warm, nurturing color.

Tech Center – Students can stand and work at this “genius bar” counter space, inspired by Edutopia’s “Remake Your Class” video.

Share Wall – Students will have a space to showcase their thinking and explorations to track progress; the space will be a mini-museum of their work.

Exploration/Maker Lab – A hands-on area to explore, fail, and redesign. Squishy Circuits are a large component of this station (shown below):

 Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 5.04.56 PM

Group Carpet – An cozy area to gather as a group to share out. A SmartBoard is also located here to display lessons digitally.

Space – The classroom is designed to allow students to move freely, to cater to their interests/intelligences, and to serve as their own community. In the article “Redesigning Education: Why Can’t We Be in Kindergarten for Life?” LaBarre expresses her belief that all classrooms should be designed like a kindergarten classroom: as learner-centered spaces, allowing students to explore several different ways of learning.

In order to carry out this design, I would only need to acquire the follow resources:

  • pillows
  • beanbag chairs
  • round tables
  • paint
  • bulletin board

The pillows, beanbags, and bulletin board could easily be found at a secondhand shop, or I could take donations. I would also need to have both my principal to approve of the paint job, as well as the custodial staff to assist with painting and to help remove desks and replace with round tables. To fully implement this vision, I would provide my principal and the custodians with the research that supports my plan. I think that the plan could be pulled off in about a week, given that I already possess many of the needed resources.

Overall, I believe that my revamped classroom design creates a nurturing, comfortable environment that is conducive to student-centered learning and exploration.


David Kelley: Human-centered design | Video on (n.d.) TED: Ideas worth spreading. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from

Edutopia. (2013, March 14). Remake your class. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from

LaBarre, Suzanne (2010, May 14). Redesigning education: Why can’t we be in kindergarten for life? Retrieved July 28, 2014 from

OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design. (2010, April 1). The third teacher. Harry N. Abrams; First Edition.

The Third Teacher (n.d.) TTT Ideas Flash Cards. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from

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CEP 811: Critical Questions about Technology Integration in Schools

Topic: Critical Questions about Technology Integration in Schools

To view the short PowerPoint, click–> EdCamp

Focus Topics:


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CEP 811: Creating a MOOC through Backward Design

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are growing in popularity all over the world. These courses are free and can be completed by anyone who is interested. This week for CEP 811, I designed a MOOC that aligns with my own talents and interests.

In my Intro to Dance Performance and Appreciation course, my peers will master skills necessary for dance performance by learning the basics of dance, by recording their own choreography using video editing programs, and by submitting their performances through social media for peer critiques and feedback.

Course Topic: During this course, students will be learning about the foundations of dance – from counting music to creating choreography to performing in an attention-grabbing manner. These tasks will be completed through studying different types of music, learning basic dance vocabulary, recording choreography to be critiqued by peers, and by learning the “secrets” of a great performance.

Course Title: Intro to Dance Performance and Appreciation



This course is for people who love to dance and/or perform and are ready to take their passion to the next level.This course may be the perfect preparation for an audition, or it may be a place to simply improve choreography skills and dance knowledge.

Desired Outcomes:

When learners have completed this course, they will have choreographed and polished a one-minute audition video. Attention will be paid to musicality, dance vocabulary, and performance skills. Students will receive and respond positively to feedback given by peers. Corrections and critiques will then be graciously applied when given. And perhaps most importantly, students in this course will develop a better appreciation for dance.

Course Length: This is a 6-week course. Students should expect to spend about three to five hours per week on the assignments.


During this course students will learn through several different creations:

  • Jing screencast showing how to count a piece of music of the student’s choice
  • Informational “How-To” video that explains/executes basic dance vocabulary
  • Popplet that analyzes chosen piece of music for final performance (piece should be dissected into different nodes based on changes in music)
  • Google Hangout video critique of a classmate’s rough draft of final performance, focusing on performance technique, musicality, and overall appeal
  • Short paper that analyzes qualities of intriguing performers
  • One-minute audition video (edited using Popcorn Maker or iMovie)

Course Architecture:

The course is carefully organized to give students a mixture of instruction/exposure, practice, creation, and feedback each week. In this way, the course was designed this way with TPACK in mind: aligning content, pedagogy, and technological tools.


Week 1: Music in Dance – 

Learn/Explore: Students will learn to count music through listening to a variety of different types of pieces on YouTube. Dancers count music in sets of “8”, so the goal this week is to practice this method through exposure to different types of music. Selections will include:

Create: After the explore activity, students will select their own piece of music from YouTube and will practice counting the song. A screencast will be made that instructs viewers how to count the particular piece.

Share: Peers will meet via Google Hangouts to share their screencasts and to discuss what they learned during Week 1.

Week 2: Dance Vocabulary – 


Learn/Explore: This week, students will be learning basic dance vocabulary including: pirouette, chassé, 1st-5th positions, chainé, and grand jete. Instructional videos are listed below:

Create: Students will be required to film themselves executing these steps through an instructional “How-To” video. Videos may be edited using iMovie, Mozilla PopcornMaker, or another video editing tool.

Share: Videos will be posted on a class shared space for critique. At least 3 of the skills from this activity must be present in the final audition piece at the end of the course.

Week 3: Music Analysis – 

Learn/Explore/Create: A key component to every performance is music! During Week 3, students will select their piece for their audition performance. Songs will be cut down to one-minute in length using GarageBand or a similar music editing tool. Then, the shortened song will be broken down into smaller components (1st verse, chorus, instrumental section, etc.) and analyzed. Using Popplet, students will generate choreography ideas for each section. For example, the opening to a song might sound slow and dramatic, so on the Popplet node for the “intro” section, a student might write down choreography ideas such as “slow arm movements”, “do not look at audience”, “begin on floor; gradually get up”.

Share: Popplets and music links will be shared with peers via class ShareTracker.

Week 4: Rough Draft of Choreography –  

Learn/Explore/Create: Using feedback from Popplet activity, students will choreograph a rough draft of their audition routines. As noted in Week 2, at least 5 basic dance moves must be included in the piece. Students should build upon their skills from earlier lessons and remember their feedback while choreographing.

Share: Videos will be uploaded to YouTube, and links will be shared via a class ShareTracker. Each student will watch and critique at least three (3) peer videos. Feedback will be provided during a Google Hangout session.

Week 5: Studying Up! –

Learn: In Week 5, students will also be required to read Chapter 16 (Musical Theater in America) and Chapter 17 (Dance in the Movies) from No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century by Nancy Reynolds and Malcolm McCormick (2003). These readings will help students gain a better appreciation for dance history, in addition to learning what “works” on stage and on the screen.

Explore: Students will watch at least three (3) performances from Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” show. Required performances are listed below, but more may be explored if so desired.

Create: After viewing the SYTYCD performances, students will write a short paper (about 500 words) describing the qualities that an intriguing dancer possess.

Share: Papers will be written in Google Docs and posted on the class ShareTracker.

Week 6: Feedback– 

Learn/Explore/Create: During the final week, students will revise their routines based on peer feedback and knowledge gained throughout the course. Videos will be edited using iMovie, Mozilla Popcorn Maker, or a similar video editing tool.

Share: Routines will be uploaded to YouTube.

Connection to Learning Theory and Design:

The learning in this course is an example of what Carl Rogers identifies as experiential learning, which “addresses the needs and wants of the learner”. In experiential learning, the student is self-motivated and invested in the learning taking a place. The role of the educator is to facilitate the process through setting the appropriate climate, clarifying the focus, making resources available, and providing time to share feelings and experiences. This course is primarily driven by what the students bring to the table, with some scaffolding and information for guidance.

“Intro to Dance Performance and Appreciation” was created through the process of backward design, which focuses first on the desired outcome (preparing an audition-ready dance performance video), then acceptable evidence of learning (making corrections given by peers, applying feedback, correctly counting music, etc.), and last on the learning experiences that will allow the students to achieve the desired outcome (lesson on counting music, exploring different types of music, learning basic dance vocabulary, etc.) (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 17-18).

The Importance of Peer Feedback:

Peer review and feedback is essential to this course In fact, each week, the assigned activity requires to give and respond to peer feedback.Using Google Hangouts, the class ShareTracker, YouTube, and Google Docs, students will have the opportunity to share and discuss all of their work. Learning to accept criticism in crucial to a dancer, so students will have to learn to embrace the critiques.


Basic ballet positions for young dancers, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th (2011). Retrieved from

Count Music — Hear the Beat by Counting Sets of 8 (2011). Retrieved from

Culatta, R. (n.d.). Experiential Learning (Carl Rogers). Experiential Learning. Retrieved July 21, 2014, from

Group Performance: Top 20 Perform Again (2014). Retrieved from

How to Do the Chasse | Jazz Dance (2012). Retrieved from

How to Count Music in 8’s (2) | Tips for Beginner Dancers (2013). Retrieved from

How to Do Chaines Turns | Ballet Dance (2011). Retrieved from

How to Do a Grand Jete | Ballet Dance (2013). Retrieved from

Jason and Jeanine  – contemporary (So You Think You Can Dance) Choreographed by Travis Wall (2011). Retrieved from

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2008). Introducing TPCK. In AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology (Ed.), Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) (pp. 3–29). New York: Routledge.

Learn How to Pirouette Video – (2009). Retrieved from

Reynolds, N. and McCormick, M. (2003). No fixed points: Dance in the twentieth century. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. pg. 674-743.

Swan Lake Ballet (Music) (2007). Retrieved from

Tanisha & Rudy: Top 18 Perform (2014). Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd Edition. Prentice Hall. pg 13-33.

All images were used under the creative commons license:

Alexander, Stephanie (2014, July 22). Vogue. Flickr. Retrieved from

Jeff (2014, July 22). ‘In Old Vienna’ Leaps. Flickr. Retrieved from

Lee, Sara (2014, July 22). TPACK. Flickr. Retrieved from

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CEP 811: Supporting My Maker Activity with Research

The Maker Activity

Last week for CEP 811, I was challenged to go “thrifting” for materials that could be repurposed for educational purposes. Combining these thrifted materials with my maker kit (Squishy Circuits), I created a straightforward review game that will help my students practice finding equivalent fractions and decimals. The game is meant to be played in groups of about 3, and each player is assigned a specific role for the duration of each round, before switching to a new role. Roles include:

    • Problem-solver: this person will perform the math on the piece of paper that is located on the clipboard
    • Double-checker: this person will double-check the work of the problem-solver
    • Light Technician: this person will use the pointer tool to touch the negative end of the light to see which color light lights up

Students know that they’ve found an equivalency when the LED lights match: IMG_2142

“1/4” lights up green


“0.25” also lights up green. 1/4 and 0.25 must be equivalent!

With my rough draft of my maker project complete, it was time to examine how my activity would hold up when compared to recent research on theories of learning.

The Research

In Richard Culatta’s 2013 TED talk, found here, he stresses the importance for educators to allow students to create something new with technology, rather than simply digitizing the old methods. Culatta elaborated on several unique affordances that technology allow, but the two that I felt applied to my specific maker activity were:

  1. Technology’s ability to provide real-time feedback
  2. Adjusting pace to fit students’ needs through the use of technology

Culatta (2013) warns against the danger of not providing feedback until the end of an assignment, for by this point, it is too late to change the cognitive processes and approaches utilized. One of the highlights of my equivalent fraction and decimal game is that it does, indeed, provide students with real-time feedback. When the “Light Technician” touches the wand to the negative end of the LED light, the group immediately knows if it is a “match” for a previously touched fraction or decimal. If the chosen fraction or decimal is not a match, the students have the opportunity to work together to discuss where an error may have been made. Students rely on their collective minds to problem solve.

In a 2007 study among adult learners taking a statistics course, T. S. Hall determined that “feedback improves learning and problem solving through facilitation of interaction among learners. When learners are able to interact with one another they share and transfer knowledge, which allows for deeper understanding of the problem and enhanced learning” (p. 84). While Hall’s study gave students feedback in a Web-based Wiki format regarding the learning of statistics, the results still apply to the equivalent fractions and decimals game, since the feedback provided can help students alter their problem-solving process and aid them in arriving at the correct answer. Hall (2007) explains, “In this process students are not graded on their initial work which may contain errors but on their continued effort to monitor and fine tune until the correct solution is reached (p. 2). In the game, students are not penalized for being wrong or for making errors. They must, however, work together to make adjustments in their approach to solving the problems through the use of feedback provided by the game.

The equivalent fraction and decimal game also allows students to work at their own pace. The game is not timed, and students can work on problems for as long as is needed. Throughout the game, students are monitoring their progress and their learning. As Bransford, Brown & Cocking (2000), explain, “A metacognitive approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them” (p.18).

Another benefit to the equivalent fractions and decimals game is that it encourages “math talk” and making sense of the problems. Xin, Jitendra, and Deatline-Buchman (2005) state, “Students with a mathematical weakness are taught ineffective strategies for mathematical problem solving such as identifying key words in word problems.” So rather than making sense of a problem or understanding math at a conceptual level, students are simply memorizing steps and trying to decide which operation to use. The equivalent fraction and decimal game promotes the use of math talk, so as not to fall into the routine that Xin, Jitendra, and Deatline-Buchman warn against.
Additionally, Grizzle-Martin (2013) conducted a study of 24 low-achieving fifth grade students in math. Half of the students were taught mathematics using a cognitively-driven program called IMPROVE, and the other half were taught without the program. Grizzle-Martin found that out of students who were taught through the cognitively-driven program, 41.7% of them exceeded standards on the Georgia CRCT, while only 25% of the control group exceeded standards (p. 91). The implications that this study has on math classrooms is huge, for this study demonstrates the importance of metacognitive thinking. The equivalent fractions and decimals game provides students the opportunity to think about their mathematical processes in groups as they approach the problems.
Revisions to the Game
While I do believe that the equivalent fractions and decimals game is supported by the learning theories (metacognition, individual pacing, and real-time feedback) and by current research, there is always room for improvement and adjustment. As Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (2000) emphasize, teachers must “teach some subject matter in depth, providing many examples in which the same concept is at work and providing a firm foundation of factual knowledge” (p. 20). So instead of simply having the fractions and decimals written on the board numerically and in word form, visual representations of the fractions and decimals will also be added. This will help students to connect the visual representations of the fractions/decimals with the numerical and word forms.
Additionally, sets of cards will be provided to further push students’ metacognitive process that Grizzle-Martin (2013) stresses, or to simply encourage deeper math talk. These cards will ask students to perform additional math tasks (e.g., “Which fractions are exactly half the value of 1/2?”), or will ask students questions like, “Pick any two equivalent fractions. Explain how you know these two fractions have the same value.” To further encourage collaboration and math talk, I am also revising one of the player roles. Instead of “double checker”, one player will be the “consultant” for the problem solver.
Furthermore, a real-world component will be added to the cards to ask students to transfer the concepts on the game board to real-life contexts (e.g., cooking using fractions, dealing with money), for “when a subject is taught in multiple contexts, and includes examples that demonstrate the wide application of what is being taught, people are more likely to abstract the relevant features of concepts and develop a flexible representation of knowledge” (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000, p. 62).
The person who drew the card will make the initial response, then the other two players will contribute additions, modifications, or questions based on the response. A “math talk” discussion should ensue. Once an answer is arrived upon, the group should video record the question and response on the iPad provided. (These will be viewed by teacher later, and may be used for further lessons or discussion in the future).
Although my game is not yet perfect, it will help my students engage in math talk, problem-solve with one another, develop deeper understandings of fractions and decimals, and be provided with immediate feedback. Technology allows education to be taken to new heights, and I am excited to see what the future has in store.
To see my revised lesson plan, click here.
Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. National Academies Press. Retrieved from
Culatta, R. (2014, July 14). Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet. [Video File]TEDxTalks. Retrieved from
Grizzle-Martin, T. (2014). The effect of cognitive- and metacognitive-based instruction on problem solving by elementary students with mathematical learning difficulties. (Order No. 3617905,Walden University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 158. Retrieved from (152855661)
Hall, T. S. (2007). Improving self-efficacy in problem solving: Learning from errors and feedback. (Order No. 3307188, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 141-n/a.Retrieved from (304832899).
Xin, Y. P., Jitendra, A, & Deatline-Buchman, A. (2005). The Effects of Mathematical Word Problem-solving Instruction on Middle School Students with Learning Problems. The Journal of Special Education, 39, 181-192.
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CEP 811: Dollar Bin + Apartment Thrifting + Math = Fun

Part 1: Thrifting Adventure

This week in CEP 811 definitely required some craftiness and innovation. I was asked to use my Maker Kit (Squishy Circuits), along with some repurposed items, to create something that I could use to teach curriculum in my 5th grade math classroom.

My school piloted a new math program last year, and the one component that is severely lacking in the new program is that of math games. For this reason, I knew that I wanted to create a math game that could be used in my classroom during our fractions and decimals unit, specifically something that would aid my teaching of equivalent fractions and decimals.

My first stop was the spare bedroom of my apartment. I was looking for a game board, a poster board, or anything else flat and sturdy. I found an old cardboard box, and I quickly decided that I could cut it up and use one (or more) of the sides as my working surface. I also grabbed markers, scissors, and some plain white printer paper.

I next opened up my Maker Kit, and I discovered that I had to make conductive and insulting clay for the circuits. I didn’t have Cream of Tartar, vegetable oil, food coloring, or AA batteries, so I knew that a trip to Target was in order. While there, I scavenged the dollar bins for anything else that might be useful for my project. I found a pack of mini-pens that I thought would be easy to disassemble – I knew that I would need some type of “tubing” to make a pointer/wand for my game, and the clear plastic tube of the pens seemed ideal.

Part 2: How to Make a Circuit

Following the directions on the Squishy Circuits box, I first made the conductive dough. The dough had to be made on the stove over medium heat, and at first it seemed that my pot of liquid goop would never form a dough ball; however, with patience and A LOT of stirring, my conductive dough was finally formed! This dough is extremely salty, which is what helps to conduct the electricity.


After taking the dough off the heat, I kneaded it for a few minutes more to fully incorporate the flour. I then made the sugary insulating dough, which did not require any heat, but was much harder to get to a play-dough-like consistency (it was very sticky!).

Now that I had two different types of dough with which to work, I spent some time building with circuits to see what I could make. This was my first (very simple) creation: two balls of conductive dough and one LED light:


I then tried out my insulting dough to make sure that it didn’t conduct electricity:


And I also tried sticking the insulting dough between the two mounds of conductive dough:


Sticking the insulting dough in between was actually very helpful; if the two wads of conductive dough touch one another, it prevents the light from lighting, since the current will flow through the dough instead of through the LED light (path of least resistance).

Part 3: Assembling my Game Board

1). Take a pair of scissors and poke holes into the piece of cardboard (I actually ended up making my game board smaller; I used only 12 out of the 25 holes that I poked through). The holes will be used to place the LED lights along the game board.




2). Flip the cardboard over. Roll the conductive dough into long strips, and cover the columns of holes. Make sure each column is connected to one another by another “strip” of conductive dough along the top. (NOTE: I used a second piece of cardboard to “sandwich” the dough once I flipped the game board over).


3). Disassemble mini-pen, discarding all parts but the plastic tubing. Fill tubing with conductive dough. This will serve as the “wand” or “pointer” for the game.


4). Stick the positive (red) end of the battery into the conductive dough on the back of the game board. Stick the negative (black) end into on end of the “wand”.



5). Using markers, label the game board with fractions and decimals.

6). Stick the LED lights into the holes. The longer end of the LED light is the positive end – this end should be placed through the hole and into the conductive dough. The shorter end is the negative end; this end should be bent upward. Current only flows in one direction: from positive to negative. We are assuring that the negative leg of the LED touches the negative dough (which is inside the wand), and the positive leg (poking through the game board hole) is in the positive dough (underneath the game board).

I did all of the equivalent fractions/decimals is groups to ensure that I had the appropriate colors (e.g., all fractions/decimals equivalent to 1/2 were red, all fractions/decimals equivalent to 1/4 were green, etc.).




7). Turn on battery pack. Try to find decimals/fractions that are equivalent to one another. The colors will reveal if you are correct! Video demonstration:

A link to the lesson that accompanies the game can be found here

Part 4: How this Game Follows the 5th Grade Common Core Math Curriculum 

The 5th Grade Common Core Math Curriculum is heavily focused on fractions and decimals (in fact, 5 out of 8 of my units are on these two topics). At the very foundation of the curriculum is understanding not only what a fraction represents, but also how fractions and decimals relate to one another. This game (and the accompanying lesson posted above) allows students to practice their skills by finding equivalencies in a fun, non-threatening environment. The use of mixed-level groups, working together, and shifting roles gives students the opportunity to solve problems without really knowing that they are doing math. This lesson and game also encourages “math talk”, and gives the teacher the opportunity to listen in on math conversations taking place in the classroom.

NOTE: The photos and video in this post are meant to serve as visuals to illustrate each step in the process of creating this game. If anything is not clear from the photos, please comment and let me know! I will get back to you with clarification.



CEP811 – Remix

Week 1 in CEP 811 has focused on taking knowledge and ideas that already exist and transforming that information into something new. For my first assignment, I was asked to choose a popular education buzzword, to research current videos/images on the topic, and then to make my own remix video that thoroughly and creatively explained the buzzword.

The buzzword that I chose was “Individualized Learning”, which is the process of tailoring content to better fit the needs and interests of an individual student. The beauty of this type of learning process is that it allows students to work at their own pace, through their own creative lenses, but still holds them accountable for the material. The information being taught does not change, but the ways in which the information is analyzed and applied may vary from student to student.

To create my remix, I used Mozilla PopcornMaker. I have had success with iMovie in the past, so I was excited to use a program that would allow me to edit videos in a new way. This tool looked user-friendly at first glance, but contained many glitches. The program froze constantly, and it was difficult to cut clips exactly where I wanted. Unfortunately, my final product did not match my initial vision precisely, but due to the glitches I was experiencing, I could not solve all of the problems that I came across. One of the biggest problems that I encountered was that the YouTube clips that I used would not play in “Preview” mode – they only worked when I was in “edit” mode. This is quite problematic, as the beginning and ending of my remix contain video clips that contribute important information about my topic, and the middle of my remix doesn’t make as much sense without those parts. I promptly tweeted @Mozilla to try to resolve this issue; and one of my instructors came to the rescue! (It turns out Safari does not like Popcorn Maker; try Firefox or Chrome instead). Although Mozilla PopcornMaker is not my preferred video editing tool, I still feel that my remix is informative and worth the watch!

Check out my Individualized Learning Remix Video!

(NOTE: If the video in the above link is having difficulty loading, please view this link instead. I made a screencast of my edit screen so the video would play as intended). 


DSC00714: CC BY

Students and laptops: CC BY-NC-SA

Student_ipad_school -025: CC BY

Student_ipad_school – 073: CC BY

Textbook purple: CC SA


Dankoch (2013). New day. Retrieved from

Enokson (2013). Students and laptops, [photograph]. Retrieved June 30, 2014 from Flickr:

Flickinger, B. (2012). Student_ipad_school – 025, [photograph]. Retrieved June 30, 2014 from Flickr:

Flickinger, B. (2012). Student_ipad_school – 073, [photograph]. Retrieved June 30, 2014 from Flickr:

Lass, N. (2011). Textbook purple, [photograph]. Retrieved July 4, 2014 from

[ProvinceofBC]. (2014, June 30). BC education plan: personalized learning and flexibility and choice. Retrieved from

Spencer, J. [John Spencer]. (2014, June 30) Personalized learning video. Retrieved from

Sullivan, L. (2012). DSC00714, [photograph]. Retrieved June 30, 2014 from Flickr:

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