Baby Steps toward a Paperless Physics Class…

This is a thing I’ve been secretly working on for weeks, but it has become more relevant in the last few days.

Yesterday during our daily announcements video, our principal announced that there would be no backpacks in the halls or classrooms once we move to the new school building.  (Students can bring backpacks from home and leave them in their lockers, and then pick them up and use them to take stuff home at the end.)

My freshmen seemed pretty neutral to the idea and didn’t have much to say as they watched the video.  However, my juniors in physics had a lot to say about it today.  They really wanted to know how I felt.

I understand that these are the kids who probably have 3 or 4 monster textbooks to tote around (mine being one of them).  I also understand that most of these teachers require separate notebooks or binders.  (Again, guilty as charged…)

So I was honest with them.  I asked them to look in my corner behind my desk.  There lies my green and grey plaid backpack.

“See, even you have a backpack!”

I confessed that I did.  Teacher’s editions are heavy, and carrying them around used to be a pain in the butt.

Then my second confession:  My backpack hasn’t gone home since Thanksgiving break.  I’ve switched to using the .pdf version of the textbook.  I have copies of everything on our school’s Microsoft One Drive.  It’s awesome because I can literally stop working after school, walk home with nothing, and have access to all of my resources on my home computer (if the urge to work strikes).

In my own self-contained teacher bubble, I am paperless as I plan and build assignments.  However when I get to work, I make copies and distribute textbooks like everybody else.  Our school is an older building, the wifi isn’t great.  I share my laptop cart with two other teachers.   Not every student’s phone runs the same operating system.

It was really easy to use these things as excuses as to why I couldn’t go paperless with the students!  But the more I think about it, they are just excuses and can be overcome.

We are moving to a brand new building next year so (hopefully) the wifi will be better.  The reason I mention the move is that it’s made me lazy.  I look at the things I need to pack and think ‘I just don’t wanna!’

So out of laziness, I put on my thinking cap and decided to do what I could with One Note and One Drive.  If I can digitize some stuff, I can travel lighter, right?


Distributive Property Sliders

I’ve been working on the Distributive Property in my Transmath classes.  It’s one of my favorite lessons to teach, but it always ends up taking 3-4 days until all students are proficient.

I was going on my 3rd day of teaching Distributive Property, and I really wanted to try something different.  I was looking through my blogroll on feedly and I saw this post by MissCalcul8 which led me to this post by Restructuring Algebra.  (It’s always great to add another blog to my list.)

Anyway, I’m sure that while I used sliders in my own education, the idea of using them in my high school classes hadn’t quite occurred to me.  My transmath classes will not get to function notation this year, and I’m too impatient to bookmark blog posts and wait to use them later.

So I busted out powerpoint and made my own for distributive property.  This is what the end result looked like:

Distributive Sliders

(We flipped a coin and rolled a die to determine the signs and values of the numbers on the 5th slider)

We spent half of a class period putting the sliders together, and then spent the next day an a half sharing and solving problems that students created.

Could I have given the same amount of problems on a worksheet and said, “Pick five and solve for tomorrow?”

Of course…but this was way more fun!

Distributive Property Sliders

Let’s Play 25


What makes a good survey?

Yesterday, I opened my work e-mail to find a survey about professional development.  We have had a lot of PD this year, and I was kind of excited to give my input.  But time got away from me, and I didn’t get to it until this morning.  In that time, the original sender of the survey said that responses to PD have been overwhelmingly positive.

There were 18 questions total.  I found two of them a little bit odd and thought I’d share.

Question 2

This question doesn’t allow for any comments.  What if I didn’t have a take-away?  What if I’ve already read this person’s books but still enjoyed seeing them?  What if it was an elementary specialist that was largely irrelevant to me as a math/physics teacher?

I look at this one and feel like it’s weighted in the positive direction.  It’s almost like there is a ‘Somewhat Uninformative’ and ‘Largely Uninformative’ option missing from the bottom of the choice list.

This later question suffers from the same problem…

Question 7

As you can see from the rows and rows of bubbles, we have seen quite a few things this year.  Now not every teacher has seen all of them, but I could offer an option on at least 10 of these PD choices.

My big problem again is the lack of a comments box.  Where can I say the things that I share on twitter?  What if I found it insulting that the speaker made fun of the tech generation (while I took notes on my phone) and appealed only to traditional methods?  What if I liked a speaker, but would like them better in a smaller setting or break-outs?  What if I wanna suggest Skypeing someone cool?

I also don’t like that I don’t have the option to say something wasn’t of use or wasn’t good information.  For example, I have repeatedly been shown how to fold a piece of lined paper in half to make t-notes…and this will revolutionize my teaching.  Where do I say that I know where to find graphic organizers online, and don’t need to be shown anymore?  (Please…)

Where can I say that I would like to talk to people who teach the same subjects, but maybe in a different area?  How do you REALLY handle diversity in a math/science class.  How do other teachers REALLY make math meaningful and hands-on?  What kinds of field trips and activities can I use to bring a science class from good to great, even though museums, theme parks and traditional outings are farther away?

So after I answered the survey I drafted and sent an e-mail.  I feel bad because I know that reading my e-mail is more work than slogging through my survey responses, but I don’t really feel like some of the survey questions captured my opinion on the subject.

The rest of the survey was fine, but I wonder how much two poorly worded questions can skew the overall results of the survey to the positive side.

And just to clarify, I believe that these two questions were an honest oversight, and not intended to adjust the results.  But if we’re going to ask for honest responses to PD, we need to make sure that the option to respond negatively is always there.



My Favorite Thing



The Last Day of First Semester, Year Four…


#MTBOS Blogging Initiative

I, Amanda Skinner, resolve to blog in 2016 in order to open my classroom up and share my thoughts with other teachers. I hope to accomplish this goal by participating in the January Blogging Initiation hosted by Explore MTBoS.

You, too, could join in on this exciting adventure. All you have to do is dust off your blog and get ready for the first prompt to arrive January 10th!

Wish me luck!

30 Days – What does a good mentor do?

Explain:  What does a good mentor “do”?


30 Days – Post a Picture of Your Classroom

Describe what you see, and what you don’t that you’d like to.