Posts Tagged: STEM

In the Classroom
The Innovation Academy
February 11, 2018
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The Innovation Academy

Maureen Henderson

The Innovation Academy is a magnet program located at Springfield Middle School in Robertson County, Tennessee. The program currently serves two hundred sixty scholars in sixth through eighth grade. Scholars have a team of two teachers, one teacher instructs STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) and the other instructs REACH (Reading/English to Analyze Culture and History).
In the Classroom Professional Learning
Blended Learning and Education
June 3, 2017
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Blended Learning and Education

Elaine Vaughan

Blended Learning: When I first heard those words, I was not impressed. I imagined all my students doing their math on a computer with little or no assistance from me. I knew that within 3 years my students would each have a laptop so I started doing some research on integrating mathematics and technology. I learned very quickly that my interpretation of blended learning would take on a new role and realized that I could combine classroom learning with online learning in which my students could, in part, control the time, pace, and place of their educational experiences. I also discovered two main ideas concerning differentiation and the mathematical practices and how my support of a blended learning environment within the classroom could enhance student learning.

Differentiation and Blended Learning: Every educator’s desire is to determine the learning styles (visual, kinesthetic, or auditory) of the students in the classroom and promote student investigation through multiple representations. Students may discover and experiment with graphing, examining tables, and analyzing concepts by using free online tools such as Desmos and Geogebra. A teacher should carefully evaluate the technological resources to assure the support of student learning of mathematics and the advantages offered in posing mathematical problems as well as illustrating mathematical ideas.

The Mathematical Practices and Blended Learning: Many of the Mathematical Practices dealing with problem solving, reasoning and constructing viable arguments, modeling with mathematics, and using appropriate tools are supported by various online programs and videos. Dan Meyer has developed many mathematical exercises that not only incorporate the practices into learning but also create scenarios that prompt students to stop and think about how to formulate solutions to the problems. One of these problems is called Meatballs and the Three Act Math Task: Will It Overflow? ( Students work with the information observed in the three videos to solve the problem.  Educators may also choose Khan Academy, create flipped lessons, or use lessons from YouTube for students who need more practice or understanding on standards. Teachers also have various alternatives for on-line formative assessment such as Kahoot, Google Forms, Socrative, Quizlet, or student designed presentation using Screencast-O-Matic. Listed are just a few of the online learning tools for educators to use in the classroom.

Three years have passed since I first heard about Blended Learning. The ninth and tenth graders at my high school all have laptops for learning. I now realize that I will never be replaced by a computer and that I may serve as a facilitator in the classroom. The questioning techniques along with problem solving progress at a much higher level of learning for students. I am also preparing my students for the future world of work through the collaborative and communication skills they are utilizing with their peers. As an educator, one needs to keep in mind that all of the learning tools available for students take time to implement or adapt for multiple learning styles and that the technology should always support the mathematics. Also, an educator may want to investigate online professional development (MOOC-Ed, North Carolina State, Whatever the decisions made in moving students forward in a technological world, the rewards far outweigh the drawbacks. I am now convinced that a Blended Learning environment will enhance my students’ work skills as they become productive citizens of the future.

Dr. Elaine Vaughan is a mathematics instructor at Oak Ridge High School for 20 years. She is a National Board Certified teacher, Professional Learning Communities Coach, and member of the Response to Intervention district and school board. Elaine is also a member of Delta Kappa Gamma and serves on the XI State Vision Board. Through this organization, she received both state and international scholarships. Elaine was a state mathematics textbook reviewer during the 2013-2014 school year. Elaine received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Mathematics Education from the University of Tennessee and her doctorate from Walden University. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

In the Classroom Professional Learning
One-to-One with Technology: What Does it Look Like?
December 20, 2016
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One-to-One with Technology: What Does it Look Like?

Jessica Childers

To be ready for the jobs of the future, students must learn to use technology. David Warlick, an influential educator and author, wrote, “We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.” For the past three years, our school has worked to become one-to-one with students and technology.

This year, at our school, every classroom has a full set of Chromebooks or Macbooks. Students have a Gmail account with access to the G-Suites programs. They are able to understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create using the technology in the classroom. Teachers have created lessons, posted them on Google Classroom, and assessed student learning using this technology as well. However, this looks different in every classroom, and most teachers have found what works best for them. I have heard from some teachers at other schools that they have been given a cart of Chromebooks with no training. Often they are afraid to dive in and try new things with students, fearing failure. Here’s what technology use looks like in our 5-8 middle school:

In an English/Language Arts classroom, the teacher has posted a PDF file on Google Classroom. The students open the file using the Chrome add-on Kami which allows them to annotate directly on the document. Before, the teacher would have needed to make 100 copies and ensure each student has the right colors of highlighters. In another classroom students are practicing for a vocabulary test that is coming up on Friday by using Quizlet, Quizlet Live, Flocabulary, Kahoot, and Quizizz. With these programs, the students can receive immediate feedback about their answers and the teacher can formatively assess their learning. Also, most of the students enjoy these programs because they are set up like games and competitions.

In a Science and Social Studies classroom students are creating one presentation using Google Slides about animal adaptations and another about important battles from the Civil War. They are collaborating with their partners by sharing the slides through Google Drive and giving feedback to each other to improve the finished product. Students research their topics using the internet and add images and videos to their slides. When finished, the students present their slideshows to the class. The teacher uses a rubric to evaluate their slides, presentations, and group work. Once all the presentations are complete, the class is quizzed about highlights from the slideshows.

In a Math classroom, the teacher has posted four videos to Google Classroom. These videos are created by Khan Academy and linked through YouTube. Students are given one week to watch all four videos, which lets them see the lesson presented another way. Once they have watched the videos, students must complete three assignments on Each time a student enters an answer on IXL, they get immediate feedback about the response and are given the correct path to solve it if the answer was wrong. Students must write down the problems from IXL, show work and answers, and turn in their papers to the teacher by Friday. The teacher still uses direct instruction, group work, and discussion to teach. However, much of the practice is moved from worksheets to online programs that assess the same skills.

All teachers still have the autonomy to teach their classes the way they see fit. Most teachers still use direct instruction daily with students. What has changed most for our school is the work that students are producing. Instead of making a poster, students can create a slideshow; instead of hand writing an essay, students can type one; and instead of doing a worksheet, students can practice online. As our school becomes more comfortable with the technology, the teaching and learning will only continue to improve and help students learn skills necessary for their future.

Jessica has taught middle school math in Putnam County Schools for the past 7 years. She first worked at Avery Trace Middle School teaching 6th, 7th and 8th grade math. Then she moved to Cornerstone Middle School, which is now Upperman Middle School, to teach 5th grade math. During this time, she has served as the 5th grade team leader, mentor teacher, 2015 school level Teacher of the Year, digital transition team member and mathematics instructional specialist. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Multidisciplinary Studies – Middle School and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, both from Tennessee Tech University. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

Professional Learning
Space Academy for Educators Take Aways
August 5, 2016
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Space Academy for Educators Take Aways

Debbie Hickerson

In July I had the privilege of attending Space Academy for Educators (STEM focused) at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.  What an adventure!  I had no idea how these four days would change me both as a teacher and a learner.  So while it is all still fresh, I thought it would be good for me to record my big take-aways from the grueling 14-hour days spent at camp.  Like childbirth, time softens your memory.

image03Take Away 1:  Expect to stay busy.  There’s great pride in hard work well done.

First, there’s a reason why you leave with 35 PD hours: you start the day at 7:00 a.m. and end the day at 9:00 p.m. with 30 minutes built in the schedule for meals.  Maybe this is the reason you don’t receive a schedule until you arrive?  We were informed on the very first morning, “There’s no tired like Space Camp tired.”  It’s true.  I ended the first day wondering if I had gotten too old for this, or if my energy-packed multivitamin would ever kick in.  The chatter on the bus that was there on the morning rides in certainly had settled down on the bus rides back after dark.

Take Away 2:  No man is an island, teamwork is key, and don’t leave anyone out.

Each day was filled with challenges that made me wonder if I was smart enough to be there. I learned that it’s okay if you don’t understand everything going on, though, because someone else on your team will.  We spent most of our class time in the Marshall Education building for most STEM challenges, and this room was filled with Alphas.  Everyone wanted to work on a team, but most of them expected to be the brains behind the project.  People who are more laid back, like me, had to get pretty loud to be heard over all the ideas being tossed around.  I have to say, though, this was a very creative bunch.  No slackers here. 

Take Away 3:  Learn all that you can from each other.image00

I always learn something new and interesting when talking with other teachers, especially from other states.  We all have our struggles within our schools, districts, and states, but I learn and grow when I hear teachers talk with so much modesty about the amazing things they are doing every day in their classrooms.  These teachers inspired me to try new things I would have never even thought of (i.e., Troy and his after school robotics club in Iowa, Ashley and her soda bottle ecosystems from found materials on her school campus in Tennessee).

Take Away 4:  Pay attention and follow directions.  

The simulated Mission to the International Space Station was a major focus for the camp.  Everyone depended on communication from all other areas.  We wanted to have fun, and we were encouraged by the camp counselors to rely on our training and relax, but every teacher in the Mission Control room—whether piloting the spacecraft or acting as scientists/astronauts—took this as seriously as though were were actually in flight.  This group of obvious overachievers was desperate to get our astronauts to their destination and safely home.  Problem-solving was the name of the game here.


I left Space Academy for Educators with a deeper appreciation for NASA and all that they have achieved over the years.  I also understand why it takes years to make a mission come to fruition.  Viewing the actual Saturn V that traveled to the moon while on a docent tour with a retired NASA engineer was absolutely priceless.  Having an astronaut in the room, giving first-hand experience of his time in orbit, just left me speechless.

For those of us who thought NASA wasn’t doing anything anymore since the space exploration program lost its funding a few years ago, boy, were we wrong!  Being treated as an elite group, we received a tour of some of the NASA buildings in Huntsville and actually saw in live time the astronauts at work on the International Space Station while visiting the Payload Operations Center.  Did you realize the ISS orbits the Earth every 90 minutes?  Or that you can apply for your students to talk with them as they fly over your school?  I had no idea that was even possible!

The common thread that I notice in all of my takeaways, is that these are the same things we try as educators to emphasize to our students.  Work together, don’t leave anyone out, learn from each other, be proud of your hard work, pay attention, follow directions!  How many times a day to you say at least one of those? 

I cherish this experience and can’t thank the other teachers enough for all that they taught me as well as the camp counselors for challenging us to step outside of our comfort zones.  This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I will never take for granted.  

To learn more about NASA, check out their website:

With twenty years of teaching experience, Debbie holds a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, a Master of Education as a Reading Specialist, and an Educational Specialist degree in Administration and Supervision from Middle Tennessee State University. A former President of the Murfreesboro Education Association, Debbie currently serves on the National Advisory Board for Scholastic, is a Mentor Teacher for MTSU’s MTeach Program, a judge for CODiE Awards of the Software & Information Industry Association, is on the Member Advisory Panel for the National Education Association and has written numerous grants totaling more than $10,000 during her teaching career. Debbie is actively involved in The Last Minute Toy Store, Haiti Relief, Feed the Hunger, and Blue Raider Athletic Association. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.