Author Archives: Matt Vaudrey

I Lost My Chops

Read all the way to the end. This is a short post.

Demo Day

Mr.  Guiles is a fantastic teacher at Lone Hill Middle School. While he and I are fairly matched on our interest in EdTech, we each have our own strongholds of knowledge.

So it’s simultaneously relaxing and intimidating to do a demo in his computer lab.

“Good morning, class! On the wall, you’ll see our agenda for the day.” I point toward the screen opposite the teacher computer, where I’ll be walking them through peer editing on Google Drive. There are three bullet points:

  • Log in

  • Share Documents & Edit

  • Google Form

In a class of 36, all but 5 had no trouble logging in and finding the correct link. Mr. Guiles (in the back of the room) hovered and helped three students who were stuck.

That left two.

“If you’ve already typed up your paper in a Word document, you can upload it by clicking and dragging,” I call as I walk by Karl, who is playing a racing game online. “Hey, um… what’s your name? … Close that, please. We’re … um… we’re working on your papers right now.”

He complies.

Next to the teacher computer, Frankie is looking at racy pictures of women in swimsuits.

Right. by. my. desk.

“Hey, come on, man!” I whine. “Seriously? You have to do that right now?”

“I don’t have internet at home,” Frankie replies, zooming in.

I look over at Guiles, who raises his eyebrows. “Come sit over here.” I point to a single desk with no computer. Frankie rolls his eyes and moves.

“What do we do once we’re logged in?” asks Jacqueline, a short 8th grader with glasses.

“Hang on,” I reply. “Let’s get everybody logged in first.” She sighs.

“Is everybody… um… is everybody logged in?” I pull on my collar and wonder, What’s with me today? I don’t feel confident at all, and I did this with adults last week. I’m sweating and nervous. Did I eat breakfast? Dammit, I skipped breakfast.

A suppressed giggle turns my attention toward the door. Karl is texting and giggling.

“Karl, come sit over here.” I point him toward Frankie’s now-empty seat next to my desk.

“No,” says Karl, without looking up.

I take a deep breath, about to put on my sour teacher face, when I hear from the door, “Hey! Are you my kid’s teacher?”

Standing in the door is a dad wearing a blue “Lone Hill Lions” T-shirt. He’s obviously never met Guiles, who has a huge beard and glasses, but I’m thankful for the break from Karl, so I engage him.

“What can I do for you?” I move past him into the hallway and he follows.

“You gave her a C and she’s an A student. I’m getting you fired right now, and I thought you should know about it.” He pokes me in the chest.

I break eye contact and take a step back. “Sir…” I begin, but I can’t find the words. 
I’m only a tech coach, this isn’t my clsasroom.
My main job is to help teachers use technology in the classroom, but today, it’s not going so well.

Teaching is much easier when I have my own classroom with my own kids. I miss my own classroom. 

The Dad pokes me in the chest again and I lean against the wall behind me, feeling 10 years old again. What’s wrong with me today?

bully-boy

My eyes snap open. I turn over in bed and see the clock. 4:51 AM.

WAKE UP! You've had a BAD DREAM! by Marta Moraschi

That was a terrible dream.

~Matt “Gotta stay sharp” Vaudrey

What’s Missing?

This tweet caught my eye last week.

 

Three things on that.

1.) I’d be a way better coach

All four people tagged in that tweet can testify that credibility is the most precious commodity for an educational trainer.

Skeptics can smell  a desk jockey the minute they walk into the conference room wearing dress shoes or heels.

redshoe

THIS is what teachers wear.

 

I’m guilty of this skepticism, too.  For the last eight years, I’ve attended CMC-South every fall, and some of the presenters are…

well….

professors.

Good... uh.... good afternoon. We... um... we received a grant in 2006...

Good… uh…. good afternoon. We… um… we received a grant in 2006…

I’d scoff silently and see if any other–more interesting–sessions were taking place in that time slot. I’m a teacher, I told myself. I’m not going to waste 90 minutes listening to this district stooge talk about “rigor”.

Now I’m the district stooge.

Teaching one period a day would allow me 55 minutes to try out those ideas that Twitter and Voxer find for me: those ideas that sound awesome and I want to immediately try in the classroom.

Teaching, however, is a lot like making fudge.

Photo credit in the link.

Photo credit in the link.

Every fall, I make fudge for my students before Winter Break. I buy the ingredients, set up my double boiler, line the cooling tray with wax paper, and chop almonds and walnuts.

When I had 200 students, I made 5 batches of fudge.
When I had 80 students, I made 3 batches of fudge.
This year, I’ll probably make two batches of fudge.1

All the prep is the same, it’s just repeating the steps.

While I daydream about doing both roles, in reality…

2.) I’d be a way worse coach.

If I taught one period of students, I’m still prepping the lesson, entering grades, hanging student work on the wall, developing seating charts, and cutting out colored paper for a class set of congruent triangle cards.

All for only one batch of fudge.
Seems like an awful waste of energy.

As a one-period-per-day teacher, I have department meetings, IEPs, back-to-school night, and a heavenly host of other duties that keep me from meeting teachers as a coach.

Many would re-schedule.
Most would just give up.

"Never mind. I'll make my own overhead transparencies."

“Never mind. I’ll make my own overhead transparencies.”

It wouldn’t be just 55 minutes that I’m a teacher, it’d be closer to half the workday. That’s hours each week that I’m not researching 1st grade math apps for the iPads, prepping workshops for getting departments on Google Drive, or giving demo lessons to seniors on QR codes.

A part-time teacher and part-time coach is significantly less profitable for my district than a full-time teacher or full-time coach.

What’s most likely in this scenario is…

3.) I’d do a mediocre job of both

“Sorry, students. Mr. Vaudrey unavailable for math tutoring after school, during lunch, before school, or during prep period, and he also leans heavily on his department and grade-level teams to pull his weight on parent-conferences, student discipline, and late work.”

“Sorry, teachers. Vaudrey understands how busy your schedule is; he’s a teacher, too! His mornings are swamped scrambling through a lesson that he delivers once. But he can’t improve it for second period; there is no second period! After a 40-minute lunch at his desk answering Tech emails, he eventually settles on supporting a teacher at his school site instead of driving across town. His teammates at the middle school get most of his Ed Tech coaching, while other schools rarely see him.”

frazzled

For the time being, I must be content to be just a coach, and mooch classrooms for demo lessons whenever I can. Those students will never be my students, but it’ll keep my chops sharp for the next time I present a grant summary at CMC.

While I miss the day-to-day routine of classroom teaching, I’m also thrilled to be building Google Presentations on a Chromebook while listening to SciShow and sitting on an exercise ball.

I wore costumes most of the day on Saturday.

Although… I did silly stuff in the classroom, too.
Silly is kinda tough to switch off.

All of these three coach teachers. Only one has a mouthful of food.

Everyone in this picture coaches teachers while in costume. Only one has a mouthful of food.

~Matt “I still miss my running shoes” Vaudrey

P.S. It’s also notable that John Stevens wrote a response to Tim’s tweet also.

1. It’s not a linear relationship. The 200 students got much smaller pieces than the 80, but here’s a quick model that I’m quite sure can be improved.

2>1

One of the many benefits of my new position is the exposure to tons of new perspectives. There are 460+ teachers in Bonita USD, and I follow roughly 160 on Twitter from around the world.

(The overlap is about seven people. I’m working on that.)

Conferences and trainings expose me to people from other districts I would never have met otherwise.

But there is no substitute for teachers.

Except... a substitute teacher.

Except… a substitute teacher.

At some point on October 20th, I had a conversation with a teacher in my district that led to this:

That appeared to resonate with some other teachers.

Screenshot 2014-10-29 at 7.47.46 AM

Here’s a theory:

When students are paired up on devices, they’re engaging the material, the technology, and each other. The few occasions where a grabby student bowls over a shy student and hogs the device are rare.

This is probably due because–in a 1:1 environment–the grabby student would be playing Angry Birds in the back row and the shy student wouldn’t have anyone to answer his/her question when s/he got stuck.

Further, a 1:1 class where students are silently working on their device is relationally no different from a class where are diligently working on a packet of worksheets.

As teachers, we’re reaching a tipping point where we must create relational experiences for our students to discuss and wrestle with the material and other perspectives.

If we don’t, then free apps in the app store will replace what we do.

~Matt “2>1, and Cheaper, Too” Vaudrey

Good Ideas

Here’s what’s happening.

Music Cues

A teacher, previously averse to new tech tools, installed iTunes and added my collection of Music Cues to it. She’s planning on using a few to start up, then adding more as she gets more comfortable.

That exact story has happened at least 8 times this month and I’m thrilled about it.

triumphant-facial-expression-2_medium

EdTech Tip

EdTech Tip Graphic9.001

This video, I’ll be honest, took most of a workday to shoot and edit, but that included Googling color schemes and building a graphic in Keynote (thanks to @jcorippo for that idea).

I sent that to every teacher in the district and got no less than 40 replies (Ten percent of the staff); they all began with “Oh, you’re the new Tech Coach! Can you…”

  • Show me how to use SubText?
  • Install iTunes on my computer?
  • Fix my printer?
  • Put the email icon on my desktop?
  • Demo a lesson on effective research strategies for my seniors?

Attacking all those questions with the same earnest optimistic kindness is vital for my credibility as a teacher coach.

Sure, I have to differentiate my role from a Computer Technician at least once a day, but every time, the conversation leads to a firmer understanding of what I can do for that teacher.

Subtext and NewsELA Can Hold Hands

A teacher wants to have students use NewsELA articles in the Subtext reader for iPad, but she has a full-time classload and wants somebody to figure it out for her.

ThisGuy

Little did she know, that’s exactly the kind of thing that I do.

Here’s what I told her:

  1. Save the NewsELA article as a PDF and put it in your Google Drive. (There’s a Chrome Extension that I use for that.)
  2. On the iPad, open Google Drive and open that PDF (like you’re reading it).
  3. In the top right, tap the three dots and select OPEN IN…
  4. Choose Subtext.

In case any of y’all are interested.

Google Drive Training

Google Drive Logo

After describing cloud storage to one teacher, she insisted I come back and get her whole department on a shared folder. That meeting was helpful for three reasons:

  1. I can talk about Google Drive all day, speaking faster and faster with increasingly frantic hand gestures until I’m standing on the desk and shouting, “Real-time collaboration!”
  2. They were simultaneously discussing RTI plans, parent conferences, and the upcoming staff meeting, all while I walked them through how stuff works.
    It reminded me that not all teachers will sit quietly and follow along like we’re at a CUE conference.
    I’m on their prep period on their turf; I’ll be thankful for the time I get.
  3. One of my goals for the year is to make “disciples” at each campus; teachers who are willing to try/see new stuff and would be down for me to hijack their class for a period and do a demo. This posse definitely fits that description.

If I’m honest, I do miss the classroom. I chalk that up to the discomfort that one feels in any new position, especially one like this. I’ve essentially changed fields, but I can still daily look through the window at a job I loved and at which, I performed… better than average.

La Cucina Matematica

lacucina

John Stevens and I do some Math/Tech consulting on weekends and holidays, and recently launched a website to that end.

We both share a fear of becoming shameless self-promoters who take schools’ tax dollars and don’t actually help students directly. So we’re both careful about how often we self-promote.

Check out the site. If your district has some leftover Title I money that expires this month (as ours does), we’d love to come visit and talk shop with your math teachers about how to build student creativity and problem-solving.

The “Move It!” Chrome Extension

I’m not frantically pacing a classroom anymore, I’m at a desk around 30% of the time. And I don’t wanna get fat.

moveit

This pops up every n minutes and won’t go away until I click DONE.

My office-mates needed little convincing that I was an odd duck, but declaring “Ten large arm circles! Let’s go, Cheryl!” sealed my fate.

I'll be the most ripped Tech Coach in the biz... though there isn't much competition.

I’ll be the most ripped Tech Coach in the biz… though there isn’t much competition.

~Matt “Wall Squat! Twenty Seconds!” Vaudrey

#GTAATX Application

Together with John Stevens and Karl Lindgren-Streicher, I’ve been brainstorming an interesting way to apply for the Google Teacher Academy for months.

As of August, our plan was a rap with a beat we composed, referencing each other in our videos and starring in quick cameos.

We quickly realized three things as the deadline for Austin was announced.

  1. The beat that we (okay… the beat that I) composed was not very good. Making it good enough would take longer than I wanted to spend, plus there are tons of Creative Commons-licensed songs for free download if you’re a teacher.
  2. The rap would limit our creativity, and we’d have three nearly identical videos instead of three that showcased our unique classrooms and educational philosophy.
  3. One minute is not very much time at all.

So we made a Voxer channel, made a shared folder in Google Drive and gave each other editing rights, and asked for feedback.

sharing page

This is from Karl’s doc. He brought some other Edu-ringers in as well.

Let me stress; this is a microcosm of the same attitude that has grown all three of us into the educators that we are today. We ask peers for help and drink it up when we get it.

Between Voxer (where we dropped any and all inspiration we had and bounced ideas off each other) and the shared Docs (which I won’t share with you, so stop asking), we each took the general concepts that the three of us shared and fine-tuned them to be specific to ourselves.

We encouraged and trimmed ideas in equal measure, and at the end, we had three very different videos that showcase three very similar mindsets.

In short, we actually modeled the collaboration that we promote to our teachers while we made a video about collaboration with teachers.

keanu whoa

Here’s mine:

When I showed my video to Karl and John, they both said, “Yep. That’s Vaudrey.”

Here are their videos, too:

The best part? I just wore the fairy costume and went about my regular day as EdTech Coach.

I trained students on Google Forms and URL shorteners.

I trained students on Google Forms and URL shorteners.

I met with a teacher to help her utilize web resources for 3rd grade Social Studies

I met with a teacher to help her utilize web resources for 3rd grade Social Studies.

The only real weird part of the shoot was that I’m still new to the district;

many of these teachers hadn’t met me in person before I was putting on glitter wings in the teacher’s lounge.

"Hi, are you Wendy? I'm Matt; did you email me about iPads?"

“Hi, are you Wendy? I’m Matt; did you email me about iPads? Also, can you zip me?”

Also priceless were the student responses to the Google Fairy walking through campus.

Elementary School: “It’s a fairy man! Hi, Fairy Man!”

Middle School: “Oh! It’s… uh… he’s the Google Fairy. Aren’t you hot?”

High School: “I love your costume! [Takes picture]
High School: “What the f***?”

~Matt “Google Fairy” Vaudrey

Two Schools of Math Teachers

Today, I witnessed an excellent old-school lesson. The teacher was engaging, funny, and had play-doh on the desks with toothpicks to demonstrate angle relationships to the sophomore Geometry students.

Students inserted a Cloze Notes-Style handout into their plastic dry-erase sleeve and followed along, filling in words to define the vocabulary in sentence frames. By the end of class, all the students were giving the correct hand signal for Adjacent Angles, Vertical Angles, and more.

 

But something… just didn’t feel right about it.

No… not right… something didn’t feel complete about it.

 

Earlier this week, I was chatting with John Stevens and Jed Butler on Voxer.

Picture group texts, but with voice messages instead. It's awesome.

Voxer – group texts, but with voice messages instead. It’s awesome.

We had just gotten our issue of CoMmuniCator (the monthly publication of CMC) which featured two-page descriptions of lessons, like visual patterns and drawing the ideal polygon.

It occurred to me, those are two things that prominent math educators have done extensive work with online, yet CMC has no idea, nor do the teachers who are submitting these articles.

 

We appear to have two schools of math teachers.

The first school is the Math-Twitter-Blog-o-sphere (affectionately and mercifully abbreviated #MTBOS).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hundreds of math educators across the world weigh in on blogs, twitter feeds, and Voxer channels to inform best practices on teachers thousands of miles away that they’ve never met. The focus is professional growth that helps students learn mathematics in a meaningful way.

The second school is the CoMmuniCator crowd.

Fenced_Pond_-_geograph.org.uk_-_69202

They spend hours writing a two-page description of visual patterns in their math classroom, include a worksheet, and submit it to the local Math Education journal, feeling satisfied: that their environment is full of opportunities like this.

To these, I insist; there is so much more than your pond.

Clouds_over_the_Atlantic_Ocean from wikimedia

Outside the pond, there is a wide large world full of dynamic educators whose students aren’t just learning the standards, they’re learning to wrestle,

to challenge,

to critique,

to debate,

to seek meaning out of chaos.

 

In short, there is an ocean of educators growing children into little mathematicians while others are making really cool photocopies in their pond.

I’m not saying that they’re bad teachers. Not that they’re boring.

Just that they’re missing out.

 

I’ve had dozens of conversations with math teachers since my recent job change to EdTech Coach. Less than half have heard of Dan Meyer or Desmos.

 

Evelyn Baracaldo, a representative of NCTM 2015 – Nashville, sent out a few emails to teachers (including me), inviting us to present on “Emerging Technologies”. Some digging on my part revealed:

  • The deadline to submit proposals is 15 months before the conference date. (Proposals for a conference on “emerging technologies”.)
  • There will be no wireless internet available.
What?

What?

NCTM, the largest group of Math Educators in the nation, is missing the point.

EDIT: Shortly after posting this, I had lunch with Robert Kaplinksy, who convinced me that NCTM reaching out to blogging, tweeting teachers like me is a step in the right direction, and I should lighten up.

He’s correct. Afterward, I applied to give a workshop at Nashville.

This feels like the keynote address at Twitter Math Camp (which I didn’t attend this year, though I heard whispers and elevator summaries). Those of us in the ocean have a vested interest in the thousands of ponds across the country.

Backyard Pond by Todd Ryburn

Some of those ponds are excellent and need no help.

This year, I’m excited to show the pond-fish just how big the ocean is.

~Matt “The Sand Shark” Vaudrey

On AppleTV in the Classroom

This tweet tagged me (in the responses) this week, and my response is more than 140 characters long.

One of many things I like about the #mtbos is the math conversations that happen one line at a time.

It just so happens, I have a lot of thoughts on this particular topic, more than I could share on a tweet.

On SmartBoards

While it’s not the focus of this post, I had one of these. As with most technology, it’s tempting to drop it in someone’s lap with little to no preparation, and be disappointed when the individual doesn’t produce Nobel-Prize winning lessons after a week. Every classroom at my school had a SmartBoard, and I never saw a lesson that did anything more innovative than I did.

And I wasn’t doing much.

Tina, if you can afford both, great. But if you’re between the two, spend the money on tech that promotes student creativity, instead teacher creativity. I loved my SmartBoard, but the stuff that my students created in an hour was much more satisfying than any cool lesson design.

And speaking of that…

On AppleTV in the Classroom

I had one in my 8th grade Math class for two years. Here’s the quick version:

Loved:

  • Students (on the same network as the Apple TV) can quickly and easily share their work with the whole class. My struggling students suddenly became the star as they showcased their problem-solving on the wall and walked the class through their reasoning. Below, you can see two students teaching the class from their iPads during Teacher 4 a Day.

Photo Apr 18, 8 20 32 AM

  • Students who found new apps or iPad tricks can teach the class about it on the big screen wirelessly (from their seat if they’re shy).
Name with code

Andrew, a timid 8th grader, wrote his name using computer commands during the Week of Code and taught his classmates his tricks.

Didn’t Love:

  • I had my AppleTV with open access, no password, no confirmation; anybody could just hop on. The first week of school, Adrian (from his desk) bumped my iPad off the projector during a demo and showed the class a picture of a bunny from his iPad.
Take a moment to think of what he could have shown. I'm glad it was JUST a bunny.

Take a moment to think of what he could have shown. I’m glad it was JUST a bunny.

Immediately, I knew it was him (the usual signs of middle-school mischief, furtive glances to classmates, frantic motions to hide what he was doing, chortling, etc.) and pounced on him.

“Adrian. That’s not okay. If we’re going to work well with iPads in class this year, we have to be respectful of each other, and it’s not your turn right now. You’ll get your turn later. Ask me first.”

He was surprised. I was going for firm and kind, but he was also surprised about my declaration for the year. I was laying the groundwork for our class and what we would do with these new fancy tools, and he–and, more importantly, the entire class–heard me say, “You will all have a chance to share.”

Finger face with a question by Tsahi Levent-Levi

“But, why not just protect the AppleTV with a password?”

Yup. That would solve the problem, but it would also show students that I am the Chieftain of Class Culture instead of the Guide.

I was confident in the class culture that wouldn’t need a password, and the openness–I feel–gave the students some autonomy and respect. They would casually ask, “Can I show this to the class?” and my answer was always “Yes” or “In a minute”.

I never had that issue of AppleTV control again, with Adrian1 or anybody else.

In the Math Classroom

  • My class had an unusual situation; the iPads were used as an intervention tool in conjunction with a bonus hour of time with me and no curriculum.

 

That's right. An unsupervised hour with low-performing students and iPads.

That’s right. An unsupervised hour with low-performing students and iPads.

That free hour allowed us to explore other pseudo-core-curriculum exploits, such as the 20 Time project, Estimation 180, Visual Patterns, and Would You Rather?. Also, training the students in how to best use web-based tools like Google Drive (with whom, I have an inappropriate infatuation) and introducing them to computer programming with Hour of Code.

In short, the AppleTV provided opportunities for my students to get excited about Mathematics, art integration, and a collaborative learning environment. Yeah, I did those things before, but that little black box provided access and confidence for students who were usually silent, lost, and confused.

 

Worth it.

~Matt “Not sponsored by Apple, just satisfied” Vaudrey

1. Adrian eventually flunked out of 3rd period and joined my 1st period, which did not have iPads. He was surprised by this, after three parent phone calls, two conferences, and three failing report cards.