Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Back in the Saddle

August has hit again.
Time to start planning.....Serious Mode!

I always start the year with some kind of activity to get to the know the students. What will that look like this year?  Because I like to do things a little bit different each year (that is just who I am) I need to tweak or change-up what I have done in previous years. How can I incorporate choice, technology, Google Classroom? Hmmmmm.....

Some ideas that I have not come close to finalizing but have been inspired by ideas shared on Pinterest such as I wish my teacher knew and All About Me. These are a few additions from some of the previous ideas I have used.

Ultimately I would like students to be very open with me and share who they are and what they need from me to be successful in the math classroom to make their year one of success.  However, I also want the students to create something that can be shared with their classmates so their peers can also learn about who they are.  How do I divide and combine at the same time without overloading the student?

The other conflict is having students to use their strengths and areas of expertise to create/share.  I am again torn with students creating a paper or physical representation versus an electronic version to be shared in Google Classroom. The physical aspects are great for others to see on the classroom walls but the electronic versions are so "clean." As I am writing this I am already leaning more towards a video to be shared in Google Classroom. The fear....pushing students over the edge with technology expectations at the start. The goals is easy sharing not a lengthy assignment to cause stress.

OOOO.....I guess I would have to create a sample to show them that perfection is not the expectation???

The other task (for in class) would be students creating classroom rules and expectations.  I have done this several times in the past but have found two classroom rule activities (Back to School and Classroom Rules) that have again inspired some changes to my previous years activities. I am thinking of still asking students to respond to questions and create a mini-poster to be shared in the classroom but would like to add Instagram or Twitter to the mix via hashtags.  Can I get students to share their works with hashtags on either or both modes of media?

I need to focus and fine tune these brainstorms.  Any words of advise are appreciated:)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

STEM STEM STEM

STEM and Inspiration

Thinking back a few years, I wrote this letter to Annie Kuster....

RE: H.R. 4515. To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to provide grants to eligible local educational agencies to encourage female students to pursue studies and careers in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.


Dear Representative Kuster:

As a middle school mathematics teacher as well as a doctoral student at the University of New England, I am writing to gain further insight into Getting into Researching, Learning & Studying of STEM Act of 2014 or the Girls-STEM ACT of 2014 (Bill H.R. 4515).

The goal of supporting girls in STEM is one which is dear to my heart. The intent to encourage the ongoing interest of female students in careers requiring skills in STEM and to prepare female students to pursue industry-recognized credentials needed to pursue a career in the STEM related fields is one which I hope to see our nation support whole-heartedly. I can see myself taking full advantage of said grants so as to serve underrepresented or low-income students, and to establish or implement programs to ultimately support girls in the area of STEM.

Reviewing H.R. 4515 initially, I supported it 100%. The intent of supporting girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is one which is dear to my heart. However, after viewing Public Policy and the Power of Networks (Thersaorg, 2010), I began to look at the details of this bill differently; through the lenses of value, facts and myths.
The potential awarding of grants via H.R. 4515 is based on the assumption that the suggested actions will encourage the ongoing interest of female students in STEM careers and prepare female students to pursue credentials needed for a STEM career. The actions suggested are mythical in the sense that there is no support that they will indeed have a direct impact on the intended of encouragement and preparation.
H.R. 4515 fails to define the current levels of interest of female students in STEM careers and also fails to discuss the current levels at which females pursue STEM careers. Women have made great strides in the STEM fields since the passing of Title IX of 1972. According to Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) from the Executive Office the President (2012), women currently earn 41% of PhDs in STEM fields. Women have made huge gains in life sciences and social sciences with approximately 49% of the workforce in life and biological sciences being female according to the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE). There has even been a report of a 50% increase in these fields over the past two decades by the NCWGE (2012). Where does the current problem lie?
Women, however, remain under represented in the fields of computer science and engineering. Despite being nearly equal in high school engineering classes, women represent 18% of engineering undergraduate degrees and about 11% of the engineering workforce (NCWGE, 2012). What additional verifiable information can be used to support the actions noted within this bill?
Considering this limited data, are the suggested actions of H.R. 4515 diagnostic in nature? How might the implementation of fewer clarified actions have a direct and/or greater impact on girls and STEM? Ideally it would be supportive in nature to see additional facts that support the causal claims intertwined within this bill to have a greater impact on girls and STEM. As a teacher, I can make speculations but I would like to see data which defines the specific needs so as to better determine if H.R. 45415 is aimed at meeting these needs.
H.R. 4515 defines the intended value it would like to invoke on the education and future of girls in our nation but is lacking in quantitative measures. Title IX at 40: Working to Ensure Gender Equity in Education (2012) states that “federal science agencies, which are responsible for ensuring that academic institutions 
to which they offer grants comply with Title IX, have an uneven track record in monitoring compliance. How will the implementation of this bill be different? As it is written its intent is to support local agencies but who and how will these local agencies be monitored? I would be interested to learn about the quantitative measures which will be used to determine growth and/or success as well as the plans for monitoring proposed actions.
How would the passing of H.R. 4515 would impact the effect the taxpayer financially? This is an important factor to consider with all policy considerations.

The Girls-STEM Act of 2014 lends itself towards positive improvements for girls in the area of STEM. However, I am concerned that the actions proposed are not backed by facts and/or data. More important is the fact that there are no measurable outcomes proposed and the intended actions are diagnostic in nature. Bardach (2011) addresses in A practical guide for policy analysis: The eight fold path to more effective problem solving as reasons for being skeptical in examining problems. 
As a strong advocate of women in STEM, I see the positive goals and intentions of H.R. 4515. To support this bill, I would need to know about the quantitative measures that would be used to determine success, growth and/or progress of awarded grants. Additionally, data which support the intended actions would prove to be beneficial as well as how a clear definition as to how the awardees may be determined. Such provisions would move the mythical aspects of this bill to facts and value which support the intended expenditures.

Thank you for your time and interest. I look forward to hearing back from you so I can learn more about the Girls-STEM Act of 2014 and advocate for increased support.

Sincerely,

Katrina Hall 


At the time I had an opinion, but now I feel as if girls and STEM has become a part of me.  I continue to work and advocate for the future of our young women in these fields.  This is not to say that I have pushed aside the relationship of boys in STEM but I feel as if the girls need more attention in the situation until there is some level of equality for all.  All should have a fair chance.

I have worked at various angles to bring about specific opportunities to inspire our future female leaders. I have specifically enjoyed connecting groups of middle school girls with the NH High Tech Council and Tech Women | Tech Girls



We have had the chance to hear from inspirational female leaders who have reached beyond the glass ceiling to achieve their goals as well as meet with other leaders in the STEM fields at the Ambassador Week hosted by Nashua North High School. 









My next phase reaches beyond girls and STEM.  After learning of the STEM Docent opportunity offered through the UNH Extension, I felt I could reach out to no only girls in my classroom, but also to boys and girls in community...even the state.  I have taken to heart what "Bill Gates, Neil de Grasse Tyson and Jane Goodall have all had at least on their careers".....Inspiration.


What have you taken on to Inspire our youth?

Friday, July 22, 2016

One Good Thing....Thanks #MTBos



Well, school is out and summer has definitely arrived. Having "free" days one would assume that there is plenty of time to smell the roses. I, however, feel as if the summer days are just as busy as school days. For this reason, taking the time to acknowledge the good things that happen in a day came along at a perfect time.

Per usual, my day started off with a cup of coffee.  Unlike the hectic school days where I start the Keurig and run out the door or stand in line at the local DD along with others looking for their morning jolt, coffee this morning was served by my awesome husband....straight from the French press. This was a good thing!

Unlike my hectic school morning, this morning I had the chance to snuggle with my Boston Terrier, Brick. On a typical morning, I take Brick outside in the morning, feed him breakfast and scoot out the door. As I am leaving, I get the big puppy eyes. He loves the morning snuggle time! Today, I had my cup of coffee and had the relaxing snuggle time with Brick. This was a good thing!

Next, I hear steps coming down stairs.  I look up to see my oldest son holding my grandson. I hear more footsteps.  It is my favorite daughter....Okay, she is my only daughter. Kicking off the morning with smiles from these three is a good thing! 

Today, I have my grandson for the day. We head off to do some planting with my best friend. A bit of an emotional planting as she has offered to plant flowers and bushes at my mother and brother's gravesite. A feeling of peace is a good thing this morning!

A quick lunch and then off for a walk with my grandson and daughter. We walk on path where we see turtles, flowers, birds and LOTS of grasshoppers. Even the snake wasn't so bad. Taking the time to simply walk and talk without the rush of cars and hurried people was a good this on this morning!

As I head home, my youngest son has finally risen from the sleeping world.  The teenage life. When did he get so tall?  A senior this year and getting ready for college applications. In a few months, he will be an official adult. Taking the time to appreciate having all my kids home.....a good thing!

In walks my husband....need I say more?  A good thing!

Taking the time smell the roses means taking the time to appreciate all the things that I rush by each morning, afternoon and night. Makes me realize that I need to take the time to smell the roses every day.

Thanks #MTBos !

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

SoGoSurvey

As I have embarked on the research portion of my doctoral studies, I recognized the fact that I needed an online survey tool that went beyond the average commonly used tools so frequently used.  Not only did I need a tool that was easy to use, efficient, secure and cost effective online survey tool quickly but also one that was going be effective when it came to data analysis.

After much searching and a comparison of tools, I came across SoGoSurvey. There were several aspects that lured me to SoGoSurvey.

First the cost for SoGoSurvey was right up my alley. As a student, keeping costs low is a goal.  With SoGoSurvey the free option certainly drew my eye.  However, this was an option available with many of the other options.  SoGoSurvey, however, has a wonderful option for students. SoGoSurvey offers upgrades to the professional edition for academics and  students. This certainly drew me in.

SoGoSurvey offers a professional looking survey.  This was especially important to me.  I really wanted an online tool that was appealing to the eye, looked professional and allowed me to add my personal touch. The choice of fonts, header and footer text, the addition of images and the variety of themes is perfect.

I also needed a survey tool that was going to be easily shared with others. SoGoSurvey offers a variety of tools to make this easy. There are options to upload contacts, to send the survey via email, embed it into a website and share on a multitude of social media sites included FaceBook, LinkedIn, Google+ and even Twitter.

Knowing that surveys were going to be used with students, it was also important to find a tool free of third party ads.  SoGoSurvey has that option. SoGoSurvey also offers secure and encrypted data.

SoGoSurvey offers unlimited responses!!!  

Registration was super easy and I was immediately impressed with the team at SoGoSurvey. They have reached out via email with support options but have not flooded my mailbox like many online tools choose to do.

I am excited to continue with SoGoSurvey and use their easy to use platform to create my surveys.  

Thank you SoGoSurvey!
  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Self-Care: Avoiding Burnout #fried

"Yes, that is me."

Reading Fried (2011), I had a hard time putting it down. I found myself saying, "Yes, that is me" over and over again. According to the results of the Kiersey’s temperament assessment (2010), my temperament is that of a 40%-45% of the population, the Inspector. Inspectors' needs lend to complaints of being tired, drained and stressed. Inspectors can take actions to avoid stressors, gain back control of their emotions and avoid the preventable disease of burnout via self-care.

There is not a one size fits all technique for reducing stress but yoga, mediation, retreats and other non-medical forms of self-care as techniques for training one's attention and awareness to help bring thoughts under control (Guttenberg, 2013). Disengaging from the external factors and looking internally to develop feelings, beliefs and actions, which benefit the body’s growth, are ways to develop as a healthy leader but more importantly to develop a healthy soul. To reduce stress and focus on a healthy body, I will practice yoga, chiropractic care and acupuncture a minimum of three times a week.

Edenfield and Saeed (2012) state that mindfulness, the act of bringing external and internal factors to one's attention, has been shown to effect stress reduction and reduce negative mood states, and improve the emotional well-being of individuals with chronic physical illnesses. " Improving attention, awareness, acceptance, and compassion may facilitate more flexible and adaptive responses to stress" thereby improving the health, life satisfaction, well-being and overall quality of life (Edenfield & Saeed, 2012). To focus on mindfulness and reduce negativity, I will not only incorporate my yoga practice back into my schedule but also use my compassion meditation app on my iPhone a minimum of three times a week.

Finding the balance of giving to others and giving to oneself is not an easy task, especially for the idealists who take on more and more. In essence, the appearance of selflessness is an individual’s search to be right, feel accepted and be rewarded; ego fulfillment. It is this energy draining, idealistic, ego fulfilling vision in life that lends to burnout. The ideal is to move from serving one's own ego to recognizing the limits of life and serving one's soul. To transition from the stressed idealistic woman, I am going to set out a block of time daily where I focus on me. Time where I rest, eat a healthy meal, spend time alone, avoid social media and simply focus on myself. The goal is to “put the oxygen mask on” and transition from ego fulfilling to "selfish" actions.

Mama Gena is quoted in Fried (2011) as saying, "You don't revive from burnout by thinking about it and reflecting on your problems." Instead individuals should focus on changing their minds and feelings; cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) (Borysenko, 2011). Through strategies such as self-talking and writing about feelings, thoughts, beliefs and actions, individuals can use CBT to transform their frame of mind, the way they feel and their action despite a lack of change in external factors. With this in mind, I have set a goal of journaling at least three times a week, using the Day One application, to write about my feelings, thoughts and beliefs with the intent of changing negative feelings, actions and stress to a positive sense of being.

"Learning to care for yourself is an art" (Borysenko, 2011, p. 116). Much of this contributes to the fact that the speed of life certainly has changed. As life progresses there appears to be less and less time. Keeping up with the Joneses is not an easy task and one which sets individuals up for failure and even burnout. Instead take the time to keep up with yourself and understand that "When you come to the end of the rope, tie a knot and start climbing" (Borysenko, 2011 p. 144).


References

Borysenko, J. (2011). Fried: Why you burn out and how to revive. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.

Edenfield, T. M., & Saeed, S. A. (2012). An update on mindfulness meditation as a self-help treatment for anxiety and depression. Psychology research and behavior management, 5, 131.

Guttenberg, K. (2013, May22). Yoga, meditation benefit both brain and body [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/05/22/yoga-meditation-benefit-both-brain-and-body/

Personality Test - Keirsey Temperament Website. (2010). Personality Test - Keirsey Temperament Website. Retrieved July 25, 2014, from http://www.keirsey.com

Friday, March 6, 2015

Quantitative Analysis: Perspective as a Researcher and Scholar

According to Creswell (2012), the quantitative researcher describes a research problem through a description of trends or a need for an explanation of the relationship among variables. Initially the researcher relies greatly on the literary reviews so as to develop a strong backing as to why the research is important and necessary. Quantitative researchers create questions and look to find the answers to these questions. Once the necessity of the research is developed it is these researchers who rely on standardized methodologies of data collection to create statistical models where numeric data can be analyzed and correlations can be identified amongst variables.

One of the challenges for a practicing researcher is the background knowledge and skill one must have to effectively use the quantitative method. A thorough understanding of statistical knowledge and the process by which statistical data needs to be analyzed is not necessarily a skill mastered by a practicing researcher. This makes me wonder where I will be in terms of my research having had no practice with the methods learned within this course other than the practice within the course itself. Will I be prepared?

In the beginning, the terminology, the software and the APA formatting were unknowns; I had a great deal of work to accomplish before meeting any of the learning outcomes or course objectives. Right from the very beginning with the basics of SPSS and the management of data, my learning expanded. Follow that with the descriptive analyses, correlational analyses and the studying of hypotheses and one can say my researching skills went from null to ready to practice. However, the evaluation of the CRISS Project made me realize I have so much more to learn. Will my research results be at this level? Will I be able to handle the variations, which I encounter?

As I began the initial work with this course, the statistical software and the readings by Creswell, I was certain the quantitative work was not going to be a good fit for my research as it relates to students and education. Even in my initial epistemology paper, I noted that the quantitative researcher purely focused on numerical data with the objective of testing theories and hypotheses; refraining from personal interactions or descriptive analyses. This just did not seem to be the right fit for me; students are more than numbers and statistical data.

As the final weeks of learning related to quantitative analyses arrived, my mindset began to change as I studied the various philosophies associated with the style of research. One specific philosophy which helped me to realize quantitative research does not rely on absolution of numbers if that of post-positivism which is described as “A deterministic philosophy in which causes probably determine effects or outcomes. Thus, the problems studied by post-positivists reflect a need to examine causes that influence outcomes, such as issues examined in experiments ”(Creswell, 2012, p. 7). Good research within this paradigm is described by Mertens (2009, p. 12, as cited in Christians, 2005, p. 159) as “Intellectual honesty, the suppression of personal bias, careful collection and accurate reporting of data, and candid admission of the limits of the scientific reliability of empirical studies.” Post-positivistic researchers make major assumptions regarding reality and truth which develop from reading literacy as a variable of interest and use a quantitative measure of that variable, awareness of the need to eliminate alternative explanations and he application of statistics to data to support claim within a certain level of probability (Mertens, 2009, p. 14). The post-positivists concur that a reality does exist, but argue it can be known only imperfectly because of the researcher’s human limitations. Quantitative researchers can discover “reality” within a certain of probability. They cannot “prove” a theory, but they can make a stronger case by eliminating alternative explanations (Mertens, 2009). A realization for me that quantitative research is recognized as having limits in social sciences.

Knowing the limitations the quantitative research, I think back on my initial epistemology paper where researchers Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004) suggest taking a non-purist approach, specifically in the area of educational research. It is these researchers who recognize the mixed method of research as the perfect balance in overcoming the individual weaknesses of quantitative and qualitative methodologies. I look forward to studying the qualitative methodologies and philosophies to see how they may balance the limitations of the quantitative research. Will the qualitative research bring the human connection to my research and provide me with the perfect mix?

Quantitative research, although it did not appear to be the “right” method for me turned out to be more of a match than expected. Having a math background, I enjoy the number aspect of this method. Looking at data and the story, which can be developed from the analyses, is a mathematicians joy. However, the teacher in me also knows that behind this data is reality and truth; there is always another side to the data which must be considered. As a researcher and scholar, I think it is important that these two various views be recognized in research. In the end I have appreciated learning about all aspects of quantitative research, however, I look forward to developing as a well-rounded researcher who is aware of all methodologies and philosophies to provide sound research to education.



References

Creswell, J.W. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Johnson, R. B., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2004). "Mixed methods research: A research paradigm whose time has come." Educational Researcher, 33(7), 14-26.

Mertens, D.M. (2009). Research and Evaluation in Education and Psychology: Integrating Diversity With Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Methods. Retrieved from: http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/29985_Chapter1.pdf

Pole, K., (2007). "Mixed method designs: A review of strategies for blending quantitative and qualitative methodologies." Mid-Western Educational Researcher, 20(4), 35-38.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Reflecting on the Week

What Inspires You?

As I sit today wondering how to inspire readers, I find my mind straying away from the task at hand. I should be writing about the upcoming NCTM Annual Meeting coming to Boston, the anxiety teachers are feeling in regards to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the continuing pressure on the continuance of the CCSSM, the middle school math contest, the recent state STEM task force report, and the question of whether STEM should become STEAM. Dr. Magnus provided so many suggestions but I just can’t focus on these topics. My mind keeps reflecting on the lessons of the week.

Eighth grade classes have been discussing relations and functions. They have ventured into determining if a relation is a function from a set of ordered pairs, and even via the vertical line test. A quick assessment and yes, they are getting it. We move on to identifying domain and range. A quick assessment and yes, they are getting this too. Continuous and discrete graphs? That’s a piece of cake too! These children are mathematical wizzes but then we move onto evaluating functions and they fizzle. Why? Students continue to struggle with the order of operations and manipulating integers. Even with the use of a calculator students struggle. How does one move on from this gap in understanding so as to lead the student towards success at the next level? A lack of mastery of previous content has become our roadblock.

Moving on, I reflect on the Algebra students. As a collaborative project, students are working on the case of the missing student. The excitement in their eyes as they encountered the mystery and learned of this assessment. “This is so much better than a quiz.” As I watched my students scattered throughout the room, I see their excitement in using math to solve the mystery. Students are collaborating, working cooperatively and managing themselves just as they would in a real-world task. As the teacher, I find myself walking around the room listening to conversations and smiling. Is this what STEAM is all about?

The week of teaching and learning had its highs and lows. Of course, I love the highs but I wouldn’t change the lows. As an educator, I take the lows as the opportunity to extend my learning as a teacher of mathematics. I reflect and look for ways to not only make the learning experience stronger for my students but also better understand the gaps in their learning. It is the gaps that provide me with the opportunity to create new lessons and bring about the “aha” moments in the classroom. Yes, the highs are wonderful and I love the adrenaline it creates but the lows inspire me to be more. What inspires you?