30 April 2015

AP Stats at the STEM Expo

I moved up the timing of my statistical inference/experiment design test this spring (usually its the "capstone" project kids do as their final) so that we could participate in our district's STEM Expo tonight. (I think its really just the traditional science fair repackaged, but I'll go with it. LOL)

As I wrote a couple weeks ago, I enlisted the help of a doctoral student from Washington University to give some tips/insight on making and presenting their posters, and we spent the last 5 days of class working on our survey instruments, analyzing the results, and presenting them on a poster.

This is the first time these projects/experiments have ever had an audience beyond myself, so I'm really excited to see my students out in the "real world" talking about statistical inference. I literally had a student email me over the weekend and tell me she would change whatever I asked and do whatever I demanded so her poster could be perfect. You've gotta love that.

The NYU research poster guide and continued support from +Ryan Watkins ended up being a huge help, and after an assist from the CAD teacher downstairs, I'm real excited with how these posters turned out.

I had one student who could not make the Expo, so I had him present last week to our friends at another high school in our district in AP Chem.

There's always something special about seeing kids describe and defend their work that is better than most of the feedback that a teacher could ever give traditionally. They often find errors in their writing, their process, and bits that are confusing or could be more clearly explained as they try to sort out what their work SAYS with what it is actually supposed to be communicating.

We found a few errors in the graphical representations or calculations as we were sharing with parents at the Expo, but I was so thrilled that they found them and corrected the mistakes that I couldn't be anything but proud of them. If you'll notice the poster in the video, he has a lot less going on... he actually only did about half of the work, and I don't know if he noticed it until he got to the end of describing his methods after a couple minutes and didn't really have much to SAY about it - nothing to interpret. There's a verbal pause where (I hope) he realizes he's done, but shouldn't be.

14 April 2015

Tip Tuesday - Copy Your Padlets for Other Sections

I love using Padlet as a landing strip for students to share ideas, work, or problems they're creating.

Here's some ways I've used Padlet on my class set of iPads:

  • backchannel
  • students' summary statements after reading a text
  • generating questions before or after reading
  • gathering guesses or estimations of an answer during Act 1 of 3 Act Story
  • students creating/solving exercises to share with each other
  • reflecting on a video or text

Some of those uses listed above might actually be enriched by students being able to go back to earlier periods in the day and see what they did, particularly the backchannel or creating exercises for each other to solve. For the reflections or checks for understanding, I think having other kids' thoughts on there pollutes the experience and prevents new ideas.

For yesterday's work, I wanted my students to make up the graph of a line, write the equation for that line, share their work on the padlet, write the equations of some of their classmates lines, and then have the classmate check them off as correct or needing more work. It wouldn't have been the end of the world if some of the lines got repeated, but it was important that the line creators were in the room so that they could check their peers' work.

In THAT case, where you need a fresh board for each period, you can COPY your padlet with identical settings so that you don't have to duplicate your own work.

I chose "copy with posts" on this occasion because I wanted my own example up there. 

 Another pro tip: edit the addresses of your padlets for easy sharing with the date and hour.

After the day was over, I had 3 padlets that all looked SIMILAR, but were unique to each hour.

For more info, check out the Padlet blog - I checked after the fact, but they wrote a recent post about copying, too.   :)

13 April 2015

Does Major League Baseball Need a Stats Lesson?

I saw this data in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week claiming that the Cardinals are the 6th most expensive team  to see at their home park. (the "FCI" averages all of the columns from this chart together to get an estimate of what a family of 4 would expect to spend at the ballpark.)

I have no problem with the FCI, but I wonder if this chart's reporting of "MLB LEAGUE AVERAGE" is a little off. That row looked suspiciously in the middle to me, and when I counted rows, it was indeed exactly in the middle.

So what's going on here? Is it a misrepresentation of "average," do MLB teams attempt to group themselves symmetrically around this figure, or is it pure coincidence?

Here's the MEAN of those FCI listings by team:

Could the difference between 211.68 (reported in the table as "average") and my calculation of 211.89 be the result of rounding error in the data they used that I don't have access to in this report? Are there 21 rogue cents floating around in their numbers? 

What's this mean for my students?
I think this graphic and table is a good conversation starter for both mean vs. median AND the role of rounding in getting "different" answers. What's the clue that this CAN'T POSSIBLY be the median? Its not listed in the data of course. 

09 April 2015

PBIS Success: Think Like a Coder?

I've got PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Supports) on the brain a lot right now - I'm in the first week of actually implementing a lottery ticket system I dreamed up last year, and am taking a class in my district's spring PD program about PBIS for secondary schools. (Most best practice examples come from K-5)

If I were to describe to any of my non-educator friends what PBIS is about, I'd say its a system to structure proactive strategies for setting a positive climate for the classroom/school. You teach the good behaviors, get 80% of the kids on board with that, and then you commit more time resources to the other 20%.

source: dese.mo.gov, via pbis.org

ONE strategy for the classroom is to identify activity sequence and offering choice. From Missouri PBIS resources:
Activity sequencing increases student engagement by providing the student with “brain breaks.” These strategies can help students to build endurance for more complex or rigorous tasks. In addition, sequencing easier tasks before more rigorous activities can help build “behavioral momentum .” Behavioral momentum increases the likelihood that students will complete challenging tasks. Providing students with activity choice can also increase engagement by giving students control over when to do more difficult tasks.
When I read that, I think a lot about the supports my son's early childhood special ed teacher provides - she talks with him and his classmates a lot about their schedule, and "if you ______, then you can ______." Its very helpful for him with transitions from preferred to non-preferred tasks.

When I hear "IF, THEN" statement, by brain next goes to software programming. I played around with some Javascript modules online over Christmas, and structuring IF/THEN statements was the concept that continues to resonate. (probably because I was stuck on a project longest where I was fussing with the order of the IFs and THENs)

Is designing a PBIS system for your classroom or school anything more than identifying the outcomes you want (a button takes you to a link in coding, a student independently takes care of materials in the classroom), and then laying out the instructions to get you there? When your procedures don't produce the outcome you want (broken link/students off task) you seek out the bug, isolate the problem and fix the instructions to generate the appropriate outcome!

I read in a blog around the same time that most software engineers love strategy games because they enjoy thinking out several plays ahead, anticipating other players' moves and responses to their own actions - I think the same would go for many teachers. If you're not one step ahead of your students in the classroom, you and your students will definitely end up feeling chaotic and disorganized. Don't the most well-run classrooms all share the same characteristics of order, routine, and procedure?

I'm hesitant to follow the analogy all the way out to expecting yourself or your students to always behave predictably (darn the human factor), but from my current understanding, one goal of PBIS is to increase consistency of expectation (and resulting behavior responses), and from my knowledge of coding or software design, the best apps or websites are the ones that give a user-experience that is thoughtful, predictable and reliable. 

08 April 2015

"Hangout" with an Expert

My district is holding a STEM Expo next week, and I thought this was an excellent opportunity for my AP Stats students to present the statistical significance projects they design and conduct at the end of the semester each year.

The only problem with my vision was that I don't have any experience on what presenting a poster at a science conference looks like. From what I've heard from a couple of my friends that are/were STEM graduate students, its not really the same as showing some PowerPoint slides and discussing.

Enter my friend of a friend, Washington University doctoral student, Ryan Watkins, who has presented a poster a few different conferences. She did me a super solid and met with my class at 7:30 this morning.

Ryan's bio:
Ryan is a graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis, finishing her Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Science. She graduated from the Florida Institute of Technology in 2010 with Bachelor's Degrees in both Physics and Space Science. She have completed three NASA internships — two at Kennedy Space Center as an undergrad and one at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. She was appointed as a NASA Student Ambassador in 2008 and is actively involved in STEM outreach at all age levels. She has published papers about the effects of rocket exhaust on lunar soil and is currently studying volcanic regions on the Moon using orbital images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. She plans to continue researching the Moon and become involved in planning future planetary missions after she graduates. She dreams of becoming an astronaut one day, and hopefully be the first woman to walk on the Moon.

Before the Hangout, I sent Ryan's bio to my students through Google Classroom and had them all respond with 2 questions to get help them prepare and make the most of our time. I think the best question from a learning/work perspective came didn't actually get asked.

"What are the qualities a good STEM poster should have (kind of like an informal rubric I could refer back to)?"

It's not entirely common that I will have students (especially earlier than the day before the due date) ask for a rubric to guide their work. And that he even thought to ask someone else (sort of outside the classroom setting) is especially impressive to me. (She ended up sending this great resource from NYU with tips, tools, and guidelines for research posters right after our Hangout)

I chose to do this via Google Hangout today for a couple of reasons:

  • I wanted to let another AP teacher in the district whose kids are also presenting at the Expo in on the broadcast
  • I wanted to archive it in case my chronically absent students were absent, or the kids just wanted to watch it again.

I could have accomplished the 1st goal via a regular Hangout, but to record it, I would have to have been running screencasting software on top of my window (which would be the only way of recording a FaceTime or Skype), I was worried about lag on my network as it was, so asking my computer to also due more seemed like pressing my luck.

The best feature of doing the video chat via Google Hangout was that I could do it as "Hangouts On Air," which automatically broadcasts the chat live to your YouTube channel and then archives as a regular YouTube upload after the fact (which is how it is embedded earlier in this post).

Video chatting or live streaming can be taxing on a network, so if at all possible, you should try to schedule your chat away from peak times (for us, its lunch time), or at the least, inform your technology department and perhaps they can clear some extra bandwidth for you ahead of time.

We spent several minutes before we actually got started getting "in" the Hangout and then getting my settings right before we even "started" the interview, so if you're crunched for time, its good to know that you can start the Hangout before you actually start broadcasting it.

Hangouts On Air and Hangouts actually live in different areas of your Google world. Hangouts you setup via Google+ or the Hangouts app, but Hangouts On Air need to be setup through your YouTube account. Here's some info on getting started with Hangouts On Air.