Teachers that Make a Difference
“Google has provided the platform I use the most.”
My name is Lori Cothran. I work at Pueblo East High School in the Pueblo City Schools district in Colorado. This is my first year as the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (IB MYP) Coordinator. I was formerly a 9-12 mathematics teacher.
My view of using technology changed over time. I have been teaching since 1996. During that time, I have done my best to incorporate technology into my classroom and teaching practices in order to improve the learning experiences for students. Early in my career, I thought that using an overhead projector was considered “using technology.” Graphing calculators then came along and showed me that technology use in the classroom was more than just “using” something electronic or battery-powered. Technology could truly help students understand topics at a deeper or more conceptual level. For example, instead of listening to me explain how graph transformations worked, students could actually manipulate equations on a graphing calculator and create new understandings for themselves.
Online Classes fit my professional needs. Throughout the years, I have focused most of my professional development on using technology to improve student learning and understanding. I obtained my Master of Arts in Curriculum and Development with an emphasis in Technology in an online program from Grand Canyon University. I have taken many online courses through eNetLearning such as Educational Leadership in the 21st Century . The online platform fits my needs well as a working professional with many irons in the fire!
Google is my platform of choice. Some of the technology I have used is simple, such as a Toshiba tablet that allowed me to write on the screen and use color to enhance mathematics lessons. There has also been the occasional student that has emailed an assignment that was due at the last minute. Most recently, Google has provided the platform I use the most.
Google helps me share and collaborate. In my position as MYP Coordinator, I am responsible for sharing information with my staff. This is easily done through the use of Google Drive. I can create shared folders for each subject group and upload curriculum guides, teacher support materials, etc. I also create many shared items, such as a Google Spreadsheet that details all the units that teachers are teaching throughout the year that allows them to see if there are any areas of overlap. I collaborate with another MYP Coordinator in a different building in my district and we use Google Docs and Spreadsheets to collaborate. Google Forms are used to collect feedback from staff on any areas of need, such as our MYP evaluation self-study.
My students use Google too. A big part of my job includes facilitating the MYP Personal Project for all of our sophomore students. The use of Google Spreadsheets is invaluable in keeping track of 265 students and their projects. Students have also learned to use Google Forms if they are using questionnaires to collect data. All students are now using Google Drive to store their files.
eNetLearning courses I have taken and personally recommend:
Educational Leadership in the 21st Century
“In my position, maybe I can now plant the seeds with administration that will lead them toward the kind of change we need in our school.”
~ Lori Cothran, Pueblo East High School
“Students need to be able to make mistakes as they are learning new material, and I value these mistakes!”
This is my 8th year teaching 8th grade mathematics and I love it! I teach honors math, grade level math, and a small math intervention class. As I reflect on my life and teaching strategies, I am surprised at how much each has changed over the years. Today, I have three boys: Alejandro (10), Kenny (4), Sergio (1.5); a loving husband who is also a Littleton Public Schools teacher; and a Golden Retriever named Champ. My approach to teaching has changed just as dramatically. First, I have developed a true passion for mathematics and I always try to convey that to my students. Additionally, I believe that students will work harder if there is a respectful relationship between us and they feel I “like” them. That being said, I do not get into little battles with my students. I try to always view the bigger picture for learning. Finally, I am an advocate for extensive planning, and I plan my lessons in great detail, always including what standards the lesson will address, how the day’s lesson will flow, what best practices in math and specific critical questioning I will follow, what technology we will use to enhance student learning, and what specific summary activity will conclude the lesson. Here are strategies that have helped me stay focused on STUDENT LEARNING:
Grade Homework Differently Many teachers become overwhelmed with collecting, checking, and recording homework. My colleague and I created a 10-point homework rubric that students use to grade their own homework before they even know the correct answers! The rubric focuses on completion and effort. This is a self-direction (individual responsibility) grade in our gradebook. I believe teachers shouldn’t grade homework with all of the focus on the correct answers, because then you have just made the homework a take-home quiz! Furthermore, students need to be able to make mistakes as they are learning new material, and I value these mistakes! I frequently change the way I grade homework to include: student sharing in small groups, work placed around the room on posters or viewed on document camera for demonstration, and checking partner’s work. I focus on participation and effort! To collect their scores I may ask for their score as they are working, collect it on a note card, or have them share it with me on their way out of class. Keep it interesting!
Change Student Thinking and Misconceptions A new focus in mathematics is error analysis and critiquing the thinking and problem solving of others. We do this often in my math class and students are used to putting their work up around the room on posters, the whiteboard, or the Smart Board to be critiqued. Students know that I value THEIR thinking and we work really hard as a class to not make anyone feel embarrassed about their work. I use this Math Revisions document to have students show how their thinking/misconceptions have changed from a previous formative assessment.
Summarize Every Day Teachers always feel rushed to cram everything into one class period. The new 8th grade math standards are rigorous, deep, and challenging to most students. It is extra important that I stop before the end of each class (no matter what we have accomplished) and allow students to reflect individually on the class activity, with a partner or group, or as a whole class. I want each student to leave with understanding (doesn’t have to be mastery) of what we accomplished in class that day. It also slows down the class activity and it is nice to have two minutes of quiet reflection at the end of a sometimes “noisy” class period! My advice is to not sweat the small stuff throughout the day. I know my students are learning when they are participating in class and collaborating with each other. If I focus on the positive, I usually have a much better day and my students do too! A couple of classroom tools from Holly are 1) a Homework Grading Rubric and 2) Math Revisions.
eNetLearning courses I have taken and personally recommend:
Intel® Elements: Assessment in 21st Century Classrooms “I loved how the Assessment in 21st Century Classrooms course validated things I was already trying in my own classroom. The class offered rubrics for assessments, and new ideas that I could try in my own class the very next day. The facilitator offered applicable and practical assessment ideas for my grade and content area.” ~ Holly Mena, Goddard Middle School
Intel® Elements: Collaboration in a Digital Classroom “I enjoyed the Collaboration in a Digital Classroom course. I was introduced to numerous resources to start integrating online collaboration tools into my classroom instruction immediately. The facilitator was realistic, and offered advice about starting small and focusing on the content and not just the technology to enhance the learning environment. I learned a ton!” ~ Holly Mena, Goddard Middle School