About Me

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MN, United States
Tutor, Business Owner, Technology innovator

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Tis the season to be resourceful!  has become my motto for this month. As I continue to do work with Online Teaching Associates,  Sophia, and SOCRATES online, I'm amazed by the progress and quickness of change that happens within each of those environments.  It also seems that the quicker the change, the more time I need to respond, train, and be able to adapt.

As I reflect on that, I wonder how students are adapting to the tools that can be used to help them; it also makes me wonder "Are we training them with the right content to respond to the needs of the 21st Century?"  In many schools, I still see a production-like template of the class.  A creative teacher will create a creative lesson...sounds redundant but true.  If you've been following Will Richardson's blog (and tweets) then you'll get the same impression that we're tacking on, not really innovating.  Students who strive will continue to strive in life; students who cheat will continue to cheat in life no matter the media (or situation).  It seems like all this amping up technology has me behind at one important important thing...

It really seems like an oversimplification, but caring for people's welfare and equipping with tools for life doesn't always mean meeting every standard (at least on paper).  Making another person's life better because you lived should be the greatest ideal for anyone (not just math teachers!!!)  I believe Rich De Voss made a similar statement (and continues to make) in his 1968 message of "Selling America."  If you are able to get a copy, I strongly encourage you to listen to it.

Snow Globe Artwork from Photobucket

Hardworkers Picture from Photobucket

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Learning Modules, learning communities, learning _____________

Wow, one can definitely get overloaded with the stuff that's out there.  If you are a beginner blogger, for example, I would follow Will Richardson's blog on how to read and write blogs.  If you are big into education and want to keep on top some of what other's in tech ed are doing, check blogs out like Sue Waters (and now Ronnie Burt) Edublogger.  If you want free stuff to use in the classroom (or for students in general), goto Richard Byrne's Free Technology for Teachers.

Now like Richard comes clean with disclaimers, as should I.  Lately I've been working with a group called SOCRATES (South Central Regional Area Telecommunications System, whew!), providing educational consulting in Mathematics.  Also lately, I'm doing some work with Sophia.org as a Math Reviewer.  I'm not being paid to write the following.  So with that said, I have some stuff to "say about that."

This blog is about communicating math, right?  So equally important is communicating the concept of commitment?  What? If you are a student at a regular school, in dare I say, a regular district, then you have signals that tell you what to do, indirectly.  That school bell conditioned you when to go to different classes, walk the halls, get your books, goto  lunch, etc.  When you go to school online, such as through SOCRATES online, you have to discipline yourself.  You don't have bells, teachers yelling down the hall, a physical student desk (unless you really want to simulate the experience), or passes to get water or bathroom breaks.  Unless you're taking an online class in a learning center within the school, you are on your own, but not ALONE.

Your teacher (a.k.a. "educational consultant") is there to answer your questions, grade your assignments, provide tutoring, or facilitate "live" sessions.  He or she cares about your learning, else why would they teach online?  It is different, or is it?  I've run across that debate many times.  While online and face to face seem different, you have to exercise the same discipline (even more so) to succeed in online.  The curriculum, teacher, and/or atmosphere can make or break the class in either environment.  YOU have to make it work, and many do.

Now that I've got to know the people at Sophia.org more, I'm excited to see what will roll out when they release their newest stuff.  Their philosophy is matching the current trend; that means that you can find a style you may like to learn from.  You'll see that they are tied to a corporate affiliate, but I think the idea of providing learning in different ways is what mathtv.com has been doing for a while.  This is part of a growing trend of people developing their own subject material to make available for students (except Mr. McKeague would like you to pay for his books/subscriptions).  Another awesome example of this is happening in Bryon, MN  right now.  Intel awarded 18 schools for innovation in technology and Byron was one of them (for math):  See the article then click on the link under it for the success story.

Oh I better watch my clock, I have to get back to my multiple project life, which I'm getting used to rather quickly (from home).

Til I chalk again,

Mr. Shel

from Microsoft Clipart Gallery.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Direction of Math education

Before I start, let me really, really, (did I say really?) encourage you to go to this article A New Age for Algebra, by Lindsay Oishi.  Sure it's got some of the same stuff that you have heard already, but it really hits home how much we NEED to support our educators, and not reduce them to budget cut decisions, or "not right fits" because of personality or pedagogical differences.

In the monthly newsletter, Summing Up, NCTM President J. Michael Shaughnessy addresses in his editorial, Let's not Forget Geometry!, that Geometry is just as important as Algebra, but tends to get shoved to the side.  Though not necessarily in favor of a CORE+ style delivery of mathematics, I do think that the Integrated Mathematics approach helps balance this load.

Jim's Wooden DuckI have to say I agree with the comments Shaughnessy makes. Even as an Algebra teacher, I was not hog wild about math until I took Geometry.  That cued me into my other areas of learning, as I am very much a visual (and tactile) learner .  This gives me an opportunity to pay tribute to a former science teacher of mine, Robert Steinke, who recognized this trait and encouraged me to draw pictures, representations, and create models for what I studied.  My best learning moment wasn't in the classroom session, it was when he taught me how to carve wood before and after class if I wasn't participating in other events.

This also brings me to the reality of online learning, because collaboration HAS to exist because our job to make the other forms of math (problem solving, telling others/explaining math) is NOT a high stakes test item.
I still argue you can't measure a student by what they leave on paper, but what they leave behind for others.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The coolest thing . . .

I know what your thinking . . . and you're right (borrowed that from Thomas Magnum, for you eighties fans).  When ever someone starts off with those three words, it's about whatever the Writer feels is the coolest thing, sometimes not the audience.

But recently I just test drove a new web based app called Knovio.  It works similar to some of the more expensive apps like Echo 360 (minus a window).  The power of this app comes from the ability to video record the presenter while slides are being presented.  It's assuming you have a power point file to upload, so make sure all your slides are in a .ppt file or maybe save your Google present as one (I never tried that functionality yet).

Here's how I did it:
 I used a template of slides from PresenterMedia (comes with Office 2010).  I put in my info on the slides with a picture I took of a library door.  Then I set up a script board using topics I wanted to talk about for each slide, basically using a piece of cardboard with bullet points written on PostIt(R)s, and taped it with 1 piece of Gorilla tape to the wall behind my cam.  Keep in mind, this is my first Knovio, but after clicking the link you'll see it's not so bad, AND it gives others hope!

How does this relate to math?
Well, when you see the Knovio, it's a welcome document for my math classes... my online math classes.  Just go here:

Welcome Video (click me)

Matt, the senior rep at Knovio assured me that the ability to embed the video should be forth coming shortly.
For now, I can deal with hyper links (unless it doesn't comply with 504/508, hm...any thoughts?)

It was a fun experience, and I'll look forward to making more "Knovios" with the people from Knowledge Vision.

Til I chalk again,

Mr. Shel

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Passion for informing others

I've taken a break from my normal "webbing" activities to get a focus on what I want to do next.  It seems that my skills don't match up with the archaic designs of our current school system structure (plus my turnover doesn't help either).  It seems like the schools NEED someone like me to get their own districts up to the current 21st century, but there's both overhead and infrastructure barriers that prevent them from doing this.

Many animal activists groups call it "inhumane" if we were to let a dying dog live in suffering if no remedy can elongate its life.  Yet in our current society, the powers that be are quite willing to let the suffering of the current system go on.  My personal opinion on that rests with those that have a "gravy train" of funds or income which would disappear when the system gets a reboot, and trying to ride that train for as long as it will run.  My other reasons I'll leave for you to guess because it's just too political for this forum.

"Didn't you call this blog Passion for Learning?"  Yes I did!  While the above relates to the topic, I felt I needed to get that out of the way, and now will step down from the soap box.  The part about teaching I really love is to relay content and understanding for that content to those who have never experienced competency or knowledge of how to do a specific topic successfully.  For example, someone who has been doing exponential properties doesn't really understand why we do it, until I break it down and provide it as a quicker mechanism to the arithmetic operations s/he has already learned how to do. 

Also, I developed this addiction to pass on knowledge when I started a business for myself selling consumer products, including health and household items. (For more on this topic, you're welcome to email me at corysheldahl@gmail.com).  From all my experiences and education (I finally got done with my MS in Ed. Tech), it seems that the next natural progression for my search of work goes to helping educate people with educational technology concepts.  My biggest frustration is that people automatically assume that technology in education is the latest toys available, or the newest way to organize and dissect information for use in determining how well our students are doing, oh say on standardized testing (which absolutely does nothing for their overall learning experience, other than to label students as "good" or "bad".)

How do I intend to help?  It's by talking with the educators, students, and parents, and find a solution which will maximize their learning experience.  Technology, along with what I stated earlier, really isn't about the objects, but more in the way we do things.  If a teacher tells me what s/he has for tools in the classroom, I'd make recommendations on how to utilize those tools.  To me, that's technology.  As this blog is long enough, I'll talk more about it next time.

Till I chalk again,

Mr. Shel

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I am not an English major, but appreciate those who are

I've realized I provided a gaping hole in the post line from last month.  It is because I have been working furiously on my APP for my Ed Tech degree.  I'm told I need to have four (not 4) chapters and keep revising them until they're sound, proper, formal academic writing.

As a math teacher, this is an incredibly daunting task.  I remember getting a C+ on a paper for mouse trap specs when I took a technical writing class in engineering school.  Yes, I realize the importance of objectivity, logical flow, and proper citation (and diagramming if you're in engineering), but to me this isn't something that a 13-18 year old would spend 5 seconds (yes 5, not five) on.  To look beyond this though are the teachers who would understand my formal writing, reconfigure it and incorporate it into their own pedagogy and classroom routines.

So no weblinks today, or words of wisdom, but you may have to step out of your comfort zone (more than once) in order to help build a better learning community.  (Sorry if you have ever read a paper or this, you ARE a learner).

'Til I chalk again,

Mr. Shel

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Finally I deliver!

I decided to go with a "homemade" look to my final project, because I wanted the focus to be about making the connection, not the technology, although technology has ALOT to do with making the online learning environment.  It's interesting because I feel life is 2% what happens to me and 98% how I react to it (@Bill Britt, if I didn't learn anything else, that was The GOLD nugget to take with me).

Therefore I submit to you my final project for my master's class, Enhancing the Online Learning Environment.  I've rattled my brain (ouch) the best way to put this presentation together.  I envisioned making Paramount Pictures quality movie, and it could be streamed to be watched.  Then reality set it in, and I realize that there are people who could benefit, could see the humanness of the effort, the "aw, I could do better than that" people, and decided if anything else, to follow my motto:  If you could build it once, you could do it again.  Sadly that saying has been used in our household more to remind my kids when they've almost "reached their [video game] level."  I know I'm not talking about anyone else who would have that issue, but the saying does have merit, and my kids are learning the benefits of that character-skill in other avenues of their lives.

Steering back, here's the link to the project folder I submitted to my professor, Dr. G.  Here's that link:

If you can't get the flash link to work, here's the link: http://www.screencast.com/t/8DEIoRVK6a

Til I chalk again,

Mr. Shel

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New! Just in! --no really

For those of you following my blog, I found something that I'm really happy with in terms of a learning management system (LMS).  It's HaikuLMS, found at http://haikulearning.com/. A colleague recommended it to me some time ago, but I shoved it away in my bookmarks and procrastinated about accessing...I am sure glad I did.  Currently I'm developing an online learning environment class devoted just to intermediate algebra.  It's not published for public viewing yet, but you can get a sneak peek by going here.  I totally love the controls, very easy to see (once you've acclimated to the system), and I think tops Desire2Learn as far as interface goes.

I've not explored largely the whole system, still playing with assignments, scheduling, and what not, but I hope to incorporate an active rubric that I can just click on the squares as buttons to give a total for a grade.  To my understanding, "Home" is relative as it largely depends what you put your time and energy into what you want the students to see.  On the link above, you can see the different components of the "Connect" menu, and there are other menus, including Pages for content, (which you can interface just about anything within it), Calendar for class/school events, assignments, projects, etc, and Assess, which handles assignments, grading, rubrics, etc.

Finally there's some cross-over to which you need to get accustomed to, and that happened for with Discussions, which I set up a Intros and Bios discussion, which I had to first create a content page called "Intros and Bios" if I wanted it different from my main page (easy for organization), and Student Cafe in the "Student Cafe" content page.  I've modeled the rest of my discussions after a logical tree in my current class, "Enhancing Online Learning Environments" and I believe Dr. G is quite resourceful in providing that logistical structure.  More to come, but can only leave breadcrumbs for now...

Til I chalk again,

Mr. Shel

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Special Edition: Yes, Virginia, there is a St. Wiki

As you may be aware of my recent developments, I've been working earnestly in my business and in my education classes, as well as slowly developing my wiki.  What I am to do for my technology class, "Enhancing Online Environments" this week, is to make a special post here about Chapter 4 of Will Richardson's book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, 3rd edition.

I'm already sold on the concept, however I failed at promoting it to my students last year in my Intermediate Algebra class.  The only way I could sell it to them was make it extra credit, or specifically make a pass/fail assignment to add wiki content. I agree with Richardson that the shift of what's credible is already happening.  If you would like to follow him on twitter, he's an avid poster, which requires some time to sift all his comments!  His username is willrich45, so if you have an account on Twitter, be sure to add him!  His website is also fantastic so I recommend adding that to your RSS feed reader (e.g. http://reader.google.com).  But for my master's class, that's the next chapter!!  If you wish to follow me, I'm MrSheldahl (wanted MrShel but that's already taken...).

As to the game of communication, interaction, and representation (something I'm re-reading in Chapter 4 of Teaching and Learning at a Distance, Foundations of Distance Education, 4th Edition, I've done just about every form on the taxonomy of distance education for tutoring, from correspondence to two-way desktop (computer) audio/video.  Originally I achieved the latter by adding an account on Vyew which has all the tools of collaboration one could need, although I'm warming up more to Adobe Connect after working on an assignment with a colleague who uses it in her daily activities of online teaching.

I'm sure you have more than you wished to know, but now you know the rest of (my college) story.  However keep checking this blog, as I may update it with my colleague's blogs also:


Til I chalk again,

Mr. Shel

Thursday, February 10, 2011

No Excuses ... (The computer ate my homework).

I've neglected my post (literally and figuratively) by forgetting to put in my thoughts for this month.  After all, I've started Spring semester for my Ed. Tech degree, carting 4 kids around with a near full time job (which will be changing, because I'm still yearning to fill my schedule with tutoring coast to coast).  With that, my laptop acquires a virus impossible to eliminate with AntiVirus Software (don't worry Microsoft and Norton I won't tell anyone, hehe), and I haven't gotten the books I needed yet (but now do as of this writing).   My wonderful professor, Dr. G, has this policy about technology awareness...you have no excuses for not submitting your homework, even if Desire2Learn chews up your post and spits it back out as a non-published draft.

The point here I make, one which Will Richardson, Scott Mcleod, et al. bring up, is that we live in a digital world (at least surrounded by one).  Therefore, we need to develop habits of backing up, saving, filing, much like the habits (that were supposed to have developed) when working in the days of the "hard copy."  We need to develop the same habit with the digital world, as we did (or did we?) with the physical one.  It doesn't really boil down to technology, (in my book), it boils down to the timeless concept of organizational skills, which if left undeveloped, will leave you in the digital dust bowl.

'Til I chalk again,

Mr. Shel