Open Source

For my final 9x9x25 blog, I wanted to talk a little about publisher material and Open Educational Resources.  In our department (and throughout the college) we have been using expensive materials from Pearson.  My college algebra course costs about the same in tuition as it does for students to buy the text, and with money being tight with many of our students, this is unacceptable.

In Florida, many schools have adopted open source textbooks.  I looked into OER a few years ago, and found the materials to be good, but there are very few practice problems to assign, you have to manually grade everything (tough to do online as students must also figure out a way to submit written work), and the text is not in an order that fits with our objectives.  However, one school put together a text of their own for College Algebra through Canvas.  The creator stated that it was a ton of work, and it was made easier by dividing up the tasks between many interested faculty.  She pulled in a ton of different resources from different places, giving examples like Khan Academy and MyOpenMath.  Continue Reading “Open Source”

blog 7 – Lucky

If you know me, you know I see the glass mostly half full.  When asked how I am doing, the response is: “living the dream.”   For me it is true, but I also understand the dream is dependent on your lens.  We have problems we need to address, as does everyone, and my goal is to do the best for the most and stay positive, upbeat, and active.

I am sitting in a hotel room in San Diego enjoying a beautiful view of the bay.  I am smelling the sea air.  And I am getting to do what I love: learn; this makes me lucky.

I am at the AMATYC conference, which is the yearly national conference for mathematics teachers.  This is my second year of attendance, and both of my years of attendance, it re-energized my teaching.  It is like the phone call from my best teacher friend, a chance to hear new and be reminded of old ideas to improve my practice.  Teaching math is hard as our success rates are traditionally low and the students do not “enjoy” learning math.  Math is hard work to learn.  The conference gives me a chance to learn new ideas for implementation in my classroom; the goal: reach a broader audience of students. Continue Reading “blog 7 – Lucky”

Habits – Wk6

Andrea Schaben

Like everyone I have habits; some are bad and some are good.  Here is a quick listing of my piccadellas good and bad – ice cream before bed, wake up at 6am, watch old “Friends” episodes during dinner, call Mom on Monday night, a long hike on Sunday, gym workout on Tuesday/Thursday, swim on Friday, put work away after 7pm, breakfast at 6am immediately after waking (including coffee), some chocolate after lunch, family time all day Saturday, and the list goes on.

So my point is not to list my habits, but to discuss how this can apply to work and also how I can use my inherent need to schedule to make my work life more productive. Continue Reading “Habits – Wk6”

Week 5 – Balance

Question of the week – what does it mean to have balance in your life?  Regardless of work- life balance, family, projects, we all have to find our own balance within our life.  And here are my personal issues with balance:

  1. I have a hard time balancing the family/me time with job/student investment (emotional and physical).
  2. Finding balance of my physical capabilities: the physical activities I would like to do versus what I am capable of doing.  


Both are rearing their ugly head this week.  And by the way, weekly, it amazes me how conversations during the week feed my creativity when Sunday night I have no idea what I am going to write about. Continue Reading “Week 5 – Balance”

What drives you??

Our task for the week – to write about motivation and where we find our motivation.  My initial reaction was, “that is easy!!” and quite awesome.  But after some thought, I decided to tweak the approach.


My question and what interests me: What motivates students?  When first asked, students responded with “in life or in school?”  I said both and either!!  And on that initial request, I asked they email what motivates them; I didn’t get many responses.  So in class on Wednesday, I gave them time to discuss the topic with me, and the answers were as diverse and amazing as I thought they would be. Here is my re-phrase of what they shared.

Continue Reading “What drives you??”

Week 3 – Online, A Love/Hate Relationship

As midterm approaches, I reach a frustration point with online teaching and learning; yes, this seems to happen every semester.  Online math is tough.  If a student is not a strong reader, writer, or independent thinker, they are going to struggle with online learning; the phobia many students feel with mathematics compounds the issue.  Yet many of our students (even developmental) register for online classes.  Why you may ask?   Because it feels easier.

In our September math department meeting, a colleague from the Teaching and Learning Committee presented us with some data: I am sad to report we had a roughly 50% pass rate in online classes in the math department.  We are slightly better college wide (I don’t have the exact stats) and slightly worse in online developmental math courses.  So, as a department we wanted to do something -ANYTHING!!- about this and came up with some ideas to improve our online classes. Continue Reading “Week 3 – Online, A Love/Hate Relationship”

Week 2 – Changes in Technology in Math for the Technical Fields

I absolutely love the fall and the start to the new school year.  Everything is fresh and everyone can have a new beginning.  We at the community college are so fortunate to be able to experience a whole new group of people that are here to make their life, job, and education better.  It is fun to meet and work with such a variety of people.

I had the opportunity last week to tour the CTEC campus and it introduced me to a whole new group of Yavapai students.  I observed a class in the unmanned aircraft (drones) certificate program.  I am wowed by the technology they are using, and shocked by how difficult it must be to stay with the ever changing fields (math hasn’t radically changed in a while) 🙂  Part of my trip to CTEC was to observe my mentee but also to get started on researching a new project I am exploring: re-writing our technical math course to fit better with the CTEC degree programs. Continue Reading “Week 2 – Changes in Technology in Math for the Technical Fields”

Week 1 – Ch-ch-change

It is not difficult finding a topic to write about, more difficult to decide which topic to talk about.  So I am going to start with all of it!!

Ch-ch-change.  It is all around us.  For some it motivates, others it scares, still others ignore it.  But it is the one constant in our life, regardless of how we feel about it. In my 3.25 years at Yavapai, we have changed from Blackboard to Canvas, altered our presentation software, extended our semester, and implemented guided pathways.

Technology is one of education’s biggest, scariest instruments of change, but not the only one.  Our Developmental Education committee is focusing on 4 major changes college wide for the near future; all are researched based, big scale, and kinda scary Continue Reading “Week 1 – Ch-ch-change”

Week 9 – So Good We Can’t Be Ignored

So good that we can’t be ignored

I want to start by thanking the college for being so invested in the development of our staff that they are willing to spend some serious cash to give instructors the means to improve.  Amazing.  After just one day at the AMAYTC conference, I learned about integration of study skills into our dev ed classes, applied problems to enhance pre-service teacher teaching, the difference between mathematical modelling and modelling with mathematics (there is a difference people!) but the most amazing and trans-formative talk was given to the entire group of 1200 of us.  And here is the trick – at 3:30 in the afternoon after we had been sitting for hours listening to various sessions, she engaged us.  Nearly every one of us.  I am in awe of Maria Andersen.  She was the keynote at the AMATYC conference.  She modeled what her classroom would look like (if she still had one).  After some internet stalking of my new math education crush, I learned of her career trajectory: teacher first, Canvas (Infastructure) creative genius, and now educational consultant and full time convocation speaker.  I will forgive her for no longer being in the classroom, because this allows her to spread her message…

Now onto the important stuff – what exactly did she say to get this kind of adulation from me?  Well, first one more background piece.  My best friend lost her job about a month ago and so her and I have had a few conversations about following our passion.  I love teaching at YC, but am I following my passion?  To answer this question, I picked up the book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” and I see Maria reflected in each word of this book.  I see her blogs, her ideas, her research, and I am inspired to try harder.  Constructively try harder to make my classroom bolder, more innovative, and most importantly the one where they actually (actually!) retain something.  Anyway, back to the keynote.

She started with background – her mother had a tumor at 35 and lost her ability to learn and perform simple tasks, so Maria became obsessed with learning and brain research.  Grabbed us, right?

Now that she had our attention, she illustrated the three main components to actual learning.  What we tend to do in math is fill the brain with knowledge, then practice until the skill is “learned”.  But not retained.  So the challenge was to figure out how to get the students to learn how to struggle, overcome the struggle, thereby making the brain connections to the material.  Finding rich tasks that force students to struggle (and understand that the struggle is going to lead to good things and not bad) is difficult. One of the studies that she referenced – (wish I had a link to the study) – showed the interactions in a group of classrooms at a four year; they found on average only 4 or 5 people per class with multiple interactions.  One of the people, obviously, was the instructor.  So her challenge was to create an environment where students were interacting with each other, the teacher, and the material in a way that is not just telling them and letting them take notes over the material.  And I’ve heard over and over again that engagement is the key to student success, but I was mistakenly thinking that my classroom was full of interactions, but it really isn’t.  Draw straws and call on an unsuspecting individual forces everyone to pay attention, so that is doing the trick right?  Uhhh…no!!  Put them up to the board to work on problems together; this is great if you haven’t already told them all the steps to solve the problem.  Where is the struggle in that?  Having the students write their own definition for something does the trick, right?  Until I see furious writing when I post the definition as they have just been waiting for me to save them.   Practice until you can re-gurge the exponent rules – works great for that semester until I see the same students two semesters later asking them to apply those rules to logarithms and they act as though they haven’t learned the exponent rules (shame on me because they haven’t)

Do I have moments of sunshine in this wasteland of (lack of) interaction?  I can think of a few activities I do throughout the year that really force the students to think, communicate their thinking, and apply their knowledge in a way that will create these pathways.  But it is not enough.

My current read tells me that following your passion is bull.  When you follow your passion, you end up jumping from career to career, thinking what you are doing can’t really be enough.  The author found data to support the happiest employees are those that have been in their profession for a long time, developing the skills and know-how to be an expert in what they do.  In essence, being so good they can’t ignore you, and even better, being so good that you feel good and accomplished in what you do.  You have invested so much in being who you are in work, that you are confident or at least can act confident in your pursuits.

So now I must wrap up this rambling musing and get to a point.  Can I walk away from this experience and actually sit down with some research, materials, and dedicate time to making my classroom a place that students deepen their understanding and gain long term learning?  Can I balance my time to be able to create a classroom I can honestly say is my best?  Now that I know how far short I am falling, can I rise to the occasion?  Most importantly, what am I going to do to extend this to my online students so I can get them involved in their learning?  I ask you all to make me accountable and help me become so good that I can no longer be ignored….


AMATYC Keynote Notes: Interaction and Impasse


Week 8 -Portfolio reflection

This blog will be the whole kill one bird with two stones (that’s not right!!) but we are in the final week of 9x9x25 (next week doesn’t count because after AMAYTC I will have so much to write about) so here is my year three reflection about teaching at YC.

Fist of all, I fear sounding trite and foolish but I want to say how lucky I feel to be here at YC, living and working my ideal job.  YC is a great community of educators, as this 9x9x25 challenge is proof.  Here are the top 5 reasons why I love teaching and learning at YC:

  1. The support I receive from my colleagues and mentors.  I feel like I’ve been supported and encouraged every step of my journey.  When I needed help becoming a better online instructor, my boss and the college provided me training.  When we create my schedule for the semester, we decide what is best for the college as well as me personally.  And whenever I have a student or curriculum issue, the response and help is quick and beneficial.
  2. The diversity in students gives me a rich perspective on the college experience.  The mixture of traditional as well as non-traditional learners stretch my abilities while also providing a great mix of personality and care.
  3. I absolutely love the tuition waiver and taking classes myself.  In three years, I’ve learned piano, how to be a better swimmer, refreshed Calculus, and plan to learn a foreign language and advanced Biology.  For someone who loves to learn, it is the perfect hybrid.
  4.  The support staff here at YC is second to none.  Staff in the learning center are so kind, generous, and student oriented, the people I work with in advising are helpful and knowledgeable, our administrative assistants are efficient and generous with their time and talent.  The adjunct instructors work so hard for not very much pay and seldom complain – in fact express gratitude at being part of our college community.
  5. Most of all I appreciate our mission.  We serve students who are in transition to a better, higher paying job, retired people who never want to stop learning, as well as students getting their prerequisites to move on to a four year institution.  I love being that middle ground – even though it is a tough position to be all things to all people, it makes the experience richer.

Another part of my reflection is how I have grown while being faculty here.  I learned so much about online education, which I think is the future.  I needed to become more adept at teaching with various technologies, which helped me grow.  I have had the opportunity to wok with pre-service teachers, which has always been a goal of mine.  I want to inspire the next generation of educators.  I was voted into a leadership role in committee work, which has stretched my comfort zone and allowed me to make a greater impact on the college community.  I’ve presented at the Institute, which motivates me to consider speaking at a state or national level to help share my successes and failures with others.  I’ve been given the chance to work with the staff in the Learning Center in several capacities, as well as advising, which has expanded my knowledge of the day to day workings of the college.