Google…The Ultimate Bat Tool?


Batman’s utility belt first appeared in 1939. In this comic Batman used a choking gas capsule as part of his arsenal. Since then, the utility belt has expanded to include more and more incredible tools. Batarangs, grapple guns, glue globules and freeze grenades all appeared just in time to save Batman’s bacon.

In a similar manner, tools from Google have appeared and improved to help save my bacon. Until a few months ago, Google Sheets, Docs, and Slides were an afterthought to Microsoft Office. Office offered everything I could possibly want. However, it was often difficult for my students to have those same tools due to cost constraints. In a single class, I might have students using three or four different versions of Microsoft Office. As an instructor, it was difficult to create documentation for those versions…and there were the versions for Apple products to contend with. A simpler solution was to use a free product like Google Sheets or Docs. I could create one handout on a topic…like creating a graph in Sheets…and know that every student would be using the exact same version of Sheets.

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Holy Smokes Batman! What Is That?

That Robin, is project-based learning…”a dynamic classroom approach in which students actively explore real-world problems and challenges and acquire a deeper knowledge.” (Edutopia) Extreme exposure has been known to drive teachers mad.

“Robin and Batman” by ABC Television – eBay itemphoto frontphoto back. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

And there it was the solution to all of my problems…project-based learning. Engage students in a significant activity based on a interesting question (WOP!). Give them scaffolding resources to keep them on track (POW!). Have them complete a realistic assessment to demonstrate their learning (KAPOW!). It was a terrific plan and for a while kept Gotham content and happy(KA-CHING!).

But as everyone knows, Gotham City is filled with an array of nefarious characters ready to defeat the peaceful city. Sometimes powerful measures must be taken to defeat the likes of Riddler, Joker, Catwoman, Egghead, and Penguin.

“Batman villians 1966” by Greenway Productions – eBay

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Let's Talk Turkey!

Many of you are probably on your way back home for the holiday weekend. I will also be spending time with my family. However, just because there is a holiday I don’t stop doing mathematics. And neither should you!

Last weekend I was looking a turkeys at Safeway and I became fascinated by the labels. I posted this analysis of Butterball Turkey cooking times in my College Algebra blog to encourage students to look at everyday objects in a mathematical perspective.

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Put Money Where Your Mouth Is

Last week I wrote about using relevant examples in Relevance and Meaning Before Details. In this post, I suggested that the meaning of concepts need to be presented before the details. This sounds like a great idea, however I have to admit that I am as guilty as the next instructor when it comes to skipping the meaning in the face of huge amounts of content.

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Relevance and Meaning Before Details

In Peg + Cat, preschoolers learn the details about math through engaging examples.

My son has been watching the new PBS Kids series Peg + Cat. It is essentially a math learning tool in which preschoolers learn about mathematics by discovering the meaning of the math and why it is needed. This easily keeps his attention for a half hour…not an easy task with a three-year old.

In Brain Rules, John Medina suggests that presenting the meaning of a concept before the details helps keep the attention of learners.

If the instructor presents a concept without telling the audience where the concept fits into the rest of the presentation, the audience is forced to simultaneously listen to the instructor and attempt to divine where it fits into the rest of what the instructor is saying. This is the pedagogical equivalent of trying to drive while talking on a cell phone. Because it is impossible to pay attention to ANY two things at once, this will cause a series of millisecond delays throughout the presentation. The linkages must be clearly and repetitively explained.

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