The NO LIMIT! Grant (New Outcomes: Learning Improvement in Mathematics Integrating Technology) is part of the Enhancing Education Through Technology Project for Washington Schools. The focus of this project is to integrate technology and standards-based, middle school best-practices into classroom teaching to improve mathematics instruction and learning. In addition, the grant promotes a better understanding of a standards-based curriculum, encourages professional development, fosters administrative and parental involvement, promotes the use of data-driven decision-making and cultivates the selection and use of quality hardware, software and instructional materials that support these efforts.
Northwest Educational Service District (ESD) 189 (www.esd189.org) is one of nine educational services centers in Washington State providing one or more Math Integration Specialist(s) to facilitate this two-year project. These specialists are funded through the grant. During the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years, the two-member MIS team at Northwest ESD 189 has been working with 5 districts, 30 classrooms, and 31 sixth- or seventh-grade teachers (one job-share.) Districts range from a small rural district to one of the largest districts in the state. The grant supports 30 teachers. One district pays all the expenses to include an additional teacher. The support includes assisting teachers in their classrooms, providing nine days of intense staff development, modeling best-practices and providing targeted support in technology and mathematics. Approximately $5,000 in hardware, software and other training allowances including instructional materials is provided for each classroom per year.
Each year, participants must complete nine days of professional development. They attend a five-day intensive training prior to the start of each school year. Teachers participate in an additional four days of professional development and a one-day "share day" during the school year. All teachers participate in the following basic professional development activities:
- Training on understanding and using data-driven decision-making skills was crucial at the beginning of the grant. Teachers examined state, national, and local data and developed specific mathematical goals as part of a mathematics plan. The core of this instruction came from, Formula for Success, a collaborative project of the NW Eisenhower Regional Consortium, Washington State Mathematics Council, and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (Summer, 2001). These skills are reinforced throughout the project with an emphasis of re-examining data and readjusting goals, as necessary.
- Teachers explored the WA State EALRs (Essential Academic Learning Requirements) using the Washington State Toolkits and practiced aligning the state standards to their district's curriculum. Professional development provided by the ESD continually demonstrates the link between activities, lessons and technology to the state standards. Teachers also examined and used the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 2000) and the National Educational Technology Standards for Students (ISTE, 2000).
- Best-practices focused on mathematics and integrating technology into the mathematics curriculum was modeled at workshops and in the classrooms. There is frequent emphasis on the book, EDThoughts, What We Know About Mathematics Teaching and Learning (McRel) along with other best-practice resources. In-classroom models ranged from using the software, The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis from The Learning Company, with an interactive whiteboard to using Palm handhelds to demonstrate the Cootie (Hi-C) lesson. Embedded classroom training varied from helping teachers develop integrated lesson plans to providing instruction on the use of manipulatives. As teachers became more comfortable integrating technology into math instruction, the role of the Math Integration Specialist changed from model provider to team-teacher to observer to classroom helper, a natural weaning process preparing the teachers to continue comfortably when the Specialists are no longer in the program.
- Understanding the importance of assessment as an indicator for teaching strategies was another focus. Participants explored and practiced the use of the WASL or Washington Assessment of Student Learning to improve student understanding of the test, encourage student use of rubrics, improve student written responses to test items, and promote student active participation in the test. WASL Range Finding/Scoring documents, WASL Wagon presentations, and WASL Released Items, all provided by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, have been examined and practiced. Two NO LIMIT! grant teachers started using the software NCS Mentor for Washington State with their students. They reported success and shared their methods and activities with the other teachers.
- Teachers reviewed and selectively used print products, lessons, manipulatives, software, videos and online resources that support standards-based learning in a constructivist environment. These classroom-based materials foster their teaching goals previously established through data-driven decision making. Also, teachers examined various hardware products and purchased selected devices based on how the hardware would facilitate meeting their established goals.
In addition to looking at data about their students, participants were asked to inventory both their mathematics and technology skills and create a professional development plan that would meet their individual needs. From these plans they created additional professional development workshops with titles such as: "Integrating Technology into the Connected Math Project, School Kit for the Classroom, Mathematics and Special Populations, Designing Integrated Activities Using Geometer's Sketchpad, Using the SmartBoard in Middle School Math, Vernier Collecting and Analyzing Data, Using Palm Handhelds in the Classroom, and Practical Applications of Technology. Teachers are encouraged to take courses developed on Blackboard, participate in statewide, K-12 videoconferences, join professional organizations and attend conferences and workshops.
Clusters and Sharing:
An important feature of this grant is the establishment of learning communities in which teachers from each district are assigned to a "cluster." Some of the district teachers first met through this grant. Participants are encouraged to interact and share within their cluster and among the other clusters. Formal sharing occurs during monthly cluster meetings and workshops. One day at the end of each school year is set aside for formal sharing among the clusters. Less formal sharing occurs through email and Blackboard discussions. Overall, the participants cite sharing opportunities as an exemplary feature of the grant. In addition, participants share with the teachers in their school who are not in the grant. In many cases, teachers brought a non-NO LIMIT! teacher with them to workshops and other offerings (a nominal fee had to be charged to the non-grant participants.)
At Northwest ESD 189, there was no standard equipment package prescribed. Participants made equipment requests based on their needs and their perceptions of how the equipment would foster obtaining their identified goals. However, a pattern in equipment purchases emerged. Most teachers have the following in their classroom: 1) laptop or desktop computer as a teacher station with software, 2) LCD projector, 3) document camera, 4) printer, 5) interactive white board, 6) classroom set of calculators (scientific for the sixth grade and graphing calculators for the seventh grade.) All teachers in the grant were given Palm M130 handhelds by the state. Some of the supplemental equipment purchases were microphone/amplifying systems, digital video cameras, student computers, and scanners.
Western Washington University is handling the grant evaluation process, which is not yet complete. Preliminary indications are positive state-wide. Below is feedback the Math Integration Specialists at Northwest ESD 189 report:
(From a teacher:) "I thought I would share with you how great I feel about the technology I'm using in my classroom this week! Today, we used the document camera for students to solve problems. They could see the pictures and trace the challenge of crossing bridges onto the whiteboard, show work they were doing on their papers with geometric shapes... wow!"
(From a teacher:) "I wanted to let you know that the kids were so excited about doing Hot Dog Stand today that they unanimously voted to miss recess so we could continue to play, AND after all sales were final on event 3, they managed to have $807 in the checkbook! The cheers were deafening :-)"
(From a teacher:) "On Friday, I had Jonathan show how he figured out how many squares in the diagram. What a kid!! The class was amazed and followed along with his strategy. We then identified the problem-solving strategies he used. This was done of course with the document camera!! We love it. The two other students who struggled with the square problem let out that wonderful OHHHHH sound. It was a great light bulb event!!"
(From an administrator about the cluster:) "I too am proud of them (teacher cluster) and the job they are doing. I would like to mention that they think very highly of you as their Math Integration Specialist. Thank you for your leadership."
(From a parent talking about her daughter after a Vernier Labpro/TI-83+ experiment:) "She said her daughter came home after class that day and announced she wanted to be a scientist! Then her daughter went into a long, detailed explanation of everything she did in class. She loved working with the equipment, doing the math and science, and especially liked seeing the graph instantly appear on the TI-83+. It was just too cool."
Email: Donna Craighead