Thoughts & Ramblings

Location: Tobaccoville, North Carolina

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Needs vs. Task: Feb 23 Class Reflection

Well, we literally just finished our MOO discussion for Feb. 23. Based on it I think I did some of my task analysis incorrectly. One task I listed was interviewing stakeholders, specifically students and parents. I see this as a necessary task because I wanted student input regarding what information to put on the course website. The need for a website has already been established. But I want the input regarding students' ideas of what is helpful.

I'm looking for the students view on what is helpful in their math course. They are in sense the "experts" on the type of help they need. From this point of view would interviewing them fall under a needs assessment or a task analsis.

Maybe I am blurring the lines again. I understand task analysis should focus on experts where as needs assessment deals with stakeholders. But in point of view I just mentioned, my stakeholds are my experts.

Maybe the type of questions I ask will determine if interviewing students is part of needs or part of task analysis.

Am I totally out there??????????

Task Analysis Criteria

Criteria Definitions:

Criticality (Importance):

High – What should be completed first.

Medium – can be completed after High priorities finished. Medium priorities are a directly impacted by data gathered from high priorities.

Low – Good information to have, but chances are this information will have the least impact on design decisions.


High – Can be done, but logistics of completion will be involved

Medium – Can be done with relative ease, once a starting point is found

Low – Can be completed relatively quickly with few if any difficulties

Frequency: When known, the number of stakeholders involved

What's Next On My Project

This week I am going to research website designs and gender issues relating to Websites. I will also set up times to interview the AP English teacher and some of my Calculus Students. Finally, I will examine the websites of several Calculus teachers. From this information I will create a survey to give to my Calculus & Pre-Calculus students. I will use the information from the interviews and from the surveys to determine what information should be available through the website.

Suggestions on where to find website design research and gender & website information will be greatly appreciated!

Task Analysis Chart



Criticality (Importance




  • Calculus Students (Site User)




  • Pre-Calculus Students (Site User)




  • Parents (Site User) (*More parents will be surveyed over time



(Regular contact with)


  • AP English Teacher (Developer of site presently used by Academy Students – like an incumbent)




Calculus Students (Site User)





  • Other Calculus Teacher Websites



5 - 10


  • “Good” Site design techniques/layouts




  • Needs of females regarding Website




Web Site

  • Find host domain
    • Pageout, Yahoo, MSN, any ideas ?? **(where do I start to find a good one)




  • Learn MOODLE ***(Self-training/no Workshop/ more of a time issue)




  • “Map” Pages (Layout how site will be navigated – use CMap)




Task Analysis Introduction

Murphy and his laws of chaos (in the form of a teething baby and sick pre-schooler) have been my shadows for the past two weeks, which is why this is being posted to my blog so late!!

Anyways, it took a while but I finally was able to attend a MOODLE demonstration last week. MOODLE was not quite what I pictured, based on the description I was given. It reminds more of Blackboard and less of a traditional website (page links, access for non-registered “members” etc.) There are aspects of both (traditional web & MOODLE) that I like. One of my objectives for this site is to open communication between parents and myself. This means parents need to be able to access the website, i.e. a traditional site. Another goal is to allow students to take on-line concept check quizzes and open a discussion board for homework problems, i.e. a MOODLE setup. Because of what I want to do I feel I need to set up a traditional site with a syllabus, homework, materials guides, etc. On this site I need to put a link to MOODLE. Each student will be registered into MOODLE and then students will be able to access other items like the homework discussion board and on-line quizzes. I’m just going to combine things and hopefully end up with the best of both worlds!!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Strange Dreams

Yesterday I posted my needs assessment and personal comments about my course project. (See Blogs posted Feb 13, 2005) When I went to bed last night I was thinking of how to setup/layout my concept map. Well I had some strange dreams relating to my project. Things like - Have I really choosen an instructional design situation or Have I choosen to design an instructional tool? I see it both ways. It is an instructional tool becuase of how I would like to use my project in my Calculus courses. It is an instruction design situation becuase of all the components that go into making a course webpage useful, rather than just a pretty thing that shows you did a webpage. I guess my dream boils down to "Did I choose an appropriate project for this coure?" I know the project will be useful to me and will be done regardless, but is it appropriate for this course assignment?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Where to get Ideas

Interview Data:

Our AP English teacher uses a website in a manner similar to what I want. She posts readings, discussion questions, has information about her syllabus, background, policies etc. I’m going to discuss with her how she set up her site, decided what to include, and how she determines & rates its usefulness.

I am also going to ask for ideas from my Calculus students. I am looking for information (their opinions) on what they would like to see as part of a math course’s website, what type of resources, what types of links etc. I also want feedback from those who use the AP English teachers website regarding positive & negative aspects of the website.

I plan to get ideas from the other math teachers in the department and if possible several parents.

I feel this information will give me a starting place for how the website should be designed.

Context-Based Documents:
I see two types of “documents’ in this category. The first is articles relating to website design (particularly math sites) and the usefulness of the websites. (Any article suggestions would be very helpful). The second is websites already in use and designed by other secondary school math teachers. I have visited many of these sites and will go back and assess what information they have and how the sites are laid out.

The Needsd Assessment

As stated in a different Blog

Kaufman defines needs assessment as the process for defining the gaps between current and desired results and providing justification for identifying and choosing the way to close the gap. This includes collecting data and showing that the proposed solution will deliver the desired result, i.e. we won’t need to reframe and find a second-order solution.

I approached this needs assessment from the mega, macro, and micro points of view.
Mega: Societal Payoffs & consequences: Affecting all stakeholders (school, community, alumnae, parents, teachers, students & perspective students)
Macro: Relate to what the organization (organization = math class) delivers outside itself: How parents are informed of what happens in their daughter’s math class.
Micro: Individual or small group: Individual learning & way class structure affected

Project: Math Department Website

Personal Goal: To use the website to make my courses more learner-centered and less teacher-centered. To change my role to more of a coach/facilitator and less of a task master (as Perkins stated). (I know it’s an ideal/dreamlike goal!)

Current situation: “What is”
Salem Academy Math Department does not have website for posting information relating to our math courses.
Mega: Stakeholders (community, alumnae, parents, administrators, perspective students) not enrolled in a particular course are unaware of class policies, deadlines, etc. (This is an issue for a boarding school)
Macro: Parents are not aware of when their daughters have projects, tests, quizzes, etc. Regular communication does not occur between many parents & daughters and enough communication does not always occur between teachers and parents. This is a big issue for those students who board particularly the 8 – 10% of our students who are from another country.
Micro: Calculus course is too teacher-centered. Lectures are used to much for teacher’s personal taste.

Desire: “What should be”
Salem Academy Math Department should have website for posting information relating to our math courses.
Mega: Website would serve as a resource for all stakeholders about the Academy’s math program.
Macro: Website should serve as a link between parents & teachers and parents & daughters as well as a resource for students. Parents can be informed about their daughter’s classes.
Micro: Class Structure can move towards more of a “seminar” style. This could occur by posting readings, Powerpoints, weblinks for students and having them read/listen/access this information prior to class. Class time can be used to discuss, practice, and sum up what they learned on the assigned topic. I hope this will help make students more responsible for their learning and to retain the information better. (I realize this might not work for every math topic, but I’d definitely like to try it.)

Choosing My Project

Kaufman defines needs assessment as the process for defining the gaps between current and desired results and providing justification for identifying and choosing the way to close the gap. This includes collecting data showing the proposed solution will deliver the desired result, i.e. we won’t need to reframe and find a second-order solution.

There are two projects I’ve proposed for this course. Let me give a background on these projects and some rationale on how I choose which project to pursue.

The Academy is presently collecting “evidence and materials” for SACS/SAIS re-accreditation. (This experience fits well with completing a needs assessment for my course project) As math department chair I have spent a good portion of the past school year re-analyzing our courses, assessment techniques, and stakeholder (parents, teachers, staff, students, & community) needs just to name a few things. One result of this analyzing process was the need to re-vamp ourAdvanced Algebra & Trigonometry course in order to make it comply with North Carolina Department of Instruction standards. Based on department discussions and discussions at our Council on Academic Affairs (CAA) it was decided to remove Advanced Algebra & Trigonometry from our course offerings and replace it with a course entitled Advanced Functions & Modeling (AFM). The AFM course includes a unit on algebra, a trigonometry unit and a obability & statistics unit. One of my proposed projects is outlining/planning the AFM course or one of its units.

My other proposed project is also a result of our re-accreditation process. During the Academy’s last full review (1996) and it 5-year “check-up” (2001) it was recommended that the math department increase its use of technology. A suggest made in relation to this was to create a Math Department website for student use. This website would also allow parents to know what was going on in their daughters math classes. My second proposed project is to begin creating this website.

Several things have happened over the past few weeks which is leading me to choose creating the website rather than outlining/planning the AFM course. First, Salem Academy & College recently (as in this January) set up a course management program for its faculty. This program, called MOODLE, allows teachers to post syllabus, create discussion boards, give on –line quizzes, post PowerPoint lectures, notes, assignments and from what I’m told even more. Second, the issue of departmental websites has come up again as our department re-evaluates as part of the accreditation process.

Whether or not I use MOODLE to setup the webpage is still up for debate. One Academy faculty member whose already attending a MOODLE demonstration says MOODLE can be a great teaching device. Another says she prefers the website she created without MOODLE. I will be attending a demonstration of MOODLE on Monday to learn more.

To sum this all up, I’m going to do my needs assessment for the website. But if anyone has an opinion regarding which project to do, please comment!

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Reframing Mathematics

One of the most powerful parts of Salem Academy’s academic program is the January Term Session. During the month of January juniors and seniors participate in internships while freshman and sophomores take classes on campus. There is also a study abroad trip each year. Any student can take part in the trip.

The classes, which are held on campus, are designed to help students view academics differently. The classes are a chance for teachers to show students that learning is applicable to life, that academics affects more than grades, that learning can be fun. The Jan Term Session is a wonderful opportunity to “reframe” students’ views of mathematics. Over the past several years I have taught different Jan Term classes including: Knot Math, Mathematical Quilts, Experiencing Mathematics & Mathematical History. Each of these classes allowed students to use and study math in a manner different from a traditional high school math course. The Knot Math course looked at the basic principles of Knot Theory. These high school students were studying basic topology principles without realizing it. In Mathematical Quilts students studied triangles and trigonometry, spirals, tessellations and rotation as they applied to quilt making. All of this was Geometry in disguise. Experiencing Mathematics allowed students to put mathematics into action by planning their dream trip to a foreign country. The students created a budget, determined flight distance to the country, driving distance to their different destinations in the country, studied currency conversions, researched history and more. Mathematical History focused on three math history topics: the Tower of Hanoii, Pythagoras & his Cult, and the Abacus. After studying these topics, students then had to conduct a math research project and prepare a presentation on their topics. Student topics ranged from origami to topology to probability.

Students’ comments proved to me that these courses helped them view math differently. They felt more positive about mathematics. They viewed mathematics as practical and enjoyable. They experienced more confidence in their math skills. To me this seems to be a type of reframing of their original views of mathematics.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Right now I am still contemplating my project for this course. I still like the idea of doing something for the Advanced Function & Modeling course I’ll be teaching next fall. I'm just
still unsure of whether to plan course or to plan a unit. I’m leaning towards planning a unit because it is a more manageable task at this point. But in order for the unit to make sense I need a clear understanding of where this unit fits in the overall course plan. So maybe I should plan the course? But I like the idea of planning a unit because I can make some decisions about where and what types of technologies I can incorporate. The technology aspect gives me an excuse to explore the technology website Dr. King posted. I’ve like what I’ve seen at the site so far.

I did have another thought about a different project. Maybe I could set up a website to accompany a course already in progress. I have been wanting to set up a website for my Calculus Class for several years now. I just never seem to find/make the time. Our IT department just set up a course management system called MOODLE. MOODLE is supposed to allow us (teachers) a “friendly” way to set up websites for our classes. I’m planning to attend the demo and training workshop on Friday to see what it is all about. If it looks good I might consider the website idea. Would this be an acceptable instructional design project? It would definitely be useful to me.

If I go with planning the AFM course, I know my next step needs to be choosing the textbook. I’m looking at two texts right now. One is more traditional practice/drill math. One is more verbal reading math. I really need to determine the type of students we expect in the AFM course and decide which book is more appropriate. It might be I choose one but supplement from the other. So many decisions. All of the recent gender learning discussion is playing into my decision.

I do know that I want to incorporate technology use into the course. Have my students explore their calculator, graphical analysis, and other math related technologies. I’m very interested in how females react to technology in math class. Do they find technology helpful, hurtful, or are they indifferent?