Day: April 25, 2016

Who Has Access to Your Google Documents?

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In the push for collaboration between students (as well as their own teacher colleagues), many teachers have turned to the Google suite of products, and specifically Google Drive, which enables users to collaborate on documents in real time. In Drive, the original document must be “shared” with one or more collaborators, which are given editing rights to the document. Additional viewing rights may be granted to one person or to the world in general.

Sometimes, however, individuals who were meant to be given viewing rights are given editing rights. These individuals would in turn be able to alter or even delete the aforementioned documents. Even more problematic is when editing rights are given to everyone!

Typically, in order to view who has editing rights within Google Drive, one must right-click on the folder or document in question and select “Share…”. If multiple documents or folders are in question, this process can become quite cumbersome.

Luckily, there is an easier solution. WhoHasAccess is a website (and also a Chrome app) that will scan one’s Google Drive and provide a list of everyone who has rights to one’s documents. Clicking on each person on the list will yield another list of the documents/folders that s/he has rights to, as well as the type of right (editing or viewing). After twenty-four hours, the WhoHasAccess servers will delete the information they gleaned from searching one’s Drive; one can also press the red button at the bottom of the results page to delete this information instantaneously.

Teachers can use this valuable tool to see which students have access to their files, and students can also benefit by running the WhoHasAccess search periodically to ensure that they have not given editing rights to those they should not have. WhoHasAccess is an essential tool for all who are collaborating on Google Drive!

-Maria Vlahiotis, Literacy Specialist, ACOE Core Learning

From Learned Dependence to Learned Independence

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During workshops that aim to deepen knowledge of Common Core State Standards (CCSS), I hear a consistent message from teachers – “My students are already behind with the current standards so it is no surprise they struggle with the new, more rigorous standards?” Or, “My students are high performing but we are afraid they won’t perform well on the SBAC Assessment performance task.” These are valid concerns. Often our instincts are to scaffold pretty heavily so students don’t experience too much difficulty. We want them to feel comfortable in class and stay as motivated as possible. In some cases, complex text and challenging math have been systematically removed from the hands of our struggling students albeit with the best of intentions. The consequences are stark. Many students, especially our lower performing students, have become very dependent learners and have not built the academic muscles necessary to excel at the table of scholarship. While our high performers don’t struggle as much, they too are pretty dependent and how well are we meeting the needs of those kids who already know it? Students at all performance levels need 21st century skills so they can have options when they graduate.

The key shifts in the CCSS ask us to interrupt this dependency cycle by ensuring that all students experience complex texts and tasks that require critical thinking and deep levels of engagement. There is a key document linked here provided by Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium outlining their emphasis on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) that is not a “one size fits all” approach but rather utilizes “flexible approaches that can be customized” that “gives all individuals equal opportunities to learn.” The CCSS challenge us to think K-16 for all learners. But how will we do this?

Consider using provocative, ambiguous questions to frame learning and provide real world lenses to set purpose for authentic learning using technology to enhance engagement. Put engaging, relevant text related to the question in front of students frequently starting off with shorter, accessible complex passages working towards greater text length and complexity reading goals. Students need to learn how to annotate and summarize text across content ideally utilizing consistent procedures. We need to make the invisible, the language of our disciplines – text structures, academic vocabulary – visible to students so they can express the sophistication of their thinking and access core content successfully.

Most importantly this work needs to be built in collaboration with teachers! In my collaboration with teachers around Common Core, I see that teachers really get it! They understanding the need to move students towards independence and how time crunches and incoherence have led dependence. When given some tools to collaborate – to sort, anchor, calibrate and share ideas, teachers and instructional leaders have the expertise.

We just need to get them the right tools and get out of their way!

Sasha Kirkman, Literacy Coordinator

LEDs, Circuits, and Math–Ohm My!

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Have you ever wondered how designers integrate lights, BlueTooth, fitness trackers, and other technology into clothing and accessories? This year, #MakingMath Expo participants will have an opportunity to explore the math behind wearable technology.

An example of wearable technology, these sensors detect muscle activity and movement, which are then processed through a program to translate sign language gestures into English. Credit: Texas A&M via

Targeted to ages 6-90, this experiment involves discovering the difference between series and parallel circuits, as well as comparing the brightness of the different colors of sample LEDs. Participants will have a chance to analyze the forward voltages of various LEDs, using Ohm’s Law to calculate the resistance for different color lights.

The best part about the #MakingMath Expo? Folks who may be confused or intimidated by the math and science described above get to interact with the activity in a low-stakes, fun way. By the end of it, you will have a better understanding of at least one new math or science concept. We practically guarantee it (no money-back guarantee because the event is FREE!)

Come get inspired at our Making Math Expo on Saturday March 12,  where educators from around the Bay Area will be showing off their #makingMath projects at Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland.  This is a day dedicated to the fun and exciting world of Problem Solving, where students, teachers, and parents will have various opportunities to apply their math and problem-solving skills.  Come experience an assortment of non-traditional problems that will work your thinking muscles, and understand why the Mathematical Practices must be an integral part of every math classroom.  All participants will leave with strategies and tools to improve student problem-solving abilities.


Common Core Math + Families = Student Success

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A Context to Connect with Families
In the last 3 weeks Core Learning has had the opportunity to support math instruction through Parent Math community engagement events in several Alameda County districts. Two of our Parent Math nights coincided with American Education Week and certainly facilitated communication between schools and the public in order to ensure that the successes and needs of schools are celebrated and met, respectively. Beyond AEW, the need for clear and regular communication with families around the Common Core math standards has become increasingly evident as parents and districts begin to experience the implications of the transition to the new standards.


One of the most frequently asked questions that we have heard from parents, whether they have children in the elementary or secondary levels, is why are we teaching math to students in this new, seemingly inefficient way?  As parents encounter ways to “do” math that diverges from their own math learning experiences, they may be discovering that their own mathematical understandings are being challenged as they try to support their children’s mathematical development.


As is often the case with new things that we don’t fully understand, it may be tempting to dismiss the different ways that math is being taught. Adjectives we have heard in reference to the Common Core standards include “confusing,” “dumbed-down,” “inefficient,” and “impractical.” However, we have found that as parents engage in the new mathematical models that elementary students are using to understand the why of mathematics, and as they encounter the limitations of their secondary students’ math abilities with the entry of problems that require flexibility of mind and strong problem-solving skills, there is a realization that teaching students procedures and rules without fostering a deep understanding of the structures and systems which these algorithms help to navigate is actually not preparing our students to be critical problem solvers.




Pictorial Models to Develop Conceptual Understanding
At the elementary math nights, the main part of the program focused on having parents and guardians work through common pictorial models being used at the K-5 levels. Participants rotated through stations dedicated to solving math problems through tape diagrams, array and area models, number bonds and ten-frames, and manipulatives to understand place value. The experience is intended to clarify for parents how these models support student understanding of various math concepts. As often happens when students encounter these models for the first time, light bulbs started to go off for adults when they started to recognize how their own mathematical understanding may or may not be based in a strong conceptual foundation.


One example of this is when parents were asked to use a tape diagram to help them understand how to solve the following 1st grade math problem from EngageNY:


Lucy has 5 pencils. Kim has 7 pencils. How many more pencils does Kim have than Lucy?


Over the course of the evening, parents quickly subtracted to find the answer. When asked how they knew to subtract, many of them struggled with a response. When it comes to elementary problems such as this, it is easy for us as adults to forget how we develop the ability to decode stories such as this into arithmetic problems. This is where models such as tape diagrams are useful in providing a visual reference for students as they develop skills to determine the best, most efficient approach to solve problems.
By providing a means for students to see a physical representation of the abstract problem, models such as these provide a scaffold for students as they transition between the concrete and abstract. Further, the integration of mathematical models incorporates at least 2 of the Mathematical Practice standards, furthering our young people’s development of critical and problem-solving skills: 4) Model[ing] with mathematics and 7) Look[ing] for and mak[ing] use of structure. Exposing parents to these modeling approaches, and providing them the experience and language to discuss these mathematical explorations with their children, is just one way that we can support students and their families in building mathematical understanding.


Collaboration to Build Mathematical Meaning and Understanding
At the secondary level, we have seen shifts in instruction towards more student-centered lessons, which often include moves towards increased collaborative learning. In order for students to be productively engaged with classmates, these transitions require problems which are usually open-ended, with multiple solutions and/or means of arriving at the solutions. These 2 basic shifts in content and student interactions require and develop another two of the 8 Mathematical Practices: 3) Construct a viable argument and critique the reasoning of others and 1) Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.


Given how many of us learned mathematics (taking notes on examples provided by a teacher and then given a handful of problems that allowed us to implement that day’s learning or formula), the groupwork approach to learning and doing mathematics may seem strange. In an era where information and colleagues are at our fingertips, it is essential that we develop students’ abilities to think outside of the proverbial box in conjunction with others. Today’s business leaders are asking for nothing less.


And for those who worry that having students work collaboratively on mathematics reduces their access to rigorous content and skills, here is a great video (with links to others) that demonstrates the high quality of mathematical learning and understanding that can happen. Productive math conversations certainly do not happen by accident, and require ample preparation, but the rewards in terms of student learning are well worth the effort.


Moving Forward
Keeping families in the loop and involved in students’ education should not be limited to single events or to those occasions when major changes are happening in the education landscape. In order to continue the conversation, we encourage districts to continue communicating via language-accessible Parent Engagement nights and newsletters. Additional resources to provide context and language for parents seeking to communicate with their children and schools around math instruction include:
  • GreatKids Milestones: videos of students demonstrating grade-level standards (only K-5 currently, with 6-12 coming soon)
  • Parent Roadmaps to CCSS-Mathematics: brochures listing standards for each grade-level plus 3-year snapshots to show progression of standards (currently K-8, English and Spanish)
  • PTA CCSS Guide to CCSS: Four-page overviews (English and Spanish) of grade-level standards in ELA and Mathematics (K-High School)
Keep the conversations happening, and let us know how they go!
by Celine Liu, Math Specialist