‘Reflections From ASTE: YKSD Students and Teachers Present on Engaging Math Program’ by Nuri Johnsen

I had the pleasure of attending the Alaska Society for Technology in Education (ASTE) conference in Anchorage a few weeks ago. This conference brought together speakers from all over the country and state to discuss technology in education. It was my first time attending and it will be on the calendar every year from now on. I listened to Fredrick Lane talk about cyber-ethics and the issues facing educators now, I learned about all the free resources that are available with Cyber.org and I had the pleasure of attending a presentation from two teachers in the Yukon-Koyukuk School District (YKSD) on how they use FLIP! to stay in communication with the students throughout their vast school district.

YKSD teachers Simon Huff and Andrew Bellamy were joined by students to present on making math engaging in their district.

Simon Huff is the Math Specialist hired by YKSD through the MACSS grant (Math and Computer Science for Students). Simon facilitates math professional learning communities (PLCs) throughout the district. He may be based in Fairbanks; however, he travels to all the schools in the district monthly to bring professional development to teachers and work with students. Along with Simon, Andrew Bellamy, a teacher from the village of Hughes, presented “Engaging Students in Mathematics With Weekly Video Challenges.” Simon and Andrew brought with them four students from villages within YKSD. Sidney McCarty, Ethan Bellamy, Payton Bifelt and Clayton Bergman joined their teachers in sharing what they have learned and experienced.

YKSD students helped lead a ‘math challenge’ for participants during the presentation.

Simon shared that he started using FLIP! to bring challenges to students weekly because he knew that he needed a way to connect with them across the miles. The students receive a problem on a Monday, and they must work through it—with partners or without—and submit their response to their teacher by the end of the week. They must create a video on FLIP! to not only answer the question but also show and explain their thinking. He had examples from previous challenges to show how it worked and then he had one of the students tell us our challenges for the day. All the adults in the room took the challenge. I happened to be sitting with Ethan and Payton during the session and they were kind enough to walk me through how to do this and how to submit my response to Simon when we were finished. There was a buzz of excitement in the room when everyone was working on the problem and getting it submitted before the time ran out. Simon showed me how to post with different graphics and make it personalized. All other students were circulating in the room to help the other educators also. All were excellent teachers and obviously knew exactly what they were doing.

This presentation shows that even though the miles may separate the schools, students and teachers, technology can bring them together for consistent check ins and work (and maybe just a little fun). The students showed that they could create and solve problems that don’t just have one way to get to the answer. Collaboration, discussion, distance, and technology all working together to create valuable learning experiences.