EdTech, Valuing Culture and Fulfilling “Every Tribe and Nation”


The critical nature of building relationship with students has been an overarching theme to my identity as a teacher this school year. My heart felt burdened with an insurmountable task as the first day approached in August, and it continues to dominate my end-of-the-day reflection into the spring.

No, you can’t just go sit in the office today.
Yes, I hear everything you say. Even under your breath. (Because I think its important to hear more of what you’re saying than just x=4)
Yes, its breaks my heart that its not even halfway through the quarter and you’ve already decided you won’t try.
No, I won’t just go away because you obviously have enough people in your life that just ignore you because its easier.

The ethnicity of my students has not really changed since I started 6 years ago, but this year I perceive that many of my students see me as a the white guy that cannot or will not understand them.

Do you ever feel that?

I don’t believe its an accident. The title of this blog, Evangelizing the [digital] Natives, is really about the importance of teaching and training technology use even to the generation often perceived as “getting it,” but tonight I do want to talk about Jesus, ethnicity, and mission.

If you’re a teacher that’s a Christian, you must believe that just as He has with your spouse, your family, your friends, and your co-workers, God has placed you and those students together. And its about more than just math. (or English, science, art, history, personal finance, etc). The objective is different depending on the kids you get any given year, but the mission is always about God’s Kingdom.

In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John write about a vision of heaven that he receives from Jesus. Sure, a lot of it is symbolic, but surely this is not:

9After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

This post is not about prayer in schools or religious freedom. It’s about acting intentionally for “all tribes and peoples and languages” because that’s what God says heaven will look like (And so we should practice the same here).

It’s February, Black History Month, so our student news in the morning is featuring short interviews of local African Americans talking about success. By default, many of my students tune out the Star News and would rather just talk to classmates around them or bury their face in their phone, but I’ve made a very obvious point of emphasis during this month to focus attention on Star News.

Today, I got this question: “Mr. Baker, why do you care so much about this?” [Yes! He noticed I cared!] To be honest, I don’t even remember my answer, but I love that he noticed. It’s more logical for English teachers or history teachers to openly care about race because they must discuss its role in literature and history. It’d be weird NOT to address it, but I think many STEM teachers (and students) view their subjects as transcendent of it.
You can imagine a teacher saying something like, “I don’t care if you’re black, white, brown, purple, or green – you’ve gotta solve an equation.”

Yes, that’s a true statement, but the context of that truth is different because of the difference in how my students interact with the general culture. I don’t have any lessons on African number systems, or projects on famous African-American mathematicians, but I think doing “culture” that way would do my kids a disservice. I polled them recently on if they wanted to do a “Black History Month” themed math lesson and the summary of their responses was a resounding, “Eh.”

When we are culturally responsive one unit at a time, or as an obvious add-on, it continues to strengthen a disconnect between my students’ life experience and “real” math.

My students don’t need more lessons on the contributions of Benjamin Banneker to geometry, they need more tools to address, communicate, and solve the problems of their community.

Your use (or lack thereof) of technology in your class can do a lot to sculpt students’ self-perception, their outlook on math relevance and their capacity for future success.

I think schools with high percentage of racial minorities need to be the MOST innovative with their use of technology in the classroom, because I don’t know about you, but the only time I see brown children doing cool stuff in the media with technology is when Bill and Melinda Gates are posing for photo-ops. Schools with high-needs students MUST make bold, creative budget and resource decisions so that kids can stop waiting for the next (grant funded) savior and know that having or not having is often about intentional budget choices

You must be MORE uncomfortable with letting the kids use technology when you are MOST afraid of it getting trashed. You’ll probably be one of many adults that was highly protective of the new technology around them, but you might be the first to let them kick the tires. Show them how to care for it, and have consequences when they aren’t, but let them USE it.

Leverage social media and Web 2.0 tools to give your students an audience for their work. As far as interactions with my students, i think the prevailing attitude is that what they say or do is only important as an athlete or musician – that their only worth to the Internet is highlight reels and music videos. This is true for any kid, but tell a kid that you’re so proud of the work you know they’re going to do that you want to put it on the Internet and watch the pride or shock in their reaction.

You’re in the classroom you’re in with the kids you have for more than just teaching your subject and giving tests. You’re all there to work to the greater glory of God, and you’re there as the teacher to nurture an environment that reflects God’s will for His creation as “all tribes and peoples and languages.” Let’s use education technology as a tool in service to that.


5 Reasons NOT To Use Remind 101

Remind 101 is a website and mobile app with one singular purpose – sending text or email alerts to your subscribers’ cellphones or inboxes. Its used mainly in an educational setting, but there’s no reason any organization with a need for quickly distributing information to its members could not utilize Remind 101.

We’re hosting a Remind 101 session in our building this Friday during our half-day PD, so I wanted to get ahead of those that may be curious and give you some reasons NOT to use Remind 101.

1. You don’t have a smartphone. Or a tablet. Or a computer.

Oh, you do have at least one of those? Nevermind. There are many ways to access and send Remind 101 messages! I don’t have a smartphone, but I use the website and the app on my iPad equally.

2. You don’t know how to write an email.

Sending a Remind 101 alert is as easy as sending a short email message. In some respects, its easier, because you do not have to address it to individual recipients. You just click on the class, type the message, and it goes to every student that has subscribed to that class. Even BETTER than email, you can schedule the message and control when it gets sent. I usually type my messages during class, but set it up to send during passing time or after school.

3. You don’t want students to have your cellphone number. (or you don’t want to be responsible for knowing your students’ numbers).

NOT A PROBLEM! Students sign themselves up using the class code you provide and Remind 101 takes care of all the phone numbers. The only thing you see are your students’ names and YOU never even have to enter your number.

4. You want your students to be responsible for ALWAYS writing down the homework off of your chalk/white/SMARTboard.

Sending reminders and alerts to their cellphones will train them to be lazy. Just make sure you’ll hold yourself to that same standard when it comes to your own text and email alerts. I get the responsibility angle, but does that mean we SHOULDN’T use a technology at our disposal? Honestly, if I could get a text alert every Tuesday night at about 10 o’clock to make sure I put the trash at the curb, it would change my life.

5. Homework is really just a tool to punish kids who refuse to do it.

Sending a reminder to a kid’s phone would increase the chance they might study on any given night, and you won’t be able to triumphantly enter a zero into the gradebook the next day.

Our students look at their cellphones ALL DAY LONG. We compete all day long for attention with Instagram, Twitter, and text messages from family and friends. Remind 101 is an easy to use tool that puts your class information right in front of their faces.

DeWALT Mobile Pro iPad Calculator – Demon, or Delight?

Note: I have no affiliation with DeWalt – I just love calculators!

This is either the best thing to ever happen to tech school, shop/engineering courses, and applied mathematics, and maker spaces or it will go largely ignored in education.

You have to choose sides with the DEWALT Mobile Pro Calculator – do you think its necessary and helpful for your students to memorize formulas, conversions, and common reference measurements and values, or would you rather take the memorization time and errors away so you can spend more time doing real (ugly, scary, student-centered) stuff? [I know, like I really gave you a choice, eh?]


There is so much loaded in this app! It opens right to the main content screen and you find a scrolling menu on the lefthand side that seems to have all of the calculating options.

“Hmm. Pretty extensive,” you think. “Wonder when I’ll get to the in-app purchases.”

And then you keep scrolling. And keep scrolling. I wasn’t going to list all of the functions you get for FREE in the app because it’s a long list, but look at this!

  • Loan Compare
  • Notches/Holes, Joists
  • Notches/Holes, Studs
  • Wall Opening
  • Rough Opening
  • Studs
  • Volumes, Various Shapes
  • Areas, Various Shapes
  • Perimeters, Various Shapes
  • Pythagorean Theorem
  • Gross Profit Margin
  • Cost of Acquisition
  • Marketing ROI
  • Trim, Casing
  • Trim, Crown Molding
  • Trim, Running
  • Odd Shape, L
  • Odd Shape, U
  • Odd Shape, Multiple

The calc has templates AND overviews built in – Your students can pick up the concepts behind the templates along the way

  • Roof Gable
  • Stairs Landing Height
  • Baluster Spacing
  • Common Differences, Rafter
  • Rake Wall
  • Roof Underlayment
  • Rafter, Common and Jack
  • Roof Hip/Valley
  • Deck Footing Size
  • Roof Conversions
  • Deck Boards
  • Deck Load
  • Roof Shingles/Square
  • Roof Dormer Ridge Board
  • Stairs
  • Ohm’s Law
  • Floor Joist Span
  • Total Gross Wages
  • Deck Post
  • Calculator
  • Concrete Slab
  • Drywall, Total LF
  • Paint
  • Area Conversion
  • Auto Lease
  • Auto Loan
  • Concrete Bags
  • Date Conversion
  • Discount
  • Fuel Efficiency
  • Gravel/Stone
  • Length Conversion
  • Mass Conversion
  • Mileage Reimbursement
  • Mortgage
  • Compound Annual Growth
  • Percent Change
  • Sales Tax
  • Savings

[You can do it! Almost there!]

  • Seller’s Net
  • Temperature Conversion
  • Volume Conversion
  • Energy Conversion
  • Force Conversion
  • Power Conversion
  • Pressure Conversion
  • Velocity Conversion

This list does not even include the more specialized electrical, business, concrete, carpentry, landscaping, etc packs that you can add on.


Much like when students still need to know what to put into formulas on exams when they have formula sheets (statistics, geometry), whoever uses this calculator must still have a brain and know what they’re entering into the template and why.

If your goal is to assess students’ memorization of facts and figures and hand calculations, then this app isn’t for you. I were teaching engineering, electronics, or technical courses, I without a doubt would want my students to download this calculator to their favorite devices. If you are a math or science teacher that wants to explore more project-based learning, this app would answer a ton of your “what do we need to know” questions. If you aim to get your students solving real problems and applying real principals to their problem-solving toolbox, you should give this a try.

At the very least, download it for yourself! (or your favorite tradesman, handyman, or do-it-yourselfer)

The 21st Century Economy Will Be Urban, High Tech, and Green – Alex Steffen – Harvard Business Review

Cities rose in the beginning of last century to consolidate resources and increase opportunity – according to this article, they’ll rise again in the coming decades for the same reason as the world goes post-automobile.

What impact will this have on education?

I see a shift away from “everyone jump on the school bus in the suburbs and ride to our park-like campus” that is prevalent in the US, but NOT a return to neighborhood, urban schools. As education shifts away from suburbs, the hole will be filled online in virtual schools – some “local,” others distant.

The 21st Century Economy Will Be Urban, High Tech, and Green – Alex Steffen – Harvard Business Review.

(Effective) Teacher Technology Use Is Growing (INFOGRAPHIC)

A buddy of mine, +David Hallmon, forwarded this infographic from onlineuniversities.com to me today and it had some points that really grabbed my interest.

1. 68% of students reported in 2012 that their teachers used technology effectively.

It doesn’t go into what technology proficiencies made for “effective,” or at what level, but that seems like an encouraging number.

2. Of teachers surveyed, 90% have a laptop or PC in the classroom.

This astounds me that is NOT at least 99%, but good for perspective, I guess. Even on days you’re upset that your favorite tech tool isn’t behaving, it could be WORSE.

3. 3 in 4 teachers say that tech allows them to reinforce and expand on content, motivate students, and accommodate multiple learning styles.

Is it statistically appropriate, then to link my first point, and this one and assume that of the ~75% of teachers that report these benefits, only 7% aren’t doing it well? (Probably not, but it would be an interesting test of significance to run)

4. In a study of AP Calc students, the half in a #flipclass model scored an average of more than half a point higher on the 5 point AP exam scale

I feel like my most effective days teaching in AP Stats are the days we clarify misconceptions and reinforce what is understood. Giving lectures, which is something my kids DID ask for more of, seems like a bit of a time waste for kids that I know can and will mostly read/watch when I tell them to.

I have a hunch that at least a segment of these higher AP scores are because the brighter kids benefited more from the self-paced learning afforded by the video model, but it’s significant enough for me to give it a shot next week when we return from Spring Break.