Saturday, August 4, 2012

Journal 10-"Sure you're resilient, but should you have to be?"

This journal article meets NETS 5 (Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership).

Click here to read the article!

Fingal rants about one of the most aggravating drawbacks to technology: when it doesn't work. Teachers have been encouraged to be patient, have a back-up plan, and be adaptable when it comes to technology in the classroom. The author points out that this mindset is hypocritical if teachers are to successfully use technology to its potential in the classroom. Although the author doesn't present a solution to the problem, she challenges tech users and producers to improve by raising awareness about one of technology's most enraging problems.

How does this article relate to you personally?
For instance, in a digital-age where we are becoming more and more dependent on computers and internet speed, consider how helpless you felt the last time there was a power outage. My internet didn't work properly the first 6 months I lived in my current apartment, claimed to be due to "old wiring" by Time Warner. Over the next few months, the back-and-forth between my landlord, Time Warner, and SDG&E was so enraging, I considered moving. Magically, Time Warner futzed with some wire, or box, or something else vague and, either proprietary, or more likely the "technician" tapped it, shook it, and spun on his head three times while whistling "I've Been Working on the Railroad" instead. Anyway, it's been working, knock on wood, for the last few months as I type this now on my laptop in my kitchen wirelessly.
 Maybe that's an extreme example of a technology glitch but I certainly can relate to the inconvenience (to put it mildly) of technology glitches, breakdowns, and other so-called "fatal errors" in the classroom. More and more, schools and educators, as well as society, are integrating technology into their workplace and lifestyles. Undoubtedly, it can make our lives more convenient, efficient, and productive, but Fingal points out the danger of becoming too dependent on technology that is still unreliable. For instance, at many schools, especially at the secondary and college level, students enroll in their courses on-line. In the article, Cale Birk, a principal from Canada, describes his frustration when their system froze just when freshmen were in the computer lab signing up for their courses next semester. I certainly have experienced similar glitches when trying to submit homework on-line. In fact, I believe the computer to the right of me hasn't been usable for the entire term I've been in this class (Education 422).

What's the solution?
As an educator, you have to be one step ahead. I don't just type on my lap-top without making sure my autosave is turned on every 5 minutes. That's just common sense. In the classroom, I, as a teacher, have to be prepared. That goes for teaching in general, not just with respect to technology. I'm not psychic, and I will never know what obstacles are going to be in my way to conduct a successful lesson plan. But I can prepare for common pitfalls. I like to prepare for Murphy's Law--when I drive to work, I expect it take an extra 15 minutes, due to getting lost, not having a place to park, or traffic congestion. (And, boy, do I love when my GPS re-routes me due to detection of a traffic jam up ahead! An example of when technology works!) I use a similar approach to help me think on my feet in the classroom. If I want to do a lesson plan on the circulatory system, for instance, I might have 3 different possible variations prepared so that I can choose the best one for those students and that particular day. One might be a video embedded into a Prezi presentation, but I would also have a PowerPoint presentation of the same thing, backed up on a flash drive. I would also have a handout, a group discussion, an activity planned. This would be way too much for one day, but I would never run out of great ways to teach my students what I had intended. Just like a teacher has to consider how to adapt when a student is absent, a teacher has to be prepared for unexpected technology glitches as well. If I take the same approach to prepare for both, it doesn't seem like such a big deal.

This meets NETS 5: "Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership".

Links to Related Articles:
Ferriter (2012): "Technology is about efficiency".
Ferriter follow-up to technology efficiency article
Oschner article about the future classroom.

Fingal, D. (2012, May). Bloggers beat: Sure, you're resilient, but should you have to be?. Retrieved from

Journal 9-- "First Graders with iPads?"

This journal article is related to NETS 2 ("Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments").

Getting and Swainey describe how teachers can use iPads as a teaching tool in the classroom. In this article, an experiment at Hilltop Elementary in Minnesota is described. First graders, who were identified as being "at-risk" readers, utilized iPads as learning tools to teach, engage, and excite students to read. The teachers were surprised at how easy it was to manage proper use of iPads in the classroom. Several reading apps were used to get kids excited about reading. The experiment was successful, the "at-risk" students increased their reading levels and became excited about reading.

How did the teacher use iPads to improve reading proficiency levels for her first graders?
It's important to note that the teacher used the iPad as a tool and did not rely solely on the iPad to teach the first graders how to read. First, strict classroom management rules were spelled out so students understood what was expected of them in properly using the iPads. They were not allowed to walk around with them (iPads break very easily when dropped; I know--it's already happened to me once. This can be very expensive to fix!), and teacher aides were at each station to monitor proper iPad use. Students who could not follow the rules lost iPad priveleges. Students enjoyed using the iPads so much that they followed the rules very obediently; they didn't want to lose iPad time! The teacher then used Apps for sight-word recognition (K-3 Sight Words), fluency (Talking Tom), comprehension (Reading A-Z), and vocabulary (Kid Whiteboard). The teacher then engaged the students and checked for proficiency through group discussions and interactive communication lessons. For instance, one activity the first graders particularly enjoyed was recording themselves reading out loud (using a Voice Memos app) and then swapping iPads with a buddy. Then, they practiced following along with the reading while listening to their buddy's narrative.

How can I use iPads in my classroom to teach high school science?
I was a little skeptical before reading this article about allowing high school students to use iPads. How can I ensure proper use of iPads and make sure students are staying on-task? I don't need a class of experts at playing Angry Birds. But, if first-graders can do it, then so can high school students. By playing out very clear groundrules and expectations for the students before giving them access to the iPads, a lot of discipline issues can be avoided. In addition, use of the ­iPad is a privelege that can easily be lost if a student misuses it. There are many apps useful for teaching biology. I looked up a few and listed them below. The "Education" section of the apps for iPad on the Apple Store was fun to peruse. I would love the opportunity to try them out with my future students!­

Cell and Cell Structure--an app where students can learn about cells through interactive modules, games, and quizzes. 

Ted Talks--this app allows you to use all of the "Ted Talks", entertaining and informative lectures pertaining to education. More useful for the teacher than the student but a great way for a teacher to prepare for lessons.

Star Walk--An interactive app that allows you to identify constellations, stars, and planets very easily. Just point your iPad at the sky, and "Star Walk" will tell you what you're looking at!

Getting, S. and Swainey, K. (2012, August). First graders with 
ipads?. Retrieved from

Journal 8--Adaptive Technology

This article meets NETS 4 (Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility). 
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is any type of communication, either oral, non-oral, or through assitive technology devices. It addresses the needs of those with communication disorders, ranging from cerebral palsy, to autism, to those with language, speech and hearing impairments. The goal is to enable all people, including those with disabilities, to 1) communicate effectively and 2) to communicate quickly. AAC devices help those in need to be able to better communicate with others. AAC includes both unaided communication systems, such as: body language, gestures and sign langauge; and also aided communication, which requires the use of tools to assist in communication.

Text-to-Speech Devices:
Low-Tech Tool:
For those with visual impairments, there are a myraid of audio devices that easily convert text to oral speech. Students who suffer from blindness, from instance can now basically convert any text they want to their own "books on tape". There are several ways to do this, and it is becoming increasingly easier. For instance, Librovox offers a public database of a vast libarary of audio books available, including all the classics, like Shakespeare. Audible, an Amazon company, is another source of audiobooks which can be directly downloaded to your iPhone, iPod, or other device. Almost any text can now be converted to audio, very easily, using free apps compitable with a variety of listening devices, computers, and the internet. One example is Odiogo, a free, web-based service that converts text on your blog to audio. I simply added my e-mail and blog web address to sign up, and Odiogo created an audio-to-text widget that converts all of the text on my blog to audio at the convenient push of a button.

High-Tech Tool:
Zygo is a company that specializes in alternative communication and assistive technology. I particularly liked the "Allora", a translator that converts words typed on a keyboard to an automated, audio voice. It also has a recording device for students who might want to preserve their orally-produced statement, such as one with a progressive neurodegenerative disease. Allora also offers "word prediction", which guesses what word is being after only entering the first few letters of the word. This feature boasts reducing keystrokes to 50% to increase speed of communication. This summer, during on of my observations in a mild-to-moderate special-needs classroom, I actually witnessed a 7th-grade student with high-functioning autism use this device to communicate with his teachers.

Input devices allows users with special needs to "input" data into their computers more easily. These devices include: joysticks, switches, modified keyboards, trackballs, and modified mice, just to name a few. These devices have been modified to make it easier for users with various disabilities to utilize. Keyboards modifications include enlarged keys, trackballs may be easier to control, and a modified mouse may not require as much pressure to control for users suffering from muscular or neurological disabilities. These are just some, out of many, types of devices that there are available for students with special needs.

Hardware tool:
Headmouse Extreme is a modified mouse that is designed to assist those with limited mobillity. An optical senser mounted to the top of the computer senses the user's head movements. The movements are translated to the mouse on the computer so the user can control where the mouse goes with his head.

Software tool:
An example of a software tool is 2+2, math software for students with visual impairments, designed by Techmatrix. Geared to teach basic math and pre-algebra skills to elementary-age students, 2+2 comes with spoken text and large print. It is also switch/scan accessible so it can easily interface with your hardware input device. In addition, the font size, style, color, and background can be formatted to the students' specific needs.

Further resources:

·     AAC Institute

Please check out Mike's blog and Melanie's blog for more great information on Adaptive Technology!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Journal 7: My Personal Learning Network

This journal article meets NETS 5.

1. A "personal learning network" (PLN) is an on-line network of contacts that can be a valuable resource for today's educator. By using Twitter, School 2.0, the Educator's PLN, and Diigo, I've created my own PLN. This has helped me connect with other teachers that have similar interests. I can virtually chat with anyone from all over the globe using a PLN. As a new teacher, this is very informative in helping me develop new ideas and keep current on topics in education, technology, and biology, the subject I plan to teach. In addition to virtual chatting to exchange ideas, educators can also exchange links to direct colleagues to resources they've found useful. As a teacher, I will be able to collect a database of useful biology links, keep current on news in biology, and get great lesson plan ideas. Once in the classroom, I can engage students in an on-line chat setting to foster group discussions, study groups, or help students after school by answering questions quickly.

2. Using an account for only educational and professional purposes (@biorachelteach), I use Twitter to connect with other educators. Twitter is a web-based social networking tool that allows you to directly message others of your choice, individuals or groups. You can also participate in chats of interest, such as #edchat or #ntchat. I selected people to follow by searching for groups, topics and people with similar interests, such as #biology and #teacher. I'm following 72 people in my network, composed of colleagues from my 422 class and other educators. I'm also following several biological science groups to stay up-to-date on what's current in the field. My favorites are @BiologyEdu, @ScienceEduc, @NSTA (National Science and Technology Association), and @NatGeo.

I also participated in the New Teacher Chat, #ntchat, on Wednesday, August 1st at 5 pm (PDT). This very fast-paced chat was packed full of useful information for new educators. Using HootSuite, a free, web-based platform to help manage your tweets and Twitter chats, I was able to re-read or pause posts during the chats to get the most information out of the deluge of tweets that occurred during the hour on #ntchat. I was able to connect with 2 other biology teachers, one who is a new teacher like me, and the other, a veteran biology teacher looking to help out new teachers. The veteran bio teacher even offered to send me useful biology teaching links to give me ideas for the classroom. In addition to making new connections, I also was referred to several notable links, including a news story from National Geographic about the ongoing and illegal hunting of dolphins and whales. I found the chat a bit overwhelming but manageable with HootSuite. The pros definitely outweigh the cons, however, as I learned many new educational tidbits.

3. I used Diigo, a social bookmarking tool, to make an archived library of useful science and educational articles. These articles can be shared with other educators. In addition, I can search for articles others have saved on Diigo and add them to my library. Each article is "tagged" with keywords, relevant to that article. These keywords help others locate the articles when doing searches. It also helps me to connect to others interested in similar keywords. I selected ten people and four groups to follow on Diigo, based on shared similar interests, specifically education and biology. I can easily peruse articles they have archived in their library and then add them to mine. One nice feature of Diigo is that it recommends new groups, people, or articles to follow, based on interests. Diigo can direct me to new groups of relevance I wasn't aware of. My favorite group is "Biology Teacher".

4. I joined the digital discussion forums: The Educator's PLN. Both are on-line forums for educators to exchange ideas and network. Each has groups I can join, educators I can chat with, and areas where I can explore and upload relevant articles and videos. The Educator's PLN leads #edchat on Twitter as well. On the Educator's PLN, I explored some of the links discussed in the "Blog" section. Since I'm currently using Weebly to compose a website on CyberSafety, I read the article about using Weebly, which gave me more information about how best to use Weebly to suit my educational needs. The article includes a link for more information about Weebly for Educators as well as some links to other sites educators have created using Weebly.

Journal 6: Ten Reasons to Get Rid of Homework

'“I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.”' photo (c) 2010, Kate Ter Haar - license:

 This journal article meets NETS 1.

In this article, Spencer advocates getting rid of homework completely and focusing on using time at school to do everything school-related. Homework should be optional since it usually does not help engage students in the material or teach them the material. Students and parents can begin to resent the teacher who assigns too much homework. Since children have many extracurricular activities and responsibilities in today's modern society, homework should be eradicated.

What is your personal opinion on homework?
I don't agree with sending students home with busy work just to give them homework. However, independent work is a critical skill that students must learn in all subjects since they will be expected to know how to work productively alone in their future careers. In addition, math and science is a very tough subject. Students need lots of practice on math problems to solidify what they've learned in class. Biology is a subject that requires a lot of reading, and using class-time for such an activity would be wasteful. After students learn new material, they will need to spend some time reflecting, studying, and taking notes to internalize the new information. I like to assign reflective essays pertaining to biology topics to ensure they are learning the material in a way that's meaningful for them. Although students don't necessarily need to do independent work at home, they still need to do this work to really master the material they learn at school. Even though 6 hours a day seems like a long time, each student will only spend about an hour in my class each day. That is just not enough time to master all the standards they are expected to know. 

How can homework be designed to be more engaging and exciting for students?
At the school where I currently teach, Fusion Academy, we have eliminated "homework" completely. We specialize in educating students who have had poor experiences in the public school system and are at risk for dropping out. They have not been successful in doing homework in the past. Much of this, I've observed, is a lack of students knowing how to do homework. Instead, we assign each student 1 hour of "Homework Cafe" for each class they take. After each class, they retreat to the Homework Cafe where they complete their independent work. Then, they sign out with each teacher so he can check over the assignment and make sure it was completed correctly. When the student goes home at the end of the day, she has no homework hanging over her head, leaving more time for extracurricular activities and family time. Students thrive with a more guided approach to doing homework.   

In addition, I strive to make my homework assignments for my students meaningful. They get to decide on topics they want to write about. Having control over their homework gives them a sense of ownership, and students tend to be more committed to producing good work. In addition, selecting topics of interest to them helps engage them in the material since they are researching topics of interest to them personally. Making the homework assignments interesting and applicable to each student creates enthusiasm, making the assignment much easier for the student to complete. 

Spencer, J. T. (2011, September 19). Ten reasons to get rid of homework (and five alternatives). Retrieved from

Article Link

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Journal 5: Lego robotics: stem sport of the mind

This article meets NETS1-3.
Article Link
In this article, Gura describes how to excite students about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by using robotics. Teachers have been using "Lego Robotics" to teach science and math curricula to students in a new and innovative way. Instead of the traditional method of teaching through lectures, homework, and tests, some schools have adopted a project-based approach by using robotics in the classroom. Students get excited about math and science by focusing on building robots to dance, travel down a hallway, or even take measurements. In order to successfully build their robots, students must understand and apply basic math skills, physics, and other curriculum standards. Because students are so engaged in the hands-on activities, the learning comes naturally. In addition, they are exposed to integration of various subjects, such as science, engineering and math. Also, there is a valid connection to the real-world since engineers currently build robots using similar approaches. Robots are being used more and more in our mainstream society for medicine, research, and other fields as well. This means that students are exposed to possible future career paths as well.

How could I use this in my classroom?

I could potentially use robotics to integrate physics, math, and biology in a fun and exciting way. For instance, students might have to design a robot to enter an environment inhospitable for humans and collect temperature readings and soil samples for further analysis. I could connect this to a real-life setting by discussing how robots are currently being used on Mars to explore whether life may have once existed there. Then, the students could pick a local, environmental, restorative project to try their robots out on. For instance, we could volunteer to restore chaparral in Rose Canyon by takin soil samples at measured intervals with our robots to evaluate pH and metal contaminants. There are a myriad of ways robots could be used to engage and excite students as well as integrate several core subjects and apply them to real-life situations.

I don't have access to robots. How can I use this idea to excite and engage students in my classroom?

You don't necessarily have to use robots to engage students with hands-on activities, excite them about real-life problems, and integrate varied curricula. The bigger picture is valuable: use a project-based approach to teach curricula in a new and exciting way. As a future biology teacher, I love the idea of teaching by doing. For instance, I can envision teaching a "Biotechnology" course to high school students where they could learn about biology, using techniques that real scientists use. As an example, students pick a human disease to research. They clone a mutant piece of DNA into a plasmid using restriction enzymes and PCR (polymerase-chain reaction). Then, they tranform the DNA into bacteria, isolate the DNA, and check the DNA to make sure it's correct, using electrophoresis and DNA sequencing. They then can report their findings to the class. There are a myriad of ways teachers can use this project-based approach in the classroom. The advantages to this way of teaching are endless. The biggest advantage, in my opinion, is that students are excited about what they are learning. If they're passionate about what they're learning, the learning happens naturally, and students push themselves harder. This paves the way to creating life-long learners, my ultimate future goal as a teacher.

An example of a class of student-built robots dancing in unison!

Gura, M. (2012, August). Lego robotics: Stem sport of the mind. Retrieved from

Links to learn more:
Lego Mindstorms

Friday, July 20, 2012

Journal 4: "Join the Flock" and "Enhance your Twitter Experience"

'Twitter activity as flock of pigeons' photo (c) 2009, Patrick Dinnen - license:  

Ferguson, H. (June/July, 2010). Join the flock!. Retrieved from

McClintock Miller, S. (June/July, 2010). Enhance your twitter experience.. Retrieved from 

These 2 articles pertain to NETS 5: “Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership”.

Article Link
These 2, short articles explain how teachers can develop their PLNs (professional learning networks) by learning how to effectively use Twitter to network with other educators from around the world. Twitter can be an overwhelming tool to navigate but both of these articles are packed with information to make it easier to effectively use Twitter. Twitter can be used to connect to other educators with similar interests, follow subjects and topics of interests by using hashtags (#), and learn from others by examining lists they’ve created and asking questions (either directly to a specific person or just the general Twitter community).

How will I use this information to help me develop a PLN?
I’ve already created my profile in Twitter, which is important, because it describes my specific interests as a high school biology teacher. This allows other educators with similar interests to find me and follow me. I’ve also searched for other educators in this field, using hashtags, such as #biology, and am following them. I’ve created lists to help organize who I’m following by topic. For instance, I’ve created an EDUC422 class so I can look at all the Tweets from only members of my class. I can then share and “retweet” topics of particular interest to me.

The 2nd article goes into further detail about how to use Twitter. Organizing my Twitter account is very important in order to manage and sort through all the information way in an efficient manner. McClintock Miller suggests using HootSuite or TweetDeck on your desktop. I also will manage Twitter and my other social networking sites on Symbaloo. Resources can be shared via a bookmarklet in HootSuite to send to a specific list (like a class that I’m teaching). I’m very interested in exchanging ideas, resources, and information with other biology educators using Twitter. What attracts me most to this resource is the potential to get a specific question answered in a timely fashion from a huge network of knowledgeable people. It also seems like a great idea to enrich the classroom with creative, innovative, and exciting activities and projects.

What are some of the disadvantages to Twitter?
The biggest disadvantage is that it takes time to effectively manage all the information coming into Twitter. It takes time to build up relationships within your PLN. The payoffs seem huge but it does take a conscious effort on the teacher’s part to manage her Twitter account on a regular basis. The 2nd drawback, perhaps, is privacy. Anyone has access to my tweets. Because of this, I’ve created a separate account, distinct from my personal Twitter account which I use more for social and recreational purposes. In addition, I’m very professional about the nature of my tweets. My rule of thumb is, if my mom can read it, it’s okay to publish on the internet.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Journal 3: "Upside down and inside out"

Fulton, K. (2012, June/July). Upside down and inside out. Retrieved from

This article corresponds to NETS-T #1, "facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity".

Article Link

In this article, a new strategy for teaching, the "flipped classroom" is described. Instead of lecturing content in the classroom and assigning independent work for homework, teachers assign the lecture for homework and then have the students work on their projects and assignments in class. Lectures are on-line or available as a DVD to students. This technique may have been generated in response to recent findings that lecturing is the least effective way to learn (see links below). The idea is that learning in class is more effective since students are more engaged in group discussions, projects, and activities. Teachers mediate these discussions and project and assist individuals with help on material.

Question 1:
How can I use the "flipped classroom" in my classroom?
High school biology is ideal for utilizing the flipped classroom model. For instance, I might send students home with an assignment to watch my lecture on DNA replication. To ensure they watch the video and understood the content, they would also fill out a worksheet based on the lecture. During class, we might start with a discussion of the lecture, where I ask them questions to check for understanding. Then, I would break the class into groups to work on a project where they have to build a model of a DNA strand undergoing replication. Each group would get a rubric to outline the directions and requirements for the project. At the end of the class, each group gets to present their model.

Question 2:
What are the cons to a flipped classroom?
Not all students have access to a computer at home. I have to ensure that each student is equipped with the necessary tools to watch the lectures and complete the assignments at home. Students without a computer or internet access can be provided with a DVD. Perhaps, low income students can be set up in a computer lab at the school library.
A second draw-back to the flipped classroom is that it may be more difficult to keep all students on the same page. Without a face-to-face presentation, the instructor must develop other techniques to make sure all students actually understand the material presented in the virtual lecture. Another way to address this would be to leave an area for e-mails and comments in the url where the lecture is available.

Links to Articles assessing how well students learn from lectures:

Journal 2: School 2.0 Reflection Tool

This journal article meets NETS 4.
"I provide students with multiple and varied opportunities to demonstrate their learning, and I make data-based decisions to customize and adapt future learning opportunities aligned with content and technology standards."

Article Link

I investigated how teachers and schools use data-based assessments to meet their overall teaching goals and objectives (NETS-T #2). To summarize, this article discusses using a variety of assessments, analysis, and then coordinating to discuss results. The hope is that by streamlining a data-mining technique, teachers and schools can bridge the gap between where they want students to be, and where they currently are. The article then examines three schools that are examples of "success stories", where such data-driven assessments have been used to transform the schools and help their students achieve higher standards.

How can assessments help teachers to teach their students more effectively?
After the tests are administered, teachers must be instructed on how to analyze the results. These results are instrumental in identifying what standards have not been adequately taught, which students are struggling with specific skills (e.g. identifying a student with a learning disability, or helping a student catch up to her appropriate reading level). Teachers can meet to discuss results and plan how to revise their lesson plans and teaching strategies to help struggling students. It can also help teachers group students together based on proficiency (such as reading) levels.

What are the potential pitfalls?
There is a lot of time and effort involved to administer tests, analyze results, and then meet as a school to interpret results and decide how to act. For instance, Thompson Elementary School (Houston, Texas) has weekly faculty meetings just to review data and plan strategies to decide how to proceed. The data that results from school-wide assessments are not very helpful if teachers and administrators don't take the time to interpret them and decide how to adjust their curricula and teaching styles accordingly. In addition, for assessments to be useful, they must be administered several times a year, a time-consuming process. Many teachers and students are already overwhelmed by the number of standardized tests given throughout the year. Schools must be in agreement of how to use and analyze the data. Teachers and administrators may not be willing (or may not know how) to put the extra time in to use the results yielded from the tests.

Personally, data-driven assessments seem very useful in assessing how well the students are learning from the teacher. The school where I currently teach (Fusion Academy) uses MAP testing to individually assess each students' strengths and weaknesses. We have regular staff meetings to train teachers how to use the data from the tests to adapt our teaching style to each student's unique needs. It's been a time-consuming process but will ultimately be very useful in customizing our lesson plans to each students' ideal learning style. For instance, I've discovered some of my students in my science classes are below their grade level in reading proficiency. This explains why some may not do readings I assign for homework. I have since been able to adjust by giving them alternative texts or supplementary handouts, which both help them understand the concepts I'm trying to teach. In addition, I might focus on integrating reading comprehension and vocabulary skills in my science classes in order to help bridge the gap for my students.