Saturday, May 28, 2011

Candle Burn Time: Dan Anderson

Dan Meyer continues to be a big hit with me. The other day he posted a Vimeo video by Dan Anderson that you can use to teach math. Divergent thinking at it's best. Remind you of 9th grade science class? I continue to post these great teaching videos to my math wiki. Hope you use it, join and add yours.

Large Candle - Stop Motion from Dan Anderson on Vimeo.

I'm Just a Book: Joyce Valenza

Joyce Valenza is an exceptional source of information and entertainment for teachers. Check out this video produced by her kids about the poor forgotten book. It is a quite common feeling among the people trying to use technology that their students read less novels and access books for research less as well. Here is one kids view on the subject!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Math video from Dan Meyer and NatScivideos: Pendulum Motion

Check out these two great videos to use in science and math class. The first is from Dan Meyer, the second from NatScivideos.

Height v. Time from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

Standardized Testing In Texas (via Joe Bower's blog)

Thanks Joe for the heads up to this video. What do you think? Anything to do with education in Canada? Your country?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Technology is still the wrong answer: David Warlick

My colleagues and I are making a video whose purpose is to celebrate the success we've had with our "technology community interest group". Our goal for the group is for students to use higher order thinking and be knowledge producers in their learning. You will notice we don't even mention the words technology or computers in our goal.

In order to assess how we have been doing at achieving that goal, I asked my kids to respond on video and on their blogs to the question "can you describe a time in our classroom when you were required to think as opposed to memorize, research or consume information". Their answers were interesting. I asked them to record their thoughts on our class blog. I have included a few of them here.

Carter writes:

"This year we tried to make our class a thinking classroom. One of the assignments that we did to think instead of consume, research and memorize is math at the math. I had to think at the mall because we had to estimate real prices and find the closest prices at the mall to the ones we estimated. We got to go to the mall and find prices of products listed on our paper. Math at the mall was a very life-like assignment, it was also very fun."

Lexi writes

"Today I am doing my blog post about an activity where we had to think in school. This year we did blogging to help with our writing skills. I chose to do my blog about drugs. I had to think about where I was going to get my information, I also had to think about ways to improve my writing. I think blogging really helped me this year because we got to choose what topic we wanted to do and what we were really interested in. I thought blogging was a good way to practice our writing skills instead of sitting in class all day long and having to learn about something no one cares about, while the teacher gives us instructions. I felt in blogging we had more freedom to write about whatever we wanted. "

and Tanner

"This year we did a lot of projects where we needed to think. My favorite one was project business. We learned all about running a business. Also everybody had to think about lots of stuff such as what business you wanted to run, how much you wanted to charge, etc. all with a partner so you also had to think about how to share the workload, as well as the profit. It took a lot of thinking to get the business up and running successfully but it was the most rewarding thing we did."

Most students responded by talking about their favorite activity which involved thinking, often the most recent project we did. I think I would have gotten better responses if we had reflected on this question in writing more often during the year. The other thing that you will notice is that none of them mention technology in their answers. This may be an indication that even though they used technology in these projects, they did not necessarily associate thinking with technology.

I was reading David Warlick's post "Technology is still the wrong answer". He claims that great student learning is:
  • responsive
  • fueled by questions
  • provokes conversation
  • is rewarded with currency
  • inspires personal investment
  • is guided by safely made mistakes
I would certainly agree with his blog post and the kids posts would support that. Our google doc of higher order thinking activities in our class do not all feature technology front and center.

I am proud of our school's technology initiative goal (our students will use higher order thinking and be knowledge producers in their learning). I look forward to continuing to pursue it next year and beyond.

Teaching to the test

Joe Bower includes a video of David Berliner talking about Campbell's law.

I like the idea of testing to see where kids are and to see if we are doing our job or not and to see if our kids are learning. I also see the potential problems arising from too much emphasis on standardized testing. This is a topic which I find fascinating, although it is not my main emphasis. Check out Joe Bower's blog for many related posts.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Blogging with purpose and ownership, 2011/2012

I have had my class blog now for the last three years. I have used "class blogmeister" as my platform. I liked it because I could see student work before it got out on the web. That is now why I am considering changing platforms.

My plan is so simple, I can't believe I didn't think of it before. I will show the kids some options for web based blogging platforms like wordpress and blogger. I will allow them to pick their own platform, the one that meets their needs and interests the best. They will set up their learning blog and I will use either yahoo pipes or google reader to aggregate all their sites into a single RSS feed. So simple!

They will have to state the purpose of their blog and will have to agree to certain conditions, including having their parents subscribe via e-mail. Allan November talks about the importance of purpose in student learning and that they own the work. We will talk about creating content, collaborating with others, building an on-line learning community and show critical thinking skills. They will also be building their positive on-line presence and having a lot of fun at the same time. Most importantly, they will have full control over what they create!

Lastly, I am planning to have their assessment of their blog at the end of the year "count" for 80% of their "mark" on their report card (in case this has anything to do with relevance).

I'll let you now how it goes!

New Bloggers: Don't Be Discouraged!

Will Richardson- Nov., 2001
David Warlick- Nov., 2005
Allan November- Aug., 2006
Dan Meyer- Sep., 2006

If you are new to blogging and are wondering if you are making any headway, if you are communicating effectively, if you are doing good work, have a look at 4 of my favorite bloggers past work. I used the way back machine or the archives on their sites to read their first post on that particular platform.

I was secretly hoping to find that their early work was not as good as their work is now. I would have to say that each of them had lots to offer "way back", especially if you take into account that the blogging platforms have improved a lot since 2001. Some of the ideas that Will Richardson was talking about are very similar to what he talks about now.

The message I get from this is to keep blogging, to keep sharing. Hope I can convince others in my school division to do the same. On that note, I am planning to have guest bloggers in the next few weeks writing on thinking in their classroom and changing the structure of the classroom to meet the needs of 21st century learners.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Stacking Dolls 2: Dan Meyer

Dan Meyer has posted an update on the stacking dolls video. Go to his post to see three videos, including the solution. See most of his posts on my math wiki. Have fun with them! Thanks Dan.

[anyqs] Stacking Dolls - Question from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

Folding Paper Math

Just a light math post today that amazes me every time. Hope you use it in class!

Imagine a large piece of paper in front of you. If it were possible, (rumor has it that it is only possible to fold a piece of paper 7 times) fold it in half a 100 times. How high would the resulting wad of folded paper be?

Here's a hint.

I decided I would be a bit of a pain and not give the answer until someone asked me. Do the math yourself or leave a comment and I will give the answer!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why I need to give my students more choice starting Monday

Joe Bower posted this video called "The Race to Nowhere". I thought I wouldn't watch it, did anyway. I am always enthused hearing Alfie Kohn speak. I needed the reminder and pep talk to give my kids more choice as to how they learn. I needed the reminder that John Abbott and Alfie Kohn were the first ones to really get my attention on changing the classroom and the structure of education.

I plan to finish the year with a critical thinking project where the kids can study what they want to study. Every teacher knows that you have to be insanely determined and prioritize things in your classroom if they are going to get done. I need to refocus and reprioritize!

I need to convince my school and my colleagues to change the structure of schools so that real engagement and relevant learning can flourish.

Race to Nowhere: Atlanta Panel Discussion from Vicki Abeles on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Change Management: the people side of change

I have been thinking a lot about our school's and our school board's change initiative (technology) as we/I am nearing the end of a good year of striving to implement our change. I thought it would be fun for me to review a blog post I wrote on August 7, 2010. The post below helps me to understand why we accomplished what we did and why we didn't accomplish what we didn't!

Have a look!

"Our change initiative is tricky for me to write about as we have not yet met as a staff to determine the goal of our change and how we will name the change initiative. I am looking very much forward to going through the steps of change with my colleagues yet I realize the first one, creating awareness and vision, will be vital to our success. An esteemed colleague often talked about “planning with the end in mind”. I look forward to collaborating with our staff, as well as being part of the change leadership team to envision what transformational learning will look like for our school.

Hiatt and Creasey have collected data from many organizations and give the most common contributors to success for change management:

Greatest contributors to success

1. Active and visible support, privately and professionally
2. Ensure change remains a priority
3. Demonstrate commitment as role models
4. Provide compelling justification for change
5. Communicate clear understanding of goals and objectives
6. Provide sufficient resources
7. Buy in from managers
8. Exceptional team
9. Continuous and targeted communication
10. Well planned and organized

They also list the common sources of resistance to change in an organization:

Common sources of resistance

1. Lack of awareness of need for the change
2. Current personal situation of the staff and not understanding the reason for change
3. Poorly defined vision of organization after the change
4. Not communicating that it is an expectation that change is happening
5. Lack of status updates and celebrations
6. Not understanding WIIFM (what’s in it for me)
7. Specific behaviours needed for change not clearly defined
8. Unclear procedures for getting help/support systems
9. Comfort with status quo and fear of change
10. Opposition to new technology and learning new “systems”

No matter how small the change within an organization, if change is important it is well worth the effort to plan for successful change management. I trust our team is up to bringing transformational change and transformational leadership."

This helps me greatly in planning for next year, maybe a checklist for our committee to plan next year's work.

Shelley Wright at the IT Summit, Saskatoon

I had the great pleasure of attending the IT Summit and hearing speakers like Mike Wesch, Shelley Wright and Dean Shareski. Shelley asks the question, "What if school became real life?". She teaches grade 10-12 and describes her class as a mess. I admire her courage to change her classroom as I have been trying to change mine for the past 4 years.

She started with asking her students how they would change their learning experience. She talked about meaning and doing something that matters, with an emphasis on global citizenship.
She talked about the need to do this from Cornerstone Christian School, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

The class decided to join Schools for Schools. They set a goal of $10 000, quickly raising it to $20 000. They came up with an idea called change for change and swarmed the city with the jars. They spoke to media, had dinners and silent auctions. Stalled at $15 000, a local radio station got on board and canvassed the community. Schools for Schools had a wrap up party with a facebook feed and in the end they raised over $22 000 U.S.

They learned that they were an integral part of the global community and that they made a difference. They acted on their social conscience and their empathy for others shone through. (Mike Wesch had pointed out in a previous session how the internet may have reduced young people's empathy)

They began a campaign against Hershey for their use of child labour and slavery. I dream of my own students taking such ownership for social action.

She also had her kids make a holocaust museum. You can see the great work her kids did on this project and can imagine how engaged they are. They are now studying the genocide in Rwanda as a "modern day" example of genocide.

I had a chance to talk to Shelly at a break and we shared stories about how important it is to change the structure of the classroom to achieve real engagement, creativity and collaboration. We also took some solace in how hard it is to change because of the inertia of our classrooms. She realizes that we are all in a real struggle to change our schools and that she is not there yet.

She has just embarked on a project using "project global inform". I will look into this and add it to my list of sites like "takingitglobal" and "kiva."

I think she has come close to what a class could be with or without technology. I found her compelling and inspirational. I will continue to follow her blog and she will help me to continue to set goals for change in my classroom.

Higher Order Thinking in Math and Writing: IT Summit, Saskatoon, May 2011

The IT Summit in Saskatoon is half over and I am enjoying being challenged by people like Dean Shareski, Michael Wesch, Shelley Wright and many others. I will write more on what I learn here. For the time being, here is our slideshare from our presentation.I had the great pleasure of working with Wendy James from the Saskatoon Public School Division on this. Great fun! Would recommend it to anyone.Higher Order Thinking in Math and Writing
View more presentations from tcomfort.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Dan Meyer's Stacking Dolls

This time Dan Meyer really did it. The video below from his latest blog left me wondering, "What the heck am I supposed to do with this?" I love it. Look at his post and his twitter feed to see what the participants at his talk thought about it.

I am presenting at the IT Summit in Saskatoon on Monday, the topic is a "Higher Order Thinking in Reading and Math". Much of what I talk about on math is based on Dan's ideas. Thanks Dan and wish me luck.

[anyqs] Stacking Dolls from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

21st Century Learning Video, Gaming and Assessment

Take a look at this video that I got from Dean Shareski's blog. The thing that grabbed me the most was in the first minute of the video. They talked about the need for the gamers today and their need for their success to be measured. They want to know how they are doing in an objective way. Too often, in my class at least, I shy away from marks and emphasize rubrics and self-evaluation instead. I need to rethink this, perhaps I'll ask my class Monday!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dean Shareski coming to IT Summit in Saskatoon

I am so excited about the IT Summit in Saskatoon, May 9th and 10th. Dean Shareski is a home grown educator and a leader in the field of 21st century learning. He is such an accomplished speaker and always is entertaining. He presented at Elk Island this last week and posted his entire presentation on his blog. I love the way that so many people are prepared to share their ideas on-line. I'm sure he spent hours on the presentation and it is well worth looking at. I commented on his blog post and look very much forward to seeing him here soon!!

One thing that caught my attention from his slideshare presentation was the youtube video that I have pasted below. His presentation has many interesting components. I love this particular clip because it is an example of how easy it is to share learning and successes with teachers around the world. How hard could it have been to make this video and then to post it for the benefit of all.

Just tonight I was at my son's soccer game and chatted with a good friend and fellow teacher. He shared with me the exciting things happening in his school with his young, enthused staff in the way they were using computers for learning and assessment. If each school made a 5 minute video like this, imagine what we all could learn!

Enjoy the video and consider doing the same with the staff from your school, ours will be on this blog soon!

Project Business

For 13 years now, we have run a unit called "Project Business". We try to teach our classes the basics of running a business; creating a product or service, determining unit cost, price and profit, marketing, accounting, customer service, making change and more. It is one of the most enjoyable experiences we have in the classroom because it is realistic, relevant, engaging and empowering for my students. I do not grade their work as the amount of money they make and the satisfaction they get from their hard work is a more authentic measure.

Their businesses are open for 1 1/2 school days and a 1 1/2 hour period during the evening for the community to take part.

I have included the results from this years project so that you can see what the students have done. We are quite proud of their efforts and happy that they are rewarded financially and with satisfaction for all of their hard work.

This year I heard that another teacher is doing a version of the same project in their class. As part of the marketing part of the unit, the kids will be asked to produce a video advertisement promoting their product and these are shown to the school at an assembly. What a great idea. We will have to consider doing the same next year.

This made me wonder, what other great ideas to improve this project are out there? Does anybody else do the same sort of thing? Please feel free to comment on this blog with your ideas. If you want to try this project yourself leave me a comment and I will publish a link to all the planning templates. A little collaboration goes a long way!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Teaching versus Discovery

I was reading Joe Bower the other day (Why Preschool Shouldn't Be Like School). He often includes great quotes to support his perspective. This time he quoted Seymour Papert,

"the scandal of education is every time you teach something you deprive a child of the pleasure and benefit of discovery"

I need to remind myself of this every day when I plan my class activities. Surely I can make school better. Yes, there is the challenge of herding 27 kids all on separate paths and one of me. At least I understand the goal. Not saying I'm there yet. Need to keep trying!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why You Need an RSS feed or Google Reader

I was talking to a colleague the other day at a PD session and he wanted to get my blog address so that he could see what I have to say about Math. Of course, much of what I do is learn from others and add my experience. I am happy to be able to follow the likes of Dan Meyer, Vi Hart, Dean Shareski, Will Richardson, Alan November, Joe Bower and many others. You may have noticed, these are not all math folks.

His questions reminded me of how absolutely essential it is these days to have an RSS feed,
net vibes or google reader. If you are reading this you probably have one. If you don't have one, you should.

I tried explaining it to him without insulting him, hope I didn't. I'll try again here. Let's say you see someone on a TED Talk and you like what they say and how they say it. Chances are they have a blog where they have a chance to talk more deeply about their ideas. This is how I hooked on to Dan Meyer. I saw Will Richardson, Dean Shareski and Alan November at a conference. If I subscribe to their blog I am most likely to read it regulary. I will likely not if I just visit it when I get the urge.

From my blog reading (which I do happily daily), I have notice that some of the writers I subscribe to don't write much. I may delete them. Most writers have great blog posts some of the time, they do not inspire me with all of their ideas. The example I used with my colleague is that I might write great blog posts that are useful to you 10% of the time. You are not likely to catch that post if you just visit my blog occasionally.

Some writers like Dan Meyer and Will Richardson get my attention in 50% or more of their posts. For the same reasons, subscribe to their blogs so that you catch the great, the mediocre and the uninteresting.

If you want to catch fish, keep your line in the water, don't cast it from time to time. Good fisher persons also listen to others about where the fat fish are.

Find out who stimulates great ideas in you and subscribe.

"How fast would we have to drive to keep up to the sun?"

The other day I wrote a post on crowdsourcing a math test. I was extremely pleased with the results. The basic idea was that students worked in groups on a multiple choice test until everyone in the class had 100% on the test. It took 20 minutes for all of them to succeed. I thought at the time that it was a wonderful strategy for peer learning and maybe it was.

Sadly, I gave a short traditional computation-based test after three days. The result was that half the class failed. It appears that what was happening in the crowdsourcing test was that the students who understood it did most of the work and that very little teaching took place within the groups. I am not done with this strategy as I think it has great merit for collaborative learning and peer coaching.

Why is -3 X +2 such a hard idea to grasp for many students? Is it our failure to teach students to conceptualize math processes, skills and strategies? Is it that we don't try hard enough to make math real-life? Do we fail to allow students to be creative? Do we frame the problem for students and not allow them to frame it themselves? Is it because we emphasize computation in our classrooms at the expense of the other components of mathematics?

Perhaps a personal experience will help me to understand. At Christmas my family was driving to Calgary to see my dad and brother. My 13 year old son took a break from his playstation and asked,

"How fast would we have to be driving to keep up with the sun?" It just so happened that I knew a fact (if light could travel around the earth it would go seven times around the earth in one second) that enabled us to work out the answer to his question without a calculator. We may have made calculation errors, but the process was fun. His mother thought we were nuts.

I thought I'd make a list of the key factors enabling that great "math learning":
  1. he asked the question, he was interested, it was relevant to him
  2. he had success previously when he asked similar questions
  3. interested parents and some skill (education) to talk to
  4. he knew it would make me happy if he asked me the question
  5. he is still curious
  6. time was available to talk about it
  7. he was not evaluated
  8. the right answer wasn't that important
  9. he wasn't worried about looking too interested in front of his peers
It is not that easy to do this in class every day. Commonly, the students you teach will not have parents who support deep thinking in math (they have bad experiences themselves). In order to have this type of situation in our classrooms more often, we will all need to do some deep thinking, sharing and collaboration.

I plan to keep up the battle with the help of my on-line math PLC (mostly twitter) and my school CIT (community of interest team).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Crowd Source Math Test

Today I gave an integers test to students in groups of three. I asked that they make the groups. One person had to describe themselves as loving math, the second, liking math and the third, not so much. I gave them the test of 20 multiple choice questions, although the chart below shows only 9. They were given 20 minutes to complete the test as a group of three.

When they were done they were to send someone to the board and write their answers on a chart like the one below. After everyone was done they were told whether or not all the answers were correct. If their answers were not all correct and in agreement with one another, they were allowed to talk to other groups and to change their answers.

The results were very interesting. After 20 minutes all of the students answers were correct with no help from an adult. I thought this was a very effective way of reviewing for a computation based test and of encouraging peer collaboration and mentoring. The kids thought it was fun and experienced success.

In this instance the test questions were simple computation and that is why the group succeeded in the time given. This crowd sourcing/collaborative method worked very well on this type of task. Not exactly creative, divergent, higher order and critical thinking, but well worth using again as a learning and evaluative tool.









































































Dan Meyer's Bean Counting

Dan Meyer has posted a series of videos (Dan Meyer's bean counting). It was inspired by a word problem that can be read on his blog. This word problem is very similar to problems in most math books I have seen. I love his approach and will use it often.

I now just need to set out to prove that my students test scores will improve when I use this method! Need to start that task soon, our school division's current standardized tests are not set up to measure gains from year to year!

Please visit Dan's blog to see his full list of math videos. You can visit my math wiki for a quick resource and more.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Nature Math

William Emeny has posted a wonderful video of math in nature. It is well worth watching and using in class. I have also added the link to my math wiki page.

Born to Learn: from the 21st century learning initiative

Joe Bower has posted a video from the 21st century learning initiative that is worth watching. When I was watching it I was reminded of a speaker who really got my attention years ago. His name was John Abbott. Guess what? This is his organization and this was his message!

Keep up the good work John and Joe.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Vi Hart, add to google reader!!

Someone sent me a video of Vi Hart doing math doodles one day and I have used it in class quite a bit. It is fun and she obviously is a smart person who thinks creatively about math. Months later I got another tweet about her blog. I thought I would alert you to her blog and embed one of her always "interesting" videos.

I have subscribed to her posts and put a link on my math wiki page.

I hope you enjoy her as much as I do.

Wolfram Alpha widget builder

I was playing around with the Wolfram Alpha widget builder. It is quite fun and has potential to get kids interested. Have a look and experiment for your self. I have embedded a rhyming words widget and a country comparison of population density and annual income on my classroom blog.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"No One Cares What You Think"

One of the all time best movies for me is "The Bucket List" with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. I don't imagine there are many people who have not seen it. One of the great lines in the movie is when Nicholson is being lectured by his assistant and Jack gives him that classic look and says, "no one cares what you think". If you watch the trailer the line is near the end.

I love that line and, of course it is delivered in the way only he could do it.

At times when I write this blog or share ideas with other staff members, it seems to me that they are thinking, "no one cares what you think". I have always been passionate about sharing ideas with colleagues. I know that sometimes I expect too much from people. I expect them to validate my ideas, share my passion, tell me theirs, join me in my project, etc. Sometimes I'm sure they wish I would just go away.

Blogging is perfect for me. I get to write and share to my hearts content. If anyone "doesn't care what I think", they can just hit the X or not subscribe to my blog. It is still the perfect way to get others ideas from a large network of people and to get mine out there to whomever "cares what I think!"

The Bucket List - Trailer
Tags: The Bucket List - Trailer

Purposeful Work: Alan November TED Talk

Watch Alan November's TED Talk from March this year. He is quite a compelling speaker. I always come away with something big.

His main points I will take away are:

  1. My class should look different. Kids need to find a problem in their world, figure out a way to solve it and find out what technology they need to solve the problem (not the other way around).
  2. Students need to add value to our world because they own the problem. They need to leave a legacy. Too much of our school work is without purpose.
  3. I need to direct more kids to! Students would rather publish for the world than write for their teacher.
  4. Social learning is under-stated.
  5. Students should go to staff development activities.
  6. We all need to reach the tipping point, where we realize that the kids should be working harder than the teachers.
Alan is definitely one of the most influential educators in my network.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Math from Real Teaching Means Real Learning

I just read a blog entitled "Real Teaching Means Real Learning" where the author quotes Schoenfeld's "When Good Teaching Leads to Bad Results". There were many great blog posts about math instruction on this blog and I will visit it often. Schoenfeld concludes that students have four beliefs about math:

1. The processes of formal mathematics (eg. "proof") have little or nothing to do with discovery or invention. Corollary: Students fail to use information from formal mathematics when they are in problem solving mode.
2. Students who understand the subject matter can solve assigned mathematics problems in five minutes or less. Corollary: Students stop working on a problem after just a few minutes since, it they haven't solved it, they didn't understand the material (and therefore will not solve it).
3. Only geniuses are capable of discovering, creating or really understanding mathematics. Corollary: Mathematics is studied passively, with students accepting what is passed down "from above" without the expectation that they can make sense of it themselves.
4. One succeeds in school by performing the tasks, to the letter, as described by the teacher. Corollary: learning is an incidental by-product to "getting the work done".

Not a glowing review of what we do in school for mathematics! Certainly Paul Lockhart, Alfie Kohn, Conrad Wolfram and Dan Meyer have said similar things. Compare the above to Dan Meyer's description of his math students prior to changing the way kids learn in his class.

lack of initiative
lack of perserverance
lack of retention
aversion to word problems
eagerness for formula

See the similarities?

More evidence that we need to change the way our kids learn and view math.

Will Richardson's TED Talk

I am a fan of Will Richardson and enjoyed his TED Talk. At first I thought that Will was going to promote his upcoming book! He goes on to describe the crisis in the U.S. in education. Test scores, firing teachers, common core, waiting for Superman, increased funding, standardized teaching, scripted teaching, teaching to the test, ear bud teaching, schools as test prep, 2 billion teachers, re-envision schools, deep inquiry, collaboration, great teaching, political commitment.

Learners will inherit the earth!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ethnocide: The purposeful destruction of cultural diversity on the planet

My good friend Jennifer Hingley sent me two TED Talks and they (like her!) are just amazing. I love the learning one can do from your own living room. I have so much to learn.

Are you teaching culture in your classroom? Chances are you are or will. You can't not show this TED Talk. I previously wrote about the plight of Big Bear and his people who wouldn't sign the treaties and the damage/destruction to indigenous culture.

Have you ever thought that what happened in Canada in 1880 had nothing to do with you? Watch this video by Wade Davis and get a picture of what is happening in the world at this moment. I couldn't stop what happened to our First Nations people 150 years ago. What can I, must I do right now to prevent the purposeful destruction of cultural diversity (ethnocide)?

See the other TED Talk on my post called "Owning History".

Owning History: Aaron Huey

What do you know about the world in 1850? Today?

What do you think of Abraham Lincoln?

What do you know about the emancipation proclamation?

Do you teach history, learn history or own history?

How much do you know of the treaties?

Have your ever enjoyed a trip to the Black Hills?

Do you ever wonder why First Nations people don't seem to be thriving?

Who has taken the best meat?

Have you ever been in a POW camp?

Watch the video. Still think this is not your problem?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Big Bear and Cultural Responsiveness

I know that I write about educational change and 21st century classrooms. Today I feel like I should give you a book report of sorts. I was excited to get an e-copy of "Big Bear" by Rudy Wiebe for my Sony Reader. I teach in Treaty 6 country and was amazed at the compelling story told about Big Bear, Poundmaker and others. I consider myself well read and culturally responsive and I am excited to have found such a great resource, yet I am embarrassed I have not read more on our history told by it's original peoples. This book is truly one of the best I have read in a while.
Treaty Map
Here a few excerpts:

"The running hooves drummed Big Bear into another country, calling and calling, as the buffalo effortlessly fanned out before him. The gashed wounds left in the animals' flanks by hunters they had once and then again outrun dripped brilliant red in the rhythmic bunch and release of their muscles, and then there was only one great cow running, floating strong, growing large until beside him streamed the tufted stick of her tail, the rolling leap of muscle in her hindquarters, and he felt life surge within her, her heart in that violent, happy thunder as she ran true the great curve of Earth, as he drifted along her flank, and for an instant his arrow pointed at her, one instant and its feathers burst in the course hair behind her shoulder. And her rhythm rippled momentarily, her heart staggered as his arrow feathers flamed into double blossom. Then his horse had to swing sharply aside or he would have pitched her over her, falling.
He stood where her magnificent head furrowed the ground and he prayed, asking forgiveness of the Buffalo Spirit for this death, giving thanks for the life that had thereby been granted. And saw a coyote standing on a rise beyond her, mouth open laughing. And he also saw what Coyote was laughing at: a fountain of blood growing out of the ground like a hideous prairie lily opening upward, and he stretched out his hands to stop that. But it burst between his fingers, higher, he would never be able to squash it back into the earth, while Coyote on another rise now stood laughing, mouth open. As his whole world changed to blood."

I was amazed at the stories shared by descendants of people that were there when the treaties were signed, the buffalo disappeared, the land bought, the battles at Cutknife, Frog Lake, Cypress Hills and Batoche.

One of the most notable things I had to look at from a new perspective was how the treaties promised that the Indians would be looked after when the buffalo were gone. Nothing could be farther from the truth, they could not be expected to become farmers at the drop of a hat. I was not aware of the level of suffering and starvation in the Indian people, most notably the followers of Big Bear who refused to sign the treaty that looked to him like a lie.

The numbers in the book paint a grim picture of Indian assimilation.
  • In 1870, there were 40 000 total Indians in treaty areas.
  • In 1880, there were 32 549
  • In 1885, there were 20 170
If you are a Canadian, you must read this book! You could be like John A. McDonald who never visited the west, saw only a handful of Indian people and made decisions regarding all of these proud people from a distance. None of us should remain distant from our history. To truly understand the plight of First Nation and Metis people all of us need to continue to seek knowledge from one another.

Math for Primates

I had fun listening to a blog called "math for primates" which is a fun series of math podcasts. I found this on a blog called "Great Math Teaching Ideas" that gives a list fo great math blogs. I listened to the one entitled "Infinity and Beyond". It is filled with interesting math philosophical challenges which I am sure would appeal to kids in my class, at least some of them. I would recommend that you preview the podcasts before using them in class.

The first topic deals with infinity and math as a predictive science. The first example is of a person wants to leave his house to go tho the beach. Each time he steps out towards the door he steps half way out. the second time he steps 1/4 of the total way. The next 1/8. Does he ever leave the house?

Another example could be that is that you have a cube shaped container that you pour water into. Each time you fill half the available space. If you continue to do this an infinite amount of times, will the container ever be full?

There are many more interesting podcasts, I can hardly wait to try them on my students. I am also adding this to my feeds and my math wiki. Hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Risk of Not Changing

Image from http://imgs/

I got this cartoon and from Great Math Teaching Ideas. William Emery suggests that it be used as a starter for a unit on conditional probability. This is a great idea, I probably will.

The cartoon had another meaning for me. The educational context of this is that we can keep on teaching in the same way as we always have and we could be just fine. The risk of being wrong is just too high for me to make that decision.

Becoming Excellent and School Schedules

Ryan Bretag (Metanoia) has posted a video by about a school where students are given a portfolio at the beginning of their time at a school. The idea is that they learn deeply about a topic over the years and therefore are enthused and creative learners.

I have a class blog where students pick a topic. They are then to read and write extensively on that topic, exploring it in detail. This is the first year I have done this. I think it has been a success in some ways and not in others. I thought I'd show you some of their writing so that you could get the idea and to judge whether or not my idea has been effective.

Carter writes

The current record holder for the most 3-pointers made is Reggie Miller (who is retired). Reggie has made 2,560 3-pointers made in his career. He has attempted 6,486 3-point shots. Reggie's 3-point percentage is .395. Reggie has played 1,389 games.

Ray Allen is 1 three pointer away from tying the record. Ray has made 2,559 3-pointers. He has attempted 6,425. Ray's 3-point percentage is .398 and he has played 1,075 games. Ray has less games played and less shots taken but he has just as many 3- pointers made. This would technically make him a better shooter.

I personaly think Ray Allen is a better shooter because he has less shots taken but more made. I also think this because he is still playing and probably won't be retiring soon. Ray Allen is also playing for argueably the best team in the NBA right now (Boston Celtics). Although the NBA isn't all about shooting threes it is still a big part of the game.

Kayla writes

I know, I've been gone for awhile... Two weeks? Three? Four, even!? I don't know.

Now, lets get down to BUSINESS.

Fruits Bakset, Furutsu Basuketto, Furuba.... This Anime is amazing. <3>

Honda Tohru is 16-year-old orphaned girl who gets invited to live in the house of her classmate, the oh-so-handsome boy Sohma Yuki, and his cousins; 16 year old Kyo and 27 year old Shigure. However, these boys and parts of the rest of their family, both close and distant, hold a curse; if they are hugged by a member of the opposite gender, they transform into animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Everyday is an adventure for Tohru, as she gets to know everyone in the large Sohma family better, such as the mysterious head of the family, Akito, in both common and very wierd situations. But, the Sohma Family curse is certainly no laughing matter… it also holds terrible cruelity and heartbreak.

Hang on... I'm having an emotional moment...

No, I'm kidding.

Fruits Basket, is the second best Anime I've ever seen. Not kidding this time.

Its funny, yet serious. Shocking, yet calm. I like that.

Want some pictures? You know you do ;)

Mackenzie writes

Hey guys and girls. I hope you're doing well, I am. So let's get to it.

If you haven't guessed what I'm talking about this week you make me want to laugh. It's clear as day in the title, "Tyra Banks". She's an amazing and talented woman. What I think makes her talented is the is a model (a VERY good one I might add), she takes great photos and she's gorgeous.

She has a talk show called the Tyra Show. She has done some very funny episodes but she usually likes to touch on very important issues and things we should know. A rather funny one she did was called the "Period Show". Everyone had to wear shirts with a black dot on it and they talked about womens periods. It was quite funny but very usefull.
A serious one was teen mariagge. They had one girl who was still in high school and she was fifteen I believe. But also she was taking fertility drugs to try and get pregnant. She was taking way more than even a grown woman does.

In my eyes Tyra is great. She's 36 years old and she is an African American woman and she's proud of it. She teaches that whoever you are, no matter what color, you're special and you have the right to belong.

and finally Tanner

Today I am going to talk about Excitebike: World Rally. Excitebike: World Rally is a WiiWare game made by Nintendo and released in 2009. Excitebike: World Rally costs 1000 Wii points or $10.00 USD.

For a Wiiware game it actually has very good graphics. The terrain is different depending on what track you are on. You can see the numbers on the fronts of the bikes etc. The design of the main menu is nice it has the modes with little checkered flags. It looks really nice in spite of the cartoonish graphics. The colours of the bikes are unlocked slowly as you gain S Ranked medals. To start out you have two colours red and blue.

Graphics: 7/10

The gameplay consists of racing against the clock with the other racers only there to try and diminish your progress. You have the gas, turbo, and wheelie buttons along with the ability to change lanes. The tracks consist of different locales from Canada to Japan and everywhere inbetween. Each track is different and there are at least 16 tracks. There are many different ramps terrain and competitors on each track. Doing a wheelie right when you hit the top of a ramp you gain extra air, but make sure you steer the bike to a smooth landing or else you will wipe out. Wiping out can occur from landing badly,hitting someone or using the turbo to the point of overheating. The gameplay is very simplistic but very addicting and fun.

Gameplay: 9/10

I agree with Egan about deep learning and excellence. I'm still trying to figure out how best to accomplish it with my students. I'll keep trying!