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!