Extra-Curricular Gala vs. Athletics Gala

This year I has the privilege to attend two Galas to celebrate student achievement: an Athletic Banquet and an Extra-Curricular Gala.

The Athletic Banquet invited all of the student athletes, their coaches and other staff members who made the seasons possible (secretaries, etc.) to a dinner and awards evening.  The evening started with dinner, whole team awards, followed by individual awards and concluded with a video made by the yearbook class showcasing moments throughout the seasons.

The Extra-Curricular Gale invited all of the students who participated in an extra-curricular activity (clubs, sports team, volunteering, etc.) for an evening of awards and dancing.  The evening began with a welcome with dinner, whole team/club appreciations, followed by dessert, individual awards and then of course the dance.

The best part of the Athletic Banquet was how formal and professional it was.  The way it was organized really gave a ‘classy’ edge to the event.  Speeches for award winners reminded me of big award shows and it truly made a special moment for those winners.  More than this, the points system for student involvement in sports was also a great way to see the number of students involved in more than 1 sports team throughout their high school career.  Each “level” of points were called up and you could see a variety of grades, ability levels and social groups coming up for each level.  But here, we only saw the achievements of our athletes and their teams; what happens to those students who may not be the best at a sport?  What about our student’s multiple intelligences and different learning styles?

At the start of the event, I had two students come up to me as they were having difficulty finding a table to sit at (it was first come first serve).  Many students from their sports team did not come to the banquet and they felt alone.  Luckily, we found a couple open seats with some students who welcomed them in.  This was not evident in the Extra-Curricular Gala.

At the Gala there was such a variety of students.  This next part may sound stereotypical, but it is the best way to explain my point.  In attendance you had your band members, who performed throughout the evening, the sports teams who brought banners to their school this season, the Student Council, the yearbook club, the drama club, the hockey team, the curling team, the MAGIC club and so many other students who fit into different extra-curricular activities.  The evening was about community and celebrating the success as a school.

There were great awards given to students based on extra-curricular activities, sports contributions and leadership.  When it came to the speeches, I felt that the recognition for those students got lost in either humour or unrelated information.  Not all presenters wrote a speech for the award winners, some had the award winners come up and speak on their behalf.  It just seemed to miss that aspect of formality and celebration for that student’s achievement.

So why can we not have an evening that celebrates all of the extra-curricular activities at school and showcases all student achievement?  Why does Athletics need to have an evening all to themselves?  How great would it be to award points to students based on their participation of all extra-curricular activities and showcase how much these students give back to their school?  Why not have a formal evening for awards and special achievements, but end the evening as one community who appreciates all of their members?

I do not have answers to any of these questions, but I would love to see an evening from both of these events merged.  One that balances individual achievement with community contributions and that allows all students to be recognized for their participation in all extra-curricular activities.

What does your school’s Year End Banquet or Gala look like?  What is the message it sends to our students about what activities are the most important/recognized?

Independent Study Projects – Semester 2 2013/2014

As the final unit in my ICS 3U/4U (Computer Science Grade 11 & Grade 12) course, I asked the students to create their own Independent Study Unit.  The students needed to have it relate to our curriculum, but other than that restriction, they had full control over their learning.

To get them to start, each student filled in their own learning plan.  This learning plan gave them an opportunity to brainstorm, finalize their ideas, come up with the project that they would hand in, organize what they would be learning each day and how they would “keep me in the loop” of their learning.  Here is what the students filled out: ISU Learning Plan.

I am amazed with the projects that have been submitted to me!  These projects show each student’s interests and their own uniqueness.  Here is a small taste of what some of the projects were:

1) Genome’s & DNA Sequencing 

Why did you select this topic: 

I selected this topic because when I learned about genomes in biology I was really curious about the technological side of processing and decoding a genome.  The first genome was finished in 2003 after taking 13 years to complete an in that time 6 billion characters had to be decoded.  I would really like to know that technology was used to complete this task.  Also to find out the limitations that were present in the 90’s that made it take 13 years to complete the first genome.  Finally the time difference of how long it takes to compile a genome from 2014 and the first genome that was compiled.

Final Project: Report

Found in the Report: 

Well the human body is the same it has a underlying code that makes you who you are.  We know the code that goes into computers and how it is outputted as things we see on the screen every time we turn on a computer. So if we now know the code of our body there are so many things scientists can learn about how the body functions.

2) Learning LUA 

What did you learn from this project?

During the course of my ISU, I have learned a lot about lua and a little bit about myself. I have learned, for example, that I should start under promising and over delivering instead of vise versa because with this project I bit off way more than I could chew and had to start all over from the beginning. As far as lua is concerned, it has to be my new favourite programming language. The reasons for that are it is so simple and user friendly also, unlike our friend java it is not filled with ridiculous syntax errors that are so small they take forever to find.

Final Project: Decimal to Binary and Decimal to Hex Converter

Suggested ways to improve LUA: 

But if I had any criticisms for lua it would have to be that it needs more string manipulation. Unlike in java where you have more options than are useful as far as string manipulation goes, lua is rather limited. Simple things like charAt(x) would be very handy to have and they would have allowed me to make my program just that deeper but, unfortunately, there is no such command in lua.

3) What is Computer Programming:

Why did you chose this topic?

For my ISU I decided instead of creating programs I will look into programs and get a better understanding about Computer Programming. I researched and created a presentation on aspects of Computer Programming. Some of the topics I researched is History of Programming, What and How Computer Programming works, Careers in Programming and Computer Programming Languages.

Final Project: Google Presentation

Found in Project:
Requirements or characteristics to be an programmer include reliability, concentration, knowledgeable, problem solving skills and critical thinking skills. He or she should be detail-oriented and have good listening, reading comprehension and time management skills.  More personality Traits of a programmer includes logical thinker, strong attention to detail, ability to grasp abstract concepts, patience, persistence, analytical, creative, innovative, strong communication skills to relay technical concepts to non-technical people.

4) Learning Python

Why did you chose this topic? 

I have selected python for several reasons. First, this language is a widely used for a variety of different purposes in reputable companies and governmental agencies such as google and the NWS (National weather service) for their main computer systems, and google for there spider and search engine. Second, fictional or nonfictional, python represents a good variety of these businesses with their language in good reason, so that itself would reflect a business of any type in general, even with the use of a simple calculator or a huge network across the business.

Final Project: A tax and tip calculator for a restaurant the student created

Sample Code:


5) AI and Emotion

Why did you select this topic? 

This is the first year that I am taking Biology, as well as computer science. I have also taken the Psychology course and topic basically summarises all of the central ideas of the courses. In computer science we learn about coding and that is a really big part of AI. There is also a very large biological component to it as well when talking about the brains activity. Finally the Anthro class that I took gives me a good understanding of cognitive brain activity. All of these factors of this topic interest me very much and that is why I am drawn in by it.

Final Project: Report

Found Within Report: 

So with this in mind, mirror neurons also receive and interpret facial expressions and their meaning. This means we can decode how someone is behaving based on just body language. This is easier for computers to accomplish because we can program key motions and facial structures to certain emotions or behaviours and act accordingly. It is imperative for computers to be able to process this because humans express their emotions mostly through facial expressions. So it has been determined that it is one thing to follow simple Boolean logic: If this input, then do this output; if this or that, then do this and that. But, can a machine be coded for the grey areas: If happy, then do this; if angry, then do that; if sad, then do this until the sadness goes away. How do you program a computer to know the difference between sadness and absence of sadness? First we need to look at emotion to get a better understanding.

……  Technically speaking we can create the illusion that AI has emotions, the ability to learn, to respond to a stimulus based on “experiences” that have been set in stone and created by a higher power (humans), and that is really Ai in a nutshell, a simulation and portrayal of humans in an attempt to understand our complex and mysterious brain.

We Are All Teachers of Literacy

Today during our NTIP training today, we had a fast-paced session on Literacy.  Laura Beal provided a great opportunity to us to understand by participating in the strategies available to us to use.

Within the session, we had a chance to explain our definition of literacy.  My definition of literacy looked like this:

understanding and utilizing what we hear, see and read to develop and grow

Now, it may not be in accord to your definition but within our group of teachers today, we found that literacy is focusing on the student’s ability to develop a deeper understanding, grow personally and  be an active participant in society.  The strategies focused on the student’s ability to communicate/speak with one another which is the foundation of literacy.

Laura also gave us some great resources on how to implement Literacy into our classrooms.  As a math and computer programming teacher, I have not focused on implementing Literacy strategies into my classroom.  Why?  I am not sure, but after today’s session, this is something that I will work on changing.

I wonder about my students completing their ISU’s right now and the amount of research, tutorials and other information that they need to sort through.  I then wonder if I have prepared them to the best of their ability to filter through this information and then to utilize this information to participate in their learning.  From these wonderings, I know that I need to do a bit of research and begin having those conversations about how to foster the learning of literacy in my classroom.

A great place to start is all of the resources that were shared with me at today’s session; and hopefully you will find them helpful too!

Think Literacy – eduGAINS – Literacy – Adolescent Literacy

What do you do to promote the learning of Literacy in all of your subjects?


Discovering Your ISU Topic – ISU

Today was a day that I loved the lesson that was planned.  I loved the sense of discovery and inquiry that filled the classroom.

Today, my students discovered and brainstormed ideas for their Independent Study Unit.

Here are some of the ideas that were created today:

Learning to use LUA Scripting

Python 3.0

Creating Animations in Adobe Flash

How Does AI Interpret Emotion and What is Emotion in Humans?

Using MIT App Inventor to Create Apps

What is it like to Work at Google?

Creation of an Amperage Calculator (Welding) in Java

History of Computer Programming/Computer Science

I cannot wait to see what else the students come up with and how they develop their own Learning Plans!

If you have suggestions for resources available to these students, please share them with us.

Creating a Course Outline – From Scratch!

For my Senior Social Studies AQ, I was required to create a Course Outline for a Senior Social Studies course.  I chose to create one for HSP 3U – Introduction to Anthropology, Psychology and Sociology.  This is only the second time ever that I was required to create a course outline from scratch and wow, it has not gotten any easier.

Here is the course outline I produced.  I am still not familiar with the course content, and the last time I was learning about Anthropology, Psychology and Sociology, I was in university, but I feel this was more of a process for me to develop a better understanding of how to create the  Big Ideas from a curriculum document.  I feel that I was moderately successful in creating a useful document for both the teacher, student and parent, but I would have liked to have a better understanding of what each “unit” big ideas and essential questions were.  As I continue my journey of learning, I feel that this will come.

Course Outline Part 1

Course Outline Part 2

Course Outline Part 3

What are your suggestions for improvement?

Perspectives on eLearning

For my Teaching & Learning Through eLearning AQ course, I was required to respond to the following:

Topic 1: Is eLearning simply a next step beyond distance learning approaches like correspondence courses? Or is it a new approach to supporting student learning? Support your stance.

Here is my response: I believe that eLearning is a new approach to student support.  ELearning goes further than distance education will ever manage to.  Distance Education, to me, is the opportunity to take courses “outside” of the classroom.  This could include taking ILC, credit recovery or a new course.  Distance Education is similar to “continuing education” where the student does not necessarily have to be enrolled in a school to take the course that is being offered. Distance education, to most schools, is offering a course with either independent booklets or a teacher teaching, off-site or during off hours.  The content is the same, the students complete “tests” and “projects” to allow for teachers to assess their learning and walk away with the credit.  This is the same “in-class” course, just not in the regular classroom.  A Distance Education course can be differentiated based on the student’s needs, but it is still the teacher and the student working together or teaching one another in the same vicinity. ELearning is something different.  ELearning allows for students to learn on their own, without the presence of a teacher.  The teacher’s role is to support the student’s learning by providing resources and ensuring that students develop the critical skills relate to learning and publishing online.  Students in eLearning courses are developing skills that allow them to build self-motivation, self-regulation and self-inquiry; as it is the student who needs to seek assistance from the teacher or ask clarifying questions.  The students enrolling in an eLearning course have technology available to them which makes their learning global, rather than just confined to the classroom walls.  ELearning fosters the student’s growth and understanding to be global. ELearning requires teachers to create engaging lessons for students through a computer, tablet or smartphone using the ever changing web-apps and new ideas available.  In the classroom, the teacher can implement many of these strategies without really “thinking about it” but in an eLearning classroom, the teacher needs to develop those strategies before the student’s access the content.  ELearning requires teachers to think about the learning that they are facilitating and ensure that it is engaging, as if it is not, the student will not complete the task. ELearning can be very isolated for the students, especially students who may be struggling with the course or have weaker communication skills.  Again, teachers need to implement outstanding differentiation to ensure that students can understand the material despite their background knowledge.  In addition, teacher needs to be facilitators of a community; they need to showcase how to build relationships and support networks online, using tools and strategies that can be transferable to the real world. Finally, I feel that it is important for Educators to have a clear line between Distance Education and eLearning.  Why? I feel that if we state that “eLearning is just the next step in Distance Education” that we will get lazy.  We will be stuck in the “substitution” aspect rather than the “redefinition” of the SAMR Model.  ELearning teachers will take their in-class materials, and post it on the web for their eLearning students to use and in doing so, students in those eLearning classes will miss out on the advantages of taking an eLearning course.

ELearning is a defined method of teaching; it comes from ideas based both in the classroom as well as in Distance Education.  ELearning allows students and teachers to utilizing the tools available to make global connections throughout their collaboration and journey.  ELearning is a new, redefined approach to supporting students; the eLearning classroom is the global classrooms both physically and in theory. What is your definition of eLearning and Distance Education?  Is it a step further or a new approach?

EdCamp London

Today I had the chance to attend EdCampLondon (#edcampldn) where there were so many great conversations. The EdCamp also gave me a chance to connect with a whole lot of the Educators I follow on Twitter such as Scott Mackenzie, David Fife, David Carruthers and so many more.

If you have never attended an EdCamp, you are missing out. Educators from all around and from all levels come together to brainstorm, discuss and share information on education. The topics included GAFE, Assistive Technology, Mental Health in the Classroom, Growth Mindset and PD were just some of the topics discussed.

What was even better was that the coordinators of EdCampLondon and EdCampSWO incorporated Google Hangouts to connect the two EdCamps for Doug Peterson’s Keynote, the session What Makes a Great Leader and Assessment.

Here are a few do my take-aways from today:

If you want to learn about Ontario Education, follow an Ontario Educator
Doug Peterson, @dougpete, was the Keynote from EdCampSWO was Google Hangout’d with EdCampLondon, and he spoke about meaningful PD. One aspect of his Keynote that stuck with me is the idea of reading, reflecting and sharing out relevant material.  Doug stated that “if it is worth reading it is worth sharing” and how true is that!  How often have we invested our time into reading an article, a study or just a great idea and not thought to send that our to our PLN?  Why do we not feel a need to share what we have read with others if we have invested time into it?

Another point was surrounding  the need to promote and share Ontario Educator Blogs Ideas and Resources and learn from our own Educators.  It is so easy to get bogged down with all of the information and ideas that are out there, reading about what is going on in Florida, Scotland or Belgium, but when have you taken time to read something your fellow Ontario teachers have tried or read?  Why are we not supporting the teachers, who are teaching the same curriculum, following the same Ministry guidelines and are facing relatively similar challenges?  I know that I follow some really great Ontario Educators on Twitter and learn from them everyday!  Whether it is a blog about Photocopying Challenges or a YouTube video on how to use Minecraft in the classroom, Ontario Educators are an invaluable resource to all of us.

I challenge you to find a new blog or Twitter handle by an Ontario Educator and watch how their content will directly help you professionally develop without having to filter the information that is shared.  Check out Doug Peterson’s Twitter and Blog for some great Ontario Educators!  How do you use Ontario Educators in your PD?

During our assessment workshop, the discussion included the statement that “assessment and feedback needs to be non-judgemental.” This statement is, at best, a contradiction in itself.  Many of us have grown up in a classroom where grades and feedback was used to judge you against the other students in the class or to pin-point your weaknesses in that subject area.  How do we foster a learning environment where students feel that feedback and assessment is a critical part of their learning and use it to move forward, instead of feeling left behind?

My best answer to this would be how assessment and feedback relates in the classroom environment.  In my classroom, I do my best to give students feedback as quickly as possible.  As I am teaching Computer Programming this semester and we are using NetBeans, their immediate feedback from the program (error statements and trying to actually run the program) gives my students a good start on understanding its importance.  As the students are working, I am able to move about the classroom and provide students with next steps and constructive feedback on how to immediately improve.  The students and I are working towards a learning environment where they always know how they can improve and they are invested into always improving.  The students, Grade 11 and Grade 12, are slowly realizing that the “mark” or “level” on the project or task does not matter, it is how they solved the problem and how they communicated their solution (Big Ideas of the course).  I know we are no where close to being past feeling that “judgement” has been passed on their work, but I like to think we are moving in the right direction.

The final thought I will leave you with, which nicely ends off the Assessment section and the post are the words from Scott Mitchell this morning from the EduSlam.  Scott gives us a new way of thinking of assessment:

“Give feedback and next steps that focus only on the students strengths; by focusing on the strengths, students will listen and they will be able to take on their weaknesses when they feel ready.”