#reflectiveteacher – Day 2 #mathchat

Write about one piece of technology that you would like to try this year, and why.

One piece of technology I would like to try in my classroom would be to integrate ChromeBooks into my math classroom.

On Friday I had a great conversation with a couple colleagues about the future of mathematics in the classroom. Is mathematics becoming more like Latin? Do we need more than Grade 8 Math in our everyday lives? Do we really need to spend time learning how to draw graphs of functions or should we use technology to graph then work on the interpretation and collection of data for such function?

As technology has the ability to level the playing ground in a mathematics classroom and gives the students the possibility if using the mathematics to make new connections. Utilizing ChromeBooks into math classrooms will also give the students a chance to check their answers, observations, guesses and predictions. I believe that with the integration if the world at our finger tips, our math classrooms become about using the mathematics in the real world rather than getting stuck on the tricks and rules.

Is mathematics becoming like Latin?

#reflectiveteacher – Day 1

“Write your goals for the school year”

What are my goals for the school year? What is it that I want to accomplish this year? My classes are a Grade 11M math, Grade 10P math and a split 11/12U computer science. What is it that I want to accomplish over the next five months? How am I going to achieve these goals?

I think I have one goal that encompasses all of my classes and through coaching senior boys volleyball this semester.

My goal for this school year is to increase the confidence in my students when taking risks

Yes, I do know that it is very general and a goal many teachers have but I think it is specific for my school year. In my classes, whether it is with a new subject like computer programming or in a mathematics class, students need to know they are okay to make mistakes and they have the ability to learn and be successful. Over the past two weeks I have learned that many students in the courses I am specifically teaching are taking that level of math because they believe they are not good at math, that they can’t do math and that there is no need to try. I want to chance this.

In our mathematics classes, we are looking at the How to Learn Math for Students course offered at Stanford University. In this course, students have a chance to learn that they may not like math, not because they can’t do it, but because of negative experiences they have had with the topic. This is my starting place for this goal.

#uglearn14 – Day 2

Day 2 at the UGDSB Learning Fair was a success – the two breakout sessions that I attended focused on metacognition and layered curriculum.  These sessions forced me to evaluate my understanding of metacognition and how I offer choice and motivation in my classroom.  Below are my take-away ideas and thoughts from the two sessions I attended (plus more information on them!)

Fostering Metacognition Habits of Mind – Jenni Donohoo

Jenni focused on three essential questions for students to answer to help them develop into expert learners:

  • Where am I going?
  • How am I going to get there?
  • Where do I go next?

Imagine if our students are able to answer these three questions on each piece of work they create.  How could they develop their understanding of their own thinking and learning through these questions.

Jenni showcased this model on creating an environment where ‘metacognition mindfulness’ is valued and encouraged:

imageOne strategy that really stuck with me, and I have shared on Twitter, is the Yellow + Blue = Green strategy.  This is a new take self and teacher assessment and very visual to both the teacher and the student.

This strategy allows students and teachers to talk openly about what they feel their work is on.  With your rubric, students use a yellow highlighter to identify where their work is at, the teacher then fills out the same rubric with a blue highlighter.   When the colour turns to Green, the reflection of the quality of work matches.  From the yellow and blue left over, the conversation can focus around those three questions: where am I going, how am I going to get there and where do I go next?

Jenni pointed us in the direction of LiteracyGAINS for more information and projects on metacognition.

Layered CurriculumKathie Nunley

Through the discussion of Layered Curriculum, I walked away with the desire to develop a way of applying Kathie’s three layers (C, B, and A) to the Canadian system with our four strands: Knowledge & Understanding, Application, Thinking & Inquiry and Communication.  Kathie explained that each layered matched how the brain learns:

  • Layer C – Branches growth in one area
  • Layer B – Connects new branches to prior areas of knowledge
  • Layer A – Connects neurons in the cortex with neurons in the lower cortex

Each layer relates to the letter grade that it corresponds to.  The Layer C questions focus on the lower level Bloom’s Taxonomy, those tasks such as stating, or recalling information.  I really liked how Kathie explained these as “trivial pursuit” questions.  Layer B, Kathie explains as those unique and novel problem solving questions.  Student’s take the opportunity to compare, contrast, manipulate, and use their interdisciplinary skills.  Layer A questions are those critical thinking questions.  In the lower cortex, is where we hold our morals and ethics and the Layer A questions should use the student’s judgement, opinions, and critique.  The biggest challenge will be to see how this applies to our Ontario curriculum – some deeper thinking will need to be applied.

Looking for some examples of the layered curriculum or how other teachers have implemented this into their classrooms; click here.

What are my goals now? 

I have two goals after the UGDSB Learning Fair:

  1. Develop metacognition into the Grade 10 Applied Mathematics Class.  Through the research and teacher experience, everyone speaks about the influence that metacognition and how it helps develop our students perseverance and deep understanding.  How can I apply this in our Grade 10 course where students struggle for motivation, dedication and drive to learn.
  2. Provide choice in all of my courses and assessment them on the learning targets rather than the assignment.

#uglearn14 – Day 1

Today I was honoured to attend the UGDSB Learning Fair 2014 as both an attendee and a presenter.  The day started with David Daniel speaking about the importance of balance and moderation in the classroom.  More than just in our practices, David reminded us that the scientific research we are usually given it in a supportive, isolated environment, rather than a complex classroom.

After the keynote, I had the opportunity to see two good breakout sessions; one organized by Pamela Brown-Wass and Sandra Kritzer within UGDSB and the other session organized by Laura Gini-Newman.  Here are my take-away thoughts and ideas from both of these sessions:

Inquiry-Based Projects that Engage Students – Link to Presentation

Knowledge Forum is a great place to start building the community research and collaboration.  Students start with a series of questions and them use the prompts available to help them branch out off of each others contributions.  Although Knowledge Forum looks like a great application, I can also see Google Drive’s  Lucidchart Diagram.  This Drive application allows students to create their own flow charts and, with a bit of set-up of sentence starters, this application would mimic some features of Knowledge Forum.  Please note that I have never played around with Knowledge Forum, I am just going off the features I saw today in the session.  I have also seen from the Knowledge Forum website that you can apply for a six-month trial and then there is a cost after that, and I am all about the ‘free’ alternatives.

#GenuisHour may be a great approach to the inquiry-based projects.  Through social media, I have seen the hashtag come up, but never really knew what it was.  I was really excited that someone could explain it to me and I love the idea.  I see GeniusHour being a great way for teachers to give the student’s the opportunity to practice discipline/industry skills well developing their understanding of the content.  So many times, I have given the students a project (or they have come up with a project) at the end of the unit or at the end of the semester where they need to use all of their knowledge in a few days or classes to complete the project.  This works for some students, but most forget those skills that we talked about as they were not always used in those new and unseen circumstances.  Through GeniusHour, students can practice and evaluate the discipline skills as they learn them and build on it from the previous lesson.  I love it!

Finally, the challenge I have taken away from this session is applying these inquiry-based projects into the mathematics classroom which lead me to choosing my next session to hopefully give more of an insight into the specific subject.

Thank you Pamela and Sandy for a great session.  The discussion developed throughout the session and the hands on examples were a great addition!  I can’t wait to see how I can implement some of these ideas in the classroom

Using Inquiry in the Math Classroom 

Creating relationships is important!  As teachers, especially mathematics teachers, we need to create relationships between the concepts presented throughout the course.  The students need to understanding WHY and HOW they connect to each other and the bigger picture.  As my Grade 10 Applied class will be beginning September off with their Measurement unit, I look at this key aspect of a math classroom and see the following connections: area -> volume -> prisms -> pyramids & area -> surface area.  This unit I can easily see how the concepts connect with each other.  This will be one challenge for me to make sure that my lessons interact with one another and connect.

Inquiry is the balance between content knowledge and discipline knowledge.  This statement that Laura made really stuck with me and gave me that new perspective on inquiry-based learning and how it is different from discovery or other methods we have learned about.  (Yes, this was my light-bulb moment!)  I am new, and have struggled with the implementation of teaching through problem-solving, discovery and inquiry-based learning.  It could be that I have never had formal training on the ideas, or that I just couldn’t understand how to apply them to my classroom by Laura’s way of explaining clicked.  In her classroom, Laura has students create questions they can think critically about.  These questions will drive the student’s inquiry and  their understanding.  Then, through lessons and learning activities, students learn the content needed to be successful in answering their question.  Students are not asked to discover the ideas or recreate the theorems, but use their knowledge and provide mathematical justification for their findings.  When they have gained that content knowledge, students will then work through their question and think critically about the methods, ideas and conclusions they are providing in their solutions.

From Laura’s breakout session, I now have a better understanding of how GeniusHour could apply in a mathematics classroom.  Why not have the students come up with their genuine question at the start of the unit and work through it as they gain knowledge from the lessons?  Students use their knowledge, collaborate with one another to prove their conjecture or to disprove it?  Why not use that discipline knowledge of problem-solving and proving in the classroom.  Another way to implement this would be to have larger “big idea” question that students work on throughout their GeniusHour classes that use concepts and mathematical justification from each unit.  What that question would look like, I am not sure, but it will come.  This is a start on my thinking – more to come!

Thank you Laura for a great session, I wish we had more time to look further into examples as I am very much like the explicit classroom examples.

Finally, for the last breakout session, I had the opportunity to present.  My topic was D2L (Desire2Learn – a learning management system) and how we can use blended learning to help foster student confidence and address mental health.  I was quite happy with how the session went; a smaller crowd brought great discussion and many different perspectives.  In the session we had educators who have never heard of D2L, ones that have used it for e-Learning and also administrators who have helped set up credit recovery and re-integration programs using the features of D2L.

Here is a copy of my presentation for your browsing interest – click here.

The biggest change I would make for this presentation is giving the audience the opportunity to provide me with feedback.  Feedback is always happening in my classroom.  Through check-ins (discussed a bit in the presentation) and student interaction, I get feedback everyday about the lesson and the student’s learning.  Student’s receive oral and written feedback from me everyday as well  – so how did I manage to forget the opportunity for feedback on my own presentation?  I am going to say ‘summer brain’ but that is just my initial thoughts.

I am going to leave you with one last idea, that, I feel, will help every teacher out there that assists student’s in developing their collaboration skills.  It is a thought from my first breakout session focusing on those inquiry-based projects.

Get your students to end off their journal entries [or whatever they are seeking feedback/assistance on] with a question to focus feedback and peer help

What a simple idea that is often overlooked.  Students know what feedback they are looking for, but never really ask that question when using blogs, or journal entries or forms to seek collaboration and assistance.  By incorporating a question at the end, now each response will be targeted to that question.  Let’s see if it works!

How do you use inquiry in your classroom?  What is your definition (or model) of inquiry?


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?