Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The New year begins

It has been a while since I have blogged. Between finding time for family and the hectic pace of the school year time has been hard to find. I will force myself to write smaller posts and keep my head in the bloggersphere more frequently.

This year the classes have started to blog. Or at least have started to get ready to blog. I have created 4 assignments to add to one post for each student. This will introduce them to blogger and have them ready to become class scribes and community members. Initial sign up went really well and blogger is making it easier for kids to join blogs. Yeah this is so much better than in years past.

I am excited to be part of Dean Shareski's preservice teachers course. His students will mentor mine at the class blogs and become part of an audience that will lend credibility to why we blog.
Students will start to scribe and fully participate in the classroom blog when October rolls around at the end of the week. I am very excited to get the grade 7's on board this year. An enthusiastic teacher and keen students will provide ample ground to teach social networking too. I am sure that the prevalence of facebook in todays youth makes most of what I am doing seem easy to these students. They just seem to get it faster this year.

With the 7's set up next week I can then shift gears to e-portfolios. I am going to use wikispaces again because of the easy setup. I will also encourage all students to get open ID passwords to make life easier.

Man where does the time go. Off to the last cross country practice of the year. Then one last meet on Thursday. We are going to win all 4 categories this year. Increadable kids. This feat has not been done in 20 years.

Life is going to be good this year..... and the Nintendo's come out next week.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Meeting Dr Tim Tyson

Just back at school and I have had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Tim Tyson. He is the former principal of Mabry Middle School. It was a pleasure to meet him and listen to him talk. I am pleased to know that most of what I do as a Math teacher comes through in his vision for education. I must be on the right path.

Dr. Tyson's first session was From Personal Knowledge to Global Contribution. He hit the audience first with this thought.

What are you supposed to do at school? Is it Make good grades or is it to make the world a better place. This part of the session really focused on creating individuals who want to learn to learn as opposed to those who just want a grade. What intrinsically motivates students to learn...?

Dr. Tyson then took the audience on a tour of his life and the changes that have happened. Growing up in the time of John Dewey when most schools were still creating drones for the factories that were just springing up. Those students who have been created for a factory job or assembly line process are now unemployed and most labour is now overseas. If we had done more with Dewey back then people would be better prepared to be independent contractors in the labour force. He showed a statistic that showed that 33% of Americans now are independent contractors due to job market changes. Now think about the future and what that might hold. Why are we still teaching like we need to prepare kids to work in a factory or assembly line.

The road to change happens when kids take ownership of their learning. Technology will revolutionize this. School needs to change and be reformed. For all too long students have been passively complaint where Dr. Tyson was teaching. This was not good enough. He wanted kids to be empowered to make a contribution now. Project driven instructional activities would provide a base for this change to happen. When you go to his former School's Site you will see what they have created.

At Mabry Middle School students create video projects that earn prestige all over the world. The students want to learn about the topics that they have chosen and spend countless hours away from school creating these videos. Go to the school site or on Itunes to see samples of the students work.

The second session was about School 2.0. If you read this blog it is nothing new to you. Here Dr. Tyson highlighted many social network tools and showed how you could use them in your school. As I looked around the room many heads were nodding and perhaps a few teachers were converted to the fold. But all I could think about was the first part of the session. How could I get my Grade 8 team to do these student initiated projects. I came back to the school and immediacy showed the LA teacher the videos and got her hooked on using this as a project in Language Arts. I then went to the Social teacher who was interested in using some of the blogging ideas in his classroom. This just leaves the Science teacher to get on board and when I show him how the students can create video podcasts of what they are learning in class I am sure he will be hooked.

Bringing Dr. Tyson to Winnipeg was brilliant on the part of Seven Oaks School Division. For an inservice to start the year I think change for them. I know change will happen for the grade 8 students at Sargent Park

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Watching Kids Struggle

Problem solving is one of those tricky things in math. Many students give up and do not appreciate the amount of effort that is needed to get to the bottom of a puzzle or problem. Today provided a great example of student struggles.

I asked the students to do a quick back to school project for me. I assigned them numbers during the class 1-34 and asked them to take a picture of them and send them to our flickr account. Pretty straight forward until I realized that I had sent the wrong email address to the kids during the class.

I changed the address in the post and then started to monitor the chatbox on the class blog. The kids were struggling and wanting answers. They were not interpreting my small answers in the chat box but finally one student got through and completed the assignment. He then took it upon himself to stick around in the chat box and help other students be successful. Other students stuck around in the chat box following his lead and helped their classmates too.

Darren always uses the word community to describe what he does with the high school math students he teaches. I am seeing after the first day of class that community is strong in this group of students. If they are willing to take risks and use each other to find answers to problems that are hard to solve hmmm...... we will have a good year.

Perhaps their teacher will write down the correct email address next time or maybe he won't!!

Hey at least students are using the blog again. It is going to be a great next few months.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Starting out Differently

My school year is about to begin.  As usual it is a mix of handing out notes, collecting money and trying to remember 140+ names of students.  We will be blogging this year and the students google accounts will be created quickly.

I have decided to take a dive into flickr and have created an assignment to get the students thinking about digital photos.  All students have a camera or a cellphone.  I am going to assign a number in class to each student.  They will then find a representation of that number outside of the school and take a picture of it.  The student will then email the photo to flickr using our special email account. 

Each day we will tag the photos with a date tag.  I will get the school to buy a pro account so that we can start to create sets and not have limits to uploads.

It is a different way to start the year.  I think it will be a good way to introduce the power of the web to them.  Hey they all do this at facebook why not in math class.

Lets get ready to ruuummmbbllle... bring on the year.  Yeah tomorrow I tell them about the Nintendo DS's that are living in the room this year.