Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Make a Mosaic

Testing a Flickr Toy for a project.

Image hosted @
Embed from Ed's Flickr Toys

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Inquiry Workshop

I got to miss school today to go to an Inquiry Workshop. The forward thinking of my Superintendent provided funds for a group of teachers from my school to attend a workshop all about implementing the Inquiry process at our school.

I was not expecting a terrific day. I was surprised. It was really good. The presenters knew their stuff, the staff was receptive and I think we have something here. I even got to go out and test the Flip video camera and do some inquiry about water. Check out the wild life I photoed!!
As I was talking to the group and mentioning K12online I was thinking about Chris Lehmann and the SLA. Here is a school based upon the whole inquiry process. Wouldn't of been great if I was able to show his keynote to the group. Well I am emailing them now and sending the link to Chris's inspirational talk. It makes me want to dabble a bit more in this process.

As a team this year we are doing a project ala Tim Tyson where we will make groups of kids and they will make a 2 minute video that has global implications. The video can not be just about something about them but has to help the world in some way. All questions and work will be done by the students for the students. I hope it is a success. My team members know that this is coming and I am slowly explaining to them the work that is ahead of us.

This leads me back to my teaching and how I can make it more..... inquiry based. I teach math not the easiest topic to teach in the world. But I manage to teach it in ways that make some people scratch their heads. I need to make the kids ask questions. I need them to take ownership of their learning. Doing the blog and other assignments is a start but I need more. Tomorrow they will figure out the lesson in math. I am just going to put the question on the white board and they will have to figure out how to solve it. They have the knowledge already but they will create the "rule"or rules we will use. It is a start.

One of the things we did at the workshop was to look at some quotes about inquiry. Here are some great ones that I wrote down today (In my hand made book by the way!!).
  • The real sustaining force of inquiry is the window where learners meet face to face.
  • We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.
  • The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.
  • What really motivates learning is students really having a question to which they really want an answer.
Chris's keynote and the preconference keynote both were on this idea of the death of education and the dawn of learning. Viva learning. Long live the facilitator teacher.
I am looking forward to this new journey. Hope to have some success along the way.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Youtube, blogger and Substitute teacher

One of my former students will be subbing for me on Tuesday. She is an incredible person and young enough that what I am going to experiment with will not phase her.

I have created 2 video inserts for the lessons tomorrow. One will do the primary teaching of the integer unit being taught to 4 of the classes. I put a brief screencast using smart notebook and uploaded it to the class blog. Problem with blogger is that the video is very small. I have placed copies at youtube that can be magnified to full screen so the whole class can see. I hope that this experiment work. Half an hour of my time makes the her job easier.

She now can focus on helping the kids not teaching the lesson.

Hope it works
Integers Part 1

Part 2

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why kids are not writing?????

Ok I am a math teacher but I am seeing some troubling signs. Most of my students are lazy when it comes to writing. Many of my students do not capitalize proper nouns, the first word in a sentence and I could pick a plethora of other grammar faux pas. My team's LA teacher is pulling her hair out trying to get these kids to write like 14 year olds.

I really noticed this when I responded to a grade 6 student from Australia. Her writing was excellent and she really impressed me with how she responded to my comment. I then saw what my students "concidered" a comment and started to think of ways to make the write with a purpose. With this in mind welcome to an epiphany that I had during one of my math classes today. My math students are going to write a story. Hot just any story but a math story.

This all stems back to Michael. He was a great student who did and unproject for me using The Sims.

This year students will create a story with and adventure theme. Part of the assignment will be teaching them how to write (long live the LA teacher) and part of the story will be dealing with integers. The students will have to incorporate needed math knowledge into their story. One suggestion I had for them was to have a character come across some perilous challenges. Each challenge a different math question. Who knows what they will come up with. I will not add too much structure and give lots of freedom. Here is the assignment. I hope this is a success and that I can get kids to write better in school while still learning math.

K12online My first Session

I am privileged to know Alec Couros. I have met him in Moosejaw and live with him in my PLN everyday in twitter. He is a fountain of knowledge and an incredible K12 educator. Unlike most of my other networked friends he teaches at a University.

What are your recolections about becoming a teacher at school. Mine are not the best. Most of my Professors in my certifiation year were old, crusty and out of touch with the youth of today (yesterday 1992 was a long time ago). To them "tech" was an overhead projector and a chalk protector. Enter Alec. Young, charming, ..... and energetic (I would add handsome but that implys ...?). Living the life of a person intouch with the youth of today. Influencing a new generation of teachers to teach using tech that kids use. Not only to use the technology but to create PLN's. Leading by example he shows his students the power of the network. He gets guest lectures to come in and teach his class.

I would if it meant that I would learn something that I wanted to learn take more post-secondary education courses. None have interested me until I started to follow Alec. He teaches courses that interest me. I want to take his course and get a degree from the University of Regina.

George Siemens has created a "Certificate in Interdisciplinary Studies: Emerging Technologies for Learning " at my local university. I like George and the message he has for educators. If this certificate offered me the needed post grad courses to change my salary it might be for me.

Alec's K12online presentation is brilliant. You have to see it and hey Alec is entertaining too. Thanks Alec for sharing your experience. I hope more post secondary people take note of what you are doing and change the way they teach their courses. It would make university more interesting.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Trials and Tribulations Getting setup in the New Blogger

Signing up 280 students to 8 class blogs is a major undertaking. Not impossible but a few days of work. Along the way there have been a few roadblocks. This post is a how-to for teachers when setting up a series of classroom blogs using blogger when many students can author at one blog.

When I first started this process 4 years ago the process of signing up students for blogs was quite complicated. There was no google account and each student had to create multiple blogs to access the classroom blog.

When the "new" blogger" came out of beta the process was supposed to be stream lined. As an administrator I was able to invite many members to the blog as long as they had a google account. For some reason this year my students were getting error messages when they were attempting to sign up for the class blogs.
The steps I followed were the same as every year, get a google account, and once that happened I entered the students email into the class blog to invite to author. Many students did not receive an email to join and others that did receive an email got error messages. I found a way around this hassle though. Go back to the old ways of inviting students to the class blog. The steps are as follows:

  • Students need a google account. Get them signed up using any email THEY have access to. If they need a gmail account get them signed up for that.
  • One error some students make is that they do not verify their email. This is an important step not to be overlooked.
  • Once the students have a google account get them to create a Blogger account. This can be done from google. After signing in the students go to my account, and scroll down to MORE. This is at the bottom of the page. This link will get them to all google apps and blogger is quite prominant on this page.
  • Once at blogger the students will need to go through the process of creating a blog. It will be deleted once they have access to the class blog.
  • When the students have created a blog the need to leave their blogger dashboard open. I then get the student to come to two workstations and enter their emails into the classroom blog. I have gone under settings to access permissions and invite authors.
  • Students go back to their workstations with the blogger dashboard open and open another tab in their browser. Here they will open their email looking for the blogger invite.
  • WITH THE BLOGGER DASHBOARD OPEN they accept the invitation to the classroom blog.
  • The students will have to enter their google password one more time. Now they should see the classroom blog and their temperary blog that was created before on their dashboard.
  • You can now delete the temperary blog from the dashboard by using the settings and scrolling down to the delete at the bottom of the page.

If for some reason the error message still persists you can keep the blogger dashboard open and uninvite and invite the student again. This seems like a lot of work and it is but the bonus of having the google suite of tools and apps at your fingertips is worth it.

I hope this is helpful.

Monday, October 13, 2008

K12 online is gearing up

It is an exciting time when the Preconference Keynote is delivered for K12online. This year the conference brought a new storyteller in.

“It Simply Isn’t the 20th Century Any More Is It?: So Why Would We Teach as Though It Was?”

Professor Stephen Heppell St Katherine Docks, Tower of London, England.

I haven't fully digested the Keynote but I did enjoy what Prof. Heppnell was saying. It is a great 45 minute story talking about the history of technology and education. Prof. Heppnell links the current economic crisis and the indicators that lead up to the "death of education and the dawn of learning." This quote is about the end of factory schools and the beginning of schools that promote learning in ways that are relevant to learners today.

The conference this year has many new features. One of the is "A cup of Joe". A place to leave behind comments in a voicethread to 3 questions created by the presenter. This is the voicethread for Prof. Hempell's preconference Keynote.

I hope to add comments to this voicethread soon.

If this preconference keynote is any indication of the things that are to come at K12 online this year. It is going to be a GREAT conference. Thanks to the organizing committee, the volunteers and Prof. Heppnell for getting us off to such a great start. Now it is time for some more reflection

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Delicious rocks..... and some integer work

If you ever needed a reason to use delicious this would be it. I just typed in Integers and up came 776 hits. Who ever needed google. My network and others who use delicous have done the work for me.

We are starting a unit on Integers next week. Here are some of the links I have found. The wording might look strange because it is a saved post for my students. I will use portions of this post everyday of the unit to make things more interesting in class.

If you have other must have integer lessons, games, movies or whatever please leave a comment. I will be doing this up until ..... xmas?

One thing Grade 8 students love is Integers. Those pesky positive and negative signs infront of numbers. You need to be proficient using integers before you are able to play with algebra. Here is a movie that will get you started on the Road to Algebra.

One would assume that there will be many words that are new to you. If you come accross any words that are difficult, write them down in your notebook and bring them to class the next day.

Click the image and you will be transported to the video. Take the quiz after the video. Happy Integer Day.

This is a game called Line Jumper. Answer the question on the number line. It involves integers. Good luck.

This game deals with venn diagrams. You have to place the integers in the correct spots so that everything adds up to 0. This one is tricky. Good Luck.

More interactive sites online. Here is a quiz that will help you add, subtract, multiply and divide.

Now how about some larger numbers to subtract.

Here is a movie made for a site all about number lines.

Here is a youtube video on adding and subtracting Integers

Great activity for the smartboard. Zero pairs are interactive.

Here is a quick interactive quiz.
This game is about which integer is larger or smaller. You can play it to practice you greater than or less than signs.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Rise of the Rest

Karl Fisch in 2006 created his video "Did you Know". Now there is a mashup of his video with an Asian twist. Interesting points. Wow we have come a long way in 2 years. We are going in new interesting paths in the years to come.

Thanks to Karl and Melanie for pointing me to this movie.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Classroom Update

All four rooms are now up and blogging and I have had a chance to reflect about why I am getting them to use the blog. It is amazing how keen most of the students are when they first start to blog. The novelty of the tool makes them want to participate more in class activities. I am confident that scribe and growing posts will keep the activity hopping at the blog. In years past this is all that the students have used the blog for. I think it is time to shake things up. I will allow students to post blogs about math or their other subjects this year. If a student wants to publish work for Language Arts or Social Studies and Science the blog will be available for them. I want them to interact frequently. I will also promote the use of the blog to be a space where students can post self help posts about the concepts taught in class.

My Nintendo experience is about to take off. I am going to allow the student to use the DS units over the lunch hour to start with. The only stipulation will be that we will create a cheat for students. I want them to think about how to put into words what is needed to win the levels on the games. When the think this process through they should be better problem solvers. I do not want to kill the fun of the game so the ratio of play to write will heavily favour the playing.

I am looking for classrooms to collaborate with if any readers are interested?

I am also looking forward to K12 online. It is nice this year to be a learner instead of a presenter. I am really excited to get the rest of my Grade 8 team to be involved learning in the lab with me. This might be the start of something terrific.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Dr. Randy Sprick's Safe and Civil Schools

A Proactive and Positive Approach to Classroom Behaviour Management

I am attening a presentation put on by Dr. Randy Sprick today. It is on behaviour management. Most of my division is attending this inservice. Most of them are elementary schools and since we are a Junior High we are in a minority. Dr. Sprick talks about using positive reinforcement for behavioural disruptions to your class.

To assist in setting up a management plan that fits your style and needs of your students. Important to be your own personal style. It also needs be based on the needs of the kids you work with.

Classroom Structure is not the same as classroom strictness. Today will not be about canned discipline system.

Recent Survey on Manitoba Schools. Behavior problems number 1 concern.

Roving around the room and a child is disengaged with the assigned task. Teacher comes over and confronts the child to do some work.
What could you do do get him to work?
  • evil eye or the "teacher look"
  • May I help you with something
  • Are you missing a pen, pencil or working device? (table answers)
Sprick's Answer
  • Talk to other students giving them positive feedback. Gives the offtask student time to engage.
  • If there still is no engagement.... have a conversation... can I help you get going.
  • Kid still says no..... need to be more direct.
  • Kid still says no ..... You can't make me...
  • you need to react quickly....
  • You are right. I can not make you but this is an important assignment.... I need to go help Tom over here (time to have a personal break) and then go back to the problem student and attempt to have student start work.
The only wrong answer would be a belittling situation.

The way a setting is structured has a huge impact on behavior and attitude.

Think Disney and lines:
  • You are always moving
  • It is organized
  • You cannot see how long the line is
  • You can see the end
Now what does this have to do with schools. Think about lunch line. Getting to a lunch line becomes an aggressive competitive event. Aggressive kids feed on these events.

Classroom example "End of school day routine" many different ways to mess it up. Clean it up and make them less caotic.

Many schools depend on punitive consequences. Punitive consequences have inherent and inescapable drawbacks including but not limited to
escape avoidance , sneaking, lying, fear, may become neutral, may become reinforcing, can set a negative climate

The goal of classroom management is to develop a classroom of student who are responsible, motivated and highly engaged in meaningful tasks.

Good classroom Management:
Structures for success, orchestrate active involvement, prevents misbehavior, teaches behavioural expectations, induces enthusiasm and celebrates progress.

  1. Design rules that communicat your most expectations. Be sure to identify a misbehaviour or trait exibited by several students.
  2. Develop consequences for common rule infractions. Be sure to identify a misbehaviour or trait exibited by several students.
  3. Develop and post "Guidelines for Success" Be sure to identify a misbehaviour or trait exibited by several students.
  4. Develop a plan for responding to misbehaviour that is not directly covered by the classroom rules
  5. Develop an "attention signal"
  6. Prepare lessons on your behaviour expectations for each major activity. Be sure to identify a misbehaviour or trait exibited by several students.
  7. Prepare lessons on your behavioural expections for each major transition. Include time criterea.
  8. Analyze the physical setting -- modify the setting if necessary and possible.
  9. Design a workable schedule with time for teahing behavioral expectations (especially at the beginning of the year), teacher directed instruction, cooperative tasks, and independent tasks.
  10. Design routines or policies for: attendance, heading papers, assigning work, homework, late work, materials, collecting work.
  11. Design procedures for students to check off complicated work.
  12. Evaluate and improve your presentational style.
  13. Examine instructional expectations to insure that you have clear and important objectives for each instructions actibity.
  14. develop a plan for providing frequent positive feedback for following rules, striving towards the "Guidlines,"and for meeting expectations. Monitor interactions with students.
  15. Develop and implement individual and whole-class rewarrds that can be used as intermittent celebrations of success.
  16. Decide if your students could benefit from one or more structured systems for reinforcing responsible behaviour.
A range of nice mild concequences are better than hard hitting consequences.

As I sit here listening to this speaker I am amazed at how many of the "problems" that he is talking about that do not exist in my class. Behaviour issues come up when kids are actively engaged. Between the computer work and the cooperative conceptual work there are few issues.

What do you think... do you have behavioural issues in your room and are there issues when they are engaged in work that they want to do. Is that not the question? Let's create work that kids will do that makes them want to learn.