Thursday, March 31, 2011

Aboriginal Languages Day

Did you know? The name 'Canada' comes from 'kanata' the Huron word for village. The name for 'Ontario' stems from a Mohawk word 'Oniatari':io', meaning beautiful lake.

National Aboriginal Languages Day, March 31, was established by the Assembly of First Nations in 1989 to create awareness across Canada of the languages of the First Peoples, and to build support for their preservation. There are almost 60 different Aboriginal languages in Canada. Of these only three are considered safe from extinction - Cree, Ojibway and Inukitut. Cree is a language spoken in many First Nations in Ontario's far north. Ojibway, or as it's called in its own language, Anishinaabemowin (Ah-ni-shi-na-BEE-mo-win) is the language of many First Nation communities in the near north, northwestern and southwestern Ontario. Inukitut is the name of some of the Inuit languages spoken in Canada. Ontario is supporting the revival and preservation of Aboriginal languages. First Nations And Ontario Celebrate National Aboriginal Languages Day: March 31

For more information, visit the AMO website.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

for the love of learning: Standardization: it will fill you up but with noth...

for the love of learning: Standardization: it will fill you up but with noth...: "I know an awful lot of teachers who see consistency and standardization as a good thing. It reminds me of the old sports joke where one spec..."

Monday, March 28, 2011

What are the odds?

If you read this blog regularly, you may remember my probability post concerning the roll up the rim to win Tim Horton's cups. At the time i posted it, i was running at a winning cup every two drink purchases. Since then, i haven't seen a single winner in 13 cups (unlucky??). At first glance, it would seem that i have had a run of bad luck. But when you look closely at the numbers, and compare them to the stated odds of Tim Horton's winning cups (1 in 6 this year), it would seem that i could have easily anticipated my string of 'bad luck'.

Right now i sit at 2 wins out of 17 cups. Taking the 1 in 6 odds that Tim Horton's advertises, one might think my next purchase should very well be a winning cup. 1 in 6 odds would mean 3 wins for every 18 cups purchased. However, by that logic, could i potentially not see a winning cup until the 23rd cup purchased, followed by a second win in a row at cup number 24??? This would still give me 1 in 6 odds, should the 23rd and 24th cup prove to be winners.

So next time you think you've hit a run of bad luck, or a jackpot of multiple winners, remember the math behind it all, and that the odds were right there in front of you the entire time.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Class Size...60:1 or 1:1??

This article presents an interesting case for 1-to-1 learning. The original article where i read it appeared here, which was funny (or sad?) in that it immediately followed an article on the Detroit school system and their plans to shut down half the schools. YES, that is correct, NOT a typo, HALF the schools. Class sizes could reach 60. i think i know what side of the debate i stand on. How about you?

One-on-one learning, if you can get it, is always preferable to our traditional approach to learning. By that I mean shoehorning kids into classes and lecture halls en masse to cover as much spread as possible, and then diluting knowledge by reciting it as though it were an audition script. The truth is, we learn so much more from singular learning. And our students want, need, and expect it. Or at the very least, a suitable version of it.

This article by A. Graham Down featured on EducationNext focuses on a new book written by R. Barker Baussell called Too Simple to Fail: A Case for Educational Change. In it are the insights provided by decades of research and experience into how we can unite our disruptive innovations with our child's learning experiences to fashion that singular type of learning that kids will respond to. You can read a review of Baussell's Too Simple to Fail in our book reviews section.

originally posted by Ross Crockett
Mar 11, 2011

Why Schools of One Are Our Future

Too Simple to Fail, a new book from Oxford University Press, is a review of thirty years of research into how children learn and what would give us better results. The author, R. Barker Bausell, a biostatistician in the School of Nursing at the University of Maryland, has come to the conclusion that classroom instruction is hopelessly obsolete, and that the answer to the deficiencies of our educational system is the tutorial model.

As a graduate of Oxbridge, with its time-honored tutorial system, it would be difficult for me to dispute Dr. Bausell’s central premise—that one-on-one instruction is the best guarantor of improved academic performance. Of course, this would involve displacing or at least supplementing the traditional 1:35 student:teacher ratio of the conventional classroom. But Dr. Bausell’s exhaustive research summary leaves one with no other plausible conclusion.

Dr. Bausell provides a comprehensive analysis of the lessons to be drawn from classic schooling research. Among the more salient conclusions are: 1) that what children bring to school is vastly more important than what happens thereafter, as the Coleman Report found; 2) in examining all of the variables that impinge on student academic performance (teacher effectiveness, socio-economic advantage, appropriate evaluation criteria, etc.), none is demonstrably more significant than time spent learning“one-on-one”; and 3) that only an individualized computer program can address all these issues effectively and simultaneously.

Though the reader is left to infer that such “one-on-one” computerized instruction is equally effective for all grade levels, one wonders whether the inculcation of basic skills and the more sophisticated analysis presupposed of high school students would respond equally well to this computerized approach. Notwithstanding, “one-on-one” appears to be the only way to go if we are really serious about eliminating the so-called “achievement gap”.

However, equally obviously, it is the marriage of technology to the individual tutorial which makes it all possible from an economic point of view.

What does Dr. Bausell see as the main flaws in the current educational system?

(1) Traditional class size is an almost insurmountable barrier to academic improvement given the diversity of attributes/liabilities students bring with them.
(2) Despite research recommendations in favor of phonics, effective phonics-based systems for elementary reading instruction are conspicuous by their absence.
(3) The irrelevance of most teacher college instruction to the real classroom is striking: clinical approaches are discounted in favor of misguided theory. In fact the author’s experiments support the idea that teachers who are trained in the traditional fashion are no more effective than neophytes in the field.
(4) That, albeit a relatively limited number of cognoscenti, some people are beginning to understand that in less highly developed countries the incentive for students to excel is far greater. Simply put, America is not competitive in world markets from an educational point of view.
(5) The irrelevance of many standardized tests to the curriculum that is being taught. (Historically standardized tests, like the SAT, are thinly-veiled intelligence tests designed as a device to sort out for college bound population: not to assess levels of achievement in subject matter areas.)

What does the author see as an indication that things are changing for the better?

(1) The significant increase in the student-computer ratio nationally. There are simply more computers in the schools.
(2) The current national interest in defining instructional objectives across state boundaries (i.e. burgeoning national standards).
(3) The growing recognition that current testing practices have emasculated rather than enriched the curriculum.
(4) The success of the K.I.P.P. schools is vivid testament to the importance of longer school days and more of them. Time on task, as suggested earlier, really works. After all the present system was designed to accommodate an agrarian economy.

However, the most compelling section of Dr. Bausell’s book is the chapter entitled “Getting There from Here.” Dr Bausell envisages a world where the obsolete classroom model gives way to a laboratory “in which digital tutoring constitutes the bulk of the instruction delivered.” He concedes that for a change to take place of this magnitude, both the federal government and a plethora of philanthropic sources would have to provide the initial funding.

His road-map includes:

(1) Creation of a complete set of instructional objectives representing the elementary school curriculum, accompanied by sample test questions for each objective.
(2) A standard software platform-template by which these objectives could be taught.
(2) Securing computer hardware involving networking within each classroom.
(3) Development of computer-generated tests with items to assess mastery of every conceivable school topic.

To summarize, as does Dr. Bausell:“The only way to increase school learning is to increase the amount of relevant instructional time we provide our children.” The only way to achieve this is to marry technology to instruction thereby developing economies of scale, and vastly enhanced efficiency in terms of results. Let’s get on with it!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Assessment Carnival: More Than Quizzes and Tests | Edutopia

Assessment Carnival: More Than Quizzes and Tests Edutopia

This is a blog post that i found after discovering yesterday's post...further down the rabbit hole, there's a LOT to discover whilst sifting through these careful, you might never come back...and if you do, you'll definitely be changed...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why Formative Assessments Matter

Here is a great article on using formative assessment. It's quick to read and offers some ready to use ideas... (to view the article from its original source, click here)

Summative assessments, or high stakes tests and projects, are what the eagle eye of our profession is fixated on right now, so teachers often find themselves in the tough position of racing, racing, racing through curriculum.

But what about informal or formative assessments? Are we putting enough effort into these?

What Are They?

Informal, or formative assessments are about checking for understanding in an effective way in order to guide instruction. They are used during instruction rather than at the end of a unit or course of study. And if we use them correctly, and often, yes, there is a chance instruction will slow when we discover we need to re-teach or review material the students wholly "did not get" -- and that's okay. Because sometimes we have to slow down in order to go quickly.

What this means is that if we are about getting to the end, we may lose our audience, the students. If you are not routinely checking for understanding then you are not in touch with your students' learning. Perhaps they are already far, far behind.

We are all guilty of this one -- the ultimate teacher copout: "Are there any questions, students?" Pause for three seconds. Silence. "No? Okay, let's move on."

Ever assign the big project, test, or report at the end of a unit and find yourself shocked with the results, and not in a good way? I have. The reason for the crummy results is not the students, but a lack of formative assessments along the way and discovering when, where, and how certain information needed to be re-taught or reviewed.

To Inform, Not Punish

If you find yourself wanting to spring a "gotcha" quiz on your students, ask yourself if it is really meant to collect important data or to freak them out and maybe "get them more serious about paying attention"?

Believe me, I've been there: wanting to punish the lazy, the cocky, the nonchalant. Sometimes we just want to see that hint of panic as they number 1 to 10 on their half sheets of paper (afterall, many of us experienced the "gotcha" quiz as students!)

If you feel tempted to do this, just say no; it's a mistake.

When and How?

Formative assessments are not about gotcha-ing students but about guiding where instruction needs to go next. We should use them frequently, and while or after kids learn a new idea, concept, or process.

When you are on your way to the Big End Project (or summative assessment) and students have just learned a piece or a step toward the end, check to see if they've got it.

And to avoid using the tired old quiz, here's a few ways you can check for understanding:

Exit Slips—These can be fun and not daunting, for students or teacher. Give students a question to answer that targets the big idea of the lesson, and have them write a sentence or two. Stand by the door and collect them as they leave. Sit at your desk and thumb through them all, making three stacks: they get it, kind of get it, and don't get it all. The size of the stacks will tell you what to do next.

Student Checklist—Give your students a checklist and have them self-assess. Collect the checklists with each, or every other, new idea during a unit of study. Make sure they write a sentence or two explaining how they know they've got it, or why they think they are still struggling.

The Three-Minute Paper—This is more involved than the exit slip and often times, I'd give the kids more than three minutes. I don't use the word "essay" or they get too nervous. I might say, "Take out a piece of paper, and tell me what you have learned so far about ____________." Often they will basically write an essay (something they usually labor over in drafts and on their own!) I assess these the same way as the exit slip, by making the three stacks.

One-Sentence Summary—Ask students to write a summary sentence that answers the "who, what where, when, why, how" questions about the topic.

Misconception Check—Provide students with common or predictable misconceptions about a specific principle, process, or concept. Ask them whether they agree or disagree and explain why. Also, to save time, you can present a misconception check in the form of multiple-choice or true/false.

Watch, Look, Listen

Simply observing the actions, behaviors, and words of students can provide a wealth of valuable data and serve as a formative assessment. You can take notes as they conference with one another, pair and share, or engage in collaborative learning groups (lab projects, literature circles, etc.).

What to look for? If there are small group conversations happening, and they are successfully applying the new learning, not just one student is talking; they are talking over each other, and they are animated with body, hands and eyes. On the other hand, if it is quiet during this talk time, and they are watching you watch them, they are most likely lost.

Your note taking can be as easy as making a check-plus mark after each child's name who shares something of value and on-target/topic with their group. (Put a check by each child you hear share so you can see how many you heard versus how many get it.) If I have 17 names with checks after them, but only four check-plus marks, it's time to review or re-teach.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's Your Appitype?

What's Your Appitype?

Your smartphone already says a lot about you and your personality. But what about the applications or apps - loaded on to your device? We think the apps on your mobile reveal just as much, if not more, about the real you! Think of it as your appitype.

So, what does your appitype say about you? Take this quick quiz to discover your appitype.

At the end of the quiz, your appitype will be revealed. Along with it, we'll show you a selection of applications and content for use on your smartphone that have been carefully selected from Ovi Store to meet the needs of your personal appitype. Then, you can go and try the apps for yourself. We'll also make it easy for you to share the results with your friends and coworkers, so you can give your appitype its moment in the spotlight.

When i did the test, it said my appitype was "The Connector".

What's a Connector?
You’re personable, confident and curious. You live by the motto of ‘everything in moderation.’ You have an uplifting and motivating personality with an extraordinary knack for making friends and acquaintances in the online and/or real world. You are likely to have a collection of apps that you use again and again - often carrying fun apps on your phone and apps that may be useful to others. You occasionally download free apps and your app catalogue could certainly be expanded.

What's your appitype?? DO the test and leave a comment with YOUR appitype...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Punished by Rewards

To view the original source of this post, please click here. Thank you to Joe Bower for sharing this response.
The National Journal posted the question "should students be paid to learn?" to their panel of insiders. Here is Alfie Kohn's response:

Alfie Kohn (, author of Punished by Rewards andThe Schools Our Children Deserve, submitted the following:

Rewards, like punishments, can produce only one thing: temporary obedience. What they can never do is help kids become more effective or enthusiastic learners. In fact, a huge body of research demonstrates that exactly the opposite is true: Dangling carrots in front of people is actually counterproductive.

What the data show, more specifically, is that the more you reward people for doing something, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward. To understand why, it helps to realize that the meaningful question isn’t “Will rewards motivate kids?” but “What kind of motivation do rewards create?” And the answer is: “A motivation to get more rewards.” Unfortunately, that tends to reduce their motivation to learn.

Psychologists distinguish between intrinsic motivation, in which the learning itself is seen as meaningful, and extrinsic motivation, in which the learning becomes just a means to an end. That end could be money, grades, stickers, or any other incentive. More than 75 studies have shown that extrinsic and intrinsic motivation aren't just different; they tend to be inversely related.

Thus, for example, kids who are led to focus on grades -- the reward of an A – are apt to think in a more superficial fashion, prefer easier tasks, and find learning less interesting when you compare them to kids in classrooms where grades are absent or invisible. Paying kids for good grades is basically a reward for a reward. It doubles the damage.

The bottom line is that dangling incentives in front of children is a way of doing things to them. It’s a form of sugar-coated control. In the long run people react badly to being controlled, even if they like the goody itself. In fact, the bigger or more desirable the reward, the more damage it tends to do, according to the research.

But in the case of initiatives like Fryer’s, the news is even worse. To this point I’ve just been addressing the method: How do we get kids to do something? My contention is that, apart from the inherently objectionable nature of carrot-and-stick control, rewards are ineffective at best (for producing anything beyond temporary compliance) and harmful at worst – even if the goal is laudable. But in these programs, the goal isn’t to help students love learning or think more deeply. The goal is just to raise scores on bad tests to make the adults look good. Standardized exams, as I and others have explained elsewhere, measure what matters least. We even have studies that demonstrate a statistically significant negative correlation between deep thinking, on the one hand, and results on a range of standardized tests, on the other. So what you’ve got with these cash-for-scores programs is a flawed means married to a terrible objective – the worst of both worlds.

One reason adults are so fond of reward programs is that they’re spared from having to ask why kids have to be bribed in the first place. What would it take to create a school where kids want to show up? How can we nourish kids’ natural curiosity and desire to learn? What does it say about homework that children dread doing it and rarely find it of value? To answer those questions, to make school meaningful for students, takes time and talent and courage. But you don’t need any of those things to toss kids a goodie when they jump through your hoops. Such programs are powerfully conservative in that they discourage us from changing the status quo.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fraser Institute Report Comparing Schools is Educational Folly

An interesting viewpoint from Ken Chapman. To view the following at its original source, click here.

I always dispair at the superficial analysis and misleading inferences from the Fraser Institute when it ranks schools based on standardized test results. When you ask a shallow and silly question you are bound to get a useless answer. As the world gets more complex and informed engaged citizenship becomes more important than ever we need to ensure the skills we teach are those that are essential for this new and emerging world.

Of course the traditional subjects are still important but not as the only things worth teaching and testing. To compare schools and insist that they compete for credibility when private schools can restrict who they enroll and public schools will and must take all comers and to say this is a quality measure is misleading at best. This fundamental reality about enrollment and the socio-economic differences in schools make the Fraser Institute comparison reporting such a disservice. How are students, teachers, parents and the public able to use such selective comparisons when trying to discern if our education system is doing the job it needs to do to prepare the whole student for the changing and emerging reality they will face.

If students and teachers are only ranked and rated on narrow focued standardized test results we only get a bellcurve distribution but no insight as to how well prepared the whole student is for adaptation, resilience, self-sufficiency and survival in a complex interdependent globalized social, environmental, economic and political culture.

The Fraser Institute reports on public education is as helpful as counting the number of nails in a house and presuming that measures its value to those who live in it. It is not even worthy of being taken with a grain of salt. It is beyond useless, it is dangerous.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Alice and Bob in Wonderland

The evening keynote speaker at the OAME Leadership Conference blew our minds. It was one of those talks that have people chattering immediately, continuing the conversation well into the evening, and then speaking about it more and more the next day.

The speaker's name was Richard Epp, and he is part of the Perimeter Institute in Kitchener-Waterloo. They have produced a series of animations entitled Alice and Bob in Wonderland that briefly describe some of the greater questions and ideas that underline our existence. Here is one of them... to see them all, click here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

So is Level 2 the National Norm?

The Globe and Mail had a feature article on the numeracy skills of several Canadian cities. i have the original at my office if you are interested and here is a web version. It was also on the Numeracy newsfeed on this blog's side bar.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Six Nations District Numeracy Committee Meeting Minutes Wednesday, December 1st, 2011

Six Nations District Numeracy Committee Meeting Minutes

Wed., Dec. 1/2010, 2:30- 4:00 pm

District Teacher Room, J.C. Hill School

In attendance: Joe Restoule General, Marlene Martin, Luanne Martin, Tammy Clause, Anne Noyes, Carrie Froman,

Absent: Alice Anderson, Jessi Skye, Deb Hill

  1. Call to order and agenda approved.
  2. Minutes from last meeting already approved.
  3. Business arising out of the previous minutes

i)DNT to attend PAC- the procedure of this is still unclear and needs to be streamlined due to time. Next PAC is on Dec. 14th.

ii)District Numeracy Plan approval- DNT will e mail draft to superintendent, principals and vice principals for approval

iii)Revision to Terms of Reference- Change “develop PLCs at each school according to school needs” to “schools will share resources to support school PLCs”

Discussed our role in future PD and it was concluded that teachers are already busy, and we only have June 30th left for official PD.

  1. New Business

i)Wiki SN Numeracy Committee- DNT developed this web based space for NC members to discuss posted topics or to post a topic to discuss. Each member has been invited to join the group. Threads have been developed for assessment of learning for math and exemplary comments.

ii) Discussion about future PD and setting up an after school workshop with various topics similar to the Literacy sessions at OMSK last year. Committee is to consider this for future discussion.

iii) PD Times Survey- DNT developed a survey of best times for teacher PD. He will rework this to include ranking the best times. He is also working on PD survey information collected in June.

iv)DeskBook- suggestions to include: a) Big Ideas b) scope & sequence c) three part lesson plan d) Assessment as learning (before- ONAP, Numeracy Nets)

A thread will be put for this on Wikispace and we will discuss more next meeting. May have a working session.

v) Super Source- All schools have this- discussion on whether it needs a

disc to run the program. Will verify this.

vi)DNT to contact Sumona Roy to see if she can present math problem solving/teaching with the three part lesson plan to the committee. However, after discussion it may not be needed. Further discussion required?

  1. Items for next meeting

i) focus will be on report card comments eg. Size of text box, exemplary comments

ii) status of invitation to Sumona Roy

iii) further discussion on functions of committee

iv) status of the Numeracy Plan

v) numeracy wiki

6. Meeting adjourned at 4:00 pm.