Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Who Says You Can't Replicate Another School's Success?

This article is about "High Tech High" and project-based learning, and how a school in one state visited a school in another state, to re-invigorate and motivate its teachers and students.

i have a copy of the Edutopia "10 Tips for Project-Based Learning" should you be interested in reading a copy. i have seen similar set-ups in the London, Ontario area, first hand, when i was a Faculty Advisor for Althouse Education at the University of Western Ontario. The amazing work from the students is not as far out of reach as one would think...

Click here to visit the High Tech High family of schools website. Check out the amazing projects link to see the various publication and projects students have created/produced.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For

Check out this article from the Huffington Post about on-line learning for K-12 and what it could mean for students and teachers in the future...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Time for Change

Time for change

By Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com

(Picture on right: Students Hailey Perreault and Paige Redbreast attend the Nishnawbe Aski Nation's annual Education Awareness Week conference at the Victoria Inn on Monday.)

All Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose wants is an equal playing field.

With not enough money committed to on-reserve students, and others forced to fend for themselves in communities far from their traditional home, convincing Aboriginal youth that education is the proper path to follow is not always easy.

NAN’s educational critic says it’s time for change, and called for it this week at the First Nations governing body’s fourth annual education awareness week conference, held in Thunder Bay.

The challenges are far too many, he said.

"One of the items that they’ll be talking about is how do we support students that are here," he said, a timely thought in the wake of the confirmation of the death of missing 15-year-old Webequie First Nation student Jordan Wabasse.

It marked the seventh death of an Aboriginal student in the past decade, a sign that the system is at least partially broken, Waboose said.

"There’s going to be a panel of some of the agencies here in the city who try to support some of the students while they’re going to high school. As you’re aware, it’s been an issue lately, particularly with some of the students we’ve lost over the last number of years," he said.

One solution could be better schools on remote reserves, which might allow students to remain at home with their families, rather than be carted off to unfamiliar territory in a tempting city like Thunder Bay, where distractions are a 24/7 matter.

"Ideally that’s what you want, is to have your students schooled in their home communities. That’s exactly what I’m talking about when I say the resources have to go to the First Nations themselves so that if a community is big enough, or the size warrants having a high school, then I think they should be afforded that opportunity."

It’s not like it’s not happening in other non-native communities in Northern Ontario, he added, noting there are plenty of small towns that still offer school services despite declining populations.

James Cutfeet, the director of education at the federal department of Aboriginal Affairs, said success is needed now in order for the next generation of First Nations people to succeed at life.

Cutfeet said the federal government’s switch to a results-based measurement system means teachers are now going to be gauged by the achievement of their students and their ability to read and write at the appropriate levels.

The $26-million student success programs should also have an impact, he continued.

"This program encourages educators and parents to work together, to develop school success plans, implement student learning assessments and establish performance measurements to assess and report on school and student progress," Cutfeet said. "All of these efforts are based on improving literacy, numeracy and student retention."

However, there’s more work to be done, he said.

One area he’d like to see improved is the development of a tuition agreement resource guide to further address the matter of First Nations education off-reserve. And special education services also need attention, he said.

The conference continues throughout the week.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Math on the Move

Here is but one of the many great items that came from the OAME 2011 conference, courtesy of Melinda Lula from HWDSB. Her workshop was on the different ways technology can help us with our assessment practices, especially assessment FOR/AS learning. Please visit her wikispace, designed for conference participants, at http://www.math-on-the-move.wikispaces.com/ .

Click around and explore the wikispace and thank her (and her HWSDB colleagues) for sharing the info. We really are moving towards a collaborative profession/practice from the private practice many of us have grown (too) accustom to. It's wonderful to have fellow OCTs sharing not only within schools and boards, but across the province.

If you haven't done so already, think about putting next year's conference on your learning plan. It is like "Reading for the love of it" for math (but even better!!) and next year's conference is in beautiful Kingston, Ontario. i will try to put up more items from the conference as soon as i get the opportunity.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

OAME 2011

Here i am working hard on Problem Solving for Enrichment in grades 5-8, just one of the many great workshops at OAME 2011. The package of problems i'm working on will be made available to the Numeracy Committee at our June meeting. For information on next year's conference, SO YOU CAN PUT IT ON YOUR LEARNING PLAN, please click here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Active Learning Means Using the Body | Edutopia

Active Learning Means Using the Body Edutopia

A fabulous article to read about using movement to teach...math, writing, or anything. Click on the link above to read the article from its original source or carry on reading it below...

Good morning students! We are going to learn how to make multiplication problems. Today we have traveled back in time to the age of the dinosaurs. Dinosaurs reproduce by laying…..? Right! Eggs. The dinosaurs lay their eggs in …? Correct again. Nests. In your baggy, you will find several paper nests and two colors of eggs.

I would be excited to learn what multiplication was if I was in this class!

This teacher set up a real, active, learning environment in which the students had to use their bodies to figure things out. That is what I want to talk about. I have lots of questions that are related to this concept: When was it that the schools separated the brain from the body? Why do students have to sit, and sit, and sit all day (especially secondary students)? Why is a pencil a tool to think with? How is it possible to type without looking at my fingers, or drive without looking at my feet?

In the Classroom

Now back to the lesson I observed. The teacher gave each student a baggy that contained several paper dinosaur nests and candies that looked like eggs. There were white ones and blue ones. The students were excited to learn, not only because of the enticement of candies, but because of the interest generated by the dinosaur nests. The teacher then verbally gave the students different scenarios of eggs. In some she described nests without regard to color, while with other scenarios, color was integral.

“One stegosaurus laid three blue eggs and one white one in one nest, and three blue ones and one white one in another. How many eggs total did she lay? How many white eggs did she lay? How many blue ones?” “This brontosaurus laid nine eggs total in three nests. She thinks that each nest had about the same amount of eggs. Can you show me what that might look like?” “A triceratops set a goal to lay 12 eggs. She built three nests. How many eggs would she need in each nest to make them all equal?” The teacher then took the time to connect the number of nests times how many eggs in each to multiplication. The kids “got it” right off the bat!

Compare this with what many teachers do -- “Here is a gridded piece of paper. Write the numbers one to ten going down, and then write them again going across. Now fill in the table with these numbers.” After years of doing this, many students still don’t get their times tables. What makes the difference? The answer is simple. The body is an extension of the brain.

Mind and Body Connection

You have heard of muscle memory, but what I am talking about the body increasing the brain’s memory. That is how I can type without looking at my fingers and drive without looking at my feet. The idea is really simple. In order for the body to move, the brain usually has to tell it to move. So if the body is active, so is the brain. Repeated motions are learned by the brain and the body. Connect motions with concepts and the body becomes a literal extension of the brain. In a classroom where the students are asked to use their bodies as learning tools, the teacher can see if the student’s “get it” just by watching what their bodies are doing.

Students who struggle can get a clue by simply looking around and seeing what other students are doing. Discipline is diminished because few students will want to be singled out by refusing to participate in the fun activity.

Points to Ponder

I witnessed a teacher teaching high school seniors how to improve their writing. I observed compliant behavior with undertones of resentment from most of the students as they obediently wrote a descriptive paragraph. Then, magically, I witnessed a total transformation in their attitudes when the teacher explained that they were going to publish a newsletter for the school. They did not know that in writing the newsletter, they will be doing much more writing than if they sat in class responding to teacher prompts. But they were so excited about it.

Writing is an active behavior; the brain has to tell the hands and fingers what to do (low on Bloom’s). But writing with purpose is a learning behavior; the brain has to decide what to write and why to write it and then determine if it is the best thing to write (way up there on Bloom’s Taxonomy).

A teacher can easily observe the learning going on by watching how the student’s pencils fly over the pages. What makes the difference? It’s simple. The body is an extension of the brain.

Maybe the brain got disconnected from the body because the teachers believe that the body moving all the time will take away vital energy resources from the brain, which will diminish thinking power. Perhaps, the students have to sit all the time because of the ink bottles often spilled when the students got out of their seats to participate in collaborative groups. I believe I know how a pencil can be a tool to “think-with”: The student writes something down, and then thinks that the teacher won’t like it, so the student turns the pencil upside down and erases, ponders something new and better to write, and then writes it down. Now we know everything!

I look forward to finding out how you help your students use their bodies to extend their learning power.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Music and Chess as Standard Curriculum

This article adds to the mountain of research that says how music promotes brain development. i would argue that the music of math and the math of music work hand in hand in stimulate brain function. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

8th Grader Designs Game Apps

This article talks about an 8th grade student who has designed apps for the iPad/iPhone. Could we not expect and encourage the same of our own students?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Adapting Your Classroom

Adapting you classroom

This is an interesting article about how a teacher (re)designed his classroom. Often we do not think of the potential (or limitations) that the physical classroom environment can do for (or to) our students and our teaching and learning.

Think about your own classroom and what sort of learning environment you want for yourself and your students as you read the article. i can see the excellent implications a similar set up could have for math communication and group problem solving in our classrooms.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Netflix for Books

Here's an interesting article that isn't quite math related, but i wanted to share it anyway...it talks about a new literacy service that uses NetFlix style suggestions from students' book preferences.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Math CAMPPP 2011

For those of you interested in an amazing Math experience in a beautiful locale this summer, click on this link to view the EduGAINS/MathGAINS website for details of this year's Math CAMPPP. This info was shared at the May Numeracy Committee meeting with your school reps. If you are interested and want more info, contact myself or your rep, or click on the link above.

Quest to Learn

Question: What do you get when you cross a video game designer with the average school? You get Quest to Learn, a school that is leading the way in collaborative learning and critical skill development in its designed approach to learning environments. You can read about it in this article from Joel Hood in the Chicago Tribune.

Taking School to the Next Level

Rock music blares in a Manhattan classroom as an 11-year-old builds a website for video game enthusiasts and a classmate solders LED lights and capacitors to a circuit board. In another room, students are immersed in a life-size video game as they kneel beside a virtual river, sifting through the remains of ancient civilizations.

What kid wouldn't love a school developed by video game designers?

Quest to Learn was designed to be different from the ground up. This complete reinvention of the typical urban middle school downplays rote memorization in favor of collaborative learning, critical thinking and imaginative exploration in an effort to change how today's students learn.

And this fall, it's coming to Chicago.

With more than $1.2 million in funding from the MacArthur Foundation and other philanthropic organizations, the public charter school to be called Chicago Quest is scheduled to open in September in a renovated school building at Ogden and Clybourn avenues on the edge of the old Cabrini-Green public housing development. Officials are already talking about one day opening Chicago Quests on the city's South and West sides as well.

For city educators, Chicago Quest is an important foray into 21st century thinking. Students will learn from video game designers and computer experts how to design and build their own video games, produce custom websites, podcast, blog, record and edit short films and connect with technology in meaningful and productive ways.

In an era of rigid standardized testing, city leaders say Quest is a novel approach to get today's wired 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds prepared for the technology-driven, global job market that awaits them.

"The only way we're going to catch up with the rest of the world is to reinvent how teaching and learning occurs," said Chicago Public Schools interim chief Terry Mazany. "That's why this is so vital. It's going to be an innovation engine for the district, and I'll strongly encourage the next leadership to keep them close and learn from them."

On a recent trip to Quest's cramped Manhattan headquarters, Elizabeth Purvis, executive director of Chicago International Charter School, seemed dazzled by what students were able to do.

"The only way we're going to catch up with the rest of the world is to reinvent how teaching and learning occurs," said Chicago Public Schools interim chief Terry Mazany. "That's why this is so vital."
"You can't watch how these kids work, how invested they are in what they're learning, and not come away amazed," Purvis said.

Chicago International Charter School, the city's largest network of charters with 13 campuses and more than 8,000 students, will operate Chicago Quest, which is expected to debut with about 300 sixth- and seventh-graders for the 2011-12 school year. Students will be selected in a citywide lottery to ensure a diverse population of boys and girls from all economic backgrounds. The school, like all CICS charters, is tuition-free.

While Quest's concept and framework will come from New York, organizers in Chicago will tap into the area's deep talent pool for teachers and game designers to give it a distinct local flavor, Purvis said. Some curriculum will be different, and lesson plans will try to align with state testing requirements. But the big-picture idea of using technology and gaming to inspire collaborative learning will be critical to the mission, Purvis said.

"The reality is, we are a Chicago public school," Purvis said. "So our (testing) scores matter. We're not going to say, as long as everyone is happy and the teachers think we're doing well, it's a good school. That's the furthest from the truth. The goal is hoping that we see accelerated performance in here."

What's most remarkable about New York's 2-year-old Quest to Learn isn't the technology, although it's impressive. It's that the students, while computer-savvy, are for the most part ordinary preteens, said Bob Holling, a design strategist with the Institute of Play, a New York-based nonprofit research organization that launched Quest to Learn.

"These students are not tech whizzes, not all of them," Holling said. "That said, they're of the generation that has grown up around technology."

That forms the basis of education at Quest to Learn. On a recent day, a dozen students filed into a classroom where a ceiling-mounted video projector was showing a computer-generated image onto a large white gym mat on the floor. The image consisted of two sandy banks, representing the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia, bisected by a fast-moving river.

Four students knelt beside the river, pulling out computer images of stone tablets and papyrus, mud-brick arches and pottery, with water-bottle-size game controllers whose movements were tracked by wall-mounted infrared cameras.

The students had already studied the differences between the societies of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia with reading materials, a film and a trip to a local history museum. But the lesson on this day — demanding split-second decisions about which relics belong to which society and why — held the students transfixed in a way teachers at more traditional schools might only dream about.

"It's a different type of learning because of how they teach it, not what they're teaching," said sixth-grader Connor Fitzgerald. "They give you the facts, but more importantly they tell you about the relationships between those facts."

That same day, seventh-grader Isabel Clements was taking what she had learned in a lecture on genetics to create a computer-generated model of a different species of butterfly that could withstand life in a harsh new habitat of her choosing. A professional design firm hopes to use some of the class's creations in an evolution-themed video game.

"We've tried really, really hard to hold true to our vision," said Katie Salen, a game designer and professor at an acclaimed art, design and technology college in New York who co-founded Quest to Learn. "And so we haven't varied at all from the big, important ideas."

Those "big, important ideas" include a unique grading system that does away with traditional A, B and C and, instead, has students competing, in video game speak, to earn levels of expertise such as "novice," "apprentice," "senior" and "master." Students learn to help each other improve.

Gaming is central to the school's makeup, instructors say, because it provides the ideal platform for creativity, imagination and critique. It also creates an arena for learning where students expect to sometimes fall short, Salen said.

"One of things about gaming is that resilience is sometimes more important than ability, and that you can have kids with high ability who aren't that resilient and won't try and try and try again, and you may have kids with lower ability but their resilience is high and they may master the game," Purvis said. "What they're really teaching these kids are 21st century collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking."

Purvis admits it's probably too early to tell if the type of learning in practice at Quest to Learn better prepares students for college or even for high school. The ultimate goal, Salen said, is not necessarily to produce more Quest to Learns around the country, but rather to apply some of its most successful concepts to traditional schools. That, she said, may be the school's most enduring legacy.

"The vision is to try to help schools make the changes they want to make, to adopt as much or as little as makes sense for them," Salen said. "I think there is a little something here for everybody."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Children's Publisher Callaway Trades Books For Apps

Children's Publisher Callaway Trades Books For Apps

In a lengthy profile, coffee-table book publisher Nicholas Callaway detailed a newfound passion for apps over books, proclaiming them the successor to traditional books and making a full-fledged switch. A viewing of Pixar's original Toy Story and the encouragement of Steve Jobs gave Callaway the "eureka" moments that convinced him that apps are a new form of story-telling and caused him to reinvent his already-successful company.

Callaway told Reuters that he has "bet the whole ranch" on his change from traditional to e-publishing. From the perspective of publishers, the invention of iOS and particularly the iPad has opened up a new "gold rush" of possibilities for connecting with audiences at dramatically lower cost than ever before. Callaway believed that the "Dickensian" costs associated with paper publishing -- printing, storing, distributing and inventorying actual books -- devours 25-40 percent of the wholesale cost, and the retailer also gets a substantive share that sometimes makes Apple's 30 percent royalty seem low, he said.

Callaway and partner David Kirk had already found mass appeal with the latter's children's series Miss Spider's Tea Party, which then led not just to sequel books but entire lines of highly stylish, intricately-designed toys and accessories that eventually went global.

In mid-2009, with the buzz about Apple developing a product that would bridge the gap between computers and smartphones, Callaway contacted Apple CEO Steve Jobs directly to ask for help in becoming an app developer. Jobs was familiar with Callaway's art book publishing efforts and encouraged Callaway to explore adapting their previous successes to the new medium. Callaway sent Jobs an alpha build of the app version of "Miss Spider" on an iPod touch and was allowed to come to Cupertino to help develop the app for what would soon be known as the iPad.

Since then, Callaway has had huge success with his "books as apps" approach, in addition to straightforward e-book publishing. The Monster at the End of This Book, a Sesame Street title, has done extremely well and remains at the top of App Store charts. It augments the original beloved book by having Grover read the story to the user as well as having interactive elements that encourage children to swipe the "book" to turn the "pages." He has also done app-books featuring Martha Stewart and Rachel Allen. The latter's cookbook turns pages when the reader claps, allowing chefs with messy hands to follow along with the narration from Allen.

In a good example of how the publishing world has changed, Callaway says that authors and app makers are now brought together early on to create interactive apps or e-books first, with paper editions contingent on the success of the project in the digital world.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Six Nations District Numeracy Committee Meeting Minutes Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Six Nations District Numeracy Committee Meeting Minutes
Wed., April 6/2011, 2:30-4:00pm
District Teacher Room, JC Hill School

In Attendance: T. Claus, A. Noyes, C. Froman, A. Anderson, M. Martin,
J. Restoule General, L. Martin

Absent: D. Hill, J. Skye

1. Reflex Math flyer was shared; teachers in grades 2 to 6 interested in submitting their name to be a pilot class can sign up via the flyer/website or contact District Numeracy Teacher

2. OAME Abacus publication shared; “Investigating Capacity and Volume”

3. Bridges’ Equals Math information session invitation flyer shared

Guest Presentation: Sumona Roy
• Collaborative inquiry working on 3 part lessons in a professional community- gave formats, probing questions,
• Discussed also some environmental and social justice math issues and gave lesson plan examples by grade level
• Did an activity to build awareness of the Mathematical Processes
• We will be invited on to their Math Wiki space

The committee discussed briefly how this might work in our district/schools/classrooms.


Next Meeting: May 4th 2011.