Friday, December 21, 2012

Don't Peek Behind the Curtain!!

Secret Teacher: leadership is like the Wizard of Oz - a facade that lacks magic

Senior leaders are drowning in paperwork rather than inspiring others, says Secret Teacher
School leaders: like the Wizard of Oz the higher echelons of school management are not what our blogger thought they would be.
In the Wizard of Oz, as Dorothy and the others seek an answer to their problems, there is an eventual realisation that there is no great cure or no great solution to any of the ailments they face. When they finally see the Wizard, they realise he is nothing more than a small, ordinary man who can no more grant courage than he can give hearts. By seeing behind the curtain, the magic disappears and they are presented with the harsh reality.

As a young teacher I aspired to greater things as I felt that those in positions of responsibility had a driving passion, excelled at their job and were able to make a difference. As I've climbed the rungs of the ladder though, I'm afraid to report that having seen behind the curtain, the world of SLT doesn't do the things it should. As I rose higher this soon became apparent. As head of department, I realised that the higher I got, the more paper was pushed and the less conversations about learning took place. Unperturbed I've continued the climb, only to find that the higher echelons of school management are not the places I expected them to be. I expected a table full of people striving to make a difference, outstanding teachers in their own field, each with strengths to develop this in others. And it isn't. Behind the curtain can actually be a depressing place.

It's a place, ironically, most teachers are looking to avoid - an office. A world of policies, guidelines, unions and grants. Of bizarre abbreviations, self evaluation forms (SEFs) and school development plans (SDPs) and a crescendo of paper shuffling. Most teachers go into the profession believing they can make a difference and those who look to progress do so in order to have more chance of doing this, but actually it's a place where capable staff are wading through bureaucracy.

So where's the blame? The academy status doesn't help. Schools were not designed to be businesses, they were designed to be places of learning and consequently the people at the top of them have an expertise in teaching, not in business. In the past week, my headteacher has suffered a three-hour finance meeting about the accounts of our new limited company, countless discussions about a proposed rebuild over part of our school that may/may not happen, and other uses of her day that don't relate to teaching and learning, all at a crucial time when we need to be doing something about our core subject results and raising standards in the classroom. We spend hours of SLT meetings discussing things that aren't related to students and their learning and something has to give.

As school leaders, we need to refocus on what's vitally important and find a way to leave the rest to other people. All school leaders started off as teachers and this needs to be what the focus returns to. Hiding away in offices studying policies and rewriting SEFs doesn't make a day-to-day impact on students. Senior staff need to be brave enough not to be distracted from the focus; that of creating a culture of good learning. We need to keep in mind what's important and shift the focus back to enabling students to do the very best they can and getting teachers to feel as empowered and motivated as possible. If schools are to become cathedrals of learning, we need to ensure that the focus is on what we're good at, and not on other things that sidetrack our time. Teaching has become a profession we're over-complicating.

In order to refocus US president Bill Clinton during his election campaign, concerned that the agenda was shifting daily away from what voters valued, his chief strategist James Carville hung a sign in the campaign office saying: "The economy, stupid." At the height of Disney's fame, as theme parks were being talked of and movies going global, founder Walt made the statement: "I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse." Apparently this still hangs on the wall at Disney HQ as a reminder to all of where the focus is. Senior leaders need to look at what occupies their time and ask the question: "Is it going to directly improve the learning in my school?" And if it doesn't address that priority it needs to be done at another time by someone else. If we can do this, staff will feel more motivated, students more valued and standards will rise. It will also mean that the next generation of school leaders will be those who aspire to get behind the curtain and can join me in this good fight to do what we're good at, and leave the rest to the others.

Today's Secret Teacher is an assistant headteacher in the east of England.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

13 Sacred Cows in Schools (and what to do about them)

Read the blog post here.  Industrial school model needs to make way for creativity and innovation in our schools.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Deck the Halls!!

Christmas Math is spilling out into the hallways of our schools!
Check out OMSK's Grade 3 Christmas scenes, complete with measured houses and conical conifers!
Then scroll further to see the stacked measurements of ILTO's Grade 2 Christmas tree towers.  Scrunched inbetween are some reindeer, with complete instructions on how to make one yourself!
Now that's combining numeracy and literacy in a fun, festive way.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Treefrog Treasure

Need something to keep those few students occupied while you practice the Christmas Concert for the 40th time through?  How about this fun, awesome game that combines a frog jumping with multiple fractional representation?  Courtesy of BrainPOP's GAME UP session.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Activities for your pre-Holiday week

Activities for your pre-Holiday week

Courtesy of Yummy Math!  A great website resource for wonderful math ideas.  After you click the link, scroll below to see a lesson plan that asks for questions about this Soda Santa.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Another Nail in the Coffin of Textbooks

View the original article from the source by clicking here or continue reading the entire article below.

Digital textbooks are great, right? Education Secretary Arne Duncan thinks so – and is calling for the US to move as quickly as possible to make the switch. “Over the next few years, textbooks should be obsolete”, he said. Part of the push comes from not wanting to be late to the game – students in many other countries are ahead of the US in adopting new educational technologies.

Aside from not wanting to be the slow kids on the playground, there are a number of compelling reasons to make the shift to digital sooner rather than later. We’re sure you can come up with a million other reasons on your own, but here are the ones that really get us excited for a major shift to digital:

1. Save A Spine

You know what stinks? When your back hurts. You know what stinks even more? When your back has been hurting since you were in the first grade because you had to carry so many darned books around. We’ve all seen kids waddling to school carrying backpacks nearly as large as they are, filled to capacity and visibly pulling down. Lots of studies are showing that heavy backpacks can cause chronic back pain, especially in children, who are still growing. “Back pain” is pretty generic. But nerve damage in the neck and shoulders, stress fractures in the back, inflammation of growth cartilage, and back and neck strain are not. We bet you don’t want any of those and you wouldn’t want your students to, either.

2. Interactive Features Rule

We’re moving away from a learning tradition of being lectured at and doing exercises and reading from a book, so our textbooks need to catch up, too. Digital textbooks are so much more than simply a digital version of a paper book. Many include features such as videos, interactive models, and moveable diagrams to keep students engaged and enrich the explanations of topics. Since all of these are now located in the textbook, there’s no need for teachers or students to collect many materials from many sources to have all they need for a topic.

3. Bringing Books and Notebooks Together

Many digital textbooks have the ability to add ‘layers’ right on top of each page. Students and teachers can take notes, add drawings, write questions, and work out problems as needed. No need to keep a separate notebook or binder for class notes, homework, or miscellaneous associated work.

4. More Personalized Curriculum

Many (print) textbook publishers encourage (read: basically force) schools and districts to purchase a package deal for their textbooks. So if you really want the extra super fabulous Algebra 2 textbook from X publisher, you’re probably stuck with their bordering on crappy basic math text, too. With digital, its much easier to pick and choose from the best of the best texts in each subject matter. Furthermore, if you (as a teacher or a student) want a copy of a different text then your class is using, it is much easier to obtain a copy than trying to get a single hard copy textbook from a publisher.

5. Save Money

It seems pretty obvious that you’ll save trees when you buy something digital vs. paper, but you also save a lot of money. Pricing for both buying and renting digital textbooks is lower than for paper. Additionally, digital textbooks don’t need to be replaced for wear and tear or damage, but they also don’t need to be physically reprinted when they’re updated. New editions are available much more quickly and easily.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ontario Educational Resource Bank Pilot Project

Here is some of the information surrounding the newest resource accessible to us, the Ontario Educational Resource Bank.  A permanent link has been added to the Links for Teachers sidebar.  Ask your School Leaders for your teacher and/or student password to login to access the resources.

To get an overview of the search engine and what is available on the site, you can do the online tutorial, which can be accessed from the site itself, or viewed by clicking here.

It looks like the site could be used to share Native Language resources, so maybe this is a good place to share those files that are created and could be handy for other NSL or Immersion teachers in our district and at other First Nation schools.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Right Hand Turn Problem

Thank you to Peter Child from BASEF for sharing this problem.  Lots of math involved in this experiment, from simpler measurement concepts of distance to greater mathematical concepts to do with speed, velocity and perceived space and the rate of which one's eyes can determine distance.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Student Genius Inspires to Make Baths a Thing of the Past

This is utterly amazing.  The bright minds of the future may just yet save us from ourselves.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ontario Teacher Strike is about Democracy - Activism - Multiple Musings |

Ontario Teacher Strike is about Democracy - Activism - Multiple Musings |

Click the link above to read the article from its original source.  Continue reading below to read the article here in its entirety.

Multiple Musings

Ontario Teacher Strike is about Democracy

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"Every day I wake up on the wrong side of capitalism," Lewenza declares. "And every day I wake up knowing there are more people with me. Enough of us are waking up to fight back."
"The evidence is just about bulletproof: When union membership thrives, so does the middle class. Over the past 18 month, studies by Harvard University, the non-partisan Center for American Progress (CAP), the union-backed Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington, D.C., and the Pew Research Center, also in Washington, have shown an incontrovertible correlation between the rate of unionization and the percentage of the nation's total wealth held by the middle class."
The Toronto Star, Is Decline of unions leading to decline of the middle class?, by Antonia Zerbisias, published on August 31, 2012.
There is no doubt in my mind that without unions be will eventually revert to the 1930s era of labour relations (and pre 1930s). Labour laws will not be enough to protect workers from the voracious appetites of hungry, profit maximizing, endless growth seeking, unsustainable corporations. They can afford better lawyers than we can.
That is why I support this strike. It's not about money. It's not even about sick days and retirement gratuities (see more on this later). It's about a government that passes a law that undermines our right to collective bargaining, this is setting a precedent for all workers.

Protecting democracy is about our kids - it's about their future. I want my kids to live in a world where they are protected from unfair and unsafe labour practices. The shift away from fair labour relations began long ago, with Walmart and other box stores and it will continue until the gap between rich and poor can grow no more. Canadian, American and multi-national companies are involved in extremely poor, abusive and sometimes murderous treatment of workers in countries where there are no unions to protect the people. This can happen again here if we let it.
The strike is about fighting a government that is prorogued in times of discomfort in order to avoid their responsibilities to the public.
It's about governments (provincial and federal) who pass omnibus bills pushing through dangerous and disturbing legislation to further their own interests.
Yoda Democracy.jpg
This is also about the misinformation the the government is feeding the public. Some newspapers ferret this out, like in this article in the Ottawa Citizen regarding retirement gratuities.
This is also about remembering basic decency and human rights theory, people who are treated with respect feel better about their jobs, about themselves and perform better. What is the government modelling here?
Here is some information on the more nitty gritty details of the issues.
Read this article by People For Education about the problem with bookkeeping. The Ministry shows all potential sick days as liabilities as part of the deficit. The reality is that most teachers don't use up all those sick days so they are not really liabilities. The cost of the gratuity is less than the cost of using the sick days (see below).
The reality is that strike is the only option left. The government likes to state that they tried to bargain and the unions walked away, but that is patently untrue. The unions are welcome to bargain if, and only if, they meet the terms set out in the OECTA Memorandum of Understanding. (In case you didn't know this, provincial OECTA sold out their members, agreeing to a deal without ratification from a single local).
Back to the issue of sick days and retirement gratuities, here is a well spoken comment made on a blog post:
"The 200 days banked is merely the level needed to get the gratuity. Most teachers have much more than that. What most people fail to understand is that it is in the Board's (and taxpayer's) best interest to encourage teachers to bank as many as possible. For every day a teacher is away, the public needs to pay both the teacher who is off sick and a supply teacher. I have banked over 320 sick days in my career so far - the cost to the taxpayer if I had used those days instead of banking them? - $192,000.
I know at this point, logical, fiscal arguments don't usually help, so let me make it more personal. This year I had a bout of pneumonia and was away for quite sometime. Would you, as a parent, really want me in the classroom/school infecting your child and possibly hundreds of others? If I'm not there, what would you have done for your child? Send them to the library? Gym? How would it sound if you were told, "No math class today. my teacher was off sick."?"

by Wayne Scott Ng on

I will add the caveat that unions need to clean up their side of the street also. They must weed out greed and corruption within their ranks (I sense another more philosophical post on human nature coming).
You may think I'm being melodramatic, but I don't think so. Our rights are being slowly chipped away at year after year while the majority of people remain blissfully unaware or apathetic at best and willfully supporting it in their own interests at worst.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Problem Solving with Perimeter, Hold the Context

[Farrand, West, and Stetson] Problem Solving as PD for the CCSS

Farrand kicked this one off with a figure composed of 18 paper squares that had a perimeter of 20. “Can you come up with a figure using 18 squares that has a larger perimeter than this one?” he asked participants. “How about a smaller perimeter?”

Farrand then passed out baggies of paper squares that we cautiously manipulated on our laps. This session was begging for tables. With squares placed corner to corner, we found a maximum perimeter of 72. We agreed on a minimum perimeter of 18. One participant stacked the squares on top of each other for a perimeter of 4, but this only resulted in clarifying conditions for the shapes.
West, Farrand, and Stetson teamed up to ask a lot of questions. On the side, we were asked which questions perplexed us the most.

Through a series of these questions we were coaxed into thinking about what happens to the perimeter as we add squares. We quickly discovered that when squares are added, sometimes perimeter increases, but at other times it doesn’t. Here’s what we found:

The group’s discovery was that changing the number of contiguous squares in a row or column has no effect on the perimeter. The perimeter is equivalent to a figure with the row or column maximized. Putting a finger on why this is the case and using language to explain it pulled in some rich math practices.

Farrand then challenged us to use this understanding to calculate the perimeter of a figure without counting:

Throughout the session Stetson facilitated “Teacher Time-Out” moments, highlighting approaches that were used to get us thinking more deeply about the problem. “Did you hear the question Rick just asked? What sort of thinking would that require you to do? What mathematical practices are in play here?” Participants reflected on the importance of capitalizing on student curiosity and facilitating student sharing.

We then explored figures composed of equilateral triangles with the guiding question, “How does adding triangles affect perimeter?” One big surprise of the session came at this point: adding an equilateral triangle to a figure of five triangles can actually decrease the perimeter.

I found this problem to be refreshingly devoid of context. There was no talk of minimizing fence material for a dog’s pen, for example. It was a great opportunity to reason and justify conclusions. Discoveries were made and a few surprises propelled participants into further questioning. West, Farrand and Stetson reminded us that problem solving tasks are key sources for the use of mathematical practices in our classrooms.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

10 Tips for Using Evernote in the Classroom

10 Tips for Using Evernote in the Classroom courtesy of Teq PD.  You will need to enter your info to receive the download link to a free e-book that is quite an interesting way to learn about Evernote and the related family of apps (Skitch, Penultimate, Clearly, Web Clipper).  In addition to the 10 tips that follow, there is a description of each app and how you can begin using it right away in your classroom.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Give a Compliment, Get a Compliment

I would like to share this video, and to say to all of you, the staff and students at Six Nations, as well as any of the regular blog readers out there that I have crossed paths with, that I appreciate the time you've spent with me, learning about math together, sharing in conversations about education and enjoying a life of learning and dialogue.

As for the street compliments idea, how powerful would it be to set something like this up in our schools?  We have the technology to do it.  Using a Mac lab or Photo Booth or the web cam, we could have our students complimenting each other, along with our teachers and education staff.  We could all use a little more complimenting of one another in our lives.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Top 16 iPad Apps for Education

Top 16 iPad Apps for Education courtesy of Teq PD.  You will need to enter your info to receive the download link to a free e-book that is quite an interesting way to learn about the 16 apps.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Six Nations Numeracy Wikispace

A big thank you to our PD presenter from the November 16th PD day, Janet Ragan, who established a Wikispace for her workshop, but more importantly, for our future continued use as professionals at Six Nations.  The wiki can be found by clicking here, but is also housed permanently on the right sidebar under Links for teachers.  This can be a space to further develop, share and discuss our Numeracy resources.  Thanks again to Janet for creating the space for us.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Last night I discovered a new App Directory entitled Appolicious.  It is more than just educational apps, but you can browse the recommendations submitted by users by category, so the education section if FULL of suggestions by teachers or other educational users of apps.  It isn't solely Apple apps, either, so those of you running now Mac products might want to take a look too.  Here's the link to the education page.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Mysterious Workings of the Adolescent Brain

Having TED Talk withdrawl since the series I posted last week?  Here's another talk on the Mysterious Workings of the Adolescent Brain.  If you've ever read the comic strip "Zits" or had one of these teenage things living in your house, you know what Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is talking about.

Monday, November 26, 2012

McGraw-Hill Exec: Tech Will Make Us Rethink Age-Grouping in Schools

Sep 27, 2012 - 1:34PM PT
by Ki Mae Heussner

As digital learning platforms continue to personalize education, McGraw-Hill SVP Jeff Livingston believes schools, particularly at the high school level, will need to rethink grouping students by age and instead organize students by competency.

Online platforms like Khan Academy are already starting to flip classrooms across the country so that students can learn at their own pace. But some think it might not be too long before technology pushes schools to personalize education in even more structural ways, so that students are no longer grouped by age, but by competency.

Noting advances in educational technology –- from online platforms that deliver instruction to programs that analyze student learning data -– Jeff Livingston, senior vice president of College and Career Readiness at McGraw-Hill, said Thursday he thinks that in the next five to six years, schools and educators are going to have to rethink age-grouping as the primary organizing principle for K-12 education, especially at the high-school level.

In a virtual roundtable with reporters, he said, “What does it mean to be a 9th grader or 10th grader beyond being a certain age? … It doesn’t make sense that all the 15-year-olds are in this grade and all the 16-year-olds are in that grade. It should be where your interests, your skills and your mastery of certain concepts takes you.”

Competency-based vs. seat-time-based learning

Mixed-age classrooms, not so unlike those from the days of the one-room schoolhouse, are already espoused by many Montessori and Quaker schools. In those environments, the thinking is that real learning is best accomplished when students are motivated to progress at their own pace and help each other.

But as technology helps teachers guide students through content at their own pace -– and effectively assess their mastery of skills and concepts -– multiage classrooms could become a reality in more traditional classrooms.

Some schools and teachers already seem to be trying the model using Khan Academy. And, led by higher education, Livingston only expects that trend to pick up.

In a conversation with me after the event, he pointed to the online Western Governors University (a McGraw-Hill partner) as a model for learning based on competency, not the number of hours a student spends in a classroom. He also highlighted the growth in students taking online courses as well as college courses on campus to offset the limitations of their local schools. As more self-motivated students start cutting their own path -– increasingly with the help of digital platforms –- educators will have little choice but to figure out how to accommodate them, Livingston said.

What does the high school diploma mean?

New models of learning based on competency will also contribute to new ways of thinking about certification and credentialing, he said. That debate is already brewing at the higher education level, as startups like Udacity and Coursera start to certify students’ skills online. But Livingston said the high school diploma will also increasingly be challenged to prove its value against other kinds of certificates that are “organized around what you can do, more than what you know.”

In the past couple of years, digital education has experienced such profound growth and investment that it’s not hard to imagine that its momentum will only continue to build and re-shape schools and classrooms. But as important as building the technology to enable competency-based classrooms is building teacher support and education for new models. The technology is increasingly there, but the challenge is breaking through bureaucracy and overcoming entrenched ways of thinking about how education is structured and experienced.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Tools for Teaching: The Amazing Sticky Note | Edutopia

Tools for Teaching: The Amazing Sticky Note | Edutopia

Click on the link above to read an interesting article/blog post about the undervalued, everyday common sticky note and how it is used in teaching.  There is also a short video to watch.  Below is a brief list to give you a taste of the article.

Some of the ways I've seen sticky notes used in classrooms:

•When reading difficult passages from technical texts, I have seen teachers encourage students to summarize what is being stated on a sticky note and then place the note in the margin so it sticks out a bit to make it easy to find in the future

•Students use sticky notes to organize their folders, study cards and notepapers

•Students storyboard their writing with sticky notes so they can be moved around. This matches the idea that not all of us think sequentially, and allows students to take advantage of ideas spawned out of order

•Some students (particularly boys for some reason) when they get a pad of sticky notes seem to always want to draw the antics of stick men on the bottom of each one so that when they flip the pages, it appears that the stick men are moving. This actually requires planning and higher order thinking

•Students comment on other student papers or work and give suggestions for improvement and compliments on sticky notes

•Students sticky notes to identify things in the classroom, label items in a target language, or categorize items by type

•Gallery walks in which students analyze poetry, quotes or philosophies by placing their responses on sticky notes

•Teachers use colored sticky notes as disciplinary measures, green notes being exemplary behavior, and red ones warning of impending discipline if behavior doesn't change

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Changing Education Paradigms

We've reached the end of the TED Talk Top 10 we started a week and a half ago.  What kind of conversations did this bring about at your school?  With your colleagues?  This final video I've shared on more than one occassion on this blog, for its powerful visual appeal, as well as the awesome speech from Sir Ken Robinson.  In the final days of McGuinty's "education government", will we see these ideas become common place reality in Ontario schools?  Only time will tell.  Share your thoughts below.

Friday, November 9, 2012

10 Talks on Making Schools Great

10 talks on making schools great

Check out these amazing TED talks focused on schools and education.  Some of them I've posted on this blog before, but with the upcoming U.S. election, the TED Blog itself put together a list of Top 10 talks. 

Give yourself some excellent flipped classroom homework and have you and a handful of colleagues watch one a night and discuss over lunch time the next day at school.

To give you a hand, I'll post them throughout the week.  Here's the first one from Sir Ken Robinson:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Is it only a matter of time?

Some Schools in Australia Now Requiring iPads for Students

updated 03:00 am EDT, Fri October 12, 2012
By Electronista Staff

A church-based private school, along with several other private educational institutions in Sydney, Australia are now informing parents that most students will be required to own an iPad beginning in the next school year. The move to tablets has become compulsory at the schools because educators believe they are significantly more effective as learning tools than notebook, and eliminates the need for students to lug around heavy textbooks. While not all schools are mandating iPads specifically, traditional printed materials and even laptops are clearly on the way out.

St. Andrew's Cathedral School in central Sidney, reports the Sydney Morning Herald, now requires parents to buy iPads for seventh- to tenth-graders. While currently this represents an extra $600 or so from the parents, officials say that as e-book textbooks become more widespread the savings from not buying the printed books will more than offset the cost of the iPad.

The use of the tablet, with its ubiquitous wireless connection, allows classes to be more mobile and for students to more easily carry all the materials they need with them from one class to another without having to change out books at lockers. While some parents are concerned that additional time spent on the computer could increase Internet addictions or be abused, the school networks are used to filter where students can go on the Internet and limit non-educational use.

Officials argue that strong computer and Internet interaction is the way modern children communicate and that schools must work with the students on a level they can engage in. The machines are also used to set up FaceTime-like conferences when the student is sick and must work from home, allowing students to not fall behind and still be involved with the class.

A girl's school called St. Catherine's in Waverly went with the heavier and more expensive Samsung Series 7 Slate PC for its sixth- through tenth-grade students. It was chosen for its native ability to use a stylus, better for drawing and for some tests which still require students to hand write their essays. The Slates are considerably more expensive, around $1,500 not including some $500 in app and e-text costs.

Parents of the private-school students -- where tuitions can range up to $25,000 per year -- have generally been accepting of the changes and costs, but worry about the propensity of students to lose valuable items, with schools advising that parents add coverage of the tablets to their insurance policies, and impress on youngsters that they may have to pay (or work out in chores) the cost of any lost items. [via Sidney Morning Herald]

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Veterans Remembrance Day Mash-up

The Veterans Affairs Canada website has a great challenge for students to conduct.  Check out the contest here for details.  It's simple. Use the videos and images available on the site to create a mashup, a virtual scrapbook, a fan page or decorate your space. The options are endless. Share with others and link back to the Veterans Affairs Web site.

It seems like a really cool, current and relevant way for students to learn and show their respect for our Veterans.  Leave a comment if you try it out this year.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Are you a fan of Wikipedia?

Why Wikipedia Does Belong in the Classroom

by Jonathan Obar
September 20th, 2012

The proper place of social media in the classroom remains a mystery to most people, with Wikipedia standing as the biggest, baddest new media nemesis of them all.

Note: Earlier this month, Brian Proffitt’s post explaining Why Wikipedia Doesn’t Belong In The Classroom garnered strong reactions both pro and con. Here, guest author Jonathan Obar, PhD, like Proffitt a practicing academic, takes the opposite point of view.

In the 80s, Neil Postman wrote, “You cannot do political philosophy on television. Its form works against the content.” To Postman, television was a medium that privileged entertainment, whose decontextualized method of communicating the ephemeral at blazing speeds made linear argument and true learning impossible.

I find it fascinating that while educators work feverishly to incorporate YouTube, video games and other video-based technologies into classrooms, Wikipedia, a text-heavy technology that privileges old-fashioned reading and writing, still befuddles members of the academic establishment.

Wikipedia remains misunderstood because many educators have yet to recognize the distinction between Wikipedia as a tool for teaching and Wikipedia as a tool for research. Unfortunately, fear of the latter has blinded most to the possibilities of the former. I believe Wikipedia to be an effective tool for both.

Wikipedia As A Tool for Teaching

Since 2010, the Wikimedia Foundation has been working hard opening closed-minds, connecting thousands of students at more than 50 schools across the U.S., including Harvard, Yale and UC Berkeley to the Wikipedia Education Program. Thousands more have participated at top universities in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, India, Egypt and in more than 10 European countries. Law schools, social science, health science, engineering, psychology and humanities departments (among others) have participated. The University of Toronto’s medical school is considering having its residency program participate as part of its community outreach requirement. The Association for Psychological Science and the American Sociology Association are concurrently running their own programs and every semester we discover new professors teaching with Wikipedia on their own, happenings common to open-source projects.

Clearly the professors at these schools are overcoming what some might call new media myopia. But how and why?

Wikipedia Education Program professors incorporate Wikipedia into courses by having students collaborate with the community of Wikipedia editors (“Wikipedians”) to write course-related Wikipedia articles, replacing traditional term papers. Student preference for the Wikipedia-way has been demonstrated, and the incentives are clear:

* Similar benefits to traditional writing assignments - as students are still researching and analyzing sources, and writing-up material on course content.

- Digital literacy training. Profs now teach two-courses-in-one as students learn how to use wiki-technology, engage in wiki-culture and collaborate with a virtual social network. They will likely need to know about wikis when they graduate as wikis are everywhere these days, including the corporate world, government (heard of the CIA’s Intellipedia?) and NGOs.

- Multi-layered feedback. Professors and assistants can provide feedback and engage in debate with students, as can the community of Wikipedians. Students are thrust into an intense game of literary dodgeball considering feedback on content, style and presentation from users of varying levels of expertise on content and wikis.

- Students learn to write in an encyclopedic style. A welcome change from argumentative writing, expanding their writing abilities.

- Student favorite: Getting some exposure. In years past, the student and professor would be the only two readers of a term paper. Wikipedia articles remain online indefinitely and contribute to the information available online about course content. We’ve had students tell us they’ve used Google searches to show their grandmothers their work over Thanksgiving. Then there’s Patrick Friedel from Georgetown University who re-wrote the article on the National Democratic Party (Egypt) in fall 2010, an article that since has received more than 160,000 hits. Not bad for a term paper that would normally have ended up in the drawer or the garbage.

Taken a step further, when we introduce Wikipedia into the classroom as a teaching tool, we provide students with a space to reflect and learn about the nature of knowledge and its evolution, about the normative ideals of participatory democracy and about the role of information in societal development. Oh, and did I mention that it’s free?

Wikipedia As A Tool for Research

Brian Proffitt’s article recommended against Wikipedia’s use in the classroom. His argument was straightforward and in two parts:

Argument One (paraphrased): Wikipedia content is amateurish (i.e. crowdsourced), is defined by illogical policies and a variety of indoctrinated (in some instances eccentric) editors, and as a result, shouldn’t be trusted as a reputable source for academic writing.

My response focuses not on the fact that Wikipedia is the largest collaborative project known to humankind, containing more than 4 million articles, 24 million project pages, nearly 800,000 images, a social network of 17 million users (and that’s just the English-language Wikipedia, there are 284 other Wikipedias operating in different languages), or the fact that Wikipedia is currently the sixth most popular site on the net according to Alexa, receiving 450 million+ unique hits and 6 billion+ total hits monthly according to comScore, or that Professor William Cronon, President of the American Historical Association, said last February, “I don’t believe there’s much doubt that Wikipedia is the largest, most comprehensive, copiously detailed, stunningly useful encyclopedia in all of human history.”

Instead, my response to Proffitt will address an incentive for using Wikipedia as a tool for teaching (and research) – teaching our students to be informed consumers of information, or information literate.

When I teach my students about information literacy, I often begin by describing the place of debate in knowledge creation. This idea certainly isn’t new to academics; in fact it’s perhaps one of our oldest and most cherished ideals. Debate can happen in a variety of places; for example, between individuals on a Wikipedia talk page and even within one’s own mind while considering which sources to use when writing an academic paper.

Unfortunately, when students are debating which sources to work with, they must traverse a dangerous terrain. No matter where they look, there are mistakes everywhere. There is bias everywhere. There is missing information everywhere. What this means is that no source should be regarded as the source on any given topic. That includes Wikipedia and the Britannica, the popular press, and even the academic literature - I won’t bother getting into the challenges associated with annual reports, the trade press and reports released by government agencies. In addition to the landmines that we encourage our students to consider, whether we like it or not, students are going to use, Yahoo!Answers and a myriad of sites just like them.

The answer is not to ban Wikipedia. The answer is to teach students how to use sources appropriately. Teach students to be informed consumers of information. Teach them how the encyclopedia ought to be used in academic writing, as well as how to use blogs, tweets and Facebook posts. Teach them not to feel safe anywhere when it comes to our high standards. Teaching information literacy will empower our students to navigate and benefit from the greatest technology of abundance the world has ever known.

Argument Two (paraphrased): Academics do not like Wikipedia. It is often the source of plagiarism, and shouldn’t be cited in academic work.

The popularity of the Education Program and related initiatives suggests that some academics do support Wikipedia. Every semester we have to turn people away because a volunteer army can support only so many classes.

I will not claim to have the answer to the problem of plagiarism, which existed long before Wikipedia. But I say again, banning Wikipedia is not the appropriate response. My answers to the plagiarism and citation charges are the same – engagement. That’s what drives social media, that’s what should drive our teaching.

Teach students that the act of writing in any setting is defined by both form and content. I don’t let my students cite Wikipedia in their academic papers (GASP!) because I don’t believe it to be proper academic form. I don’t let them cite the Britannica or dictionary either. In an effort to shape informed consumers of information I teach them how Wikipedia should and should not be used. I agree with Proffitt when he says it’s a great place to start and a terrible place to finish. Though in some academic circles, the tide is turning.

Wikipedia remains a shining example of what has been made possible by the greatest technology of access and abundance the world has ever known. The power of the network can be intimidating. As educators we can choose to ignore our ever-changing reality or attempt to harness its power.

“Imagine a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge” - words once spoken by Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales. We must teach our students to navigate the information torrent as informed consumers, and recognize how user content-generation, especially through interactive Web 2.0 technologies, can lead to tremendous active-learning outcomes. In doing so, we will be offering our students the benefits of a 21st-century education, and preparing them for success in the ever-changing brave new world that awaits them outside the university walls.

Jonathan Obar, PhD is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media at Michigan State University, and Associate Director of the Quello Center for Telecommunication Management and Law. He also works as a research fellow in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information. He continues to volunteer as a member of the Wikipedia Education Program, which he joined in fall 2010.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Are you a hater of Wikipedia?

Why Wikipedia Doesn't Belong In The Classroom

by Brian Proffitt
September 12th, 2012

Wikipedia's stated goal to be a neutral fact-based encyclopedia has enabled it to accumulate an incredible amount of useful information. But the service's very nature makes it unsuitable for classroom use in the minds of many teachers and professors - no matter how much students want to rely on it.

As a part-time college teacher at the University of Notre Dame, my own position is clear: Wikipedia has no place in my classroom. (For more on Brian Proffitt's technology experiences in academia, see MIllennials: They Aren't So Tech Savvy After All.)

Mistakes Are Not The Problem

The gripes against Wikipedia are woven well into our urban fabric. Many is the tale of some silly mistake creeping into a Wikipedia entry - either through an honest error or a case of Wiki-vandalism. But errors are natural, and definitely human. Is that reason enough to prevent Wikipedia from being used as an educational tool?

That's part of it, but not the main reason I avoid using Wikipedia in the classroom. The biggest complaint for me is that Wikipedia's method of crowdsourcing the truth is often the very thing that trips up the service.

On the one hand, you have the idea of crowdsourcing: put enough humans in a room and they'll eventually produce something like Wikipedia. The problem is, they will also produce something like those tabloids you see in the checkout line at the grocery store.

One person's truth is another person's lie… which is why a project like Wikipedia has to be reviewed by a hierarchical system of editors who have the power to overrule things that are believed (such as the 37% of Americans who believe in UFOs) versus things that are true (that pesky speed-of-light limit Einstein came up with). Otherwise, in a purely crowdsourced Wikipedia, Elvis would still be alive and rocking out from his Area 51 fortress of solitude.

"Citogenesis" Leads To Trouble

But even that editorial framework is not enough. Because Wikipedia's editors rely heavily on cited material to back up the veracity of the material in Wikipedia, but Wikipedia is still instantly published, you can get phenomena like what XKCD artist Randall Munroe calls "Citogenesis."

Citogenesis may be behind what happened to distinguished author Philip Roth last week. The author of the novel The Human Stain found himself in the unique position of trying to change a factual error about this book in its Wikipedia entry… only to have his efforts rebuffed because Roth didn't have a second citable source. That's worth repeating: the author of the book - the ultimate source in this case - needed corroboration from someone else about what had inspired him. Yikes! According to an open letter from Roth published in the New York, s a Wikipedia administrator responded to his request saying: “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work, but we require secondary sources.”

It is this kind of circular reasoning and blind spots that forms the basis of my avoidance of Wikipedia as a tool in the classroom: it's not just that Wikipedia is sometimes wrong, it's also that its error-correcting system can get so wound up in itself that it loses touch with common sense about fact-finding.

Other Professors Agree

According to Dr. Teresa Fishman, Director of the International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI), I am not alone in my opinion of Wikipedia. Fishman - speaking only from her own experiences as director of the ICAI - said that "most instructors are not in favor of citing Wikipedia, and some would rather see it not used as a source at all."

That doesn't mean Wikipedia has no place in academia, though. Fishman related some innovative ways instructors at the college level have used Wikipedia to demonstrate how wikis work as a source of crowd-based content. Fishman described how one professor assigned his class to heavily revise or create new Wikipedia entries, working within the Wikipedia system to have the entry posted and ideally approved by the Wikipedia editors and peers.

This method demonstrates to students pretty quickly the advantages and limitations of Wikipedia, and how the system can be subverted at times. Fishman believes that this method is better than simply banning Wikipedia outright, since it gives students a chance to see for themselves how it works.

The Plagiarism Question

Critics also charge that Wikipedia is too often the souce of plagiarism in academic settings. In its annual survey of students, the ICAI has not determined if that's the case, but recent surveys have shown that many students, particularly those coming up from high school, see nothing wrong with using material from communally authored sources without citation in their own school work.

"The assumption is they are just common knowledge," Fishman explained. To combat this issue, "we hope that teachers will have students hold to the same standards of Wikipedia and cite the source of their thoughts."

Is Wikipedia poisoning the minds of our children? Hardly. Wikipedia is a good place to start research, I tell my students, but for academic work, it is not a good place to end.

Or cite.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This is Halloween

So, how much math do you think was involved in the making of this?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lattice Multiplication

I taught myself Lattice Multiplication tonight with the help of an awesome tutor at Homework Support (Monday to Thursday night, 6 to 8:45 pm for grades 5 to 12 at Polytech).  Take a look at the Wikipedia page and teach yourself something new.  It was exciting for us to learn something new at our old age!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Multiplication Monsters

Nya:weh to Candy Browatzke for sharing this website that makes multiplication a little more fun, with a little more fur, and maybe even a lot more scarier!!  It is Multiplication Monsters.  Students solve multiplication facts and gain gruesome parts that they can then use to design their own monster!


If you have a website to share with our district, whether it is for Halloween or for anytime in the year, please leave a comment below.  Comments will be reviewed before being posted.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Paperless Classroom

Teq: It's all about learning.

The Paperless Classroom

One New York City teacher, Rachel Fein, is on a quest to rid her classroom of paper –- thousands of pieces per year -- using Google's Chromebooks, and adopting educational-based, social media platform, Edmodo.
"I'm really excited about what’s happening in my classroom this year,” said Fein, who got the idea to explore Chromebooks after Teq's professional development specialists Donna Gobin and Morgan Duffield discussed what a digital classroom could look like. Read more...

Flip Your Classroom for More Time with Your Students

In the flipped classroom, classroom-based teaching time and traditional homework time are reversed. A teacher provides video lessons to be reviewed outside of class, which in turn gives students more time in class to focus on higher-order learning skills. This gives teachers more time to focus on critical thinking skills and expanding the application of inquiry, collaboration, and discussion. Watch our latest webinar Just Flip It for 10 tools to help flip your classroom.

Search 365,000 TV News Broadcasts

The Internet Archive website is a library of archived PDF’s, audio tracks, videos, and articles — anything that exists in digital format. A new feature, TV News, allows you to search and watch television news broadcasts since 2009. Read more...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

OMSK Monster Math Night

Come one, come all to tonight's OMSK Monster Math Night from 5:30 to 6:30 pm.  The cost is free and there will be prizes for the family with the best costumes.  Also, completed passports will win a prize.

If you want to come earlier for dinner, roast beef will be served at 4 pm for $8.00 a plate, less for children.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lesson Plans Easily Found on BrainPOP

New! Lesson Plans & Teaching Tools

Find What You're Looking for With Less Searching

Remember, this helpful new "Lesson Plans and Teaching Tools" button now appears on all BrainPOP topic pages. Click it and you'll come to a page containing everything you're looking for in one place: lesson plans, graphic organizers, community-created quizzes, and other education resources related to the topic you're exploring in class.   Make sure you are using our DISTRICT subscription by using BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. in your classroom and encouraging students to explore it on their own time.

Monday, October 22, 2012

John Hattie's Visible Learning

Visible Learning from St Mary Star of the Sea College

There was a lot of talk at the October 12th OMCA meeting about John Hattie's book Visible Learning.  Though this is no substitute for reading the text itself, or the more easily digested Visible Learning for Teachers, please take a moment to look through the above slide presentation to get a taste of what the book explores in regards to positive or negative correlation of several factors in the learning achievement of students.  Many of the findings may surprise you. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mathletics Now on iPad/iPod

Here is some very exciting news from the team at Mathletics. The world's most powerful online learning resource has arrived on iPad, with the launch today of Mathletics Student - our brand new dedicated iPad app. Even better news is that the app is completely free, all you need is a Mathletics username & password.

Mathletics Student has been custom-designed and built by our dedicated team of developers, who even invented some groundbreaking new mobile technology in the process! For the first time, students with an iPad can hold Mathletics in their hands and take it with them anywhere. Curriculum activities are downloaded right into the app* with all points and credits automatically syncing with the student's main desktop account. What's more, all of their results will appear (in real-time!) in your Teacher Centre reports in exactly the same way.

Reading this email on your iPad? Click here to head to the App Store and download Mathletics Student now!

PLUS - Mathletics Student also features an exciting update to the famous Live Mathletics game. The hugely popular 60-second mathematical race game returns with a sleek new interface and TEN competition levels - expanded to include word problems, algebra, number patterns and even logarithms! New-look Live Mathletics is also now available in desktop Mathletics too.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More Financial Literacy Resources

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I've posted Financial Literacy resources from time to time, as I hear or read about them.  Today's post may be old news to some, and new news to others, but I wanted to post the resources shared recently in Professionally Speaking magazine (September 2012).  As always, the Financial Literacy section of the EduGAINS website (a link is permanently on the right sidebar) would have the most recent, current, up to date materials on Financial Literacy.

Ministry of Education financial literacy portal.

Financial Literacy Scope and Sequence of Expectations for Grades 4 to 8.

Additional resources developed by academic subject and division associations.

Financial literacy programs developed by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services portal outlining consumer rights.

The report of the Working Group on Financial Literacy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Janet Ragan was also kind enough to share her wiki page with us.  You can access it here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Worksheet Works

This is a site shared by upcoming PD presenter, Janet Ragan.  It offers quick worksheets for student practice generated in a variety of topics.  Though we don't subscribe to the nature of worksheets in general, it is how you use it to teach that truly matters.  Check out the site to see if it sparks some creative use for you.  It is called

Friday, October 12, 2012

Numeracy Inquiry

Check out this website that houses all the important learning material used throughout the two day symposium in July, K-12 Mathematics/Numeracy Inquiry: Learning Together.  I've added a permanent link, on the sidebar of Links for Teachers.  See what other boards are doing and sharing around Inquiry in Mathematics.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Number One Teacher Mistake

Nya:weh to Mr. Freeman for sharing this article with us.  To view the article from its original source, click here, or read it in its entirety below.

The Number One Teacher Mistake

By Bill Page
Former title: If You’re Gonna Be a Camel, YaGotta Have a Hump; But Nobody Says You’ve Gotta Be a Camel.
Discovery of a pivotal mistake in my teaching radically changed my life and lives of my kids.
“Hallelujah! At last, I’m a teacher!”

I felt competent to teach. I was confident I could teach better than those boorish teachers I’d had in my own schooling. I was 27 years old, a Korean War vet, weighed an energetic 270 pounds, and couldn’t imagine anything but success. Wow! Was I wrong! I was a failure—but not in classroom management where new teachers typically fail; I failed in the very essence of my job:

My teaching didn’t get through to kids’ heads!
Teaching Only Part of the Lesson to Part of the Students Is Unacceptable
It was incredible! How could this be? In my head and heart, I knew I was a doggone good teacher. I presented creative, dynamic lessons that students responded to enthusiastically. I was shocked, for no matter what I taught, how I taught, or how simple, logical, and sensible the lessons, the kids understood only a portion of them. And, like so many other teachers, I began expecting kids to fail. Rarely did any but the top two or three students “get” the entire lesson content. Most learned at only a C level, missing significant parts of my lessons. I began to fret: “What is wrong here? All kids can learn, and they all need to!”

Every Kid Can and Should Learn Everything
I expected all of the kids to learn all of the material. Why shouldn’t I expect that? I began questioning myself: When a student gets an 80 on the unit test, which 20 percent of the unit is it okay to miss? How can I take them to the next unit without their having mastered the current unit? I never succeeded in teaching all the necessary content to all the kids, so I had to face the fact that I was a failure. Even though other teachers tried to reassure me that it was okay to have just a few kids get A’s, and for the rest to be strung out all the way to F’s, I couldn’t accept that. Somehow I knew I couldn’t take credit for teaching those who got A’s without also having to take the blame for others who didn’t learn at an A level.

How could I accept students strung out on a continuum? Surely I couldn’t accept F’s…? I was there to teach kids, not flunk them. After all, I was a certified, fully-credentialed graduate with a bachelor of science in secondary education. Listed on the faculty roster and assigned 162 kids in five language-arts classes—I must be a teacher; instead, I was a failure. That is, UNTIL I discovered an astonishing “teaching secret,” a startling “Eureka!” It was a stunning discovery from which I would never recover. Hang on!

A Genuine Aha! Moment
As I continued to struggle without success, the simmering revelation was building. Surprisingly, I had no clue, not even a suspicion, that I was making a fundamental error. . . until that awesome moment I learned I was making the number one teacher mistake. Then, unexpectedly, I experienced a magnificent grand disclosure of my egregious teaching error. My disturbing failure was terminated by an eye-opening revelation. The sudden, surprising “aha moment” grabbed my sensibilities and never let go. These overwhelming feelings were destined to build, intensify, and last through the remaining decades of my teaching. I will reveal that universal error in a moment.

That One Mistake Caused Many Other Errors
Unfortunately, because of the underlying error, I realized that I could be considered among teachers notable for their yelling, threatening, condescending, sarcastic, and negative teaching methods. And, I was part of the dedicated group who sabotaged their best teaching with gestures of approval and non-approval, nonverbal facial expressions, and body language. My students were playing the school game of please the teacher without really learning.

Admittedly, there are mistakes of omission, commission, and inadequacy in teaching. Even so, I now understood how that one basic, bedrock mistake contributes exponentially to countless other teaching mistakes, each only seeming like a stand-alone, correctable problem.

“The Mistake” Caused Other Mistakes
Making mistakes, misjudgments, and misdiagnoses are understandable in light of the abundance of research showing that teachers can make three hundred or more “executive decisions” in a single class period. The wonder is that teachers do as well as they do. But that is all relative because “the number one mistake” supersedes all others by a whopping margin. In addition, “The Mistake” causes other mistakes, which results in a teacher coercing, rewarding, and punishing students. “The Mistake” is responsible for many moment-to-moment difficulties and ineffectiveness, and contributes to student misbehavior and sub-par achievement.

When I uncovered “The Mistake,” I was appalled at the naivety and secrecy attached to it:Education had an embarrassing secret so debilitating and so pervasive that it was unmentionable. This grievous error is destructive to the very premises of education. It is undeniably the greatest and most insidious error teachers make. With feedback, experience, and reflection, many teaching errors can be eliminated. But, an error that is hidden, denied, or unknown cannot be corrected and therefore, must be discovered. I had made a discovery which changed the way I looked at education.

I Discovered THE TRUTH
When the “bolt out of the blue” struck, I knew—absolutely knew—that “The Mistake” was real. Why did I learn the truth, while so many others continued struggling? I have no idea! What I do know is that I am not willing to deny my truth, just because so many other teachers do not see it or accept it.
Thinking that they are teachers is the number one mistake teachers make because it causes them to ACT like teachers. If we think like teachers, we behave like teachers. That’s “The Mistake” I was making.

What is known as “teaching” is really just the various ways of helping kids learn. Since it is not possible to learn for another person, only the learner can know what constitutes “help”; i.e., what makes the difference in increased meaning and understanding. Furthermore, learning requires that the learner is in control of the “help”—actively soliciting, filtering, and clarifying the help being offered.

  “Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” John Holt

Kids learn, but cannot be taught in the usual sense of the word.

Schools control practically every aspect of kid’s school lives. Teachers are charged with student learning and are obsessed with control. The teaching role emphasizes teacher-directed domination. What is labeled as classroom “leadership” is in reality a subtly “masked” relationship involving sublimated coercion and fear. Classroom analyses usually focus on teaching behaviors and test-score outcomes rather than on individual teacher-student relationships.

In every activity, teachers tell students what to do, where to do it, when to do it, and how to do it. Teachers possess a power imbalance with fearsome ability to threaten, demean, embarrass, isolate kids, and even to arbitrarily lower grades if they are of a mind to do so. The power is always present, ever lurking, exercised or not. Additionally, because students “perform” in a “fishbowl,” teaching methods can subject them to potential ridicule, public failure, punishment, competition, and embarrassment.

It Is Impossible to Learn for Someone Else
Actually, there is no such thing as teaching, there is only learning. Teachers do not teach. They can act in ways that enable student learning to be more easily accomplished, increasingly possible, valuable, meaningful, or—conversely—teacher actions can make new learning more difficult, complicated, unlikely, or even impossible. Teachers can help students learn. But, teachers cannot learn for students; no one can learn anything for another.

Students themselves do whatever it takes to learn; each learns for him/herself. There is no such thing as passive learning. The material to be learned does not get poked into kids’ heads while they sit and wait. Each kid comes to a learning situation with prior knowledge, interest, aptitude, and attitude. Students learn by way of their own application, integration and construction of new knowledge from information already existing in their own heads, in their own ways.

“Learning” is making sense, making connections, and generating mental patterns of incoming data. Learning is up to individual learners. Without student’s effort, activity, existing knowledge, and contribution, no learning can take place. Learning is a function independent from “teaching.” Kids learn from people at home and other kids. That’s why books can be their teacher, experiences can be their teacher, erroneous advice can be their teacher, and the world can be their teacher.

Thoughts on the Teaching versus Learning Concept
1. New, proven learning concepts abound, but allowing differing opinions and contrasting perspectives is more difficult to manage than lessons directed toward one right answer.

2. Teachers thinking of students as blank slates, treating them as a group, presenting as an authoritarian, assigning the identical work, and using a singular assessment and grading procedure is just too ingrained.

3. Focusing on teacher-learner relationships, rather than on just teaching, requires a fresh perspective, while familiarity with previous teaching theories provides only for what is best known rather than for what really works or what each kid needs.

4. Teacher training by example is more influential than concepts taught in pre-service and in-service meetings. Professional development activities utilizing leader-learner relationships have a better chance, but are generally rare.

5. Reinforcement of traditional teaching by students, parents, and other educators is most likely an integral part of teachers’ daily experiences. Teachers must have confidence in themselves, and trust in the students, in order to make the transition to learners’ full participation in their own learning.

6. Until teachers have genuine opportunities to reflect on, experiment with, and experience new ways of relating to students, they will think mostly of teaching rather than students’ learning. But with reflection, the learning approach just makes sense.

7. Thinking they are teachers leads to domination of the teacher-student relationship by the teacher, and places emphasis on student obedience, compliance, and conformity. Some manifestations might include the following:
a) kids are dependent and compliant, which is antithetical to meaningful learning;
b) the relationship is built on dominant-submissive roles;
c) the usual one-way control of communication is prevalent and limiting;
d) students being graded are made to feel subjugated, unworthy, and inferior;
e) students, seeking permission, feel demeaned, powerless, and unsure;
f) students feel the need to please more than they feel responsibility for learning;
g) everyone’s expectations are toward a traditional teaching relationship.

8. Students are coerced into compliance, which is the opposite of what is necessary for maximum learning. Without participation in decisions, learning is at best superficial.

9. Productive and satisfying educative relationships cannot be built on fear; yet teachers’ enormous power to reward, punish, and intimidate students, and to create pervasive fear, reduces students’ ability for meaningful learning.

10. First-year teachers are usually about twenty-two years old and eager to make a living. On their first day of teaching, beginners have precisely the same authority and dominance potential as veteran teachers. They are not likely to understand the teaching versus learning dilemma.

11. Some teachers are satisfied with their teaching efforts; consequently, students who do not learn are faulted for not learning.

12. “Teaching” is something teachers do to students; “learning” is something a teacher may be able to help with, if the student, at the deepest level, allows the teacher to be involved.

13. Individual student learning is the key to critical thinking, problem solving, and individual achievement, including those students who are most at risk.

14. Learning takes place inside a kid’s head, and there is no way of telling beforehand which part of a lesson the kid will or will not understand.

Students Risk Making Mistakes
Learners make mistakes; they need to be free to err with impunity. By welcoming mistakes, teachers have an opportunity to facilitate learning and encourage student efforts toward self-initiated learning. Conversely, controlling students’ learning by teaching is achieved through coercion—the opposite of what is required for significant, long-term learning.

Coercion can get students’ attention, but such learning is inefficient, minimal, and short-termed. Coercion leads, at best, to getting students to “act” like they are paying attention. No one can force anyone to learn. That is the reason we have compulsory attendance laws instead of compulsory education laws.

Students Can Either Control Themselves or Be Controlled
With sufficient coercion, student behavior can be controlled so long as teachers have power, or, empowered students can learn to control their own behavior. However, these two procedures are mutually exclusive, leading to entirely different outcomes. The alternative to coercion is encouraging students to participate in decisions regarding their behavior while making conscious choices through self-reflective questions and dialogue.

My goal is not teaching. My goal is partnering with learners to produce learning through individual relationships and shared decisions. I use the terminology produce learning because it connotes students and teachers together creating learning, not just assembling or organizing data. Errors offer teachers information about how to provide help that students actually need. Kids don’t need grades. They need feedback and learning experiences that directly impact and enhance their lives. Kids’ brains are always learning—with or without teachers.

Failure Is a Contrived Concept
The concept of failure, or lack of achievement, is derived from time-scheduled, teacher-imposed content, based upon an assumption that the school’s trivia is of more value than the kid’s trivia. It is not possible to control all of what transpires in the interactive process. The results depend on the interdependent processes. But, whatever is decided can be “undecided and re-decided” by the same democratic processes, if the results do not meet the needs.

The teacher’s task is to provide a climate, a setting, an environment and atmosphere of trust, high morale, belonging, cohesiveness, interpersonal relations, and shared experiences. It’s really easy to know what kids need most—it’s precisely what we adults need most. As we seek that for ourselves, we need only to permit kids to seek it as well.

Kids Are Always Learning
It is ironic—almost like a diabolical joke—that kids are learning continuously, effortlessly, all the time from many sources, but teachers can’t teach them! Science is now certain that learners develop concepts, patterns, and underlying content. They construct and sense meaning through inductive or deductive reasoning. TV and other media, CDs, DVDs, the Internet, ads, sports, games, studying, experiences, reading, observing, playing, traveling, friends, family, self-talk, people, achievements, successes, and classes provide learning opportunities—but only when each kid, individually, is allowed the responsibility for “teaching” him/herself.

If you’re gonna be a teacher, yagotta teach;
but, nobody says yagotta be a teacher.
With joy in sharing,
Bill Page
Comments and questions are welcome and will be answered.