Hooked on Mathematics Knowledge


Ontario Mathematics teachers would be well advised to bookmark and monitor this site.

Knowledgehook

The user @knowledgehook ended up following me on Twitter recently.  I always investigate who is following me and this account descriptor sounded really interesting.  However, once I started to dig into the site, I got really interested.  This is a Mathematics Startup with resources specifically designed with Ontario Mathematics expectations in mind.

I did contact the company and had an interesting exchange with one of their staff and gained an invitation to the Alpha testing program.  They’re about to go live with the Grade 9 resource soon.  (this week?)

You can never have enough good and engaging resources for any class and mathematics is no exception.

For some schools, the focus on EQAO isn’t a priority this year but it is for others and a resource that helps learn mathematics skills can’t be ignored.  Designed especially for the Ontario Curriculum puts this over the top.

The website highlights “low tech requirements” but with BYOD and board investment in technology that may not be a big issue.  The bigger issue will be to use what you have in the best pedagogical manner.  It’s all web-based so there’s nothing to install.  Just create a teacher account and pass along the PIN number to your students.  The best part about being part of the Beta team is that you’re not working with a shipping product that you have to use as they present it.   You’ll be able to provide feedback on its development.

If you’re a teacher of mathematics, then this is definitely a resource to keep an eye on.

Draw the Line


OK, dating myself here, but I can remember how “cool” it was to sneak up behind someone getting their picture taken and use your fingers to put “rabbit ears” on their head just as the picture was being taken.

Time marches on and we all laughed when a camera image depicted something unintentional happening in the background of the picture.  On the internet, to help out, you’ll see advice like “share when you see it” or to help the cause arrows or circles highlight it so that you don’t miss it.

And there’s the concept of photobombing where you just happen to step into a regular picture to enjoy your 30 seconds of fame.

Now the opportunity for a little notoriety has escalated.

As a teacher, I recall being in the main office and hearing the shouting during a meeting between my principal and a parent.  In our area, students had two major choices for secondary school education.  One was to go to our public school and the other was to be bused to the other side of the county to attend the Catholic school.  It was interesting to see the animosity from kids who grew up, played together, and then went separate ways for secondary school.  They became “true to their school” and it became amplified when the schools would play at sporting events.  At the incident in question, it was just a regular hockey game, not even between the two schools.  But, the students were wearing school jackets and somehow this led to a fight.  The student was being disciplined in the name of disrespecting the school and the parents were in to complain that this didn’t happen at school, or on school time, and so the principal had no reason for the discipline.  They knew “their rights”.

So, we fast forward to this week and the announcement that a Hydro One employee was fired for his actions.

It’s important to read that such actions could rise to the level of being illegal as well as being incredibly offensive.  While I’m sure that this wasn’t the intent, the words themselves describe an assault and should be treated as such.

At what point does being cute and fun become illegal and offensive?  I think that it’s easy to see that rabbit ears can be cute and that the actions at the Toronto FC game should be offensive to all.  Do we have to pass over common sense and let the laws tell us what can and can’t be done?

Whatever happened to that little voice in the back of your head that says “this is wrong”?

About First Year


I look forward to my copy of Stephen Downes’ OLDaily which arrives like clockwork every afternoon Monday-Friday.  He manages to scrape some of the more interesting reads from the web and delivers them, along with his own commentary on the topics.  It’s always a good read and a launchpad to further discovery and you can’t ask for much more from being connected.

Recently, he’s been sharing thoughts on the prospect that Arizona State University might offer MOOCs to first year students.  Of course, the logistics of such a major change are huge, but it’s a concept that I think would be well embraced by students and parents, particularly those who don’t live in university/college towns.

I was one of them.

Going to first year, I had to:

  • outfit an apartment;
  • attend classes in huge theatres (I read once that universities make so much money from first year students);
  • learn how to study, cook, socialize in a completely different environment;
  • get a loan to cover the costs;
  • buy a set of headphones to keep out the noise of living in a university apartment building;
  • wonder how to entertain myself on the weekends without a budget;
  • sadly, say goodbye to high school friends;
  • sadly, say goodbye to friends who partied instead of studied their way through that first year.
  • There’s probably so much more but the first year was probably the most traumatic year of my life with huge changes above and beyond the rigour of the academics.

I was struck with how many people really failed, at least academically, during that year.

Imagine a world where that year could have taken place in the same house that I had studied for secondary school.

  • I could have saved all that money on travel and second hand (at least) furniture;
  • I could have continued to have my part time job;
  • I could have studied in the same environment that I was successful at for secondary school;
  • I could still hang with my lifelong friends;
  • I could have learned in a completely different modality;
  • I could still have home cooking….(hopefully)

I don’t see it as inconceivable.  After all, today’s system has shorted the secondary school term by a year.  I still had a Grade 13 so was a year older starting university.

There would be some downsides, of course.  Yellow Submarine would definitely go out of business and I’d probably not have attended the Bee Gees concert and missed out on the relationships in the Math Lounge.

Above all this cuteness, there’s a great deal of logic in such an approach.  Financially, it has so many benefits but I wonder if the huge turnover rate after first year could be avoided by providing an environment that would give a better chance for success.  Of course, the prerequisite for this is that students would have to have skills going into this.  I’ve always been a proponent of the stance that every secondary school student needs to take at least one course online.

I think it could definitely work.  It would have to be fully fleshed out but doesn’t it make sense to make the big life changing move going into second year knowing that you’re well on the way to success instead of heading to a big black unknown hole?

Stephen shares so much good thinking.  If you want to enjoy it as well, just subscribe.

What Would Colleen Do?


It never fails to amaze me how much I’ve learned from those who I have connected with.  I had a perfect case of this yesterday. 

I was wrapping up the morning dog walk.  We do about 5km each morning which sounds impressive until you realize it means either walking north or walking south.  It’s the same path, same mailboxes, day after day.  After a while, you get the journey committed to memory.  Thank goodness for a working set of headphones and mental activities like solving world problems or counting the number of footsteps from mailbox to mailbox.

Back to the connections.  About three years ago, in my eyes, Colleen Rose was an art teacher from Northern Ontario who was also a pretty regular blogger.  We were in the middle of moving the ECOO Conference to Niagara Falls and looking for social activities.  One that we thought would be popular was an evening photowalk along the Falls.  As it would happen, Colleen posted to her blog about digital photography so I figured, what the hey, I wonder if she’d like to be a leader.  We were fortunate that she agreed, she never said anything out loud about doing photography after the sun set, and we were off.  I was fortunate to be in her group and I remember walking along, looking left and right at all the bright lights, and yet she was snapping pictures everywhere.  Myself, I think I got a couple of pictures of the Falls all lit up.

Talking later, I remember looking at her pictures, and saying “you see things that I don’t see”.  I think that it spoke volumes about the quality of her work compared to my feeble efforts.

So, yesterday, I’m walking along looking at things and across the ditch on a farmer’s field I see a row of dead stalks from the fall and a daffodil that had grown in the middle of them.  I remember thinking to myself, “Cool.  That’s kind of neat” and kept on walking.

Probably about 20 steps later, I asked myself “What could Colleen do” if she’d seen that.  I stopped and thought back to Niagara Falls.

  1. she would have had her camera in her hands;
  2. she would have taken the picture.

I stopped and thought.  Of course, she would have.  Why hadn’t I?

Well, one reason would be that I wasn’t carrying my camera!  But, I had my phone.

There was no traffic coming so back to the spot Jaimie and I went and I took the picture.

I got home and took a look at the picture and felt pretty darned proud of myself.  I hadn’t missed the moment; I captured it – eventually.  I liked how the rushes had framed the flower naturally (it was across a ditch so I wasn’t about to pose it), and I liked how the yellow stood out from the greens and the browns.  (It wasn’t until later that I saw the beer can in the image)

I thought that I would share the image with my mentor on Facebook and did.  Colleen commented as did a couple others.  One was David Warlick who I’ve known for years and had the pleasure of learning from his messages plus he takes incredible images himself and shares them.  I’ve always been envious of his work as well.

Those that know me know that you’ll never confuse me with a real artist.  But, at least for this one moment, I didn’t let it escape me.

Guessing Ages


Recently, there has been a great deal of fun and action around a new offering from Microsoft.  It’s called How-Old and the premise is pretty simple.  You upload an image with people’s faces in it and the site tries to identify the gender and age of those in the photo.  The results come back looking like this:

The story behind the project is fascinating (albeit it a little technical) but would be inspirational for computer studies students.  You’ll see results, I’m sure, from friends on Facebook or you can follow the hashtag #HowOldRobot on Twitter.

I find the discussion interesting with people pleased that the guess of their age is way off, and sometimes, even the gender.  It’s one of those meme-y things that will probably come and go.  Interestingly, my friend Diane labelled it for what it’s doing with all of these incorrect guesses – #fail.  I tend to agree with her; I tried it with an image of my daughter and wife.  It came back correctly with gender but with only 10 years age difference.  You know what that makes me.

So, the bottom line is that it’s not ready for prime time yet.  I hope that the project continues and, like many things AI, gets smarter as more folks use it.  For example, there doesn’t come a time on the news when a camera recording of a crime isn’t played and “anyone who knows the people in the video are asked to contact police”.  Imagine how helpful it would be if it was done immediately.  Of course, the camera recording equipment would have to be upgraded – I don’t care how powerful your computer is – you’re not going to identify some of the images that are shared.

Image recognition has come a long way.  I’m sure that all readers are aware of Google’s search by image feature.  Or, who hasn’t used Google Goggles and had the service do its best to identify what’s happening in an image uploaded.  This application is a powerful extension of the concept and I think would be incredibly useful once perfected.

In the meantime, the best image I’ve seen and enjoyed so far….

 

Guessing Ages


Recently, there has been a great deal of fun and action around a new offering from Microsoft.  It’s called How-Old and the premise is pretty simple.  You upload an image with people’s faces in it and the site tries to identify the gender and age of those in the photo.  The results come back looking like this:

The story behind the project is fascinating (albeit it a little technical) but would be inspirational for computer studies students.  You’ll see results, I’m sure, from friends on Facebook or you can follow the hashtag #HowOldRobot on Twitter.

I find the discussion interesting with people pleased that the guess of their age is way off, and sometimes, even the gender.  It’s one of those meme-y things that will probably come and go.  Interestingly, my friend Diane labelled it for what it’s doing with all of these incorrect guesses – #fail.  I tend to agree with her; I tried it with an image of my daughter and wife.  It came back correctly with gender but with only 10 years age difference.  You know what that makes me.

So, the bottom line is that it’s not ready for prime time yet.  I hope that the project continues and, like many things AI, gets smarter as more folks use it.  For example, there doesn’t come a time on the news when a camera recording of a crime isn’t played and “anyone who knows the people in the video are asked to contact police”.  Imagine how helpful it would be if it was done immediately.  Of course, the camera recording equipment would have to be upgraded – I don’t care how powerful your computer is – you’re not going to identify some of the images that are shared.

Image recognition has come a long way.  I’m sure that all readers are aware of Google’s search by image feature.  Or, who hasn’t used Google Goggles and had the service do its best to identify what’s happening in an image uploaded.  This application is a powerful extension of the concept and I think would be incredibly useful once perfected.

In the meantime, the best image I’ve seen and enjoyed so far….

 

What A Difference A Word Can Make


Like many people, I was very interested in the meme that Scott McLeod had started and was spreading through the internet.  It was the “We have to stop pretending“ premise and it generated so many good thoughts from so many good people.  I was proud to be part of it and I made it a significant part of my “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” post.  There were so many good thoughts from folks from all over the province and I included the ones that I could find in the post.  They’re all good reads and I’d encourage anyone to take a look at them, particularly in the Ontario context.

You’ll notice that Colleen Rose’ post is at the bottom.  Like most of my blog posts, I wrote this on Thursday morning, scheduled for going live on Friday morning.  There’s always a danger when you do these things to omit someone and so when I caught Colleen’s post from the corner of my eye while watching the hockey game, I read it and then went in adding her link to make sure that she was included and the list was as complete as I could make it.  At this point, I’ll apologize for any that I missed and I should have caught.

As Jaimie and I were discussing this as we walked this morning, he made an interesting observation.  He’s so insightful between mailboxes.  For many, writing the post was probably fairly easy.  It was a way to get an opinion off your chest.  Jaimie really dug deeply when he noted that all of us wrote with the “royal we“.  The points made were foisted on teachers by a system built on years and years of best attempts to try to define/redefine itself.  Most are just accepted as the way business is done in the classrooms and in schools.  By identifying these, we’re really looking at practices that are beyond our control.  So, they’re fairly easy to identify and put in list form.

He then raised an interesting point.

“What if everyone changed one word?  Change the “royal we” to I. 

The question now becomes one of “I Have to Stop Pretending…”

I stopped and looked at him.  He’s wise beyond his years.  It’s not the sort of thing that would go viral though.  The finger gets pointed back at you instead of everywhere else.  And yet, the answer could make the biggest change ever in your classroom or practice.  It’s not the sort of thing that you sit back and flail away at the keyboard for the world to see.  It’s internal and probably nobody else’s business.

It’s amazing what a difference one word could make.