This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s been another week and another opportunity for me to gather some terrific thoughts from the keyboards of Ontario Edubloggers.  Please read on and catch some of what I found and enjoyed.


A Simple and Powerful Leadership Truth

Sue Dunlop uses a Twitter message to a hashtag as the launchpad for sharing her thoughts about context here.

Greatest learning this year: never take context for granted. Always check in and explain.

Particularly with issues in education with its huge diverse perspectives, things do have to be taken in context.  I found that myself this past week with a story from the local newspaper dealing with EQAO results.  Of course, the official line is that the tests provide a snapshot in time and should never be used to compare schools.  But that doesn’t make a headline.  Identifying who’s best and who’s worst makes a story that’s lure-worthy.  As a consultant who visited every school in the district a few times every year, I know that there’s much more to the story behind each school other than just a number.

Where do you access this data?  From a website called compareschoolrankings, of course.  You can then see who scores a perfect 10 and who didn’t.  How?  There’s no explanation.  Perhaps even a sample test would educate us.

Who uses this stuff?  Well, Real Estate agents, to name a category.  The site even goes so far as to plot school stores on Ontario with a Bing map.  You can see the results and it should generate questions.  Like why do we have one school south of Michigan, near the Ohio and Indiana border?

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That’s not a 10.


ORGANIZING AGAINST ISLAMOPHOBIA & THE US TRAVEL BAN

The impact on the travel ban to the United States hit close to the Ontario educational blogging community.  Rusul Alrubail shows us how personal it got for her.

The Educon conference happened in Philly the same weekend the Muslim ban happened.  I was supposed to present there ironically on racial violence, policing and student agency.

The net result was that she elected not to attend.  The post shares her thoughts and reasons why and her thoughts about why the topic wasn’t discussed at the event, even in her absence.


When it is time to drop your lesson and talk about world events….

Earlier this month, Zoe Branigan-Pipe had authored this post.  The answer will vary from teacher to teacher but should always be “yes” when questions arise from students.

Zoe writes a fairly long post inspired by the Women’s March in Washington.  Given the amount of news coverage, it was a natural that students would want to discuss.

Further than the topic and the rationale, Zoe digs into the curriculum reasons why you would want to do this.  It’s a good read and easily applies to any world event that comes along and has students asking questions.


Learning about Canada’s Truth

On another topic of the day, Heidi Solway offers an approach to teaching about Canada’s past.  I like the comparison to comic books that the traditional approach has taken.  I can completely understand it.  That’s how I learned.  You too, I’ll bet.

But is that the truth?

Not only that, as teachers, we would never talk about when the unthinkable happened. My goodness, I didn’t learn about the “truth” until Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 2008 apology. I was shocked and disgusted by the news.  How would I roll this out to my own students?

The post digs into how the teaching and learning has changed in her class.  She gives a summary of the research assignments that her students took, complete with links to the final product.


Let’s Go Phishing!

I got a request from Peter Beens to update my Livebinder of Ontario Edubloggers with his new address.  He’s pulled all of his content together in one spot.

I was glad to do this; nobody hates dead links more than I do.  While I was there, I checked into this post – a comparison about how he uses Gmail and Hotmail.  One of the major reasons was the way that the different email servers handle phishing attempts.

I had to smile when I took a look at one of the screen captures that he shared.  It was from a “bank” that had warned him about problems with his account and that it had been frozen.  I think I got the exact same message!  Similar messages are caught here regularly.

But, sometimes, your spam/phish filter can be a little aggressive so you do need to check it periodically.  Just this morning, a long comment to a post on this blog got flagged and sent to never-never land.

It’s a good post from Peter and certainly should be part of any discussion about digital safety.


New Approaches: #DiveIntoInquiry

Much has been written and shared about inquiry.  Colleen Rose shares how she approached the concept in her Art’s classroom.  It was an activity designed to give students a voice.

How she did it was interesting to me.

She took the students into the Ontario Curriculum and had the students read the expectations and create a document indicating their interpretation of what the expectation means.

It’s an interesting approach and she shares some of the student thoughts.  There are interesting interpretations.

Perhaps this could be done in more courses.


WHY BUILD A WALL?

No, not that wall.

A digital wall to your ideas

Donna Fry asks that question and gives a couple of suggestions as to why you might want a digital wall around your thinking.

Even better though, she shares some links to others who have thought about Open Practice.

I’ve written recently on my own thoughts about being in the open.  In a world where ideas grow exponentially, I would suggest that hiding behind a wall makes you less relevant.


Some great reading, don’t you agree?

Why don’t you drop by, read their complete thoughts, and keep the conversation going?

Also, join in on Wednesdays at 9:15am to hear a conversation with Stephen Hurley on Voiced about This Week in Ontario Edublogs.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Happy Friday, everyone!  It’s time to take a wander around the education web as seen though the keyboards of Ontario Edubloggers.  And, once again this week, I had a discussion about what I had collected at that point with Stephen Hurley on Voiced radio on Wednesday.  He pushed me to do some thinking about the topics and you’ll note his influence, I’m sure.


Quebec City Vigil

The first post is on a serious topic.

Jennifer Aston happened to be vacationing in Quebec City when the attack on the mosque happened and it was so close to where she was staying.  The post should have you rethinking just what we are and who we are.

I can’t imagine what this parent with her family was thinking about at that moment.  Thankfully, she wasn’t at the wrong place at the wrong time.

There’s wonderful advice here.

But we have to do the opposite of that.  We need empathy not indifference to fight the fear mongering that is relentless in the news these days.  We need to build bridges, not walls…


Listen with Compassion and Act with Love

This post, from Debbie Donsky, will challenge your beliefs as an educator.  She sets the stage with this statement of her personal belief…

Every child who is in our care, every caregiver who steps through our doors, every staff member who supports the important work we do, has potential to change the trajectory of another person.

Into the discussion, she brings a different perspective dealing with helicoptering parenting.  She challenges an article and its take on parenting.

I found myself agreeing with her.

Hopefully, when you’re done, you’ll be checking your own sense of empathy.


Always Prepare for Teaching; Always Prepare for Surprises

This post from Enzo Ciardelli brought a smile to this Computer Science teacher’s face.  But first, his experience.

I do not want to downplay the importance of precise planning. I can recall a huge sign in teacher’s college that read: “Those who fail to plan also plan to fail.”

Trite advice from a Faculty of Education!

But we all paid attention to it.

How does it look in reality?  You’ll smile as you read his discussion of “reconciliation” with his students.  His amazement is a reminder that, no matter how hard he planned, he didn’t see the discussion coming.

In Computer Science, you plan thorough lessons.  There will be times when you work through a problem with a class, modelling what you think will be the best way and algorithm to solve the problem.  Then, you give them a problem to solve on their own and in a class of 25, you might end up with 26 different approaches.  Were they not paying attention?

The bottom line is to remember that you’re teaching students – not machines.  Everyone has their own baggage, er, perspective and good teachers will not be blindsided by those surprises.


What do you choose to learn about when you’re not at school?

Brandon Grasley starts this very short post with this interesting question that led to a discussion with one of his students.  It culminates with an appreciation for curiosity.

Every teacher is in a position to customize any lesson for students.  It’s what separates real people teaching from computer teaching.  Why wouldn’t you take the time to understand their interests and modify your lesson to embrace that?

But, let’s go further.  Why wouldn’t a teacher share with students just what it is that they’re learning when they’re not at school.  The easy answer would be to talk about lesson preparation for the next day.  But what about personal interests?  Why wouldn’t you want students to know that you’re studying for a Masters degree, learning how to curl, understanding how to knit, trying to understand how a new programming language works, …

Imagine a classroom where everyone is recognized as a real human being constantly learning – and not just at school.


Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You Had

I remember my Grade 13 Calculus teacher.  I’ll admit – hey, I’m proud of this; I did well in mathematics.  On one exam, I got 99%.  I missed one little thing that stopped a perfect score.  She took the time to comment.

“You Idot”!!!!!

Spelling mistake hers!  I guess that you can take a spin on what the intent of her comment was.  I kept that exam in a filing cabinet for years until a spring cleaning saw it head to the recycling bin.  Regardless, I always thought that if I got a chance to teach mathematics, I’d want to be like her.  But I’d check my spelling.  <grin>

Kyle Pearce takes the time to review this book written by Tracy Zager.  Actually, his review isn’t about the content; it’s about the author describing a number of different ways to read the book.  My first thought was that it might be a good book study for mathematics teachers.

In my discussion with Stephen Hurley about this, he made reference to a report that he co-authored for the Canadian Education Association. Teaching the Way We Aspire to
Teach: Now and in the Future.  It’s a very good read.

Of course, Kyle will want to teach the way that a certain university professor modelled for him.


Positive or Negative: There is always a choice

I now have confirmation that Jennifer Casa-Todd is a better person than I am with her recent post.  As the father of two girls, I took huge offence to the comment and hashtag #dresslikeawoman.

She notes, “The easiest response is to take offence”.  I guess I took the easy route.

We did share this thought in common “What does that even mean?”

Jennifer takes the time to put things into her own context and shares her own thoughts.  In the meantime, I was still stuck on the words.

The post has some interesting supporting likes and Jennifer created a Storify document to accumulate some of the comments from the hashtag.


The message from the top educational systems in the world

This was a new blog for me to read.

Bill Ferguson does a nice summary of the educational messages from his reading.

The countries I looked at are almost always near the top of the educational standards lists. Finland, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, China, Shanghai, Taiwan, and Poland among others. All have amazing similarities.

I found it a very interesting read and found myself agreeing with most of what is contained in the post.  It doesn’t come as a surprise since Canada was on the list.  It’s an interesting inclusion since education in Canada is a provincial responsibility.

The post concludes with some recommendations.  I’m not sure that I agree with all of them; they add great financial expenses onto teachers but if systems agree that they’re important enough to do, they should find a way to make them affordable.  Or, even better yet, as a part of the professional learning program.


The Teaching Hub: Week Six, Winter 2017

If you read my post yesterday, you know that I’m a big fan of being open with professional learning.

This post from Fleming College shows that they’re out in the open with plans for their upcoming Teaching and Learning Day.

Take a moment to check out their agenda for the day.  It’s got to be comforting to read that they’re dealing with the same issues that you are.


I always say this but it really is an interesting collection of reading from Ontario Edubloggers.  Please take a moment to drop by these posts, do a read, and then add your thoughts via comment.

 

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Happy Friday!  Are you looking for some great thoughts from Ontario Edubloggers?  Look no further; here’s what I caught recently.


“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”?

Royan Lee offers his thoughts about mental health.  His personal history on the topic I’ll bet mirrors most everyone’s.

He concludes with a powerful promise to his kids.

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On perhaps a less serious bent, is it a coincidence that Ontario report cards are done during the “Let’s Talk” event?  It is a stressful time for educators and sacrifices are made to get this task done.  Aviva Dunsiger notes her compromises in this post “My Blogging Break Is Over … And It Will Not Be Happening Again!”  It’s a thoughtful post with an additional thoughtful reply.


The Case for Teaching Integrated Skills vs Separate Subjects

Deborah McCallum writes an interesting essay on this topic.  It’s not a quick and easy read but will get you thinking.  A common message is “we do it for the kids”.  We do it for success in “real life”.

How much of “real life” is presented in distinct topics.  A well rounded citizen takes everything on and not just having a focus on a particular thing before moving on to the next.

There is a strong message when you look at a school timetable where each separate subject is given the same amount of time.  Does this honour the fact that some students need differing times to understand?

For many, the current focus is on specialist teachers for subjects like mathematics.  This post may help you frame a different approach.


Safer Internet Day – what will you do?

Helen DeWaard reached out to me to help promote the concept of a Safer Internet Day in Canada.

So, here it is.

To support the cause, she’s asking us to use the hashtag #SaferInternetDayCA.

If you want to get involved, and who wouldn’t, this post provides a large number of resources to help the cause.  There’s some great stuff there.

What are you doing for Safer Internet Day on February 7?


From Grade 8 to Grade 9

I’ll blame Heather Theijsmeijer for a sleepless night after reading her post itemizing everything that is “new” when a students moves from Grade 8 to Grade 9.

It brought back so many nightmares for me.  We had a Grade 8 teacher who told us that we were going to have problems when we went to “collegiate” even though our secondary school hadn’t been a collegiate for years.

I also remembered Initiation Day where we had to wear our mother’s nightgown and were forced to do the bidding of the Grade 12s and 13s if we were caught in the halls between classes.  A valuable lesson learned was that classrooms were safe havens!

Her post addresses so many of the concerns students have or shortly will have.  Are schools and school districts addressing them?  Sure, there are Grade 8 nights but does that do the trick?

School realities extend beyond that as well.  What about schools where Grade 7s and 8s are already members of the secondary school for accommodation issues?  Or schools where students go from Kindergarten to Grade 12?    Or IB programs?  Or even a choice of schools?

It’s not easy being a kid these days.  I guess we had it so much easier.


RESOURCES TO TEACH ABOUT THE #MUSLIMBAN

Many educators are often afraid of discussing “controversial” issues in the classroom. The word “controversial” here puts a shroud on many relevant topics, such as politics, daily events, history, social justice issues, equality, and many others.

This quote, from Rusul Alrubail, should be the motivation if required to talk about the current reality falling from the executive order from the United States president last weekend.

I’ll confess; I never really paid all that much attention to the fact that things like this can be done without going through regular government channels.  It did bring back a memory of the Canadian War Measures Act.

Living near the border makes it a frequent news story here.  So many people need to cross the border just to get to work.

In the post, Rusul provides a nice collection of resources if you’re looking for somewhere to start.  Obviously, I can’t guarantee this, but I’ve always found her open and responsive to questions.


Au Restaurant: Menus

Thanks to Jennifer Aston, I was recently made aware of this blog from Bruce Emmerton.

He presents an interesting approach to authentic learning – restaurant menus.

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What wonderful opportunities we have in our connected world.  I can’t remember the last time that I went to a new restaurant without checking them out online first.  Why not turn the process into a learning experience.

How’s this for the inspiration to learn “Read and understand or go hungry”.


TED Ed in the Classroom

Have you ever used TED in the classroom?  I know that many of us have learned so much and have been so inspired by watching a TED video on a particular topic.  It’s been a terrific platform for so many who have a message or lesson to share.

Will Gourley writes about how to use TED Ed in the classroom in this post.

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Separate sections devoted to TED Ed Clubs and TED Ed Lessons are sure to give you background to think about working in this realm.  A link to the TED lesson editor will be of great value.


Free images done right

This is a post that appeared on this blog.  It introduces readers to an image search and attribution service that I think would work nicely for some students to do so properly and as an introduction to referencing properly.

While I think it’s a great concept for the classroom, Stephen Downes doesn’t. He calls it “free images done wrong“.

You’ll have to be the judge.


Yet another wonderful week of great thoughts from Ontario Edubloggers.

Please take a moment or two to click through and read the entire messages and drop them a comment or two to let them know that you appreciate their work.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to another Friday.  It’s time for me to share some of the wonderful reading from the fingertips of Ontario Edubloggers.  Read on and click through to read some exceptional blog posts.


Sick

There may well be more information about sickness and being sick in this post from Debbie Donsky than you would ever want to read in one place.  I waffled between smiling and getting worried about myself.  I’m certainly glad that I took the time to get the flu shot.  Now, if I could only shake this persistent cold and cough.

My worries are grounded in my insecurities about my worthiness, ability, strength and body. I have heard that if we don’t listen to what our body needs, our body screams back at us. Hopefully this time I heard it.

She shares her thoughts about sickness and a support network that’s in place.  It’s wonderful that that network exists and I hope that things work out for her.  Do you have such a network?


Stop the Insanity – Redefining Success For Exceptional Learners

An embedded thought that runs through this post from Laurie Azzi is that of “YET”.  For everyone, there is that moment when “YET” is met.

Albert Einstein spoke to this reality when he said, “ Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

There is no YET for that fish and for some students, there will be no YET unless we redefine what success means in the education system.  We need to redefine what it means to be a reader and writer in this digital age.

Laurie speaks to the need to understand what “YET” means for every student.  As long as a standard is defined that applies equally to all students, there will be those that never reach it.  This post, including the story from Helen Keller and a powerful moment of insight, will get you thinking and hopefully gain an insight as to just what success might mean.


Developing Thoughts on Multilingualism

Jennifer Aston concludes this post with this thought.

We are not a “melting pot”.  We have the right to practice different religions, celebrate different cultures and speak different languages in Canada.  And if I can borrow the idea from a colleague from a few years back, we’re more like a salad.  We can retain our identities.  While French and English are important, we also need to recognize that we are more than this.  So how can we reflect this better in our school system?

Given what’s happening in the world at this time, it’s a very profound message that should make all pause and feel good about being a Canadian educator.  But, are we doing enough?  So many efforts have gone into promoting bilingualism.  Do we stop there?  Thoughts from the post dig into Danish, Oneida, and Arabic.  What is the cultural price to be paid when a school system chooses to overlook?

You’ll leave this post thinking.


The inauguration in my school library learning commons

Why indeed would an Ontario school choose to broadcast the inauguration of a United States president?

Alanna King addresses the “why” from a literacy perspective.

Living on the other side of the U.S. border has its challenges for a small town teacher-librarian.  While we dance around the idea of Canadian identity and what that means when our culture is represented, Canadian publishers in all media forms are still driven by American markets and American values.  So populating a library with well-loved material of  CanCon isn’t always what pleases the staff and students because we’ve been  gorging ourselves on the fire hose of American content.  But the direction of Trump’s politics is certainly affecting my library just 150 km from our border.  It is our mandate to give equal weight to the voices in my school respectfully, responsibly and compassionately.

Alanna concludes by confirming to us that she made the right choice.  The questions of inquiry from the students are very important.  If they follow through looking for answers, it may be the most important civics lesson that they learn this year.

There’s a big renewed interest in George Orwell’s 1984.  I wonder how many copies are in Alanna’s library.

Want to read it online?  Check it out here.


Doing It For The Likes

The opening question from Matthew Morris is something that all teachers who deal with technology in the classroom must come to grips with.  Whether it’s school computers or that little invasive device in their pockets, there will be times when you don’t have their undivided attention to the current classroom task.

What do you do when you teach a classroom of students who are more concerned with the number of likes they get on a selfie than the number of percentage points they earn on a math test?

If there ever was an insight into the rationale that we need to blow up what schools have traditionally done, it comes through loudly and clearly in his post.  Sure, we give lip service to embracing technology but how effective can it be if only done every now and again, a school district chooses a set of tools that were designed for a generation ago, contemporary tools are blocked from entering the building, …

I’m not sure that we’re looking for students to “like” a lesson delivered via an LMS (although the concept is intriguing), there’s a strong message here that all need to read and relate to their own reality.

Do we need to offer more of this?


Beyond Shapes

This was a new blog for me to read this week.  It deals with mathematics and coding and this article is written by a teacher candidate at Western University.  There’s a very comprehensive report on the experience of teacher candidates working with teachers in Thames Valley to investigate coding in their classroom. It sounds like an awesome experience for all.

The post concludes with this…

While creating shapes in Scratch works as a tremendous introduction to coding, the potential in Scratch extends much further than simply movements and drawings.  It’s easy to be tricked by its simple, colourful, block based user interface, but the fact of the matter is that Scratch is a powerful tool with endless possibilities.

I think this nails the experience for so many.  It’s easy to hop on the “Hour of Code” bandwagon or have an expert come in to work with teachers and/or students for an hour or two to check off the box that says “We did coding”.  How many times do you see a Twitter message or a superintendent let everyone know that “we support coding”?

If it’s going to make a substantial difference and have an impact in the classroom, more digging is required.  Is your system just doing it for the moment?  The real impact will only come when a committed effort is made to ensure that there is ongoing and persistent professional learning opportunities for all.  Every school district has a Computer Consultant and/or teacher coaches devoted to technology or mathematics or literacy.  What have they provided for you lately?


#1 Trick for Beating Procrastination

Have you noticed how your most insightful and creative ideas that have nothing to do with your work only come to you when you are on a deadline? For example, in the middle of you working on your project, suddenly it dawns on you that you need to wash all the dishes in the sink or else you can’t work on your project.  Or you glance at your home office and notice it’s too messy and it needs a vacuum right away.

I thought I was the only one that this happens to!  It happens to me all the time.  I thought it was just me being easily distracted.

Now, I can add Shadi Yazdan to the group.  How about you?

I like the trick that is described in the post.  It may well be worth a shot.

In the time that it took to write this, I think I have about four or five ideas that need addressing….


Wow!

Yet another wonderful week of reading and inspiration from Ontario Edubloggers.

Please take a few moments to click through and read the original posts.  There’s a lot of good thinking there.

Beyond Blogging – Aviva Dunsiger


As mentioned on Monday, I’d like to try something a little different so please hang in there with me.

You know that I’m a big fan of Ontario Educators and their blogging efforts.  I have no intention to drop that because there are so many that have poured their deepest thoughts into personal blogs and continue to do so.  A look through the Livebinder will show you the wit and wisdom of so many.  It continues to grow and I fully intend to continue with my Friday TWIOE posts.

But there are some great things that appear other than in the traditional blog.  I’d like to take this week to identify and share other media that is being used to share thoughts.  It’s certainly not complete but should serve as a nice inspiration for you to consume and, hopefully, branch out to something different for yourself.

Since we’re in education, we know that there have to be rules.  So, my rule in order to make this list was that you have to show evidence of doing multiple things in the media.  I think we’ve all done one ofs.  Those are experiments.  Do it more frequently and it becomes a series and makes it eligible for this series.  Hey, my blog, my rules.


Many educators use Twitter to share what’s happening in their classroom with the world.  It’s a way for parents and friends to get a glimpse of just what is happening .  These can be wonderful memories for families and a nice start to the conversation “What did you do at school today?”  It’s a way to challenge the response “nuthin” because you have visual proof!

For all the ease of Twitter, its power is seizing the moment as it happens; looking back over a period of time can be a difficult chore.  Particularly, if your timeline is full of content from everywhere.

This post from Jenny Luca has alway stuck with me – especially the image.  Evolution of an Information Junkie

If you follow Aviva on Twitter, you know that she is involved with conversations all over the web.  During her working hours, she is indeed providing educational stories and imagery from her classroom.  If you’re a parent, you can just leave your Twitter feed set to Aviva and you’ll get a good idea of how the day went.

Seriously, though, who has the time or inclination to do that?

To help the case, Aviva uses the power of Storify to memorialize each and every day that she calls Marvellous Mondays, Terrific Tuesdays, Wonderful Wednesdays, Terrific Thursdays, and Fantastic Fridays.

Storify is a very powerful utility.  I’ve used it in the past to collect Twitter messages for a conference, as an example.  Rather than weave your way through message after message, Storify presents it all at a single link.  In my example, it was easy to extract messages from so many different people because they had all used the same hashtag with their messages.

In Aviva’s case, every day in her classroom has been captured here.  https://storify.com/avivaloca

Personally, I think this is a technique that many people could make use of.  It doesn’t have that steep of a learning curve and you have everything captured for as long as you want.

The immediate benefit is the sharing with others that can happen.

But it could go further.

You could take a look back and reflect on an event, series of events, or learning experience and make plans going forward.

Imagine going into a performance appraisal, job interview, or a parent/teacher conference with all this evidence of learning in hand!

Beyond Blogging – Alice Aspinall


As mentioned yesterday, I’d like to try something a little different so please hang in there with me.

You know that I’m a big fan of Ontario Educators and their blogging efforts.  I have no intention to drop that because there are so many that have poured their deepest thoughts into personal blogs and continue to do so.  A look through the Livebinder will show you the wit and wisdom of so many.  It continues to grow and I fully intend to continue with my Friday TWIOE posts.

But there are some great things that appear other than in the traditional blog.  I’d like to take this week to identify and share other media that is being used to share thoughts.  It’s certainly not complete but should serve as a nice inspiration for you to consume and, hopefully, branch out to something different for yourself.

Since we’re in education, we know that there have to be rules.  So, my rule in order to make this list was that you have to show evidence of doing multiple things in the media.  I think we’ve all done one ofs.  Those are experiments.  Do it more frequently and it becomes a series and makes it eligible for this series.  Hey, my blog, my rules.


Alice Aspinall

This morning, I’d like to focus on the works of Alice Aspinall.  She is a secondary school mathematics teacher and apparently loves the subject.  At least, that’s what her YouTube handle says.

https://www.youtube.com/mrsalovesmath

Recently, she reached 100 followers of her channel which enabled her to have the custom URL.  So, congratulations on that.

The focus of the channel is to solve mathematics problems – from beginning to end and record/explain every step.

I’m impressed with this work at so many levels.

  • First of all, it can be difficult to go from beginning to end without making a mistake.  Any teacher who has ever tried to solve a problem in front of a class at the chalkboard knows that.  (How many of you have used the line “just checking to see if you’re paying attention” as you erase a mistake)
  • Unlike the traditional short video of 30-60 seconds, a complete mathematics solution can take some time.  Most of her videos fall in the range of 4-10 minutes as demonstrated here.  Try replicating what she’s done and you can’t help but be impressed.

  • Her printing is perfect.  As a terrible writer any more, I’m impressed with that.  In addition, you’ve got to appreciate her ability to write in a straight line on unlined paper while explaining the solution.  Throw into the mix keeping an eye on the recording to know when to adjust the paper to keep everything in sight and there are many possible points of failure!

The result is a nice collection of explanation videos.

How to use them?  There are a multitude of ways.

  • introduce a concept
  • students can review the procedures at home
  • students who don’t “get it” in class don’t have to embarrass themselves by asking to have it explained again
  • students who miss a class for whatever reason can use this as part of their catch up activities
  • flip the classroom using content on her terms
  • and I’m sure that you can think of other ways

There are huge benefits for her students in the explicit instruction that is given.  There’s also another message here that’s important.  Anyone who takes the time and considerable effort to pull this together must truly “love math”.

Her students will be the immediate users of this content.  But, because they’re online for all to see, you can use these as well if they’re appropriate.

You can follow Alice on Twitter at @aliceaspinall.

Whatever happened to …


… the slide rule?

Well, mine is in the bookcase behind me, Aviva!  There’s my personal answer to your question that you posted in the Padlet devoted to this.

The educational year was my Grade 10.  We were required to purchase a slide rule for mathematics class.  We had two options:

  1. purchase a cheap plastic white tool or
  2. “if you’re serious about mathematics, you need to buy the upgraded yellow eye-saver metal one that comes with a finer hairline and a leather case.”  (My mathematics teacher no-so-subtle advice)

As you can see in the picture above, using my chair as a background, I went with option #2 – A Pickett N902-ES

We were only allowed to take the slide rule to mathematics class.  Apparently, it could be used as a weapon to avoid the boredom in other classes.  (or so I heard),  I remember the mathematics classrooms with a big teacher slide rule at the front of the class so that she/he could work along with us to solve problems with our slide rules.

We learned a great deal about mathematics from using that device including a new bit of language – “hair line”.  It was true; when we would compare the two slide rule options, the yellow one did have a thinner hair line.

What difference does that make?  It goes to the heart of using a slide rule.  Unlike a calculator, it didn’t necessarily give you the exact answer.  Instead, you learned the skill of estimation to get your answer.  Unless you were working with integers, the hair line would fall on a scale and you needed to estimate just what the answer would be.  I’ll tell you one thing; you sure learned about the beauty of numbers and decimal places.  As I look at it while writing this post, there was a special marker for pi.

Flipping the slide rule over, in very tiny print, there were instructions about how to multiply, divide, find logarithms, find the sine of tangent of an angle, and the importance of the NUMBER OF ZEROS.  You just knew that was important because, even back then, it was written in capital letters!  There was also a grid of important fraction conversions – i.e. 45/64 = .703125  (Yes, I just did check it with my computer calculator)

It got me through that class and others in high school.  Once I hit Statistics at university, it was incredibly clear that I needed to get with the digital age and purchased my first calculator – an HP21 How sad is that that even the calculator is in the HP Calculator Museum.

I have no idea why I still have the slide rule; it doesn’t conveniently get stored anywhere and I can’t remember when I last used it.

Oh, fact check.  Yes I do – re-read this blog post “Two nerds walk into a Tim Horton’s

OK, I can’t remember the last time I used it since then…

Does that inspire you to do some thinking/reminiscing?

  • have you ever used a slide rule?
  • when did you buy your first calculator?  Do you recall what features it had?
  • if you’re a classroom teacher, how best do you teach number lines and estimating?  Is it still an important skill?
  • I know some manipulative kits use slide rules or close cousins to it.  Have you ever used them?

Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ” series of blog posts like Aviva did? They can all, by the way, be revisited here.

Please visit this Padlet and add your idea. I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!