This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Happy Friday and Happy Last Friday if it applies.  Welcome to my weekly roundup of stories from Ontario Edubloggers that I was privileged to have read this past while.  Please enjoy.


EQUITY IN COLLABORATIVE SPACES

If you’re in education, you’ve had plenty of exposure to group work or, as Rusul Alrubail describes in her title “Collaborative Spaces”.

There’s a wonderful lesson here as Rusul extrapolates a personal experience into advice for every educator and/or potential worker in this space.

We’ve had groups a plenty as students and used it as a class organizer as a teacher.  We know that there will always be those who don’t pull their own weight; we know that there are some students that we can’t place with other students; we know that we need to be constantly monitoring the groups to ensure that everyone is working; we know that the great equalizer at the end of it will be the “group participation mark”.

But what happens when that space takes place online?  In this post, you’ll see Rusul’s insights where some of it is a refresher but some of it is new news.  Have you really considered what collaboration looks like when you take it online?  How do you handle it when someone doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain and you’re left holding the bag?

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She provides a really insightful list of things to attend to in order to have success.  I’d hope that people would consider sharing this with students at a Faculty of Education.  There’s so much common sense wisdom in the post.

I’m also reminded as I read her post that equity doesn’t always mean equality.


Learning Design by Making Games

Unless you’ve been hiding somewhere, you know that the Hour of Code has been so big in schools the past while.  Sadly, for many, it’s on the par with watching a Christmas video.  Classes put in their hour, it’s checked off, and now it’s time to move on.

Jim Cash has been rightfully vocal about doing better than that.

In this post, Jim uses inspiration from Yasmin Kafai to suggest that it needs to be taken to the next level.  He gives an example of one class…

In the new year, they will be challenged with a complex task that closely mirrors that of Kafai’s study: designing an interactive game using Scratch to make the learning of fractions easy and fun for younger students.

This is crucial for success and making the time spent coding worthwhile.

If you “did” an Hour of Code, what’s your next step?


You Got This! Coding and the Empathetic Teacher

OK, one more post about coding and maybe this will be the one to inspire you to greater efforts.  This time, from Steven Floyd.

For me, the biggest takeaway from this is a reminder that none of us were born with the innate ability to teach.  We had to learn how to do it.  In today’s classroom with today’s challenges and today’s students, we are constantly learning and relearning how to teach.  That’s why schools have professional activity and professional development days.

So, why should teaching coding be any different.  Sure, there are “experts” who go around telling you how “easy” it is.  Don’t you just hate them?

The reality is that all computer science teachers are constantly on the learn.  Not much of what we learned at university is directly applicable in today’s K-12 classroom.  There are so many interests and opportunities to apply the concepts to the curriculum.  Or, perhaps you land at a school where they teach a completely different coding language.  Ask any computer science teacher and they’ll tell you that they are up at all hours learning and trying to find that technique that will make it appropriate for every student in the classroom.  One thing remains consistent across all grades; we’re interested in solving problems.

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So, if you believe that we are all lifelong learners, why not include some meaningful coding as part of your learning?  And, why not learn along with students rather than taking on the traditional role of imparter of everything worth learning?


How Reflecting On My Last #OneWord Goal Led To My New One

Aviva Dunsiger bought into the #OneWord meme last year and this post is an opportunity for her to reflect on her choice of “hearing”.

It’s nice to see that she’s comfortable enough to let us know that not everything was hunky dory with her choice.  Sure, there were successes but there were also some challenges.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I think that if there weren’t those challenges, she wouldn’t have been pushing herself enough.

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As I finished reading her post, I almost convinced myself that her one work for 2017 was going to be “amaze”.  But, a slower read reveals that it’s actually “perspective”.

What do you think?  A good choice?


The Progression of Multiplication

With apologies to David Rueben, Kyle Pearce’s post could easily have been “Everything you wanted to know about multiplication but were afraid to ask”.

It’s a long post but Kyle really takes on multiplication in a serious way.  It’s a great reminder that, despite what some people think, there isn’t just one way to learn mathematics.

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While I understand all the concepts addressed in the post, colour me a user of the “Standard” Algorithm.  How old does that make me feel?  At least he didn’t call it the “Classic” Algorithm.

So, if you want to get a history of everything multiplication from K-10, it’s a nice read.  I’d have no problem assigning it as reading for a student at a Faculty of Education.  There’s great stuff in here as well.

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And, hooray!  Despite what we read from the naysayers, there still is room in the curriculum for “paper and pencil”.  If only those people would read the complete message; we want all students to be successful in mathematics.


What Inspires Me

I think that everyone should take a moment and do a reflection like Matthew Morris does in this post.  What is it about “you” that makes “you” “you” in the classroom?

The answer is, I believe, a desire to reach every student at whatever level is necessary.

The best teachers always do this – sacrifice and work the angles, shuffle the blocks, and basically do whatever it takes.

These positive jabs slowly got this student to put more effort into his work. I then brought an old duotang of mine into school. He looked through it and looked at me as if he was saying to himself, “This guy did this in school but he is still kinda cool?”

I’m sure that I never made the status of “kinda cool” but I did try.


An Energy User’s Scavenger Hunt

I’m not sure who the author of the STAO blog is but this is an interesting concept.

After all, we are all energy users, right?

Read the post and then click through to a lesson plan.  It’s in .docx format so you can edit/adjust to suit your class.

A scavenger hunt can be used by teachers to direct student learning at any grade level. In this case, a set of carefully worded questions will introduce students to a new topic, ‘Energy Users’.


Thanks to all these wonderful bloggers for sharing their thoughts and ideas.  Please click through and enjoy the original posts.  You’ll be glad you did.  Oh, and drop them a comment before heading off to the big list for more great inspiration.

Some math help for everyone


Technology delivers on so many levels when you think about it.

How many of us can remember when “multimedia in Mathematics” meant using coloured chalk on the chalkboard?

And things like chalkboard protractors, compasses,  and straight edges to develop a solution on said chalkboards.  The two tools, combined together, were great in the hands of an experienced Mathematics teacher.  I can still remember some of the very best having the skill to draw a circle freehand, without the assistance of a compass.  I was so impressed with their skills.

As a teacher, you could start at one side of the chalkboard and work your way across the room.  Maybe there was even back to back Mathematics classes and the words P.L.O. would be left in big characters so that you could reuse the artwork!  But, when the class ended or when the chalkbrush did its thing, the multimedia went away.

Hopefully, that’s just a long ago faded memory.  With today’s tools, there are so much better and effective ways.

MathHelp is a commercial service that retails its services for those who need a little more help with Mathematics.  It may come to that.

However, in the category of multimedia, check out its YouTube channel.

Here, many Mathmatics concepts have been reduced to short, digestible videos .Click through and sample some to get the concept.

Using this strategy, the multimedia doesn’t go away.  Using any device, anywhere you have connectivity, the videos can be played and reviewed to assist in the learning.  In the privacy of their own learning space, students can play and replay and enjoy the learning without the embarrassment of having to interrupt the lesson and ask the teacher to repeat the concept again just for them.  How many students just don’t ask the question to avoid the situation of admitting to the entire class that they don’t understand.  Similarly, teachers who are looking for a different approach to a concept can see other teachers in action.

In these “days of the link”, it offers powerful support for learning.

But I’d suggest that you don’t stop there.  

The learning is in the making.

Why not create your own Mathematics channel?  You could do it yourself but, even more powerfully, have it created by students.  We know that we learn best by creating content; why wouldn’t it apply here?  

Instead of your typical mindless set of problems given for homework with the hope that solving the same problem five times will reinforce the learning, have the student create a short video explaining and developing the concept to be learned.  I think it’s obvious that it wouldn’t apply everywhere but certainly could be used in many cases.

It’s not an unheard of concept.  Check out Kyle Pearce’s collection.

Some resources:

There would be a learning curve to get started but, when you evaluate the benefits, it’s learning that’s good and will serve you and your students for years.