Wednesday, 24 September 2014

I have a dream!

I have a dream...
How might we co-create meaningful learning experiences for young people in order to foster risk taking and a love of learning.
As part of the journey, I am looking at flipping the classroom, redesigning the learning space and ideally I want to hand over control to the students.
I want the students to create, explore, discover and drive their own learning. 
Do you have this dream too?
If anyone has any great ideas or things to considered, I would love to hear from you.
Let's share this journey together and keep the dream alive.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Director of learning

We were challenged by our curriculum coordinator to look for ways to provide our students with opportunities to direct their own learning outcomes. I thought about this carefully and wondered really what that meant and what it would look like.
It is providing some problems for your students to explore. 
Giving them plenty of time to discuss...
to collaborate...
to plan and solve...
On reflection, I realise that I have done this before, but I saw today that I need to do it more often. I need to be more vigilant in providing these opportunities as it is of such great value to my students.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The times they are a changin'

I have received numerous emails from students recently with different requests ranging from clarification of details to assistance with problems. It has caused me to reflect on it lately, about the unlimited access to teachers that students have these days. It is a bit of a dilemma, when I receive an email late or on a weekend, I want to reply so I can encourage my students and show them that what they are doing is important.
But, I also have to balance my own personal life, I have young children myself. Am I a good teacher or not because I respond to their emails? Am I spoon feeding them?  Am I increasing my chance of burn out? I would love to hear what others think.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

When Technology failing is a good thing.

I had a student stop me in the playground today. He asked me if we had class today, which we didn't. He said he needed to show me something on his phone, and said "I don't need you anymore, I've got Siri!" 
"Listen" he said, "2y + 28 = 51" to which Siri's reply was, I don't understand. To my excitement, and his dismay (because he said it worked before), I was able to assure him that Siri would never be able to replace me. With the rate of advancement in technology, you never know what the future holds, but I was grateful for the failing of technology in this particular case. And, I was also surprisingly happy to hear that this 15 year old boy was trying to get Siri to help him solve linear equations. 
Technology can't replace a great teacher, but technology in the hands of a great teacher can create an amazing learning experience for our students. Lets hope our students value us more than just being a vessel of information to be shared with them, and more as a learner on a journey with them.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Self assessment using QR codes

I was fortunate to come across a post from Joanne Crooks on the way she has used QR codes for student self assessment.
My school has gone 1-1 iPad with year 7 this year, so I was extremely grateful to Joanne for sharing this resource.
I was able to provide my students an opportunity to assess their own understanding of equations and it also provided me a good insight into areas of concern for my students.
The cards are visually appealing and simple in nature, which worked well with the students.
I will definitely come up with some more of my own and I will share them and also look at using augmented reality as a tool to increase student engagement and learning.

To differentiate or not to differentiate - that is the question!

As educators we constantly hear about differentiating the curriculum or differentiating your lessons to cater for all learners. This post is completely driven by the actions of my students. I had my year 11 extension mathematics class period 5, these you would describe as an academic group. Then period 6 I had my life skills class, so these are strugglers when it comes to Mathematics. 
So I had my magnetic fraction sectors on my desk ready to use them to demonstrate equivalent fractions with my life skills group. But, while I was helping a student, some of my year 11s discovered them and then proceeded to create.
It's funny and I guess that's why I reflect on it now, we happened to be doing differentiation using the product rule.
For me, and I am sure for all good educators, differentiation isn't a conscious thing, it is something that you always do without even thinking about it. It is about making your students comfortable in their learning environment.
I had never really thought about it until today, at how much we adapt our lessons depending on our students, it has become so second nature that we don't even realise that we are doing it.
Differentiation - the rate of change of one variable compared to another or determining differences, whatever the definition, remember you are an expert without even knowing.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

What if?

This post is really a call for opinions, your thoughts on different scenarios. I am interested in what others think about these situations, I have my opinion, I want you to think what if?
What if...
• your students have just completed an external maths competition and they want to work through some of the questions together in class. Do you, seize the moment, and take the opportunity to work in collaboration with your students or do you say the competition is over now and we have syllabus outcomes that we need to get through?
• you have a student who is of concern behaviourally. Do you continue to incorporate technology as a learning tool or do you use technology as a reward for appropriate behaviour by students?
• you are using apps to assist with the learning process. Do you find work arounds for keeping track of app progress, or do you not utilise apps because they are too difficult to keep track of?
• you want to increase engagement for your students but you  are battling external factors. Do you continue to experiment with new strategies for your class or do you conform to what is your environment?
I know that the wording of my questions has demonstrated my opinions in the matters. I am truly interested in your honest opinions on the reality of these philosophies. What I perceive is the best for my students, may not be when stacked up against other students. I know I am trying to create self driven learners, students who just want to know why. Educational systems don't always support that endeavour, so what do you do? Jump through the hoops or encourage your students to become life long learners. What if we had a class full of the ideal student, would we be the teacher that they deserve?

Saturday, 2 August 2014

The games have begun!

My Solver challenge has been active for three weeks now. I have been happy with its progress, although I have to admit it has been a lot of work on my behalf. My students have access to number puzzles, literacy and problem solving activities, they have opportunities to complete online challenges and develop skills by the use of iPad apps. I have checked and marked student work and participation every night, my belief is, if I don't have enthusiasm for the challenge then my students wont. Momentum is led by me. This is a link to the instructions that were given to the students. 
I have been using a google form to keep track of the points for each student, this has made the whole collation side of things much easier. This is a link to the leader board which the students can check to see their progress, it is updated automatically as I update the points.
Throughout the challenge, there are secret bonus challenges, one of these was to create an instructional video on how to complete one of the number puzzles. This is what one of my students created. I don't know what you think of it, but I think it is amazing, this is the work of a 12 year old armed with an iPad.
I have seen students complete thousands of questions on sumdog in attempt to gain SP, it has totally astounded me. This strategy wont engage all students, but it will engage most, I am not about to paint this as a perfect picture, but I know without this challenge there is no way I would have students completing number puzzles on the weekend and on pupil free days by choice. These are not set homework tasks, they are optional. I will keep you updated as we progress.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Engagement is not a conforming word!

I was fortunate today to undertake some professional development facilitated by Dan Haesler. The focus of the day was student well being and engagement. Dan shared current data on aspects which can affect student well being and led us in meaningful discussion on these issues.
We then looked at student engagement, we discussed what engagement truly means. Can you have a class full of students all working on the task at hand and not be engaged? Yes! We discussed students who are compliant or conform to expectation but may not be necessarily engaged. I have spoken with colleagues, as I'm sure you all have, about lessons that have gone well, where your students were engaged. Were they? Is it as easy to judge as seeing a harmonious classroom with everyone doing the set work? It's hard, as a teacher, to think that it might not be the case, but if we don't challenge these conceptions then how do we begin to create engaging experiences for our students. I am always looking for ways to increase engagement for my students, and I have to admit it is not as easy as you think. What you think is relevant or interesting to a teenager isn't always the case, but I keep trying.
We discussed the use of technology, because we all know it is engaging. I think Dan put it the best way when he said "boring stuff on the iPad is still boring". Technology opens up a huge opportunity for engagement, but I think we still only have the door ajar. I can't wait until we are all brave enough to let the door swing wide open.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Innovation is more than a label.

We've come through an era where we debate the benefits of rote learning and its long term benefits and I'm not sure the battle has been won in either camp. We move into the dynamic world of the technological age. With so much access to information and resources, there are no limits to anything that you want to learn about. I have been reflecting recently about my utilisation of technology in the classroom. Most people that I work with would say that I am innovative and have great ideas. And, that is great to hear, but...

The more I travel on my journey, the more I realise that I'm not innovative at all. In fact, the whole idea of being innovative is a goal that I am still to achieve. Do I incorporate technology in a meaningful way into my lessons? Yes! Is this innovative? No! I know now, what I have been doing, which many others think is innovative, is actually automating. I have been using technology in a variety of ways to bring the curriculum to life and I am happy with these endeavours. Being truly innovative is a challenge which is so much harder to succeed in. I hope one day I will actually deserve to be referred to by others as innovative.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

When technology means doing the same thing in a difficult way!

I want to start off by saying that I think the use of technology as part of the learning process for students has opened up endless opportunities for them. This post is more about us, as educators. Now, this is not a criticism or a judgement, it's just something that I have been thinking about. We have introduced BYOD for our year 7 students this year, which has been an amazing adventure for all involved, staff and students alike. So, I have been busily looking for lots of different ways to utilise this great resource. As you know, I am a Mathematics teacher and many would say that mathematics is a very traditional subject with a rigid set of processes and rules, and in some ways it can be. Mathematics also provides many great problem solving opportunities which requires high order thinking processes. So you would think the integration of technology in a meaningful way into mathematics would be difficult, and until I really started looking, I would have agreed. I have been surprised at all the great things you can do, not just with the iPad, but also with a laptop.  
At the start of this year, I had a goal to go as paperless as I could and I am still passionate about doing that. To help this occur, I have been providing my students with PDF documents via google drive and then they annotate them using PDF cabinet and then share them back with me in their shared google drives. And that has been fine, the work flow isn't ideal, but the students have managed to do that. However, it is more difficult for me to mark their work this way than if they had completed it on paper. While looking for ways to simplify this process I realised that I was trying to make the iPad a worksheet, which quite obviously it isn't. Thinking about what I was doing, and others, I realised I was trying to get the iPad to change instead of me changing. I was wanting to do the same as I'd always done, and try and get the iPad to fit. So I have another goal this year, stop trying to change an inanimate object and make some significant changes myself.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Let the games begin!

I have decided to trial gamification next term with one of my classes. I have placed all my students into teams, and they will gain points for themselves and their teams. There are many activities which they will have the opportunity to complete in order to gain "skill points". The rationale is to try and increase student engagement in "extra" tasks and to also benefit them by improving their skills in mathematical thinking.
To get the ball rolling, on the last day of term, I put the students into their groups, I didn't tell them any details of what is to come. They were told that they needed to come up with a team name.
They also needed to plan their team logo.
And then create the logo digitally on their iPads.
I was impressed with the number of different apps used to create their logos.
I have been busily creating the rules and the criteria for gaining points. Working out levels and setting up google forms and sheets for keeping track of the points. I can't wait to get started, I'll let you know how it goes.

In a world of zeros and ones, are you a 0 or 1?

I was undertaking a MOOC just recently and had the opportunity to revisit binary numbers. As a Mathematics teacher and lover of all things to do with numbers I couldn't pass up this chance to have some fun with some of my students. We have a small group of students who are part of the APE (Academic Program for Enrichment) program so I thought they would be the perfect group to do some activities with.
Firstly, I created this little video as an introduction to the idea of binary numbers. It's purpose wasn't to teach the concept but more to showcase how an iPad can be used to create something (these students have all been given an iPad to use as part of the APE program).
The students were all given the opportunity to be a bit and become part of a byte. We worked together to do some conversion of numbers from our decimal system to the binary system.
They then practised doing some conversions themselves with the assistance of the BinaryGame app for their iPads 
We then looked in simplistic terms, letting a = 1, b =2 and so on up to z = 26, so to get the understanding that every number, letter and character can be represented by a binary number. The students then went about writing their name, birthday and a sentence in binary code.
We then looked at the idea of a Pixel being on or off (1 or 0). The students were given a set of binary instructions to follow in order to produce a picture.
They were given a grid, via google drive, and then using the app PDFCabinet ( they were able to create the picture.

We also spoke about modems and their purpose. We discussed how we can use sound to demonstrate on or off (high note or low note) to send a message. The students were able to play around with garage band and use music to send a message.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to experiment with a few different concepts/ideas. The students enjoyed being able to use a few different apps and being able to make use of their iPads.

The Paddle Pop Effect Part 2

I said I would update you on my progress with the paddle pop sticks. Initially when I started using the sticks I only trialled it with two of my classes. I was so happy with the impact of the sticks that I have adopted the approach with all my classes. The students who were apprehensive at the start, now say they love it. 
The students have made suggestions to improve the implementation also. One being that I have a stick in the cup also, so I got my 6 year old daughter decorate some sticks for me. I always enjoy pulling them out, especially when I say I hope I don't get pulled out because this is a really hard question.
Another change, with one of my classes is that, I pull out a stick at the start of the lesson and then that person is responsible for stick selection for the lesson, the students really like that. It is definitely a positive experience for the students because they complain if they are not pulled out and they always remind me if I have forgotten to get the sticks out of the cupboard. If you are looking for a small thing to change then I suggest you give it a go.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Creation not Consumption

This week I conducted an iPad bootcamp for students involved in our APE (ACADEMIC PROGRAM for ENRICHMENT) program. In the program, each student is provided with an iPad to assist them to be more self directed in their learning.
Throughout the bootcamp the students were shown how to navigate around the iPad using gestures and were introduced to a few apps.
My school is using GAFE (google apps for education), so the students were shown how to use google drive as a tool for managing work flow, for working in collaboration and for sharing their work with their teachers.
Some of the other apps that the students worked with were popplet lite, for the initial planning, explain everything, to create a simple video of their ideas and book creator for their final presentation.
My goal for these students is that they will become creators not consumers. I hope that they will use the iPad as a tool to create and share their knowledge and not just as a browsing tool to collect facts. These students have an invaluable opportunity to have access to a device that can be used to develop their talents further.
We have been looking at ways of conducting formative assessment lately. So, I decided to create a template in the "explain everything" app for the students to complete at the end of the bootcamp. It was a good opportunity for me to get feedback so I can improve future bootcamps and it was also an opportunity for the students to reflect on what they had done in the bootcamp.
This is the response of one of the students.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Get out of my Domain!

It is always a challenge for my students to understand the concept of domain and range of functions. With limited graphing experience at this stage, and without the use of calculus yet, this is quite a difficult thing for students to comprehend. In the last couple of years I have used GeoGebra to help when I am teaching this, I would project graphs of functions onto the board and discuss with my students the features of the graphs including the domain and range.
This year I have a class where every student has a laptop, so I decided to have the students enter the functions into GeoGebra to generate the graphs.
It is interesting the assumptions that we make about our students. I thought this would be an easy task for my students to complete. 
Well wasn't I surprised. Even though my students are what you would consider digital natives, I am starting to learn that they know what that know, which is usually games and social media, and not too much more when it comes to technology. Don't get me wrong, there are students who a brilliant when it comes to technology, but they don't represent the majority. 
I assumed that the students would be able to enter functions with powers and also with fractions. They were unaware that "^" was used to represent powers and "/" for fractions. 
So what started off being a lesson on domain and range, ended up being so much more than that.
I was glad with my decision to use GeoGebra in this way as it made me more aware of the capacities of my students. I think it was a worthwhile experience for my students also, who gained some technology skills while investigating the domain and range of some pretty cool functions. And to top things off, I've been able to talk a lot about asymptotes!

Friday, 2 May 2014

The Paddle Pop Effect

I have just attended a staff professional development day at my school a couple of days ago. We discussed formative assessment and different strategies that can be used in the classroom. One of the strategies, we looked at, which has been advocated by Dylan William for many years is "The hands up free classroom".
When you ask questions throughout your lesson, usually what happens is, the students raise their hands and you pick a student to answer it. Quite often it might be the same handful of students that contribute to most lessons. In the hands up free classroom, you have a paddle pop stick (or something similar) with the name of each student written on it. I wanted my students to feel part of this process, so I let them all decorate their own paddle pop sticks.
So now, when you ask a question, instead of the students raising their hands, they keep them down. Instead, you select a paddle pop stick, and whatever name is on the stick is the person who answers the question.
When I decided to try this strategy with one of my classes, I took the time to explain to them what we were doing and why. I have to admit there were some who had a look of horror on their face. They were worried that their stick would get pulled out and they wouldn't know the answer. I have only tried this strategy for a couple of lessons, and I can already see the benefits of it. According to Dylan William, students who answer questions in class are getting smarter, so I thought this strategy was worth a try. Don't get me wrong, this is not the answer to your classroom management issues. I still have had challenges with some students. But, I can already see an impact on some of my students. So, as a strategy, my lesson structure and content is still the same. My questioning techniques as a tool for formative assessment are still the same, it's just how I source my answers which has changed. So for very little effort or change on my behalf, I think I can make a big difference in the way some of my students experience their learning of Mathematics. I'll report back at the end of the term to update you on my progress.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Let me google that for you!

Last week I attended the GAFE summit in Sydney.

The summit was held over two days with an introduction by Jim Sill and keynote presentations by Suan Yeo, Jennie Magiera and Chris Betcher. Throughout the days, there were lots of workshops to choose from in order to develop skills depending on your interest area.

I have to admit, I was quite apprehensive about attending the summit. For those who know me, there is no question of my passion for Mathematics. There is also no question of my passion to discover things that are going to improve the engagement and learning of my students. 

So I walked onto the grounds of the Presbyterian Ladies' College in Croydon, thinking that I was going to be way out of my depth, with all these amazing educators who know so much more about google than I do.

I am pleased to say, that I felt comfortable the whole time. I saw that there were so many others who are just starting their GAFE journey like me. There was such a positive, dynamic feel to the two days. All the presenters, for the workshops that I attended, were very engaging and were incredible in their support of our learning goals. It was so great to be around so many like minded educators, who are facing the same challenges that I am. It was very clear, that the focus of everyone there, was our students, not technology. 

I was motivated, inspired and challenged. I can't wait to start using some of the things that I have learnt, and to reassess some of the things that I have always done. For those of you who get the opportunity to attend a GAFE summit in the future, I totally recommend you go. Don't sit back and think that you don't know enough about technology to go. When you get there, you soon realise it is less about technology and more about student engagement and strategies to increase independent learning for our students.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

What's the chance of that?

I had been working on probability with my year 8 class. We had spent a few lessons looking at theoretical probability, so I thought it was time my students had the opportunity to see the results of experimental probability.

I took in my supply of dice and cards and set the students to work.
For the more traditional dice, the students were asked to record what number was rolled.
For other dice they were asked to record if they rolled a prime or composite number.
Or if the number they rolled was 10 or less or greater than 10.
 Whether the number rolled was odd or even

For the cards, some were asked to record whether the card selected was red or black, what suit was selected, or whether it was a picture card or not.
Some students also demonstrated their great shuffling skills.

I did this activity in the second period of a double, last period of the day. It worked well to keep the students engaged and provided an opportunity for them to see probability in a practical sense.