Monthly Archives: May 2011

Who Says You Can’t Replicate Another School’s Success?

This article is about “High Tech High” and project-based learning, and how a school in one state visited a school in another state, to re-invigorate and motivate its teachers and students.

i have a copy of the Edutopia “10 Tips for Project-Based Learning” should you be interested in reading a copy. i have seen similar set-ups in the London, Ontario area, first hand, when i was a Faculty Advisor for Althouse Education at the University of Western Ontario. The amazing work from the students is not as far out of reach as one would think…

Click here to visit the High Tech High family of schools website. Check out the amazing projects link to see the various publication and projects students have created/produced.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Check out this article from the Huffington Post about on-line learning for K-12 and what it could mean for students and teachers in the future…

Time for Change

Time for change

By Leith Dunick,
(Picture on right: Students Hailey Perreault and Paige Redbreast attend the Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s annual Education Awareness Week conference at the Victoria Inn on Monday.)
All Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose wants is an equal playing field.

With not enough money committed to on-reserve students, and others forced to fend for themselves in communities far from their traditional home, convincing Aboriginal youth that education is the proper path to follow is not always easy.

NAN’s educational critic says it’s time for change, and called for it this week at the First Nations governing body’s fourth annual education awareness week conference, held in Thunder Bay.

The challenges are far too many, he said.

“One of the items that they’ll be talking about is how do we support students that are here,” he said, a timely thought in the wake of the confirmation of the death of missing 15-year-old Webequie First Nation student Jordan Wabasse.

It marked the seventh death of an Aboriginal student in the past decade, a sign that the system is at least partially broken, Waboose said.

“There’s going to be a panel of some of the agencies here in the city who try to support some of the students while they’re going to high school. As you’re aware, it’s been an issue lately, particularly with some of the students we’ve lost over the last number of years,” he said.

One solution could be better schools on remote reserves, which might allow students to remain at home with their families, rather than be carted off to unfamiliar territory in a tempting city like Thunder Bay, where distractions are a 24/7 matter.

“Ideally that’s what you want, is to have your students schooled in their home communities. That’s exactly what I’m talking about when I say the resources have to go to the First Nations themselves so that if a community is big enough, or the size warrants having a high school, then I think they should be afforded that opportunity.”

It’s not like it’s not happening in other non-native communities in Northern Ontario, he added, noting there are plenty of small towns that still offer school services despite declining populations.

James Cutfeet, the director of education at the federal department of Aboriginal Affairs, said success is needed now in order for the next generation of First Nations people to succeed at life.

Cutfeet said the federal government’s switch to a results-based measurement system means teachers are now going to be gauged by the achievement of their students and their ability to read and write at the appropriate levels.

The $26-million student success programs should also have an impact, he continued.

“This program encourages educators and parents to work together, to develop school success plans, implement student learning assessments and establish performance measurements to assess and report on school and student progress,” Cutfeet said. “All of these efforts are based on improving literacy, numeracy and student retention.”

However, there’s more work to be done, he said.

One area he’d like to see improved is the development of a tuition agreement resource guide to further address the matter of First Nations education off-reserve. And special education services also need attention, he said.

The conference continues throughout the week.

Math on the Move

Here is but one of the many great items that came from the OAME 2011 conference, courtesy of Melinda Lula from HWDSB. Her workshop was on the different ways technology can help us with our assessment practices, especially assessment FOR/AS learning. Please visit her wikispace, designed for conference participants, at .

Click around and explore the wikispace and thank her (and her HWSDB colleagues) for sharing the info. We really are moving towards a collaborative profession/practice from the private practice many of us have grown (too) accustom to. It’s wonderful to have fellow OCTs sharing not only within schools and boards, but across the province.

If you haven’t done so already, think about putting next year’s conference on your learning plan. It is like “Reading for the love of it” for math (but even better!!) and next year’s conference is in beautiful Kingston, Ontario. i will try to put up more items from the conference as soon as i get the opportunity.

OAME 2011

Here i am working hard on Problem Solving for Enrichment in grades 5-8, just one of the many great workshops at OAME 2011. The package of problems i’m working on will be made available to the Numeracy Committee at our June meeting. For information on next year’s conference, SO YOU CAN PUT IT ON YOUR LEARNING PLAN, please click here.

Active Learning Means Using the Body | Edutopia

Active Learning Means Using the Body Edutopia

A fabulous article to read about using movement to teach…math, writing, or anything. Click on the link above to read the article from its original source or carry on reading it below…

Good morning students! We are going to learn how to make multiplication problems. Today we have traveled back in time to the age of the dinosaurs. Dinosaurs reproduce by laying…..? Right! Eggs. The dinosaurs lay their eggs in …? Correct again. Nests. In your baggy, you will find several paper nests and two colors of eggs.

I would be excited to learn what multiplication was if I was in this class!

This teacher set up a real, active, learning environment in which the students had to use their bodies to figure things out. That is what I want to talk about. I have lots of questions that are related to this concept: When was it that the schools separated the brain from the body? Why do students have to sit, and sit, and sit all day (especially secondary students)? Why is a pencil a tool to think with? How is it possible to type without looking at my fingers, or drive without looking at my feet?

In the Classroom

Now back to the lesson I observed. The teacher gave each student a baggy that contained several paper dinosaur nests and candies that looked like eggs. There were white ones and blue ones. The students were excited to learn, not only because of the enticement of candies, but because of the interest generated by the dinosaur nests. The teacher then verbally gave the students different scenarios of eggs. In some she described nests without regard to color, while with other scenarios, color was integral.

“One stegosaurus laid three blue eggs and one white one in one nest, and three blue ones and one white one in another. How many eggs total did she lay? How many white eggs did she lay? How many blue ones?” “This brontosaurus laid nine eggs total in three nests. She thinks that each nest had about the same amount of eggs. Can you show me what that might look like?” “A triceratops set a goal to lay 12 eggs. She built three nests. How many eggs would she need in each nest to make them all equal?” The teacher then took the time to connect the number of nests times how many eggs in each to multiplication. The kids “got it” right off the bat!

Compare this with what many teachers do — “Here is a gridded piece of paper. Write the numbers one to ten going down, and then write them again going across. Now fill in the table with these numbers.” After years of doing this, many students still don’t get their times tables. What makes the difference? The answer is simple. The body is an extension of the brain.

Mind and Body Connection

You have heard of muscle memory, but what I am talking about the body increasing the brain’s memory. That is how I can type without looking at my fingers and drive without looking at my feet. The idea is really simple. In order for the body to move, the brain usually has to tell it to move. So if the body is active, so is the brain. Repeated motions are learned by the brain and the body. Connect motions with concepts and the body becomes a literal extension of the brain. In a classroom where the students are asked to use their bodies as learning tools, the teacher can see if the student’s “get it” just by watching what their bodies are doing.

Students who struggle can get a clue by simply looking around and seeing what other students are doing. Discipline is diminished because few students will want to be singled out by refusing to participate in the fun activity.

Points to Ponder

I witnessed a teacher teaching high school seniors how to improve their writing. I observed compliant behavior with undertones of resentment from most of the students as they obediently wrote a descriptive paragraph. Then, magically, I witnessed a total transformation in their attitudes when the teacher explained that they were going to publish a newsletter for the school. They did not know that in writing the newsletter, they will be doing much more writing than if they sat in class responding to teacher prompts. But they were so excited about it.

Writing is an active behavior; the brain has to tell the hands and fingers what to do (low on Bloom’s). But writing with purpose is a learning behavior; the brain has to decide what to write and why to write it and then determine if it is the best thing to write (way up there on Bloom’s Taxonomy).

A teacher can easily observe the learning going on by watching how the student’s pencils fly over the pages. What makes the difference? It’s simple. The body is an extension of the brain.

Maybe the brain got disconnected from the body because the teachers believe that the body moving all the time will take away vital energy resources from the brain, which will diminish thinking power. Perhaps, the students have to sit all the time because of the ink bottles often spilled when the students got out of their seats to participate in collaborative groups. I believe I know how a pencil can be a tool to “think-with”: The student writes something down, and then thinks that the teacher won’t like it, so the student turns the pencil upside down and erases, ponders something new and better to write, and then writes it down. Now we know everything!

I look forward to finding out how you help your students use their bodies to extend their learning power.

Music and Chess as Standard Curriculum

This article adds to the mountain of research that says how music promotes brain development. i would argue that the music of math and the math of music work hand in hand in stimulate brain function. What do you think?

8th Grader Designs Game Apps

This article talks about an 8th grade student who has designed apps for the iPad/iPhone. Could we not expect and encourage the same of our own students?

Adapting Your Classroom

Adapting you classroom

This is an interesting article about how a teacher (re)designed his classroom. Often we do not think of the potential (or limitations) that the physical classroom environment can do for (or to) our students and our teaching and learning.

Think about your own classroom and what sort of learning environment you want for yourself and your students as you read the article. i can see the excellent implications a similar set up could have for math communication and group problem solving in our classrooms.

Netflix for Books

Here’s an interesting article that isn’t quite math related, but i wanted to share it anyway…it talks about a new literacy service that uses NetFlix style suggestions from students’ book preferences.