Archive | February, 2011

To Differentiate Is To Do Your Job

16 Feb

A very important aspect of teaching is differentiation.  It is something that has a wide spectrum of how you can do it, as some people do it without even thinking, and there are times when it is crucial to plan for differentiation.  The important thing to remember is that not every student is the same, so why should we teach them all the same way.  Why should we expect to have students learn the same way and learn to the same point and at the same speed?

There are many reasons to differentiate.  Students come from all types of backgrounds, and it is important to know your students.  Knowing where they are coming from and why they act the way they do can give great insight on the way you can give the best instruction possible for the student.  Many of the practices that teachers have are for their own benefit.  Keeping students at the same level, busy work, and many other things are done for the teacher and not the student.  Teachers need to adapt to their students, not the other way around.

A tool that we talked about that I found most beneficial is learning contracts.  Putting students in control of their learning would make a big difference on their attitude of their learning.  I think that it would give them more confidence and desire to do the learning themselves.  Having things like graphic organizers is also  important.  Some people need to have that extra step shown to them, and it doesn’t mean that they don’t understand the concept.  If a student doesn’t know their multiplication table from day one, is it necessary to punish them for that?  If they don’t have that resource to look back on, their confidence and comfort in the math is going to drop and so will their attention and involvement.  An important thing that was said in class was about whether or not you should let a student use these tools during a test.  Our teacher said “I wouldn’t make you take your glasses off during a test, that’s a tool that helps you learn”.  If we teach using the tool it is also important to test with the tool.

Just like “One Size Doesn’t Fit All” neither does our teaching.

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Seeing The Change

16 Feb

A task we have been asked to do has been to compare the old math curriculum and the new math curriculum.  The table of contents for Mathematics 10 and Foundations of Mathematics and Pre-Calculus 10 are the focus.

Besides the formatting and presentation of how the table of contents are presented, there are a lot of differences between the old and new curriculum.  They seem to start of the same way, with an acknowledgment and introduction.  After that they could be completely different subjects all together.  The old curriculum gives ways to use the curriculum guide, the components, how to assess, and how to organize and aid in the planning of the instruction.  The difference between that the new curriculum is pretty obvious.  The new curriculum doesn’t have that.  It doesn’t have a basic “how to” assess the student, or even how you have to teach the student.  It is giving you the outcomes and the goals and from there you have to plan your instruction.

This effects teachers in multiple ways.  The new curriculum isn’t a “how to teach” book but an actual guideline of the objectives to teach.  It isn’t something to be used as so much as a crutch as the old.  There is more emphasis on blooms taxonomy and different learners in the new curriculum.  It focuses on how you are going to be able to go beyond the content and have life long learners.  The new curriculum is in much more detail than the old, and less emphasis put on the math.

There is no reference to inquiry in the old curriculum but an entire section for it in the new curriculum.  This is showing the trend of teaching that is being emphasized right now and focused on in the new curriculum.  There is also a lot about the different aspects of learning that are important besides the math itself.  There is a section for cross curricular, which is also not a part of the old table of contents.

The implications of these differences seem to expect a lot more out of teachers.  There are more things you need to concern with the students, but also less at the same time.  There is more to teaching than the content itself, and the new curriculum is addressing that.

Mobile Education – Let’s Start Here

15 Feb

This is a QR code.  It so happens to be a QR code that links to the wiki our class has created, specifically the page about using cellphones and mobile devices in a classroom.

How can we use this?

This is a question I have been asking myself over the last couple weeks.  I have spent lots of time acquiring knowledge of mobile learning, reading blogs and thinking about how we could use it in the classroom.  I have thought of hundreds of ideas, but up until a couple days ago there wasn’t one that seemed good enough.  We have to present our technology to our class, but more importantly I wanted to find a way that I could actually use this technology when I am interning and eventually when I’m teaching.

What really got me thinking was QR codes, and it is where I decided to have my focus.  My first real question was are they just a commodity?  They have the same function as many other things do on their own, but they are just very easy to use.  Regardless of if they are a commodity or not, their convenience is something that is going to become more and more evident in advertising and social media aspects.

So how can we use it?

Today I pitched my idea to my group members, who will hopefully be commenting on this post, and we agreed that it is what we want to do.  We are going to make a QR scavenger hunt.  Maybe the word scavenger hunt isn’t the best word, we can think of it more like stations.  Something that we have to focus on is teaching the rest of our class the different tools cell phones use, so we are going to be able to do this in the form of this stationed work.  At each station there will be a QR code directing each person to a different aspect of cellphones, for instance a Poll Everywhere question, or a youtube video to watch, a discussion to post onto, upload a picture to a site, upload a video, make a podcast etc.  These stations will show the vast ability to be able to use a cell phone to do all those things.

Now let’s think in a classroom.  What this could enable is the use of all the different types of learners.  You can different stations that focus on the different types of learning which could all be connected to the same concept.  You could have students teach a concept and have them instantly upload the video to a place accessible to the entire class.

Ok.  Thinking too small here.  Let’s bring in the social aspect of this.  How big could you go…

What if you post your “scavenger hunt”, or stationed lesson, whatever you want to call it, on your blog, or website, or whatever you use.  You could then send it out to the world.  All a teacher, in any place, would have to do is print off a page of QR codes and the stations and lesson are ready to go.  Then, the teacher and the students can see the connections they can make with other students and schools all over the place.  The possibilities with this are endless.

Let’s think different subjects.  Math.  You could teach basically any  concept, come up with resources, and create these stations.  You can have students making real life connections with a concept related to their area and post them instantly.  You can have students teach a concept in their own way.  You could have students creating their own math problems and questions and post them ready to be answered by others. This is just a small portion of what you could do.

Let’s go art now.  Not only could you connect with the art you see in your community and share it, as well as share the art you have created, you could go crazy with collaboration.  If you had students sending in videos from all over the place in a response to what you or your students want, you could create film pieces, or photography pieces, even music pieces.  And all from your cell phone.

Science.  What if you had students create their own labs or questions to labs and have them post them for other students to complete.  You could have lots of people getting results to experiments or adding their input.  In English, or any language, you could do creative writing workshops, collaborative writing, pen pals and so much more.

Really the list could go on.  These are things that could completely be done without the QR code too, just by using them you are appealing to a different generation of learners.  Cell phones are very common, and smart phones are increasing as well.  These codes create a convenience to use these different technology aspects.  I know that even I have stopped relying on my laptop very much and almost do everything on my phone.

Since we are in a position that we are going on an internship in the next year, it would be extremely easy for us to collaborate on a project like this, granted we get the permission to use cell phones.  Something that we would have to work with, which we will already see just in our class, is that not everyone has a smart phone, or a phone capable of using QR codes.  There will have to be adjustments made to accommodate this.

This is just an outline of the idea’s that I have been having.  If anyone has any comments, suggestions, ideas, feedback… anything, it would be greatly appreciated.

Myth Buster

12 Feb

What makes a person a good teacher?  I recently read an excerpt from Deborah Britzman’s Practice makes Practice which talked about some of the myths that affect teachers.  I looked specifically at the myth that teachers are naturally born.  Not only was I affected by the repercussions this myth but also by how my peers reacted to what we had read.

I have heard that teaching is genetic for many years.  There are certain aspects of a person that are going to help them become a teacher, but can we say that teachers are naturally born?  What would that say about the pressures placed upon teachers?  How does that affect how teachers learn?

Saying that a teacher is naturally born leads to the idea that teachers form themselves.  This idea that teachers form themselves creates a lot of pressure.  When we say things like this we are taking importance away from the education program we are in  and how we train, and saying we already possess all the knowledge necessary to be a teacher.

I know that I don’t know everything.  I know that over the last three years I have been exposed to education that has fostered great growth within me.  I have been in great experiences teaching in a classroom, and learned many things from that, but without the combination of my education classes I would not have had the same experience.  I am not an expert in absolutely everything, and because I have been given the time to learn from many of the experts I have learned so much more.

The thing that I found most interesting when responding to this reading was the way my class reacted.  Instead of talking about the myth and the negative outcomes it creates for teachers, they chose to support the myth itself.  No one seemed to have anything to disagree with the myth, but completely agreed with it.  It blew my mind.  It makes me think about how much everyone around me seems to much more confident than I do.  I’m scared to teach, I’m worried, but also excited.  Lots seem to think everything besides that teaching experience is a waste of time.  I’m sick of hearing people say how much they hate reflecting.  I am the exact opposite, clearly, otherwise I wouldn’t be blogging so much.  I try to concern myself with just what I feel and what I am going to do while teaching.  It’s difficult to not compare myself with the people around me.  I’m getting much better at being confident with my own work though.

“Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~Albert Einstein

12 Feb

What affects a person’s ability to do something?  The attitude one has can drastically alter whether or not you can be successful at what you are doing.  This brings on a big question for me: What is success?  What would life be like if we didn’t have any successes?

Today I watched an incredible movie, Gattaca, and when I watch movies I tend to write down my favourite quotes from the movie.  This was by far my favourite.

You are the authority on what is not possible, aren’t you Irene? They’ve got you looking for any flaw, that after a while that’s all you see. For what it’s worth, I’m here to tell you that it is possible. It is possible.

When we focus on the things that people do wrong we are doing a very harmful thing.  We aren’t giving them the support they deserve to do everything to their full potential.  Something I try to keep in mind often is that a person’s “full potential” isn’t going to be the same as everyone else’s in the room.

Every child needs to see success in their life.  If there is no success, that leaves a lot of room for failure.  Seeing this success, in any way possible, is what will be beneficial for a student, and will want them to learn.  I am not saying it needs to be extrinsic either, but I don’t think it needs to be entirely intrinsic either.  When someone does something good they should be told they did so.  It would be nice to think that everyone does things for the intrinsic motivation of a job well done, an although that is something I would love to strive towards, there are still going to be students that need some kind of extrinsic motivation.  If someone never see’s success in their learning, what will motivate them to continue?

The movie was genetically altering genes and what could happen in response to that.  It gives a huge insight, considering how far technology has come and the possibilities are endless.  It makes me think that regardless of how good something seems to be, there is still going to be negative consequences.  We could alter ourselves to be the most perfect humans in the world, and everyone would be the same.  This would mean that we are all trying to be the best there is.  The thing is though, in a competition, someone has to win, and thus someone else has to lose.  You could be perfect and still “fail”.

“[…] we now have discrimination down to a science.” – Gattaca

Discrimination comes in all forms.  When we judge someone by their ability before they even can give you the chance to show you, we are limiting the endless possibilities of things they could do.  The way school is set up it set up, if you don’t fit the perfect mold of a student, you are being set up for failure.  People slip through the cracks and just because they aren’t a “perfect student” does not mean they can’t do anything.  We need to focus on what someone can do, rather than what they can’t.

Breaking Out Of The Box

10 Feb

A couple weeks ago my entire math education group was fortunate to go on our OCRE.  Don’t ask me what the acronym is, because I honestly have no clue.  What we got to do was plan a “bonding time” where we were able to bring in guest speakers of our choice to speak with us.  We had someone come in and talk about brain based learning, a speaker about grief, an incredible skype session about assessment, a talk about sexuality, and finally a talk about FASD.  Every single presentation was incredible and I learned so much in those two days it was amazing.  It was also an opportunity to get closer with the students who are also in math, we are just one big happy family.

There were certain points in those two days that I felt like I had really had a huge “A-Ha” moments.  During our talk about grief, given to us by The Greystone Bereavement Centre I realized that although I have felt grief in my life, it isn’t something I really actually understand.  Our class opened up entirely and it made me realize that I am going to have to support children who have gone through some very difficult things.  I also really enjoyed knowing what the Centre had to offer and some of the beautiful activities that I would incorporate into my own lessons, especially in the arts.  In our session about sexuality, given to use by the UR Pride Centre I realized that a big thing I will need to focus on is something as simple as my language.  Language can be taken in so many ways, and for someone in a class who could be confused or feel different, they aren’t going to care about that schooling necessarily and I will need to help them feel safe.  It reminded me of all the research I have done on oppression and of how I want to be able to create the safest environment for all students as possible.

Our talk about FASD was also incredible because it gave so much insight to something I didn’t know before.  Sometimes things like extrinsic motivation are crucial and sometimes they are not.  Our presenter gave us lots of examples and scenarios of things that she has encountered and really gave us a captivating talk.  I am happy to know that there are people like her that work for the school system who are ready at your disposal to help you when you have children in your class that need that help.

The last thing I want to talk about is really a turning point in how I feel about education.  It made me think.  Maybe more than any other time in my education thus far.  We had a skype session with Joe Bower about assessment.  I was lucky to be familiar with his blog, For The Love Of Learning, so I already knew what he had to talk about.  Joe Bower is a teacher who assesses his students, but does not grade them.  What a crazy concept in a society we have today.  I have thought numerous times before this that grading is something that is done wrong, I don’t know if I ever thought it was something you could actually do without though.  But really, what is a grade anyways?  Bower talked to us about how he doesn’t grade, why, and how we could go about doing this too.  A big focus is that we need to get students intrinsicly motivated to learn, and everything else comes from that.  It was an amazing talk, and I could probably go on for days about this so I will just end with something he said during our talk that really stuck with me.

There’s a word that starts with L that we don’t use enough in school, it’s called Learning.

What It Means To Inquire

10 Feb

Inquiry Based Lessons have been a topic in all of my education classes right now, it’s the way to teach.  This theory of constructivism has been something that has been discussed multiple times, though i may not have known it, throughout my education career, but very heavily this semester.  The first thing that I have looked at, in response to hearing of this way of teaching, was how much I have been exposed to this in my high school and elementary career.

The interesting thing is that I have had quite a few memorable lessons in my middle years schooling that were inquiry based, even though that was longer ago.  My greatest inquiry lesson was cookie mining, and nothing comes as close to that memory.  In high school I can think of few things that were more inquiry based than others, but very few actual experiences.  I was asked once to create my own science lab once, and the assignment may have been more by accident than anything.

Thinking about making a lesson more inquiry based has a lot of repercussions of how I look at education and especially what my role will be as a teacher.  A big thing with the inquiry based lessons is that the students are asking questions and coming up with the knowledge as themselves.  My role will be to guide and facilitate this inquiry.

After the last couple of weeks we have seen multiple inquiry based lessons and I have noticed how very crucial questioning is.  Wording a question is something that might seem very simple, but can really make or break a lesson.  After my inquiry lesson I was frustrated because after doing it I could see where it went wrong, but the wonderful thing that happened was we did it for our class so I could actually modify my lesson.  Questioning  in a way that helps students connect to the information they need is something that I’m not terrible at but I could use a lot of work.

Constructivism is student centered and is what drives students to explore through a topic.  Success is a big factor in students, especially with people’s such poor math attitudes.  If a student has success when they start a lesson it affects various aspects of what happens like how they are going to continue on with the lesson, how much they will learn, and their behaviour, to name a few.  Building on what a student knows and slowly adding in new concepts is beneficial because both the student and teacher know where the prior knowledge is coming from and it leads into knowing where they are going to go with this knowledge.

If I can foster success within a student, that will be the first step in being able to foster any growth within them.