Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Darren Makes me think

Darren as per usual had a great post a few days ago. He was talking about pedagogy and how it can change. It has changed for Darren. I feel confident in saying that he was an excellent teacher before 2.0 and an even better teacher using 2.0 tools. His thoughts often fall back on this question:

"What can I do now that I could not do before?"

Darren and I are not technology teachers. We teach math using the technology. Well he really teaches math, the high school kind, I teach middle school kids how to be good citizens.... and teach some math as well ;-)

Math is one of those subjects that kids either love or hate. I want to share with them the beauty of math not the 2 x 2 =4 type of math of our past. Using 2.0 tools and the ability of my class to be there 24 hours a day has made math more accessible for students. Why assess them only on tests. They will have enough of those as they progress through high school. I give them projects, Spfractions or UNprojects. The students are learning math but having a good time doing it.

We have dilemmas in our classes. We have the over achievers and the lumps. Using 2.0 projects allows both to do more. Darren in a recent comment said:

Darren said...
Chris & Sophie: Like Chris, I think students enjoy learning this way ... when they apply themselves to it. But I'm also thinking about those students who don't. The ones who sit in class, or in groups, watch through glazed eyes what's going on around them without ever really trying to learn.

I think it is important to celebrate the ability of kids to do excellent work. I have a hard time enriching students education. I am trying to save the ones with "glazed eyes" too much. Doing these projects lets students set their own standards and goals. The best go further than you ever could imagine and the other extreme..... they either do something instead of the ususal nothing or don't do anything at all.

When I first heard about Darren's Developing Expert Voices I knew this was a great idea. I created my version Spfractions or UNprojects and the results speak for themselves. Kids excel and participate in math speaking and communicating a difficult subject. I have tried math journals before but kids did not do them with any feeling. Their projects have feeling and voices too.

Darren also comments

Just today a colleague from across the hall shared with me how some of her students are trying to figure out a way to take a math class next year where they won't have to blog ... anything to avoid blogging. I contrast that with what my students are writing in the reflections at the end of their Developing Expert Voices projects where many of them say they have learned more than they thought they were able. Many say they were unable to do the material when it was covered in class but after doing their projects they have mastered it.

I know some of these students. They "hear about" blogging and complain. This is just what students do. As teachers we have to show them the power of their work. Sell them on the idea that blogging and online projects enhance their learning. You are going to be doing homework, don't you want to do homework that is "different" and fun.

The last bit of Darren's post that resonated with me was the following:

But you know, we don't really need these new tools to improve our teaching. We need to ask different questions. Not "What is 6 times 4?" but "How many ways can you multiply two numbers to get 24?" Not "Are there seasons on Mars?" but "What season is it right now on Mars? Is there any time of the year you could comfortably wear a t-shirt and shorts on Mars?" Not "List the parts of a cell." but "Design your own version of a cell that efficiently takes in food and excretes waste? Include a diagram of all the parts and describe how they work together."

Students need a reason to come to school. They need a reason to learn. When we ask the right questions and give them the tools to be creative in answering them, they will want to be in our building LEARNING. Once you have them..... you can go anywhere.

Take a risk, let them learn their way. You will go further than you think.

The Unproject continues

Friday was the "teacher directed" part of my students UNproject. Most have completed this task. With this being the busy season at our school, sport windups, exams and life in general, I was worried that many students would give this UNproject a pass. I was mistaken. Most students have done the "mundane" parts of the project and I am looking forward to the student created part of the UNproject.

I scheduled the lab in my room to be used for the week after their math exam. I hope that the students who have not participated yet will choose to participate now. I will be fighting an uphill battle with most students feeling that the year is over since they have written their exam.....

The next experiment is how will student who are highly motivated choose to spend their time. I hope they will wander around the school grounds making movies on their phones, and cameras. I hope they create animations, I just want them to solidify their math knowledge. Perhaps even edit and add detail to the background information at their wiki.

Time moves on and I hope they continue to have fun. This is the best group of 2.0 kids I have had. Hey they are my second group. I am curious where they will go next year. I am training other teachers in the art of 2.0. I hope those teachers use it. I hope the kids continue to use it in spite of their teachers. That is next year. Need to concentrate on this year.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Darren Draper has edited his very popular Pay Attention Video. This is a great video to show at a parent night or to staff who still "don't" get it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Spring a season for Growing???

For the past few weeks the burden of work and family have been high. I am not complaining but why do we do this to ourselves. I have been procrastinating on this post but found a few moments to write.

Graham wrote about a similar phenomenon in Australia.

In Winnipeg where I live there is a very short season for kids to complete in a variety of activities before the official "lake" season. From April to June the kids just go go go (most have multiple extra_curricular activites) and on the Ist of July they then stop and go and smell the roses during their summer break. Why do we cram so much into such a short time.

If you put this season under the microscope even more we are finishing up the school year and expecting kids to complete projects and be prepared for exams. Yeah right lets make them do even more.
Are we expecting to much?
Should we change our teaching to have different activities planned for this time of year?

Hmmmm makes you wonder.

I am putting this season into the pedagogical lab and under the microscope. I had great success with a project called the UNPROJECT. The snow was on the ground and the air was frozen, kids had nothing better to do. I was impressed with their finished products.

Now as the flowers are in bloom and the silly speed season is upon us I have asked them to repeat the project. They are doing a second UNPROJECT. The two due dates fall before and after their math exam on June 6th.

Will they continue to work after their exam?
Will they use the unproject as a study guide?
Is this the wrong season to have a student initiated project?

I hope that having a student project where they set the rules of engagement and level of accomplishment will create projects

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

K12 Online Conference

K12 Online is back and better than before. I'll submit a proposal will you. Lots of time to prepare this year

There will be four "conference strands"-- two each week. Two presentations will be published in each strand each day, Monday - Friday, so four new presentations will be available each day over the course of the two-weeks. Each presentation will be given in any of a variety of downloadable, web based formats and released via the conference blog ( and archived for posterity.

Week 1
Strand A: Classroom 2.0

Leveraging the power of free online tools in an open, collaborative and transparent atmosphere characterises teaching and learning in the 21st century. Teachers and students are contributing to the growing global knowledge commons by publishing their work online. By sharing all stages of their learning students are beginning to appreciate the value of life long learning that inheres in work that is in "perpetual beta." This strand will explore how teachers and students are playing with the boundaries between instructors, learners and classrooms. Presentations will also explore the practical pedagogical uses of online social tools (Web 2.0) giving concrete examples of how teachers are using the tools in their classes.

Strand B: New Tools
Focusing on free tools, what are the "nuts and bolts" of using specific new social media and collaborative tools for learning? This strand includes two parts. Basic training is "how to" information on tool use in an educational setting, especially for newcomers. Advanced training is for teachers interested in new tools for learning, looking for advanced technology training, seeking ideas for mashing tools together, and interested in web 2.0 assessment tools. As educators and students of all ages push the boundaries of learning, what are the specific steps for using new tools most effectively? Where "Classroom 2.0" presentations will focus on instructional uses and examples of web 2.0 tool use, "New Tools" presentations should focus on "nuts and bolts" instructions for using tools. Five "basic" and five "advanced" presentations will be included in this strand.

Week 2
Strand A: Professional Learning Networks

Research says that professional development is most effective when it aims to create professional learning communities — places where teachers learn and work together. Using Web 2.0 tools educators can network with others around the globe extending traditional boundaries of ongoing, learner centered professional development and support. Presentations in this strand will include tips, ideas and resources on how to orchestrate your own professional development online; concrete examples of how the tools that support Professional Learning Environments (PLEs) are being used; how to create a supportive, reflective virtual learning community around school-based goals, and trends toward teacher directed personal learning environments.

Strand B: Obstacles to Opportunities
Boundaries formalized by education in the “industrial age” shouldn’t hinder educators as they seek to reform and transform their classroom practice. Playing with boundaries in the areas of copyright, digital discipline and ethics (e.g. cyberbullying), collaborating globally (e.g. cultural differences, synchronous communication), resistance to change (e.g. administration, teachers, students), school culture (e.g. high stakes testing), time (e.g. in curriculum, teacher day), lack of access to tools/computers, filtering, parental/district concerns for online safety, control (e.g. teacher control of student behavior/learning), solutions for IT collaboration and more -- unearthing opportunities from the obstacles rooted in those boundaries -- is the focus of presentations in this strand.

This call encourages all, experienced and novice, to submit proposals to present at this conference via this link. Take this opportunity to share your successes, strategies, and tips in “playing with boundaries” in one of the four strands as described above.

Deadline for proposal submissions is June 18, 2007. You will be contacted no later than June 30, 2007 regarding your status.

Presentations may be delivered in any web-based medium that is downloadable (including but not limited to podcasts, screencasts, slide shows) and is due one week prior to the date it is published.

Please note that all presentations will be licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

As you draft your proposal, you may wish to consider the presentation topics listed below which were suggested in the comments on the K-12 Online Conference Blog:

  • » special needs education
  • » Creative Commons
  • » Second Life
  • » podcasting
  • » iPods
  • » video games in education
  • » specific ideas, tips, mini lessons centered on pedagogical use of web 2.0 tools
  • » overcoming institutional inertia and resistance
  • » aligning Web 2.0 and other projects to national standards
  • » getting your message across
  • » how web 2.0 can assist those with disabilities
  • » ePortfolios
  • » classroom 2.0 activities at the elementary level
  • » creating video for TeacherTube and YouTube
  • » google docs
  • » teacher/peer collaboration

The first presentation in each strand will kick off with a keynote by a well known educator who is distinguished and knowledgeable in the context of their strand. Keynoters will be announced shortly.

This year's conveners are:

Darren Kuropatwa is currently Department Head of Mathematics at Daniel Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He is known internationally for his ability to weave the use of online social tools meaningfully and concretely into his pedagogical practice and for "child safe" blogging practices. He has more than 20 years experience in both formal and informal education and 13 years experience in team building and leadership training. Darren has been facilitating workshops for educators in groups of 4 to 300 for the last 10 years. Darren's professional blog is called A Difference ( He will convene Classroom 2.0.

Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach, a 20-year educator, has been a classroom teacher, charter school principal, district administrator, and digital learning consultant. She currently serves as an adjunct faculty member teaching graduate and undergraduate preservice teachers at The College of William and Mary (Virginia, USA), where she is also completing her doctorate in educational planning, policy and leadership. In addition, Sheryl is co-leading a statewide 21st Century Skills initiative in the state of Alabama, funded by a major grant from the Microsoft Partners in Learning program. Sheryl blogs at ( She will convene Preconference Discussions and Personal Learning Networks.

Wesley Fryer is an educator, author, digital storyteller and change agent. With respect to school change, he describes himself as a "catalyst for creative educational engagement." His blog, “Moving at the Speed of Creativity” was selected as the 2006 “Best Learning Theory Blog” by eSchoolnews and Discovery Education. He is the Director of Education Advocacy (PK-20) for AT&T in the state of Oklahoma. Wes blogs at ( Wes will convene New Tools.

Lani Ritter Hall currently contracts as an instructional designer for online professional development for Ohio teachers and online student courses with eTech Ohio. She is a National Board Certified Teacher who served in many capacities during her 35 years as a classroom and resource teacher in Ohio and Canada. Lani blogs at ( Lani will convene Obstacles to Opportunities.

If you have any questions about any part of this, email one of us:

  • » Darren Kuropatwa: dkuropatwa {at} gmail {dot} com
  • » Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach: snbeach {at} cox {dot} net
  • » Lani Ritter Hall: lanihall {at} alltel {dot} net
  • » Wesley Fryer: wesfryer {at} pobox {dot} com

Please duplicate this post and distribute it far and wide across the blogosphere. Feel free to republish it on your own blog (actually, we'd really like people to do that ;-) ) or link back to this post (published simultaneously on all our blogs).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Facebook... What do we really know...

Here is a video that Vicky has posted. Chris Sessums blogged about. It is powerful stuff and needs to be shown to students to show what they are getting into when they use social networking sites.

It is our job as educators to show kids how business is using their online behavior to their benefit. It is a good time for students to hear these messages with the summer break coming up so quickly.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tweet Tweet

Oh that Darren. He has me singing like a bird.....

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Busy Busy Busy

I have been very quiet during the past month and I do not know when my chatter will increase. School is uber busy with exams less than a month away. Top that off with the spring sporting season in Canada (twins playing soccer,swimming and my eldest swimming and playing basketball) I do not seem to have the time I had in the winter. Did I mention that it is gardening season as well.

I will try to write as much as I can but be sure that I am still reading all of you wonderful bloggers on a regular basis.

My students are participating in there second UNPROJECT. I know it will be a success.

Talk to you soon....... :-)

Best Presentation?

Over at Slideshare a contest just wrapped up competing for the best presentation.

What do you know a mash up and remix of Karl's Shift Happens won.

Congratulations to Karl for the content and to jbrenman for the remix.

Monday, May 07, 2007

bullying posted this video from Steve Dembo.

It is pretty powerful stuff.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The last Unproject with some AWESOME Kids

This is hot off the presses. I hope for the same success as last time.

Here are the instructions for your final unproject. Pay attention to the due dates and ask questions on Tuesday.

The home wiki of this project is

Your Final Unproject

Important Dates

May 7th Unproject is Launched
May 26th Part 1 is due. (This will provide you with great material to study from for your exam)
June 14th Part 2 is due.(You will have access to the Math lab during the week of June 11th to 14th)

This unproject is part of the Term 4. It will be worth 10% of that terms mark.


Your job is to be an expert in 2 topics that we have learned this year. You will need to check your math portfolio to check the topics that we have covered.

  1. Data Managemant and Graphs

  2. Probability

  3. Square Roots

  4. Percent

  5. Ratio

  6. Proportional Reasoning

  7. Fractions (only if you did not participate in the first Unproject)

  8. Algebra

  9. Geometry

You will be responsible to create a background page that explains both of your topics. It must be dynamic and hook the audience. You may create the background information at

  • your class blogsite (just create the necessary link)

  • here at the Final Unproject

  • wikispaces (Just create the necessary link)

Your background page must include

  • all needed math information

  • pictures, graphics and other visual aides

  • links to other sites to give more information

  • One or more word problems that are solved correctly.

Your Final Unproject is your last math assignment of Grade 8. It is a celebration of what you have learned. Just like the first unproject you choose what it will be. It can be anything but you must check with me first.

Previous unprojects were

The timing of this project is to help you study for your final exam. If you choose to you can use this project as a way to study for exams.

You may work with a partner but you are both responsible for the final project. Once you have chosen a partner there is no changeing. There will be no groups of 3. Sorry.

Scoring Rubric