Sunday, November 25, 2007

One Interesting Weekend

This past weekend many teachers from around the province came to Winnipeg for SAG,a teachers conference. All of the groups from Math to Middle Years to Computing all hold in-services to teach and inform teachers.

I was presenting my K12 Release the Hounds to the Math Group. I had 7 people in attendance. This was a small number but all the participants left feeling that they had enjoyed the show. I had a few more converts willing to take the leap to 21stC learning.

It was the lunch that followed that was the true PD experience for the weekend. Darren, Clarence, John, Dean and myself all went for lunch and started to shoot the breeze about many different topics. First I had to pinch myself to realize the company that I was with but that withstanding it was an amazing 3 hours. I learned more and had more fun with these 4 gentlemen than any other PD that I have had in years.

Dean hooked up his laptop and Ustreamed our lunch and we had more people attending this informal session than in all of our morning SAG session. Thank you twitter and American Thanksgiving.

If there is a further bright light for the weekend it would be Thursday's MB Edubloggercon. We had 60 people in attendance and I think they were suitably wowed and moved to try the tools we showed them that night. I was told that we had 6 minutes each and stuck to my time like a champ that was put into the spotlight first. You will notice that the next speakers went into overtime. All teachers went away with a positive feeling that night. We even had a twitter and Ustream of the evening.I would like to thank Andy and Manace for doing such a wonderful job of putting it together.

Informal get together with snacks..... 60 people. Paid attendance the following day 7. Come to think of it we were having lunch Ustreamed... and 20 people showed up. Food = attendance. I will be offering Meyer Lemon Cherry Scones at my next morning session. Any takers. Here is my Poem in Slidecast. I am proud of it. Shatner doesn't need to be looking over his shoulder!!

The Original idea I AM CANADIAN

My Version

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ahh Voicethread how thee helps me ......

Reluctance to talk. There has been an epidemic of quietness in my classes this week. Time to break the silence or atleast make the silence work for me.

Enter voicethread. We just finished an investigation using Ratio tables and other methods to solve a problem about Frank's Farm Produce. The students attacked it well and we needed to congress. This is when the quiet disease struck. Reluctance to talk was rampant in all 4 rooms. How to get them to talk. I spent time last night posting their investigations to voicethread. We used them on the smartboard during the congress. This was cool due to the zoomability of voicethread. The kids loved the novelty of the new technology and have started leaving comments they should of... some did some didn't.. spoken during class at the voicethread.

I made a small competition out of it and am curious to see what happens. If there is full participation 150 comments should be at each of the voicethreads.

Here they are my faithful readers. Comment away if you dare but please tell the kids where you are from in the world. Oh yeah and since it is a competition between the rooms... comment 4 times or pick your favourite number.

Room 73

Room 41

Room 17

Room 16

Monday, November 12, 2007

Manitoba Edublogercon

Next week something special is coming to town. The first Manitoba Edubloggercon. I am looking forward to being there with other bloggers Darren, Clarence, John and Dean (he isn’t from Manitoba but he brought his Sask “green screen” with him).

As of last count over 50 people had signed up to come and chat and talk about 21st Century learning. Some of us will have 6 minutes to give a brief presentation. I am looking forward to creating the perfect 360!! I will not be long winded but I will blow the roof down with my enthusiasm.

The Academy Bar and Grill is going to be the host of this inaugural event. As luck will have it ….hmm it is only 2 blocks from my house. Whoopie.. Oh yeah I promised Dean I would pick him up. Guess I will not be walking!

The edublogger community isn’t very large right now in Manitoba. After Thursday night it will be getting a little bit larger.

See you then.

Fear and Uncertainty

Image: 'DSC00164.JPG'
I just finished attending an inservice all about the "Fosnot" math that I am using in my class this year. For those of you reading this for the first time Catherine Fosnot is the author of a series of books that puts the context into math investigations. These investigations would make David Warlick proud. Students are not mirroring information spouted by a teacher but amplifying ideas that they create themselves and in discussions with their classmates.

Every investigation is rooted in context. Kids understand what is being asked of them. Students then have a chance to conference with other groups and hear other groups with different of similar strategies. Students then have a congress or convention. The teacher has selected a certain set of finished products to be discussed at the congress. Students teach the class. The teacher has to be skillful to pull out the answers and ideas from the community of learners without giving the answers directly.

Bottom line. Kids love these investigations. I left an investigation with the sub that was in my class today. Kids do not misbehave they engage in learning.

The key ingredient in the investigations is a major shift in pedagogy. The teacher becomes the facilitator of learning. The teacher shifts the focus of learning to the students. Students are now responsible for their learning. Good bye silver spoon. These skills of asking questions and finding answers are so important when the students hit the credit system next year.

Since I have started this program in my class the at-risk students... you know them the 50%ers are doing better then ever. They are making tremendous gains. This is an exciting development. At least half of them are “getting it” where as before they would just sit around being lumps wanting to be spoon fed information. Spoon feeding does not enable learning. It distracts from it.

I love the challenge of using probing questions to allow students to come up with answers. I do not give the answers, the students come up with them from their own discoveries. How do you know it works? What strategy did you use... does it work every time? Students are discovering math and the infinite patterns that help us do this "difficult" subject.

Image: 'Terrore?'
All of this brings me back to the inservice today. The fear in the room. It was eerie. Some of the issues were that these activities (investigations) will not cover the curriculum. My students will never be able to do these activities. There will be disruptions in my room and .... the list goes on and on and on.

Fear is such a powerful emotion. Many of these same arguments are used when teachers are reluctant to use the tools of web 2.0 and 21st century learning.

Somehow we need to enable teachers to try these tools, and new(er) teaching ideas. Support their missteps and help them try again. For the math teachers I was with today all of these supports are in place. An entire team of support teachers at their service yet they still are reluctant to do something new. "Give me a textbook...." it hurts me when they say this. They want to see mirroring not amplifying.

Image: 'blink'

Be confident, take chances and your students will thank you.

Image: 'DSP 147: Thank You3 2007-10-11'