Wednesday, December 31, 2008

7 things about me..... for I have been tagged

Alec tagged me the other day in the 7 things you do not know about me meme. Let's see what I can drum up.

1. I love to cook. It is a passion of mine and a way to release the stresses of the day. Nothing says AHHHH like dicing an onion really thin. My 2 favorite cooking magazines are Cooks Illustrated and Fine Cooking. I have catered for my parents 5oth wedding anniversary and served over 60 people. I am famous for my breakfast food. Meyer Lemon Scones and Sticky buns are house and street favourites.

2. I like to run. It seems to be my sport of choice right now. I run the Timex Series in Manitoba and won my age category this year. I also had a best time in the half marathon 1:35.04 and made a pledge to myself to run a full marathon if I ever broke my previous best time set 29 years earlier. I plan to run one this year. Regina is the destination of choice since there are so many wonderful people in Saskatchewan ... and it fits my training schedule. (Perhaps Alec will put me up on a sofa bed!!! for a night)

3. I am the father of twins. I love to call them Tommy and Timmy from Arthur but their names are Colin and Alex. They are interesting boys who pester their older brother and make him a better person. Twins are fun.... really if you want to try the experience I rent them out for 1.50 a day!!

4. I met my wife working in a restaurant. She was a waitress and I was the bartender. We hit it off right away and enjoyed our 20th anniversary this year. Working in a restaurant is one of the best things I ever did. It trains you to multitask, work with interesting and sometimes difficult people and trains you to be an amazing person. I hope that all of my kids get a chance to work in a restaurant. They will be better people for it.

5. I was not the worlds greatest math student in high school. Yet I am a math teacher. What gives? Perhaps it was school in general that did not excite me. I was a nationally ranked swimmer from the age of 14 on. This meant that I spent more time at the pool than at school. When I was at school focusing on my studies was not important. This is why I have a passion to make math interesting to kids and get them wanting to learn. If I had wanted to learn perhaps I would of been a better student.

6. I really sucked at University the first time. I went to Calgary for a swimming scholarship and did reasonably well in the pool. (We won CIAU or the university championships in my first year.) While swimming went great my school work..... suffered. I came home to Winnipeg after the first 2 years of university with a 1.4 GPA. After taking a year off the University of Winnipeg accepted me and gave me extra credit for some of my courses. I pulled my GPA up to a 3.4 by the time I finished my education degree. Interesting that I had to be 20 before school meant anything to me. I hope that University professors out there are making there courses interesting. Oh to take a course for Alec. that would be fun. I would write extra long assignments to keep him up reading all night!!

7. I love running in the winter but I really love staying at the beach for 3 weeks in the summer. Manitoba is a magical place. Yes it is full of mosquitoes and annoying insects but for 3 weeks we leave all electronics behind and go to Victoria Beach. Just an hours drive from Winnipeg life at the beach is the best. There are no cars in the municipality. All transportation is done using bikes or your feet. In the weeks leading up the to trip the kids are excited. When the trip is over the kids immediatly ask "How long until we go back to the beach!"

Thanks for the tag and for making me think about what makes me "me". I will do many people the favour of ending the meme here. I will not pass it on to anyone. But I will enjoy reading all of your memes in my reader. Happy New Year everyone.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pay It Forward

This is a repost of an assignment at Sargent Park Mathzone. The goal of the next few activities at Sargent Park is to build a team of leaders that will be able to step into the shoes of some amazing grade nine's this year. If we are successful in awakening the leadership potential of the grade 8 students the school will continue to run well in September. These kids have tremendous potential. I hope they follow through.

Pay it Forward

On behalf of all of your Grade 8 Teachers I would like to thank you for making the Christmas season Happier for so many people. You rallied the school and we donated over $500 in pennies to Pennies to Heaven. We collected 8 full garbage bags of winter clothing and filled Mr. Penner's truck with items for the Christmas Cheer board. Your pamphlets, posters and assemblies made the difference this year. So once again THANK YOU.

Now for your next assignment.

Pay It Forward. We watched the movie on Friday and you were given the task to "Pay It Forward" over the break. You will create a blog post showing what you did. You can upload a picture or movie of your "Pay It Forward" action.

Both the picture and movie upload buttons can be found on the toolbar at blogger. You do not need to upload to youtube.

You need to label your post payitforward and complete the following questions in the body of the post:
  • After viewing the movie Pay It Forward you are being asked to do the same. Think of ONE act of kindness you would like to do for either a person youknow or a stranger. the goal is to make a difference in someone's life. Think about the following steps:
  • Who are you going to help?
  • What are you going to do?
  • Where are you going to do this?
  • When are you going to do this?
Those questions should be answered in the first paragraph of your post.

You then will place the picture or movie following that paragraph.

Finally I would like you to use the following questions to reflect on your "Pay it Forward" action.
These questions will help you create a second paragraph.
  • What happened?
  • How did you feel?
  • How did the person/people react?
  • Did you ask the person/people involved to "Pay it Forward"?How did the person/people react to this?
  • If you did not ask the person/people to "Pay It Forward", how come?
Your final paragraph need to answer this one question....
  • Can one person make a difference?
Thanks for Paying it forward. This is due before you arrive back at school in January.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What to use to upload videos

There are so many options now when it comes to uploading videos on the web. I am still a big fan of viddler because of the layered commenting feature. Here your comments appear like pop up videos as the video is played.

The students all post at youtube and this makes it meaningful to them. Recent changes have allowed for many different applications to be made using youtube. One being a choose your own adventure style. This layering effect to link videos together interests me in seeing how this could work in a classroom. Here is that video...

Also you can edit how the embed appears in your blog or wiki. You can edit out the related videos which can in some cases be inappropriate. Click the little blue gear beside the embed and you have this option.

Flickr allows you to upload video but you are limited to the size and length of the video. Short pieces could be uploaded here. These are my two boys singing and dancing. This is convenient because most of us have flickr accounts already. Hassle is the file size and time limit though. Shame because the quality is quite good. This was shot on a flip ultra.

Now I am trying out vimeo. It allows for HD video to be uploaded and the higher quality video is appealing to me. You are limited to 500 mb a week but for important uploads... perhaps this is the ticket. Here is my son singing at the concert this week. He loves to sing and ... scratch.

Untitled from Chris Harbeck on Vimeo.

All of these options. Wow we have come along way in a few short years.


I just read a post at Jeff Utecht's twitter stream. It was all about kickyoutube. Now in one easy step you can download youtube videos to your computer. Simple place the word kick before youtube in the url.

Abba video

Now do this and it will be on your desktop.

It is that easy. There are multiple file options for the download. Just select the file type and click the green go download arrow on the left.

Now I will go back an reminisce about rollerskating in the 70's.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Facebook Generation

I had really good students last year. They were prolific bloggers who did amazing work. But if you look at the difference between January to June and the new year... September to December there is a difference. These students are using the blog even more than last year. From 1000 hits a month to over 5ooo now. I must admit most of these hits are from my own students but a few are from you out there.

Welcome to the Facebook Generation. These kids are wired and needing a place to find an audience. With a proper blog and a few strategic comments the world of 2.0 will be a place for you too!

With the new year just around the corner start a classroom blog. Create a community for your students to belong too. They will eat it up and you will be amazed with the results.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I teach great kids

Part of the goal of the Grade 8 team this year is to dive headlong into Inquiry based learning. The first step happened this week. All the Grade 8 students researched four charities in our city. The students created posters and pamphlets for the school. A group of students from each of the 4 rooms created google presentations to show the rest of the school in mini assemblies in my room. The first two assemblies happened today. I am very impressed with the presentations that were created and the powerful message being sent to the rest of the school.

I think the larger project "2 minutes to make a difference" that will happen after the winter break. Here the students will choose something that they will do to "make a difference". They will document it and create a movie.

Here is the ustream of today's presentation.

Great Big Book Of Algebra Chapter 2

It took me a while but here is the follow up to the Integer Poetry. I hope the kids find it amusing to do.

I have finally figured out what I want your second chapter to be in your GBBOA. I would like you to create a conversation between two people talking about combining like terms and the distributive property. You will use xtranormal to finish this chapter. Ok here we go.

In your post The Great Big Book of Algebra underneath your poems you will create Chapter 2. Here you will type out a script between two people having a conversation.

Biff "Hey how is it going"
Mortimer "It is going fine"

You get the picture!!

Now these two people are having a conversation about two algebra questions. The questions are:
  • n+3-5n+12
One person thinks the answer is -6n+15. Is the person right or wrong. In the script please show the steps to solve the statement and what the mistake was.

The second question is:
  • 2 + 4(3n+8)
One person again thinks that the answer is 12n + 10. Is the person right or wrong. In the script please show the steps to solve the algebraic statement and tell what the mistake was.

  1. REMEMBER you need to still be in your original post.
  2. You need to call this Chapter 2 Combining like terms and the Distributive Property
  3. You need a script typed into the chapter between two characters. They will be talking about the two questions above.
  4. You need to create an xtranormal movie to be the end of your chapter. Please use the script of you chapter to be the script in the movie. You then can cut and paste the blog text into your movie!!
  5. This is due December 19th. Add a label to your post XTRANORMAL

Saturday, December 06, 2008


Soungle is a cool site where you can find sound effects. I found it from Ben Hazzards presentation for Smartboards. I am thinking of using this library of sound effects to enhance my lessons. Imaging the possibilities of a burp will have with my teenage crowd. There are many different sounds that could be added to a story or whatever... the possibilites are endless.

Thanks Ben

Thursday, December 04, 2008

These kids really get the need for "Audience"

One of the most important aspects of blogging is leaving comments. When I first started blogging with the classrooms 4 years ago commenting was almost nonexistent. Today my gmail gets filled everynight with kids commenting on each others blog work. I am always amazed at what they say.

Most comments started of being Good Job :-) but now this has changed. Students are leaving behind meaningful comments that are read by the post's author. I have never seen so many comments as I have this year. By mentioning the importance of commenting and showing quality comments the students have gone from the smilie face to comments like these:

linda 8-17 has left a new comment on your post "The Great Big Book of Algebra":

HI ALYANNA! NICE POEMS! I agree with Peachy, the Diamante was probably in the best, in my oppinion that is. But, in that picture poem you have some spelling errors. I've noticed a lot of people don't think when to use apostrophes. You could lose marks on exams if you spell things improperly! Remember, you use apostrophes when the word is possessive, or connective.
-- I just thought you should think about it when spelling "your" or "you're"

AND! I think the colours you chose were very prettifull :)


Or this,

Wow, I can't believe that no one commented yet. I guess I'll be the first.

Your poems were so well done Karen! It seemed like it took you a while just to complete those because it was done so well. I really liked how all of your poems rhymed and I liked how almost all your poems were different types.

One thing that I would try to fix though is the 'Chapter 1: Poetry' title, sometimes blogger has 'issues' and makes things closer together. I think that you fix this problem by adding an extra space or two.
[I don't know exactly if Blogger has problems or if it's just my computer acting strange.. :P]

Other than that I would like to congadulate you on a job well done! ☺
I could keep on adding comments that the students have left but you can read their blogs for yourself. Just look for the student blog section in my sidebar. That your portal to the student blogs.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Some Student Integer Poems

I was surprised when the students already posted some integer poems. I asked a few kids if they would let me share them with you. They are awesome. What do you think

These are from NickyD

Adding Integers with Kitty

One day while I was walking,
As happy as could be,
I noticed a little cat,
That happened to follow me.

I asked him what his name was,
And you know what? He could talk!
He said "My name is Kitty,
And I'll teach you how to walk!"

I told him that I knew how,
And although he looked quite sad,
He then cheered up and told me,
"Then I'll teach you how to add!"

I told him that I knew how once more,
But still,he offered to help,
He then wrote on a piece of paper,
And then I gave a little yelp!

He had added two negative integers,
Right before my eyes,
I could not believe it so I asked,
"Can I give it a try?"

He handed me the paper and pen,
And I gave it my best shot,
But sadly I could not add them,
Probably because I forgot!

Kitty was quite surprised at this,
However he showed me how,
To add integers quite easily,
And I can add them now!

Subraction is Myth

Subtracting is false
Adding opposites is true
Be true and go far

Partitive division,
Now what on earth is that?
Is it some form of writing,
Or a blue and purple hat?
I for one do not know,
What this could really mean,
Although I might've guessed,
That it might be for the keen.
Of course it is a long two words,
And the first is quite confusing.
This word I believe is for those,
Who find such words amusing.
However it is not,
It is a form of math you'll see.
So now you know what partitive means,
And I hope you'll let me be!

From Giselle


Adding Integers
Adding integers,
big, great,
adding, combining, gaining,
Two numbers coming together,

Free Verse:

Subtracting Integers
In the world of integers,
subtraction does not exist.
In the world of integers,
subtraction is not missed.
When there is a subtracting sign,
I change it all the time.
Addition now,
I'm almost done.
Adding is more fun!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Awakening Possibilites

The entire event was ustreamed and there would be a live audience, with "magic koolaid" to start the conversations in the room. There was enough firepower in these presenters to make anyone present in the audience think about changing their pedagogy and working to make differences in their students lives.

A big thanks to Andy Mckiel who worked tirelessly to pull the event off. He has endless energy and a passion that separates him from his counterparts in the province. He is making a difference in his school division. I hope others follow his lead..... but I doubt that will happen. My goal of the evening was to make classrooms look like this

instead of this.
Street School 1st grade 55-56 Mrs D'Amato

In my 5 minutes I shared many different ways to take some first steps. Begin the journey down the path of creating assignments and teaching in a way that your students will respond to with enthusiasm.

Until now I have failed to mention that there were twice as many people in the ustream room than there was in the f2f room at the RRCC campus that night. And it was not just anyone in the chatroom. I was privileged to see so many influential edubloggers from my network tuning in after they had just eaten a large turkey dinner. I am honoured and thank you for joining all of us virtually at Awakening possibilities.

But why can't we get more people out to these events. What does it take to see that kids are doing and living differently now. The teaching that has sustained you for so long does not captivate the imaginations of kids and does not prepare them for work in this century. I look to the west and see the interesting intermingling of preservice teacher instruction.

Saskatchewan has the model for success. Look at Moose Jaw. Dean has this town hopping and Kathy teaches grade 1 in such a way I wish I as 6. When you look at the preservice educators in this province none of them are given courses in this technology and the powerful teaching opportunities that it gives to students. Saskatchewan has Alec. He does it right over and over again.

Manitoba wake up. You have some of the best edublogger minds yet you shun us and make us feel like we are not worth your time. The rest of the community knows that we are knowledgeable in what we are saying yet you have no idea who we are.

So to the 20 of you who were present in the room, thanks for being there. You saw the best from Saskatchewan, Dean, Kathy, Alec, one of the best in the world Jeff, and some Manitobians that make a difference, Darren, John, Clarence and me. I hope that you all tell 2 friends and they tell two friends and....

Maybe we can change the province after all.

The Great Big Book Of Algebra

Here is an assignment that I am giving my students. I hope it inspires them to learn in a different way.

In other years this would have been called a Growing Post. This year I am calling this blogging assignment The Great Big Book of Algebra. It's inspiration came from a cartoon called Stanley Tiger Tales. Here it goes. Remember only one post for this assignment. You will need to edit often to complete the assignmet.

The Great Big Book of Algebra

Warning this is a long post with lots of information. READ the whole thing before choosing anything to do!!!

This will be one post that you will create over time. You will be expected to do many things and have it published on a certain days. You can do the entire assignment in a few days or really think and do it over the entire period of time.

Blogger Labels will be

1. your blogger name
2. intpoetry
3. greatbigbook

The Great Big Book of Algebra is due on December 19th 9:00. (or at least some parts are!!)

Chapter 1 Integer Poetry.
You need to create 5 Integer poems. The poems topics are:

  • Adding Integers
  • Subtracting Integers
  • Partitive Division
  • Quotative Division
  • The "Rule for Multiplying" integers (Ron's Rule, Pratts Law, Mel's Rockpile etc)

This chapter on Integer Poetry is due on Friday. They must be published not saved in Draft. Make sure you have all the needed materials to complete this assignment.

There are many different types of poems out there. I am going to show you a few. You need to use 3 different types of poetry in your first chapter.

Haiku: Haiku is a type of Japanese poetry which combines form, content, and language in a meaningful, yet compact form. Many themes include nature, feelings, or experiences. A haiku poem is three lines in length. The first line is 5 syllables: the second is seven syllables: the third is five syllables.

Life Lesson

The fierce wind rages
And I see how trees survive -
They have learned to bend.

Homing geese, still winged,
Sliding down shafts of sunset
To join their shadows.

Another form of Japanese Poetry is called Tanka

Tanka: Tanka is another type of Japanese poetry and is almost like an extension of the haiku. The tanka is a 5 line poem.

Line 1: 5 syllables
Line 2: 7 syllables
Line 3: 5 syllables
Line 4: 7 syllables
Line 5: 7 syllables


Debris in the wind
Indiscriminately blinds
Eyes searching a path.
To turn one's back to the wind
Reveals but where one has been.

Cinquain: Cinquain poems are five lines in length. There are two main forms.
Line 1: One word topic (noun)
Line 2: Two describing words (adjectives)
Line 3: Three action words (verbs)
Line 4: A four-word phrase
Line 5: A synonym or equivalent for the topic

Growling, feeding, razing
Predator from the ancient past

Line 1: Topic (2-syllable word or words)
Line 2: 4 syllables describing topic
Line 3: 6 syllables expressing action
Line 4: 8 syllables expressing feeling
Line 5: 2 syllables - a synonym for the topic

I touch
Two curving things
The barrel of this pen,
The slow uncertain winding of
This verse.

Free Verse Poetry

Free verse poetry is free from the normal rules of poetry. The poet may choose to include some rhyming words but the poem does not have to rhyme. A free verse poem may be just a sentence that is artistically laid out on the page or it can be pages of words. Some forms of free verse separate, or split, phrases and words between lines. Punctuation may be absent or it may be used to place greater emphasis on specific words. The main object of free verse is to use colorful words, punctuation, and word placement to convey meaning to the reader

Heroes Are
courageous collaborators,
originators of opportunities,
champions of coincidence or circumstance.
heroes act through intelligence
and at other times
through ignorance.

Picture: A picture poem, is a poem made of letters or words which create an actual picture or form on the page.


I were a
kite on high
I could fly up to the sky
Up to the blue sky
High a cloud
I wish I were
A kite

Diamante: Diamante is the Italian word for diamond. The poetic form takes the shape of a diamond when it is completed. A diamante is a seven line poem.
There are two patterns to choose from. Pattern one develops one topic. Pattern two starts out with one theme and in the middle begins to move toward an opposite theme.
Line 1: Choose a topic (noun)
Line 2: Use two describing words (adjectives)
Line 3: Use three action words (verbs)
Line 4: Use a four-word phrase capturing some feeling about the topic
Line 5: Use three action words (verbs)
Line 6: Use two describing words (adjectives)
Line 7: Use a synonym for an ending word (noun)

Example 1: This poem expresses one theme about a pop singing star.

Famous, successful
Singing, dancing, shouting
Mesmerizing the adoring audience
Performing, working, reaching
Frenzied, dazzling

Line 1: Choose a noun as your title and an opposite word (an antonym) for the ending word of your poem
Line 2: Use two adjectives (describing words) for the title (line 1)
Line 3: Use three verbs (action words or "ing" words for the title
Line 4: Use two words to express the title noun - then two words to express the opposite ending noun. The theme changes in this line.
Line 5: Choose three action words for the ending noun
Line 6: Use two words to describe the ending noun
Line 7: Use one word - the antonym (opposite) you decided upon in line one

Frisky, buoyant
Warming, sparkling, reveling
Nonsense, comedy -- witchery, absurdity
Haunting, piercing, confusing
Doubtful, lonely

This will stretch your creative thinking. It is OK to do the picture poem on a piece of paper and hand post a picture of your work.

This ends Chapter one. Good luck and happy poetry writing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Awakening Possibilites

This Thursday everyone needs to attend in person or virtually Awakening Possibilities. It is a chance to see:

This even follows the very successful Edubloggercon from last year. We hope to see many people out this year.

The presenters will follow Chris Lehmann's 5 minute, 20 slide 15 seconds per slide style of presentation. It will be interesting to see the presentations and what everyone has to say. I am looking forward to the virtual audience and the F2F audience. I hope that if you live in Winnipeg or are coming into town for SAG that you take advantage of the wealth of knowledge that will be presenting on Thursday evening.

The new RRCC campus on Princess is worth the price of admission alone. It is a marvel of architecture and a beautiful place to hang out and network. So bring your laptop and join the online and F2F crowd as we Awaken Possibilities.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What is next..

New assignment for the wee lads and lasses of Sargent Park Math. I am going to get them to create a....

no wait that was in Norwegian. I will try that again

They have been doing some extensive integer training to prepare them for algebra. With this in mind they will create a GREAT BIG BOOK OF EVERYTHING that they know about Algebra. It will start out with the integers and lead into the concepts being taught before Christmas break.

Students will have to create 5 different types of poems to add to their book. I appreciated their integer stories so I am going to continue with this cross curricular side trip that I am taking. They will be free to express their knowledge in as may ways as possible.

I am also setting a few choice but keen students on an side trip to attempt to make a video like this.

Think about all the possibilities one could have with the common mistakes students have in math. Going to be a great 4 weeks. Grab on the speed is increasing.

I have great students

It has been a fun and fast filled first term at Sargent Park. The students are really taking to the blog and now it is time to turn up the heat. I was amazed at first seeing the amount of page views the class blogs were getting. It is already the third month and some classes are experiencing over 5000 page views. The students also seem to be tuning into the sargentparkmathzone to see the days lesson from ustream.

The best part of the year is the commenting that students are doing. My email is flooded every night with comments left behind from students. I appreciate all the work that they are doing. The comments started off light and fluffy. Good Job :-) but now they are more appropriate and give the students a sense of audience.

With this frenzy of activity around the blog my team members are getting interested in starting projects of their own. First steps being shown by many people in the building gives me hope for a future.

Love my job!! Now I am going to turn up the heat on these students and set them loose on a new adventure. Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How open are you

My good friend Darren Kuropatwa who got me blogging in the first place introduced me to the power of the smartboard. He would create these great lessons and then upload them to slideshare. This was a great way to use the technology in the class to keep the doors open 24 hours a day. Here the students could see what happened in class. Darren also experimented with digitally recording his voice and podcasting each class. This was alot of work. Enter Camtwist and Ustream.
816 Mult Int Part 1
View SlideShare document or Upload your own. (tags: spmath multiplying)

Last year I tried to broadcast my lessons on ustream using camtwist to capture the desktop aka the smartboard and my voice (no kids faces on tv... nice for the censors). My mac mini only had half a meg of ram and the smartboard and the ustream were constantly competing or the small amount of ram that I had. The experiment was finished when they removed my smartboard last year to be used in a different class.
Live Streaming by Ustream.TV
This year I got my smartboard back and some more ram for the mac mini. Everything is going smoothly now and a weeks worth of lessons are archieved at ustream. This is an easy way to keep your lessons and for student to access work when they are not at school. I am loving this. You might want to try it too.

The Peace Quilt

A few weeks ago some teachers at my school asked me to help them create a project. They wanted to publish some artwork online and make a quilt. This sounded great. First of all they wanted help and second of all those baby steps were being taken. I created a wiki and showed the teacher how to create pages and work within the wiki. I also showed the teachers flickr. I am so excited to see other professionals in my building start down this path. It has been a long 4 years but finally something is happening.

The Peace Quilt. The idea was spawned around the topic of Remembrance Day. This is the eleventh day of the eleventh month. WW I was ended on this day and it is a national day of Remembrance in Canada. The grade 4 teacher got their student to draw pictures about remembrance, war, veterans and peace.

Together the students and teachers uploaded their pictures to flickr. Here they made sure that they had the appropriate tags and titles. The teachers were very excited. To make the mosaic or quilt I used FD Flickr toys mosaic maker.
All of these ideas were floating around when When Night Falls was taking place. In the lulls of conversation I happened to mention to the other participants and low and behold a little project became a large global collaborative project. I was blessed to have participants for Australia, and the US wanting to participate. I also had other classes across Canada participating.

A full list of participants can be found at The Peace Quilt and more are still completing their pictures. The goal of this project was to have students connect with one another and communicate about peace. I also needed the teachers in my building to take first steps and become literate with the tools an applications that my network is so familiar with. Both are occurring.

As the project continues the students will leave flickr notes on other students work, leave comments behind at the wiki and at flickr and keep the conversation alive. This was my first attempt at being a collaborative project coordinator. I suppose I have done alright. It has been fun and I want to thank my network and those that made the project great.

The quilts will continue to be built this week. There are still more images out there needing to be sewn into this collaborative project.

Man I love this stuff.

Google Video Chat

Just tried out It was a blast. Easy to do and good quality. You have a full screen option that is different than skype. The quality of the video tonight as also quite good. Wonder were this leaves the whole collaboration piece. This is a powerful tool.

A couple of hiccups tonight. Some people did not get the video and audio feed properly. When they switched over to Safari on their Mac's then the system worked properly. Hope you have success and hey Call me I have a camera in the school. Look forward to talking to you in the future.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


This is so cool. Lookybook is a site to see free picture books. Sort of a Last.Fm of the picture book market.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Make a Mosaic

Testing a Flickr Toy for a project.

Image hosted @
Embed from Ed's Flickr Toys

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Inquiry Workshop

I got to miss school today to go to an Inquiry Workshop. The forward thinking of my Superintendent provided funds for a group of teachers from my school to attend a workshop all about implementing the Inquiry process at our school.

I was not expecting a terrific day. I was surprised. It was really good. The presenters knew their stuff, the staff was receptive and I think we have something here. I even got to go out and test the Flip video camera and do some inquiry about water. Check out the wild life I photoed!!
As I was talking to the group and mentioning K12online I was thinking about Chris Lehmann and the SLA. Here is a school based upon the whole inquiry process. Wouldn't of been great if I was able to show his keynote to the group. Well I am emailing them now and sending the link to Chris's inspirational talk. It makes me want to dabble a bit more in this process.

As a team this year we are doing a project ala Tim Tyson where we will make groups of kids and they will make a 2 minute video that has global implications. The video can not be just about something about them but has to help the world in some way. All questions and work will be done by the students for the students. I hope it is a success. My team members know that this is coming and I am slowly explaining to them the work that is ahead of us.

This leads me back to my teaching and how I can make it more..... inquiry based. I teach math not the easiest topic to teach in the world. But I manage to teach it in ways that make some people scratch their heads. I need to make the kids ask questions. I need them to take ownership of their learning. Doing the blog and other assignments is a start but I need more. Tomorrow they will figure out the lesson in math. I am just going to put the question on the white board and they will have to figure out how to solve it. They have the knowledge already but they will create the "rule"or rules we will use. It is a start.

One of the things we did at the workshop was to look at some quotes about inquiry. Here are some great ones that I wrote down today (In my hand made book by the way!!).
  • The real sustaining force of inquiry is the window where learners meet face to face.
  • We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.
  • The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.
  • What really motivates learning is students really having a question to which they really want an answer.
Chris's keynote and the preconference keynote both were on this idea of the death of education and the dawn of learning. Viva learning. Long live the facilitator teacher.
I am looking forward to this new journey. Hope to have some success along the way.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Youtube, blogger and Substitute teacher

One of my former students will be subbing for me on Tuesday. She is an incredible person and young enough that what I am going to experiment with will not phase her.

I have created 2 video inserts for the lessons tomorrow. One will do the primary teaching of the integer unit being taught to 4 of the classes. I put a brief screencast using smart notebook and uploaded it to the class blog. Problem with blogger is that the video is very small. I have placed copies at youtube that can be magnified to full screen so the whole class can see. I hope that this experiment work. Half an hour of my time makes the her job easier.

She now can focus on helping the kids not teaching the lesson.

Hope it works
Integers Part 1

Part 2

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why kids are not writing?????

Ok I am a math teacher but I am seeing some troubling signs. Most of my students are lazy when it comes to writing. Many of my students do not capitalize proper nouns, the first word in a sentence and I could pick a plethora of other grammar faux pas. My team's LA teacher is pulling her hair out trying to get these kids to write like 14 year olds.

I really noticed this when I responded to a grade 6 student from Australia. Her writing was excellent and she really impressed me with how she responded to my comment. I then saw what my students "concidered" a comment and started to think of ways to make the write with a purpose. With this in mind welcome to an epiphany that I had during one of my math classes today. My math students are going to write a story. Hot just any story but a math story.

This all stems back to Michael. He was a great student who did and unproject for me using The Sims.

This year students will create a story with and adventure theme. Part of the assignment will be teaching them how to write (long live the LA teacher) and part of the story will be dealing with integers. The students will have to incorporate needed math knowledge into their story. One suggestion I had for them was to have a character come across some perilous challenges. Each challenge a different math question. Who knows what they will come up with. I will not add too much structure and give lots of freedom. Here is the assignment. I hope this is a success and that I can get kids to write better in school while still learning math.

K12online My first Session

I am privileged to know Alec Couros. I have met him in Moosejaw and live with him in my PLN everyday in twitter. He is a fountain of knowledge and an incredible K12 educator. Unlike most of my other networked friends he teaches at a University.

What are your recolections about becoming a teacher at school. Mine are not the best. Most of my Professors in my certifiation year were old, crusty and out of touch with the youth of today (yesterday 1992 was a long time ago). To them "tech" was an overhead projector and a chalk protector. Enter Alec. Young, charming, ..... and energetic (I would add handsome but that implys ...?). Living the life of a person intouch with the youth of today. Influencing a new generation of teachers to teach using tech that kids use. Not only to use the technology but to create PLN's. Leading by example he shows his students the power of the network. He gets guest lectures to come in and teach his class.

I would if it meant that I would learn something that I wanted to learn take more post-secondary education courses. None have interested me until I started to follow Alec. He teaches courses that interest me. I want to take his course and get a degree from the University of Regina.

George Siemens has created a "Certificate in Interdisciplinary Studies: Emerging Technologies for Learning " at my local university. I like George and the message he has for educators. If this certificate offered me the needed post grad courses to change my salary it might be for me.

Alec's K12online presentation is brilliant. You have to see it and hey Alec is entertaining too. Thanks Alec for sharing your experience. I hope more post secondary people take note of what you are doing and change the way they teach their courses. It would make university more interesting.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Trials and Tribulations Getting setup in the New Blogger

Signing up 280 students to 8 class blogs is a major undertaking. Not impossible but a few days of work. Along the way there have been a few roadblocks. This post is a how-to for teachers when setting up a series of classroom blogs using blogger when many students can author at one blog.

When I first started this process 4 years ago the process of signing up students for blogs was quite complicated. There was no google account and each student had to create multiple blogs to access the classroom blog.

When the "new" blogger" came out of beta the process was supposed to be stream lined. As an administrator I was able to invite many members to the blog as long as they had a google account. For some reason this year my students were getting error messages when they were attempting to sign up for the class blogs.
The steps I followed were the same as every year, get a google account, and once that happened I entered the students email into the class blog to invite to author. Many students did not receive an email to join and others that did receive an email got error messages. I found a way around this hassle though. Go back to the old ways of inviting students to the class blog. The steps are as follows:

  • Students need a google account. Get them signed up using any email THEY have access to. If they need a gmail account get them signed up for that.
  • One error some students make is that they do not verify their email. This is an important step not to be overlooked.
  • Once the students have a google account get them to create a Blogger account. This can be done from google. After signing in the students go to my account, and scroll down to MORE. This is at the bottom of the page. This link will get them to all google apps and blogger is quite prominant on this page.
  • Once at blogger the students will need to go through the process of creating a blog. It will be deleted once they have access to the class blog.
  • When the students have created a blog the need to leave their blogger dashboard open. I then get the student to come to two workstations and enter their emails into the classroom blog. I have gone under settings to access permissions and invite authors.
  • Students go back to their workstations with the blogger dashboard open and open another tab in their browser. Here they will open their email looking for the blogger invite.
  • WITH THE BLOGGER DASHBOARD OPEN they accept the invitation to the classroom blog.
  • The students will have to enter their google password one more time. Now they should see the classroom blog and their temperary blog that was created before on their dashboard.
  • You can now delete the temperary blog from the dashboard by using the settings and scrolling down to the delete at the bottom of the page.

If for some reason the error message still persists you can keep the blogger dashboard open and uninvite and invite the student again. This seems like a lot of work and it is but the bonus of having the google suite of tools and apps at your fingertips is worth it.

I hope this is helpful.

Monday, October 13, 2008

K12 online is gearing up

It is an exciting time when the Preconference Keynote is delivered for K12online. This year the conference brought a new storyteller in.

“It Simply Isn’t the 20th Century Any More Is It?: So Why Would We Teach as Though It Was?”

Professor Stephen Heppell St Katherine Docks, Tower of London, England.

I haven't fully digested the Keynote but I did enjoy what Prof. Heppnell was saying. It is a great 45 minute story talking about the history of technology and education. Prof. Heppnell links the current economic crisis and the indicators that lead up to the "death of education and the dawn of learning." This quote is about the end of factory schools and the beginning of schools that promote learning in ways that are relevant to learners today.

The conference this year has many new features. One of the is "A cup of Joe". A place to leave behind comments in a voicethread to 3 questions created by the presenter. This is the voicethread for Prof. Hempell's preconference Keynote.

I hope to add comments to this voicethread soon.

If this preconference keynote is any indication of the things that are to come at K12 online this year. It is going to be a GREAT conference. Thanks to the organizing committee, the volunteers and Prof. Heppnell for getting us off to such a great start. Now it is time for some more reflection

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Delicious rocks..... and some integer work

If you ever needed a reason to use delicious this would be it. I just typed in Integers and up came 776 hits. Who ever needed google. My network and others who use delicous have done the work for me.

We are starting a unit on Integers next week. Here are some of the links I have found. The wording might look strange because it is a saved post for my students. I will use portions of this post everyday of the unit to make things more interesting in class.

If you have other must have integer lessons, games, movies or whatever please leave a comment. I will be doing this up until ..... xmas?

One thing Grade 8 students love is Integers. Those pesky positive and negative signs infront of numbers. You need to be proficient using integers before you are able to play with algebra. Here is a movie that will get you started on the Road to Algebra.

One would assume that there will be many words that are new to you. If you come accross any words that are difficult, write them down in your notebook and bring them to class the next day.

Click the image and you will be transported to the video. Take the quiz after the video. Happy Integer Day.

This is a game called Line Jumper. Answer the question on the number line. It involves integers. Good luck.

This game deals with venn diagrams. You have to place the integers in the correct spots so that everything adds up to 0. This one is tricky. Good Luck.

More interactive sites online. Here is a quiz that will help you add, subtract, multiply and divide.

Now how about some larger numbers to subtract.

Here is a movie made for a site all about number lines.

Here is a youtube video on adding and subtracting Integers

Great activity for the smartboard. Zero pairs are interactive.

Here is a quick interactive quiz.
This game is about which integer is larger or smaller. You can play it to practice you greater than or less than signs.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Rise of the Rest

Karl Fisch in 2006 created his video "Did you Know". Now there is a mashup of his video with an Asian twist. Interesting points. Wow we have come a long way in 2 years. We are going in new interesting paths in the years to come.

Thanks to Karl and Melanie for pointing me to this movie.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Classroom Update

All four rooms are now up and blogging and I have had a chance to reflect about why I am getting them to use the blog. It is amazing how keen most of the students are when they first start to blog. The novelty of the tool makes them want to participate more in class activities. I am confident that scribe and growing posts will keep the activity hopping at the blog. In years past this is all that the students have used the blog for. I think it is time to shake things up. I will allow students to post blogs about math or their other subjects this year. If a student wants to publish work for Language Arts or Social Studies and Science the blog will be available for them. I want them to interact frequently. I will also promote the use of the blog to be a space where students can post self help posts about the concepts taught in class.

My Nintendo experience is about to take off. I am going to allow the student to use the DS units over the lunch hour to start with. The only stipulation will be that we will create a cheat for students. I want them to think about how to put into words what is needed to win the levels on the games. When the think this process through they should be better problem solvers. I do not want to kill the fun of the game so the ratio of play to write will heavily favour the playing.

I am looking for classrooms to collaborate with if any readers are interested?

I am also looking forward to K12 online. It is nice this year to be a learner instead of a presenter. I am really excited to get the rest of my Grade 8 team to be involved learning in the lab with me. This might be the start of something terrific.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Dr. Randy Sprick's Safe and Civil Schools

A Proactive and Positive Approach to Classroom Behaviour Management

I am attening a presentation put on by Dr. Randy Sprick today. It is on behaviour management. Most of my division is attending this inservice. Most of them are elementary schools and since we are a Junior High we are in a minority. Dr. Sprick talks about using positive reinforcement for behavioural disruptions to your class.

To assist in setting up a management plan that fits your style and needs of your students. Important to be your own personal style. It also needs be based on the needs of the kids you work with.

Classroom Structure is not the same as classroom strictness. Today will not be about canned discipline system.

Recent Survey on Manitoba Schools. Behavior problems number 1 concern.

Roving around the room and a child is disengaged with the assigned task. Teacher comes over and confronts the child to do some work.
What could you do do get him to work?
  • evil eye or the "teacher look"
  • May I help you with something
  • Are you missing a pen, pencil or working device? (table answers)
Sprick's Answer
  • Talk to other students giving them positive feedback. Gives the offtask student time to engage.
  • If there still is no engagement.... have a conversation... can I help you get going.
  • Kid still says no..... need to be more direct.
  • Kid still says no ..... You can't make me...
  • you need to react quickly....
  • You are right. I can not make you but this is an important assignment.... I need to go help Tom over here (time to have a personal break) and then go back to the problem student and attempt to have student start work.
The only wrong answer would be a belittling situation.

The way a setting is structured has a huge impact on behavior and attitude.

Think Disney and lines:
  • You are always moving
  • It is organized
  • You cannot see how long the line is
  • You can see the end
Now what does this have to do with schools. Think about lunch line. Getting to a lunch line becomes an aggressive competitive event. Aggressive kids feed on these events.

Classroom example "End of school day routine" many different ways to mess it up. Clean it up and make them less caotic.

Many schools depend on punitive consequences. Punitive consequences have inherent and inescapable drawbacks including but not limited to
escape avoidance , sneaking, lying, fear, may become neutral, may become reinforcing, can set a negative climate

The goal of classroom management is to develop a classroom of student who are responsible, motivated and highly engaged in meaningful tasks.

Good classroom Management:
Structures for success, orchestrate active involvement, prevents misbehavior, teaches behavioural expectations, induces enthusiasm and celebrates progress.

  1. Design rules that communicat your most expectations. Be sure to identify a misbehaviour or trait exibited by several students.
  2. Develop consequences for common rule infractions. Be sure to identify a misbehaviour or trait exibited by several students.
  3. Develop and post "Guidelines for Success" Be sure to identify a misbehaviour or trait exibited by several students.
  4. Develop a plan for responding to misbehaviour that is not directly covered by the classroom rules
  5. Develop an "attention signal"
  6. Prepare lessons on your behaviour expectations for each major activity. Be sure to identify a misbehaviour or trait exibited by several students.
  7. Prepare lessons on your behavioural expections for each major transition. Include time criterea.
  8. Analyze the physical setting -- modify the setting if necessary and possible.
  9. Design a workable schedule with time for teahing behavioral expectations (especially at the beginning of the year), teacher directed instruction, cooperative tasks, and independent tasks.
  10. Design routines or policies for: attendance, heading papers, assigning work, homework, late work, materials, collecting work.
  11. Design procedures for students to check off complicated work.
  12. Evaluate and improve your presentational style.
  13. Examine instructional expectations to insure that you have clear and important objectives for each instructions actibity.
  14. develop a plan for providing frequent positive feedback for following rules, striving towards the "Guidlines,"and for meeting expectations. Monitor interactions with students.
  15. Develop and implement individual and whole-class rewarrds that can be used as intermittent celebrations of success.
  16. Decide if your students could benefit from one or more structured systems for reinforcing responsible behaviour.
A range of nice mild concequences are better than hard hitting consequences.

As I sit here listening to this speaker I am amazed at how many of the "problems" that he is talking about that do not exist in my class. Behaviour issues come up when kids are actively engaged. Between the computer work and the cooperative conceptual work there are few issues.

What do you think... do you have behavioural issues in your room and are there issues when they are engaged in work that they want to do. Is that not the question? Let's create work that kids will do that makes them want to learn.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The New year begins

It has been a while since I have blogged. Between finding time for family and the hectic pace of the school year time has been hard to find. I will force myself to write smaller posts and keep my head in the bloggersphere more frequently.

This year the classes have started to blog. Or at least have started to get ready to blog. I have created 4 assignments to add to one post for each student. This will introduce them to blogger and have them ready to become class scribes and community members. Initial sign up went really well and blogger is making it easier for kids to join blogs. Yeah this is so much better than in years past.

I am excited to be part of Dean Shareski's preservice teachers course. His students will mentor mine at the class blogs and become part of an audience that will lend credibility to why we blog.
Students will start to scribe and fully participate in the classroom blog when October rolls around at the end of the week. I am very excited to get the grade 7's on board this year. An enthusiastic teacher and keen students will provide ample ground to teach social networking too. I am sure that the prevalence of facebook in todays youth makes most of what I am doing seem easy to these students. They just seem to get it faster this year.

With the 7's set up next week I can then shift gears to e-portfolios. I am going to use wikispaces again because of the easy setup. I will also encourage all students to get open ID passwords to make life easier.

Man where does the time go. Off to the last cross country practice of the year. Then one last meet on Thursday. We are going to win all 4 categories this year. Increadable kids. This feat has not been done in 20 years.

Life is going to be good this year..... and the Nintendo's come out next week.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Meeting Dr Tim Tyson

Just back at school and I have had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Tim Tyson. He is the former principal of Mabry Middle School. It was a pleasure to meet him and listen to him talk. I am pleased to know that most of what I do as a Math teacher comes through in his vision for education. I must be on the right path.

Dr. Tyson's first session was From Personal Knowledge to Global Contribution. He hit the audience first with this thought.

What are you supposed to do at school? Is it Make good grades or is it to make the world a better place. This part of the session really focused on creating individuals who want to learn to learn as opposed to those who just want a grade. What intrinsically motivates students to learn...?

Dr. Tyson then took the audience on a tour of his life and the changes that have happened. Growing up in the time of John Dewey when most schools were still creating drones for the factories that were just springing up. Those students who have been created for a factory job or assembly line process are now unemployed and most labour is now overseas. If we had done more with Dewey back then people would be better prepared to be independent contractors in the labour force. He showed a statistic that showed that 33% of Americans now are independent contractors due to job market changes. Now think about the future and what that might hold. Why are we still teaching like we need to prepare kids to work in a factory or assembly line.

The road to change happens when kids take ownership of their learning. Technology will revolutionize this. School needs to change and be reformed. For all too long students have been passively complaint where Dr. Tyson was teaching. This was not good enough. He wanted kids to be empowered to make a contribution now. Project driven instructional activities would provide a base for this change to happen. When you go to his former School's Site you will see what they have created.

At Mabry Middle School students create video projects that earn prestige all over the world. The students want to learn about the topics that they have chosen and spend countless hours away from school creating these videos. Go to the school site or on Itunes to see samples of the students work.

The second session was about School 2.0. If you read this blog it is nothing new to you. Here Dr. Tyson highlighted many social network tools and showed how you could use them in your school. As I looked around the room many heads were nodding and perhaps a few teachers were converted to the fold. But all I could think about was the first part of the session. How could I get my Grade 8 team to do these student initiated projects. I came back to the school and immediacy showed the LA teacher the videos and got her hooked on using this as a project in Language Arts. I then went to the Social teacher who was interested in using some of the blogging ideas in his classroom. This just leaves the Science teacher to get on board and when I show him how the students can create video podcasts of what they are learning in class I am sure he will be hooked.

Bringing Dr. Tyson to Winnipeg was brilliant on the part of Seven Oaks School Division. For an inservice to start the year I think change for them. I know change will happen for the grade 8 students at Sargent Park

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Watching Kids Struggle

Problem solving is one of those tricky things in math. Many students give up and do not appreciate the amount of effort that is needed to get to the bottom of a puzzle or problem. Today provided a great example of student struggles.

I asked the students to do a quick back to school project for me. I assigned them numbers during the class 1-34 and asked them to take a picture of them and send them to our flickr account. Pretty straight forward until I realized that I had sent the wrong email address to the kids during the class.

I changed the address in the post and then started to monitor the chatbox on the class blog. The kids were struggling and wanting answers. They were not interpreting my small answers in the chat box but finally one student got through and completed the assignment. He then took it upon himself to stick around in the chat box and help other students be successful. Other students stuck around in the chat box following his lead and helped their classmates too.

Darren always uses the word community to describe what he does with the high school math students he teaches. I am seeing after the first day of class that community is strong in this group of students. If they are willing to take risks and use each other to find answers to problems that are hard to solve hmmm...... we will have a good year.

Perhaps their teacher will write down the correct email address next time or maybe he won't!!

Hey at least students are using the blog again. It is going to be a great next few months.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Starting out Differently

My school year is about to begin.  As usual it is a mix of handing out notes, collecting money and trying to remember 140+ names of students.  We will be blogging this year and the students google accounts will be created quickly.

I have decided to take a dive into flickr and have created an assignment to get the students thinking about digital photos.  All students have a camera or a cellphone.  I am going to assign a number in class to each student.  They will then find a representation of that number outside of the school and take a picture of it.  The student will then email the photo to flickr using our special email account. 

Each day we will tag the photos with a date tag.  I will get the school to buy a pro account so that we can start to create sets and not have limits to uploads.

It is a different way to start the year.  I think it will be a good way to introduce the power of the web to them.  Hey they all do this at facebook why not in math class.

Lets get ready to ruuummmbbllle... bring on the year.  Yeah tomorrow I tell them about the Nintendo DS's that are living in the room this year.