Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Day at Winnipeg Harvest

I am truly blessed to work with some incredible students.  This year the Grade 8 team decided to take groups of students to a local food agency.  Winnipeg Harvest supports food banks, soup kitchens and many other organizations throughout Winnipeg. Harvest feeds over 47 000 Winnipegers a week.  This in a city with a population of only 800 000 people. 

They are located only a few blocks away from the school. 

3 teams of four students and a teacher supervisor went to Harvest for three half day shifts.  The first day saw the students work on creating emergency kits for harvest.  These kits have one can of protein, one can of vegetables, soup and a grain (pasta or rice).  These kits are then placed into a larger bag with 7 other kits.  These larger bags are then put on pallets to be shipped around the city.
Here are the students working on that first day.  They packed enough kits to fill 1 and a half pallets. Sadly we would have done more but we ran out of protein and could not finish the task.

The next 2 crews of students were on onion and potato detail.  Harvest receives produce from local Hutterite  Colonies and Peak of the Market.  These items come into Harvest in large pallets.  They need to be repacked into smaller boxes (banana boxes each weighing 60 lbs).  It was fun to go through the large pallets and find mushy onions and potatoes.  We even found an Alien Onion and a Heart shaped potato.  In the two days the students repacked 4000 lbs of potatoes and onions.

What impressed me the most was when we were about to leave.  Onion skins on the floor and a bit of a mess to clean up.  No one asked but the kids took it upon themselves to clean up the area for the next crew.
Since the trips to Harvest students have been asking if they can go and help.  I do not see any reason to say no.  After all Harvest is just up the street.  Kids can be amazing if you let them be.  Give them a chance and inspire them to become activists and see their world as something more than just a school experience.

Here is the students take on the experience.

Getting a Square Idea.

Three heads are better than one.  I have a brilliant teacher candidate this term.  She really knows her stuff.  I also have a great mentor at this school that always tells me the analogy of slow learning (drawing a turtle on the board) to make me remember the need to go slow when necessary.

Together all three of us yesterday came up with a great activity to get kids to understand the idea of squares.  More specifically.... Can you make a square out of 2 squares tiles, 3 squares tiles etc.  What we came up with was a stroke of genius.

Supplies you will need for this activity are a sheep of cm grid paper and a piece of coloured paper.  On the grid paper you need to cut out 4 10 by 10 squares.  My paper only goes 18 across.  You will get one 10 by to and one 8 by 10 rectangle.  Take a 2 by 10 rectangle to complete the 8 by 10 into a 10 by 10 square.

When we are all done the students have a great representation of how to create the squares of 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Step 1
Glue one 10 by 10 square onto the large foldable sheet of paper.  Get the students to understand the difference between the 100 squares and that this represents 1 whole square.
Once this has been done complete the chart at the top of your paper.  Show the side measure of the square and how 1 x 1 is 1.

You now have to use your second square.  Get the students to figure out the largest square you can make with the second square that has 100 smaller squares in it.  Most students will start to see the pattern of 1.1 x 1.1 is 1.21(11 x 11 =121) and so on.  When you are done this part of the foldable your page should look like this.

The largest square is using 196 smaller squares or 14 x 14.  This is really 1.4 x 1.4 which is 1.96.  Complete the chart like the previous one and have all squares up to 1.4 on the chart. 

Continue with the third square.  If students have not coloured them yet it might be a good idea.  Colour enhances the foldable showing the different squares

You should have completed the blue part of the foldable now.  This means that you have made the largest square possible with 3 squares.  1.7 x 1.7 (17 x 17).

Complete the chart to show that you now have 3 new squares possible.

You now are ready for the last square.  This is the 4th square.  You need to get the students to understand that they now have a perfect square.  2 x 2 = 4. To achieve this they will use the remaining square and all the leftover pieces from the last 2 squares.  Adding 111 small squares will give you a square with the area of 400 little squares or 4 larger squares. 

 Finish the chart to complete it up to 2 x 2 = 4.

This is a great conceptual idea for showing Squares and Square Roots.

Hope you enjoyed the lesson.  Now on to the next post.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Storytelling in math

It was a simple idea. Get the students to write a simple story and use math to solve it. The story premise was that an alien has landed in your back yard. It will call the rest of the ships if you do not answer 3 proportion questions. Sounds easy right!

The students created simple stories and added great answers from the homework they had been doing over the past few days. I also showed them how to find cc images. They are not cited properly yet but at least the images are cc.

Here are the links to the rooms so you can read them your self.


Here is the original assignment. Enjoy

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Making your own Game

I have always wanted kids to become producers of games instead of being only consumers of games.  My favorite games for kids at school are the ones that are flashed based.

Samorst 1

Samorst 2


All of these are brilliant story starters for any Language Arts Class.  But how do kids make their own?? Thanks to a tweet from Alec Couros a few weeks ago they can!

Here is a sample game made by a member using a well known Flickr Image.

Fable Forge is a site where you can make your own flash games like those in Samorst land.  No where near as good but you can make them none the less.  It would be interesting to see how many educational games could be made just using simple pictures and hiding things on the screen!! Give it a try and let me know.  I will be trying this out with some of my students later this year.  Hey it is free and gives kids power to create instead of just playing around.  No wait they will be playing around.  Hmmm a win win situation.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Baby steps?

On Friday John Evans and I walked 9 colleagues through an inservice on Twitter, Diigo and other aspects of social networking.

Here is the wiki we created for the day.

They got the message.  Great things happened, all participants loved wordle, they really saw the great parts of social bookmarking.... and perhaps twitter might sink in too. It was interesting as the day progressed how many looks of amazement kept on coming.  They were really into learning the tools and figuring out how to integrate them into their lessons and with their team members.

What was different this time? The first thing was all participants were keen to learn.  Different from other sessions I have done. Secondly John and I gave them small ideas that can be used instead of hitting them hard with How to use Wiki's, blogging in your classroom.  This might be what I have been doing wrong up until now...

When you start with these little steps you are able to start the process.  Show how easy some of the technology and applications are to make a simple lesson brilliant. a simple application has to many lesson possibilities to count.  Start with this instant success, now push participants into a social aspect of the Read Write Web.  We introduced Diigo.  Here you bookmark, and save to a group. This bonds the group together and shows the power of collaboration.

You see where this is going.  Once you have them making a few baby steps, they see the results then......... you go to the big dogs!! You introduce them to wikis blogs, and other pedagogical changing tools.

Enough already it was a great day.  Thank you John. Thank you Sargent Park Staff.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rethinking old tools

A few things are different at the blog this year.  Kids are into doing homework .... assignments on the blog and wanting to do them more frequently.  I am accomidating them right now because they can get what they want.  Are there negative aspects of kids writing more at the blog? I am not sure yet.  Will quality of work suffer because they are doing more assignments.

cc licensed flickr photo by CarbonNYC:

One of the beautiful things about the blog was that scribeposts were to be done only once every 35 classes which meant that kids only scribed 4 times a year.  My students have already in 6 weeks created 6 posts.  Twice as many as usual.  So once again I ask has the quality of work suffered.

No.  Work has not suffered.  In fact kids do great are doing even better, good kids are doing great and some just are doing math.  Instead of hitting it out of the park on a few posts kids are getting doubles and triples but still scoring the same amount of runs(do you like my baseball analogy?).

A new beast has emerged in this new class set up.  Commenting.  Kids are commenting so frequently I am amazed by their ability to be an audience.  Between the chat room

cc licensed flickr photo by merezha:

20 Oct 09, 20:10
laura: yes, because it has 3 parts, but it is still a 2 TERM ratio :)
20 Oct 09, 20:08
abby: but if theres a comma is that still considered as 3 part ratio??
20 Oct 09, 20:01
laura: and then you just use the last number of the ratio as the denomonator
20 Oct 09, 20:00
laura: but if you add the 2 numbers that have a comma, that becomes the numerator.
20 Oct 09, 19:55
Harvey: laura that isn't a fraction. You can only make 2 term ratios
20 Oct 09, 19:53
laura: ABBY: Unless there is a comma between 2 of those numbers, (4,5:12) you can't
20 Oct 09, 19:39
abby: does anyone know to make a fraction on 3 part ratio??
20 Oct 09, 19:33
Eric.P 8-73: Guys gotta comment on those australian blogs

and leaving 100's of comments every few nights they have got the whole community of learners thing figured out.

So where do I go next.  One mainstay of the blogging program over the past few years have been BOB's. These Blogging on Blogging assignments are meant as reviews before a test.  Last year they were simply a reflection of a few sentences.  This year the assignment was changed.  I have included a commenting component.  The students will do the BOB and then ask a series of questions as a built in study guide for their fellow students.  The other students then will answer the questions in the comments and this will be the studying needed for the test the next day.

Here is their first BOB.

Here are the instructions to complete your BOB on ratios.  Remember this is a way of preparing for a test.  Please take time to do a good job on understanding your ratio unit.

  1. Title Must include BOB and RATIO.
  2. labels, displayname, bob, ratio
  3. You must include one of the pictures from today's lesson.  The easiest way to include it is to use its location address.  Click the picture link provided, right click the picture, copy location.  Once you have copied the location add image to the blog but use add url not browse my computer.  Paste the url into the window and click ok.  Your picture should be there.  (Just get the picture on the post)
  4. Once the picture is at your blog you must create the following.  3 part to part ratios, 2 part to total ratios and 2 three part ratios.  Please for each have a word ratio and ratio notation.
  5. Choose one ratio that you have done and show how to write that ratio in ratio notation, fraction, decimal and percent form.
  6. Choose one ratio that you have written and show how to create equivalent ratios.
  7. Finally create 3 questions that you want people to answer in the comments. Do not make them to hard or too easy. 
  8. Answer your questions in the comment section of your post.  
  9. Go and answer as many questions as you can about ratio at other posts in your room and the other rooms in grade 8.
  10. Look for cheats in comments.  I will post helping hints and questions in comments around the blogs.  

 Now if you have read this far.  CONGRATULATIONS!! Here are 2 examples of the BOB's on Ratio.

Bob 1 Bob 2 Bob 3 Bob 4

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Coin Problem

Today was my first attempt at playing with one of Dan Meyer's lessons. I put up the image that Dan had provided on his blog. 

I then had the students brainstorm questions about the jar of coins.  We sorted them into questions that could be solved using 4math and those that required different ways of solving.  Next I gave them some information about the jar.  I told them that it was all American coin.  This then had them think about the differences between the jars of coins from American Currency to Canadian Currency.  We then brainstormed questions knowing that there was $100 in the jar.

Students had to go home and answer 2 questions over the weekend.  Some got it right away and created wonderful answers to the questions posed in class. This was a cool attempt. Most just did a simple explanation and did not answer the question correctly.

No matter what if a kid posted online over a long weekend a victory was won.  On Tuesday we will go over the questions and posts in class and use ratio tables to help students understand the depth of the questions they created.  Sometimes students need a first draft before they understand the depth of a question.  

Slow and steady wins the race and when money is concerned... all are hooked instantly.

Thanks Dan for a great lesson Idea.

Coin Ratio
View more documents from charbeck1.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Nothing like jumping in the pool with cement shoes on!

Well September is over and October begins.  With a new month begins new challenges.  3 to be precise.

Ready Fire Aim

Elluminate with Pennsylvania
On Monday the ever popular 4 fours will playout again in my classroom.
View more documents from charbeck1.

This time we are going to talk to Stacey Clark's Grade 8 Room.  We will get together in my first period and connect through an Eluminate Vroom.

Thankfully it is not blocked by the school division (skype, slideshare, blogger are:( )
The students will listen to the story of the 4 fours and then work out solutions on our linked smartboards.  Hey you just have to try and let the kids have fun.

Sister class in Australia

I have known Russel Montgomery for a few years on twitter, and K12online.  What he did the other night was mindblowing.  He commented on 50 blogs and got my students totally stoked about commenting on blogs.  The day after the comments were posted my students started commenting like sharks around a chum bucket.  That night I received 60 comments.  I pointed out this act of community learning to them the next day and they stepped up again and commented over 90 times that night.  Russell started something in this years students that hasn't stopped yet.

We got to talking and decided to pair up our classes.  He now has access to all of my blogs and I have access to his blog portal.  My students will cross post to his site and his will cross post to mine.  Due to the lovely 13 hour time difference (they already know what is happening tomorrow!) synchronous meetings might not be possible.  But through the power of posting, commenting, and video we should give this a go.

Cross hemispherical collaboration has been a dream of mine for many years.  His students are going into term 4 and almost at the end of Grade 8.  Mine are at the beginning of the journey.  We will be able to help each other.  His are veteran bloggers with a knowledge of most of the math we have not yet learned.  Mine will be able to help his new students out next year after their "Christmas Summer Break".

This is going to be a great experience.

Doing math the Dan Meyer way.
If you missed the presentation the other day please watch it here.

Dan is one of the few math teachers in the world who gets it.  He knows how to make kids figure out answers and ask better questions.

Dan walks a fine line between using a textbook and tweeking images to get kids thinking.  Once they start thinking mathematically they understand the knowledge more.  As I start into this second unit of rate, ration and proportion I will attempt to do what Dan does in his class.

WWDMD (what would Dan Meyer do) is my new mantra and will say it at least one day a week. Use image and video to stimulate questions in students and push them to learn math.

It is going to be a busy week but at least cross country wraps up!! That will gime me more time to fill up with other stuff.  Now what else is on my bucket list!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Comments at a Class Blog

It all started with a call out to my twitter network the other day.  Can anyone leave comments behind at my class blogs. 
A few of you answered my call and from the bottom of my heart I thank you. 
Russell Montgomery from Western Australia went overboard though.  He commented on everypost that the students had completed.  I am forever in his debt for commenting on over 25 blog posts.  I pointed this out to the students who were amazed that someone would care about what they were writing.  I just told them that people care about what you do.  People enjoy reading about your math journey. 

Since that night the students have become commenting monsters.  My email box is filling up with comments at a rate that I have never seen before.  Some times I am receiving 4 comments a minute.  I shared this with them today.  I did not know what to expect..... tonight the comment barrage continues.  They have left over 65 new comments at the time of this post.  Hey perhaps they get this whole idea of community, of helping each other out.

What else are they doing you might ask.  They are using their cbox on each blog to the max.  Each room seems to have designated a person to be the go to person in the chat box every night.  They are teaching each other what to do and how to complete assignments.  Wow it is only September!!

I am going to push their comments to be more than just a congratulations on completing a  post and giving formatting advise.  I want them to start having conversations on line.  Ask questions of the person who is posting and to push the conversation of learning further.  If they can comment they can conversee

A final note tonight before I create the assessment for tomorrow is that the students from last year are starting to blog in grade 9.  The first 2 scribe posts are up for one of the grade 9 rooms and are really good.  Their teacher is seeing the power of the blog, chatbox and  commenting.  Each of the posts have numerous comments, but not as many as what my 8's are doing.  Wow Wow and Wow.  It is going to be a tremendous year.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What does this say about teaching?

A few weeks ago I watched this video as it was making the twitter rounds. What does it say about teaching and your pedagogy?

Do you give students the answer, do you push them in the right direction or do you just let them struggle.  Just thinking.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A post is a post

I was looking somewhere or listening somewhere that a post is about 3 paragraphs.  I will do my best to do at least one weekly post about life at the blog.

I am receiving 2nd year bloggers this year.  Only the new students do not have google accounts.  Boy this has sure sped things along.  Anyone out blogging and the younger students are not I recommend getting them started and giving them the google account.  Students this year will use Google Docs and Blogger extensively in Language Arts and Math. 

I am also pleased to announce that the Grade 8's that I had last year will be blogging in Grade 9.  I have convinced one to the teachers to blog and have helped him set up his class.  I will help them get set up but after 3 years of blogging this should be a snap.  I hope that all goes well for the Grade 9's. 

Also on a positive not it looks like the Video Production students are going to have a blog too.  I have convinced the teachers to use a variety of technology to help them showcase their students work online.  I am looking forward to them seeing the potential of the technology to help students learn more from each other and other experts online.  Yeah Progress.

Monday, September 14, 2009

If this does not reinforce what we do....

If this does not get the point out to parents nothing will.  Wow what a great update of Karl's original. I will be using this at Meet the Teacher Night tomorrow.  I will tell you how it goes.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Playing with Pixelpipe

I was playing with my iPhone and pixelpipe. Hmm thought they were going to flickr but they came to the blog. Interesting. The first picture is of Alex at the store with a set of ginger antlers. The second shows Colin explaining the fact that boxes are still the best toys ever.

The Great Movie Project Year 2

Last year all Grade 8 students chose groups and created student movies. 
the project was based on the student videos created at Maybry School in Georgia.  The students  chose the topics, they did this work on their time and it was a success. It is time to reflect on the successes and failures of that project.  Why you ask? Simply because it is about to begin again and changes and tweeks will be made from our experiences last year.

Things that worked
  • Topics The Students really liked the wide variety of topics available.  The whole idea of the project was to have students become aware of issues in the world and locally that were important to them.  Once they found a topic that was interesting to them they had to try to "Make a Difference". 
  • Student Presentations To start the project off we had the students prepare presentations for the rest of the school.  They were to give presentations about a variety of charities that the grade 8 students and the student council had chosen to take donations for.  All the 8's made posters and pamphlets talking about the charities and one group of students from each of the 4 rooms made presentations to the rest of the school.

816 Charity
View more documents from spmath.

  • Google Documents The ability for students to work at home and collaborate on the same document was brilliant.  Each group created a Google Presentation and each group member took control of different slides.  They also invited their homeroom teacher and myself to the presentation so we could see progress and add our 2 cents to the mix.  If there is one thing that I would suggest to anyone doing a project like this is to build in these collaborative tools.  The kids were more productive because they could participate with each other at home at the same time. We pushed the limits of collaboration when we created 2 Google presentations as notetaking devices for a movie on Child Labour we had been watching.  Over 30 kids were collaborating at one time in the lab.  Google Docs is a must for any teacher

  •  Pay it Forward Over the Christmas break we expected the students to do an activity that was similar in nature to the movie Pay It Forward. Students were expected to do a random act of kindness over the break.  They had to write about it at their blog.
  • Awards Presentation Having the students chose winners was motivating for the students.  As teachers we decided on the 6 movies that would be in the award categories but the students decided who won the "prize".  It gave them ownership over the finished project.
Things that need to change
  • timing We started this project before Christmas last year.  The goal was to have the project done before our Student Led Conference in April.  That did not materialize.  Movies were not done until the beginning of June.  To allow for speedier editing and to allow students to complete the movies on time this year the team has booked a pod of laptops from the division.  During February to April this year the students will have a set of laptops and other equipment to complete the primary production on their movies.
  • more time for editing You could really see the lack of editing on some of the videos. The students just did one draft and did not spell check, edit pictures and well..... just slapped something together.  This year the students will spend more time of editing and will be taught more techniques about successful movie making. 
  • post a first draft and a final production More student evaluation and feedback is needed.  We will use your youtube channel to put up the drafts of the movies and elicit feedback.  Based on the feedback students will be able to improve their movies.
  • music Students often chose music that was non CC.  This caused many problems.  Audio tracks were wiped by Youtube when their spiders determined that copy write had been broken.  This year I will find sites where you are able to use CC sanctioned music.  Less Itunes more ambient sound to get the idea across.
  • Teamwork  A different goal of this project was to bring my other team members into the blogging "read write web" universe.  This met with limited success.  I seemed to be the go to guy all the time.  Most of my other team members seemed reluctant to use these tools and learn how they could transform their teaching at the same time.  It was not a total loss though.  Two team members are game to try this again and students and teachers will once again be making movies at Sargent Park School.

If you are looking to try a project like this please contact me  or use these helpful links:
  1. Sargent Park Mathzone The grade 8 blog hub where instructions for the project were given.  This link houses all posts with the label 2minutes.
  2. Make it Interesting My personal blog where reflections on the project are housed.  This is the link with 2minutes attached to it.
  3. Sargent Park Wiki One of my school sites where the project was hosted.  It is not add free anymore so the information will be moving soon.
  4. Maybry Online The inspiration to get the whole project. Met Dr. Tyson at a PD event and from there a kernel grew into a whale of an idea.
  5. 50 Ways to tell a story Simply one of the best sites explaining the different ways to use the web to tell a story.  A must for storytellers.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Just Enjoying Ingrid Michealson's New Album

This does not fit in my sidebar easily so I will post it here.  Simply one of the best albums of the year.  Independent, Awesome, Amazing.  Thanks for making the last few weeks of August so pleasurable.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Things are going to change this year?

For the first time in years I am using a textbook.  The rest of the junior high bought books in the past years and we are now all using the same book and perhaps this is a good thing.

I have not used texts before because there are so many options out there that are more cost effective.  Also no text gave me freedom to use the best practices from many different sources including the web.

The text the school has chosen is MathLinks from Magraw Hill Ryerson

It has some interesting additions that make it very school 2.0 friendly.  Each text book has a number that allows students to access thier homework from home on the net.  They will have access to a textbook 24 hours a day without bringing the textbook home.  With over 90% of my class having internet access at home this allows me to weave the homework into blogging easier.  Assignments for scribes can change to not only include what happened in class today but examples of the homework that has been assigned.

Each chapter is broken up into interesting sections too.  They start off with a foldable (notetaking device that uses a sheet of paper in interesting ways) I have been using foldables for the past 3 years.  Now there is a text that employs teaching techniques that I use and embeds it in each chapter. The rest of the chapter is the usual drill and practice laid out in an interesting colourful way.  (Doing a small google search I found this site that shows and explains what foldables are!!!)

The book also features mental math strategies and problem solving strategies that are crucial these students having success on their final exam.  All of this is will be avialable online.  I am thinking parents will enjoy having the work to see as well. 

Other interesting aspects of the text are built in math games and challenges in real life.  Anything that pushes students to realize the importance of math in the real world works for me.

Having said all of that above that does not mean that the rest of my teaching will change.  We still will use a wide variety of materials to push conceptual understanding of the math being taught.  All my lessons will be streamed and saved at ustream.  Lessons will be done using the smartboard and saved at slideshare. 

I think what I am looking forward to the most is using the textbook to organize my teaching.  I am all over the map and sometimes to scattered to get maximum understanding out of my students.  I plan on using this more focused approach to push my students beyond where I have taken them before.  If this textbook organizies me and keeps me more focused .... then amaizing things will happen.

Anyways that is just one of the new things happening to me  this year in my classroom.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Beginnings for a Good Friend

cc licensed flickr photo shared by dkuropatwa

Today my mentor, the guy who got me hooked on blogging, starts a new job. Darren Kuropatwa is starting to work for the Provincial Government. He will be spearheading the High School component of our Literacy with ICT for the provincial curriculum and training branch. He still will be a snowballs throw away but in a westerly direction this time instead of east.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Nautical9

With Darren leaving the Division this leaves myself as one of the few blogging teachers in a division of over 33 000 students. For the past four years I have felt that Darren and I are on two islands in an ocean. We can see each other on a clear day but there is a lot of ocean out there. Now he has left the School Division and taken on a very noble challenge. Still I will miss the ability to say to my students .... "You know you will be blogging in Grade 12 math. These skills will be important to you."

Darren now has a chance to spread all of his goodness to the entire province. Find more people like me to hook into changing ones pedagogy to infuse technology into our curriculum. He is a master presenter and can convince many people to try and use the new tools to enhance education. While I will miss him at my feeder High School I know he will be doing important work that will help many people.

I look forward to seeing his new ideas and know that John Evans and the rest of the ICT crew will keep him in check and moving in the right direction.

Break a leg Darren. Enjoy your new challenges.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Is Education going the way of Newspapers?

Will Richardson, @willrich45 just tweeted about a post he was reading at Seth Godins Blog

Seth Godin is talking about the changes in post secondary education....

Should this be free or expensive?

Wikipedia offers the world's fact base to everyone, for free. So it spreads.

On the other hand, some bar review courses are so expensive the websites don't even have the guts to list the price.

The newly easy access to the education marketplace (you used to need a big campus and a spot in the guidance office) means that both the free and expensive options are going to be experimented with, because the number of people in the education business is going to explode (then implode).

If you think the fallout in the newspaper business was dramatic, wait until you see what happens to education.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by iirraa

So what does this mean for us teachers out there. For those of you who are reading this not much since you have embraced change and see a new model being available for students. But what about our colleagues who still refuse to change or see the change coming. Is the newspaper analogy strong enough to bring about change.

Most teachers understand the death of newspapers in their current form is imminent. This article might push a few more teachers to explore the possibilities of the changing educational world around them. I have passed the article off to a few of my teacher colleagues hoping that they come back to me and ask questions.

What do you think about the article?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

To Ning or not to Ning

I am getting ready to start the set up of the class blogs for the upcoming year. As usual I will have the blog hub which needs very little tinkering but I will have to create 4 class blogs from scratch and place 4 more in the archives!!!

Last night got me thinking though. I was listening to a PLP group present their projects from Australia. It was a wonderful experience seeing these educators talk about their growth over a year long journey. Key to their success was the Ning that PLP created for them. They were able to network and have input from expert voices to guide them on their journey.

Do students who have blogging experience need a Ning to nurture their learning and educational experiences? What is the value of using a Ning over blogs and wikis.... Do students need another learning environment or is this going to be the straw that breaks the camels back?

I am still struggling to figure this out. I love the blogs because it gives the students a genuine audience that promotes growth and quality of work. Wikis offer a space for collaboration. Nings are enclosed communities where only group members have access. This goes against the entire notion of audience. I need the work the students do out there. Not in there.

Gate on Flickr
by fensterbme

With all of that said. It would be interesting if more of my team members at school wanted to blog. Creating a community where many different to create a Ning community. Here there would be groups for different types of work, math, language arts etc. Having a platform for all to participate in ...... Once again the only problem would be audience. Do I want to put the walls up or keep them down for all to see.

I think I am seeing this properly or have I missed something.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Movies are DONE

I have been a delinquent blogger. May and June have been very busy months. But my students have finished their movie projects. You can find them here:
There are 6 categories,
  1. Best Script,
  2. Best Use of Images
  3. Best Production (watchability)
  4. Best Direction
  5. Make a Difference Award
  6. Best Picture
The top 25 movies made this list. On each page you will find a google form. Fill out the check box and submit. Your voting will be passed on the the film makers.

It is June. For us in North America the school year is winding down. If you find yourself with time on your hands and a class needing something to do..... watch some movies.

Thanks for your time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kids need Passion

I just wrote a post for my students. It is hopefully going to light a fire under some of them. Spring fever has hit and school is not a priority. Perhaps in the near future something will come back.

Here is the post I gave them....

Learning is about passion.
Flickr attribution by Tyla'75

You need to have this passion to succeed in life. In recent weeks I have seen many of you get spring fever and lose your will to learn. Many of you are going goldfish,

not asking questions and just wanting answers. This passiveness needs to disappear and you need to rekindle your passion to learn.

We only have a few weeks left in school. Take everyday as an opportunity to find new things to learn and use this knowledge to succeed on your final assignments and exams.

Watch this video and listen to these Grade 5 students. They are part of a noon hour club in New York City. These kids have passion. They want to sing, learn be active in society. Watch their faces as they sing and the passion in their voices. The students have sung onstage with many performers and will be singing with Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Gardens infront of 18 000 fans on June 11th.

Find your passion and succeed.


Monday, May 18, 2009

2minutes Final Instructions

Here is a post I have just given my students. The movie project is finally coming to an end. I hope that there are some films to share with my network. From how the kids are talking we should have a few to share.

Oscar Wagon by grebo guru

The time has come for you to have a completed video. So the logical question is now..... Where do I put it!

You must upload the video to

or There is a spmath login for both of these sites. The password is the same at both. Email me if you do not know the password. Please use it so that I can create a channel and keep all videos organized. Both sites allow HD uploading so please use youtube if possible.

Once you have your video uploaded please embed it at your blog. Create a post
  • Title ________ 2 Minutes to Make a Difference
  • In the body give a 2 to 3 sentence explanation of your video.
  • Embed your video
  • label your post in the usual way, name, 2minutes, spinquiry
Your movie is to be 2 minutes in length. I will give you an extra 30 seconds to add the credits at the end of the movie. The credits are important because it informs the viewing audience about your sources of music, photos and information.
Please make sure that you have added into your credits all information about
  1. photos
  2. music ..... make sure you have permission to use the music you are using. If you have asked for permission and no one has replied back use up to 30 seconds and you should not have too many issues with copywrite. Make sure you state in the credits that you asked for permission.
  3. websites Inform the viewing audience where you found your material. They could then go and learn more about the topic.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Last Movie Post

Here is the last post for the Grade 8 students on their Inquiry Project 2 Minutes to Make a Difference. It is posted at the Mathzone. The movies will be posted on a youtube channel and hopefully at itunes.

The last stages of your 2 Minutes to Make a Difference are almost over. You should be making your movie as we speak. The final deadline for your movie will be on May 20. On that day I need access to your movie, you can burn it to a cd or use a flash drive.

Your movie projects will be marked on the following criteria, Length of movie, script, do you make a difference, production quality, direction and credits. Here is the rubric that will be used to mark your movie.

The final part of the movie will be a day where we will watch all of the movies as a grade. On June 15 we will use periods 2 and 3 to screen the movies. You will have a chance to vote on the ones you liked the best. Following the screening you will be served lunch and we will have an awards ceremony during period 4.

Red Carpet by jeffbalke

This will be a great way to get ready for your math exam which will be on June 16th!! Be sure to study!!!!!

You have had many months to create these masterpieces. Please take time to finish them to a standard of excellence that will make you proud. Following the ceremony we will unveil your iTunes channel and youtube channel. You will be able to

Friday, April 24, 2009

2009 Student Led Conferences

Student-led Conferences have been a staple of Manitoba Education for over a decade. It is a valuable experience for parents. Student-led conferences put the student in the drivers seat. They show their parents a portfolio of their work that shows how they have grown as a learner. I love student-led conferences. Students and parents interacting about learning. Think of these conferences as intensive dinner conversation answering the question, "What did you do in school today?"
Dinner Table

Participation in Student-led conferences are higher than in traditional parent-teacher interviews. Students enjoy showing their learning to their parents. Parents enjoy seeing what their students have done. Many more parents are able to attend Student-led conferences because of the flexible timetable. We provide access to the school and the parent and child pick the 30 to 60 minute slots that they need. Often we will see up to 90% of the parents on these nights.

For the Grade 8 students they have created Electronic Portfolios to showcase their work and learning. This provides flexibility for parents. Those who cannot come into the school have access to the portfolio at home. Now these conferences are available to all students. Having access available to parents at home is important because many of the parents at our school work shift work or multiple jobs and freeing themselves up for up to three hours if they have more than one student is hard. Believe me I know with three children of my own.

The conferences are over and 24 of the 35 students attended from my home room. Overall we had over 110 students attend out of 145. The remaining students will receive a letter home explaining the student led process to parents. Students will participate at home and bring back confirmation to us that the conference took place.

Now to finish the year and prepare for next year. A job well done.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Windows to the World

A fun evening of Cheesies and Licorice Nibs was had by all listening to some of the greatest edutecnologists around. Ben Hazzard, Lisa Kolb, Rodd Lucier, Ryan M, Clarence Fisher and others all skyped into a room of eager and raw teachers. Now by room I mean at least there were 20ish of us. But hey we had twice as many people in the ustream chat room.

It was a nice culminating event of the rant that I had a few weeks ago. Following that rant Andy and Darren met me for a coffee. From that conversation Windows to the World was born. I would like to thank John Evans and Andy for working so hard to make things work out.

Here are some of the tweets using the #wttw.

For the people in the room it was nice for me to see some new faces. I set up a wiki for Manitoba teachers who use twitter. I called it It is the same idea as the terrific pbwiki twitter4teachers You will find all of the participants from the f2f listed there. Also at this wiki you will find the chat log from the ustream.

I still find it amazing that an evening like this will bring together over 40 people in the ustream chat room and in a city of 700 000 people and a gazillion teachers we are only able to find about 20 to partake in the evening. I personally tried to get 5 people to come to the evening. None showed up. Some had legitimate excuses but still one would think that learning and experiencing this Koolaid is important to teachers today.

I have not stopped trying but it is getting frustrating when so few care about changing their pedagogy. I guess I will wrap myself up in the fuzzy blanket of happiness that is my PLN and the knowledge that WE get it. Thanks Andy, John, Darren, Ryan and Clarence for joining me in understanding the importance of what we do for the future of education.

Kids get it, we get it...... when will THEY get it. A Monty Python song comes to mind

Something about Always looking on the bright side of life!!

I love my students Part 2

This is how it all started

This is too cool. I am here Windows to the World and I have a student chatting with me. This is a true story. Really it is. I am not making it up.

Student: Harbeck!
8:17 PM me: Hey
Liem: I have a really cool idea
8:18 PM me: Ok what!!
I was wondering if we compose a letter of everybodies ideas to make our community a Greener PLACE
8:19 PM theres a prize for $20,000 but i don't know this could be fun
me: Hey yeah lets do it and talk about it
8:20 PM Student: okay cool tomorrow?! in class.
8:21 PM me: Sure or before. YOu could make a blog post about it and post it. I would add it to all the other blogs. What do you think. Make a blog post and see if people want to do something!!
Student: Okay Yeah!
me: thx for learning
Student: haha, your welcome.
8:22 PM its cool, how your can take learning outside of school(:

Wow I get paid to teach these kids ;) Life is good

Here is the students post. I cross posted at the other student blog and the mathzone. Let us see what happens here.

A Post From Liem

The Green Effect!

Okay guys! I found this really cool idea! Its called the green effect.National Geographic with Sun Chips are joining forces to inspire people to make a change in their communities. We need to compose a letter to National Geographic of 250 words or less explaining what we can do to make our community a
GREEENER place. The five best ideas will win $20,000 dollars to help make their community a greeener place.

Some ideas would be like making a garden, putting recycling boxes around parks, making our school more green and other stuff! Imagine if what we can do with $20,000 dollars to make our community more

For more information please visit
Online voters will choose one winner, and a panel of judges will select the remaining four.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I love my students

This is too cool. I am here Windows to the World and I have a student chatting with me. This is a true story. Really it is. I am not making it up.

Student: Harbeck!
8:17 PM me: Hey
Liem: I have a really cool idea
8:18 PM me: Ok what!!
I was wondering if we compose a letter of everybodies ideas to make our community a Greener PLACE
8:19 PM theres a prize for $20,000 but i don't know this could be fun
me: Hey yeah lets do it and talk about it
8:20 PM Student: okay cool tomorrow?! in class.
8:21 PM me: Sure or before. YOu could make a blog post about it and post it. I would add it to all the other blogs. What do you think. Make a blog post and see if people want to do something!!
Student: Okay Yeah!
me: thx for learning
Student: haha, your welcome.
8:22 PM its cool, how your can take learning outside of school(:

Wow I get paid to teach these kids ;) Life is good

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Examples for your movie project.

This is a cross post with the Mathzone. I will use these examples and another post that deals with creating storyboards and writing a script.

Public Service Announcements or PSAs are examples of movies and slidecasts that are similar to the movies I expect you to write. Please use these examples and find others help you create your movie. Remember to "Make a Difference"

Kids See Kids Do

Quit Smoking

During this video count all the factual points brought out. You will be amazed at how many were squeezed into this video.

Think about the script of this video. It is only 30 seconds but it packs a powerful punch in combination with the music and video footage.

Hmm How about some bottled water

Here are some slidecasts. They are powerful presentations with a voiceover and soundtrack. They can be powerful movies that make a difference.

Food and Nutrition

Look at the use of text slides and images. Imagine if there was a script and voice!!