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Showing posts from August, 2009

Setting up Ning

School for us doesn't start until September 14th but I've completed all my computer changes for the year (dual monitor, 1Tb hard drive & 500Gb network hard drive, N-router & card, new headphone-mic) and my nephew has gone back home so I've got no more excuses to avoid getting down to work.
I had to decide how to work it this year: two years ago the school decided to use Sharepoint for our course management system. From a user perspective, it was less than successful although I do understand they're using it as a complete portal for the school. Having used Blackboard for the previous 6 years, it was hoped there would be major steps forward but Sharepoint seems stuck on the centralized-control paradigm and the opportunity to (easily) create, incorporate & share content by users (outside of Word documents) is limited. Adding content beyond the basic document is very similar to old Access Reports. Not user friendly.
More importantly, it is Internet Explorer c…

Math Video Markup

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my students will often be required to submit Jing videos of their worked solutions to a variety of problems. Basically it's the modern alternative to handing in paper copies of their homework but I get their voice, literally & figuratively, describing the solution with all the steps in-between. I think it helps to reinforce the importance of process over final answer since they have to go to all the work of explaining what they're doing and why, and also allows me to reinforce correct mathematical language.
When it came to providing feedback to the students, I've had to rely on just an email response, describing in text or providing a full worked solution in Jing on my own. What I'd really like is what we have for paper -- returning it with the markup on the product. Jing of course lets you mark up the image capture but what I need is video mark up, like they do on ESPN to describe football plays. There's this neat little …

I think I want to SMAK my kids

I've been thinking about how to assess my Grade 9 and 10 students this year ... I did a lot of experimentation last year with my accelerated Grade 8 students;they were open to trying things out since acquisition of skills and open-ended problem solving was right up their alley. Here's one change I can make:
So, there are four units in both MPM1D and MPM2D ("Ontario" for Grade 9 and 10 math respectively). For those paying close attention, there are only three in 2D but I break the Quadratics unit into two pieces. Beyond the typical written assessments (test and exam) that we're required to do by the school -- we have both Christmas and June sit-down exams -- and the evaluations & projects that the other teachers determined while I was in Utah, I'd like to introduce a SMAK at least once for each unit: Show Me Application and Knowledge. Yeah, it's a lame acronym... I'll try to think of something better. My idea is that each student will choose a 10…

Social Technology & Education @ Harvard

Sandwiched between two great motorcycle rides through upstate New York & Massachusetts, I attended the Social Technology & Education conference put on by the folks at Elgg. They held it in the Radcliffe Gymnasium, a former gym converted into a very elegant discussion space.
The conference evolved organically: people volunteered to present and participants came from a variety of academic, medical, non-profit and commercial situations. There was little advertisement and people heard of it through word-of-mouth (okay, well, Twitter). Now, unfortunately, almost 280 people signed up but not everyone showed; I think by making it free, people felt they could sign up, take a space and not show. Always have a nominal fee, just to show some level of commitment!
The presentations were varied so I'll pick out the high points for me; given my background, a lot of it covered issues we've already had under consideration for a while.
It was a real pleasure to meet Dave Tosh, who despi…

Working Groups

Before I start dealing with reflecting on the content of the classes, I've got two more aspects of PCMI to mention.
The first is the most productive: The working group. Each of the teachers is assigned a working group in a topic of secondary mathematics for the afternoon (Wednesdays off) in which they, typically in groups, will produce a product useful to classroom teachers.
As the person in charge of a group this can be very challenging: these are all energetic, enthusiastic and talented teachers -- who all teach in very different classrooms. So what may be appropriate for one school system could fail utterly in another, not just in terms of content but departmental expectations, school standards, etc. As the working group leader I have to steer these folks towards a consensus: a project that is meaningful to them, useful to others, and able to be accomplished in three weeks. Most of the time this takes the form of a lesson plan or activity that is refined throughout the three we…

Reflecting on Practice

Once we're done the morning of math (with a brief coffee break) the teachers all get back together for an hour of math education pedagogy. Like the mathematics we cover, each year is something a little different. For example, in previous years we've focused on Lesson Design (with Drs. Nicole Bannister & Gail Burrill), Teaching through Problem Solving or Learning the Open-Ended Approach (with Dr. Akihiko Takahashi).
This year the organizers tried something a little different; they tapped six of the returning participants to look at Questioning in the Classroom from the practicing teachers' perspective. As one of those teachers leading the professional development it was a considerable challenge to not only meet the expectations of the participants and the organizers but also our own expectations -- my colleagues are amongst the premier educators in the States (National Board certified, AP consulants, you name it). We began with a working weekend in Denver in the sprin…