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Do you listen, or just read?

When we were on strike two years ago, several of my colleagues listened as they walked - podcasts, audiobooks - but when I tried it, I couldn't focus on the storyline, so I chose to just walk and talk instead.

Fast-forward to this year, and the latest version of the "26 books with Bringing up Burns" reading challenge... one of this year's prompts was "a book you listen to". So I tried it again.  I couldn't get a paper copy for last month's book club choice, so I borrowed the audiobook from the library, and tried listening again.  I found it went well if I was listening while doing another task, like washing the dishes or folding laundry, and I was able to do lesson planning but not marking with a story running through my headphones.  It was slow going until I found I could make it go faster - 1.25 speed sounds a little more robotic, but it sure cuts on listening time.  I actually finished listening to that book as I drove to the book club meeting - …
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Scratch that!

I attended a lunch & learn session today on Scratch.  I am definitely going to need to play around with it some more before I'm really comfortable with it, but wow, what a tool! You can see my first project below.



Scratch is surprisingly simple to use, once you get going.  My previous coding experience has all been text-based:  HTML, Fortran (can you say, "do loop"?) and Basic.  Yup, I'm that old. In Scratch, each command has a block, and you string them together in stacks, just like Lego.

My ultimate goal with this is how I can use it with students.  Lots of ideas for math, and even grade 9 and 10 science... but I'm teaching grade 12 IB biology right now.  Hoping for an inspiration on what they can do with it, and whether it's better to wait until September when they're not so focussed on the May exam session.


Has it been 10 days yet?

Yup.  I just counted from my first post, and it was on January 16, making today day 10.

I missed a couple of days - both times I had begun writing, but didn't finish or didn't publish the draft - but I also double posted a couple of times, to try and catch up. Still, this is post number 8, on day 10.

Not bad for a rookie, right?

We started exams today, and since my first class doesn't write until Friday, I'm trying to be productive and mark their major lab reports before I have to start marking their exam papers.  It's going slowly... #BellLetsTalk day is in full swing, making my phone buzz and my computer bong with alerts as people tweet and re-tweet. Yes, I am easily distracted when faced with a task I don't always enjoy.  I also wrote a reference letter for a former student who is applying to the SickKids Summer Research Program, and its deadline is before my mark-entry deadline, so I justified writing it before grading papers, too.

Just imagine if I was &qu…

Planning ahead and Prezi

I discovered Prezi about six years ago at a PD-instead-of-a-staff meeting session. One of my colleagues shared resources to use with PowerPoint, and another introduced us to Prezi. I'd never seen it - I don't do a lot of in-class presentations (by students) so it was a cool new tool for me at the time when it didn't give me vertigo.

I still use it sometimes... I have Prezis that I like (and some that I don't). I prefer Prezi for teaching single topic or concept - anything that would take multiple days in class, I veer towards Google Slides more often than not. Here's one I use for introducing IB diploma programme courses to our grade 10 students:



There are a lot more built-in templates than there were when I first used it, and I recently received an email from the developers with a "school planning calendar for 2017".

It looked good for highlighting key dates in a month, so I thought I'd give it a try.  The only thing is... everything we do at school …

The good on Twitter...

There is a lot of negativity on Twitter and other social media platforms right now, thanks to the change of power in the US, and controversial appointments to high-level government positions.  This will not be a political rant... I am choosing to focus, instead, on the good things I've seen on Twitter today.
Very useful, interesting site to promote problem solving, communication & critical thinking. #mathedhttps://t.co/YeN866cTzy@Jstevens009pic.twitter.com/uvHBIA6eq8 — Jim Cash (@cashjim) January 23, 2017 This tweet from @cashjim led me to wouldyourathermath.com, and though I haven't taught mathematics in years, as a science teacher, mathematics still crops up in some topics so I thought I'd explore.

In particular, I like this one on statistics and thought before I used it with students, maybe I should review (or actually learn for the first time) what a boxplot is.  I did a statistics course in my third year at university, but what I remember most from that class is s…

Is a test always best?

So, apparently, I have a habit of starting a post and not finishing it... I began this one yesterday. I really struggle with using other forms of assessment - presentations, projects, conversations - with a group of students whose final grade is determined A) primarily from an exam and B) by someone other than myself.  
From yesterday... As I sit here finishing up a set of unit tests written by my grade 12 students, I have to wonder, is this the best way for them to tell me what they know?  Is this the best way for them to prepare to write a standard, international examination? The answer to the first question, for many students, is a resounding, "NO!"  While they may understand the content, and be able to make connections between different concepts, when faced with test questions that ask them to explain what they understand or make those connections, they often fall short. However, when I consider that 80% of their mark comes from an examination that is written and assess…

Looking ahead or playing catch-up?

I started this two days ago... then didn't finish because I was preparing for a meeting Friday, and then at the meeting Friday... But that's not an excuse.  It's just a symptom that I am not yet in the habit of posting... and I'm not always sure what to write about.

Because our school year is divided into semesters, we have the opportunity to start fresh in February.  As an IB school, however, some of our teachers have full-year, two-credit courses that run from September until the May examination period. As the DP coordinator at an IB school, I teach one of these classes, plus an extra class in semester one.  The rest of my timetable is dedicated to the administration of the IB diploma program... a daunting task that some schools grant full time (i.e. no teaching periods) release for, while others may not have time release at all. With exams starting next week, I will soon say goodbye to my grade 11 students (though I will likely have them for grade 12 next year) and…