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Showing posts from 2017

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 - …

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…

I missed yesterday...

...but I'm not going to get discouraged.

Yesterday, we used the spirometer in class - the one I learned how to use on Monday - and we got decent results.  First, we'd examined respiratory rates (resting, after jumping jacks for a minute, and after a calming breathing exercise) for the whole class.  That in itself was an interesting activity, with 17-year-olds getting very giggly when they were supposed to be following a simple, alternate-nostril breathing exercise.  They also got distracted and asked if I could start a yoga club... but that's typical.  Tangents are the natural order in my classes.

For sanitary reasons, we use disposable mouthpieces for the spirometer, so instead of having everyone use it, we usually take a few volunteers, as they are in limited supply.  Rule number one:  don't inhale!  (It's full of water.)  Rule number two:  listen to Ms De Jong!  One of the measurements is actually a two-step process so we can subtract values... and it requires …

No buses... so now what?

For the second time in as many weeks (both Tuesdays, I might add...) we've had buses cancelled due to inclement weather.  Sometimes, these days can be a blessing, as when a number of students are bussed in, we have few in the building and it may be an opportunity to catch up on paperwork, the dreaded grading that we all try to minimize and still manage to collect too much of... but this close to January exams, I'd rather be able to work with my students and help them study and review the semester's content.

I had 4 students in my grade 11 class, and we took up the answers to the genetics problems test they wrote last week.  One student in grade 12?  He's taking samples from the lab we set up yesterday (using dialysis tubing to model the small intestine) so the next class can use the equipment tomorrow.

What about me?  Did I make good use of my time?  I copied my grade 11 exam and delivered it to the main office for safe-keeping until my students write it next week.  I…

A post a day for 10 days?

I saw this post from Tina Zita (@tina_zita) on my Twitter feed this morning, and thought... 'it's almost exam time, can I do this?'

If I start small, maybe.

So... what did I learn today?  I finally learned how to use the spirometer.  I've been at this school for longer than my grade 12's have been alive (kids born the year I started at this school are in their first year of university now), and I've never used the thing. Seriously, I could have searched Youtube for an instructional video - oh look, I found one!

But in the past, I've used other techniques to measure lung volumes, mostly involving balloons and mathematical approximations of volume.  Maybe tomorrow I can post about how well it worked for my students...



Is this rich enough for you?

As a staff, we've been talking a lot about rich tasks, success criteria, and student-centred learning lately.  For a while now I've been really trying to get away from Socratic lessons, and being the only expert in the room, and got the idea from The Innovator's Mindset to have my students create "X in 60 s" videos.  Long story short, the example in the book came from a biology teacher who returned to school after a leave and didn't want to just reuse the same overhead transparencies again.  She had her students create "Mitosis in 60 s" videos instead, and found that students understood the concepts much better because they'd had to learn it well enough to explain so concisely.

Early in the school year, I tried this with my grade 12 IB biology class, and asked them to produce a video entitled, "Natural Selection in 60 s".  The videos weren't explicitly assessed, and I loved that they didn't all produce the same video or even us…

26 books challenge, new tool

I learned how to use a new tool today - the Pixlr Online Photo Editor.  It popped up as a connected app when I tried to open an image file in Google Drive.

For a free tool, it worked well enough to suit my needs.  It occasionally frustrated me by having windows pop up in a place where I couldn't access the "ok" button to complete a task, but in the end, I accomplished what I wanted, which was to add the titles and authors of the books I'd read for the 2016 "Bringing Up Burns" reading challenge. You can check out other peoples' choices by following #26BooksWithBringingUpBurns on Instagram or Twitter.