Course Reflection

Final Project
Next academic year, I’m intending to do a number of flipped classroom lessons and Dan Meyer-esque lessons with my two grade 7 math classes. Considering flipped classroom lessons require videos and Dan Meyer-esque lessons require “visuals” (as he calls it), I decided to make a blog, for my final project, that would house all this media… and add to it a couple of posts.

Before I forget, here is the link to the grade 7 math blog. Please note that most of the posts on the blog are works in progress.

Dan Meyer-esque Lessons

Dan Meyer brilliantly observed that math textbooks, or rather the chapters in math textbooks, are laid out in the wrong order. The order is this:

  1. Structure
  2. Visual
  3. Question

He thought the order should be more like this:

  1. Visual
  2. Question
  3. Structure

So what I’ve done is created a number of posts which deal with the 1 and 2 of Dan’s order. It is my intention to introduce the structure when, and only when, the students understand what it is the visual is communicating and what it is the question is asking.

One Step Further
I’m thinking of taking Dan’s order one step further and letting students create their own visuals… and even their own questions.

If you go to the blog and, in particular, take a look at the posts dealing with bearings, you’ll see a couple of maps I’ve created followed by a question. Why not let the students do this?

The Adjusted Order

  1. Visual (by student)
  2. Question (by student)
  3. Structure

Games Programming… in Grade 3!

What I’ve Been Reading/Watching:

This Week’s Question:

  • Write a blog post reflecting on your understanding of connectivism, MOOCs, global collaboration and/or badges and how how it applies to your curricular area, grade level, and own theory on technology in the classroom.

First, I don’t think I’m going to discuss how connectivism can be applied to my curricular area as I have already done so in the post, Googlepress. Instead, I’m going to discuss the games development platform, Gamestar Mechanic.

Two to three weeks ago, I started my two grade 3 technology classes on a new project – the objective of the project being to create a real computer game.

You’re probably thinking that this sounds like a lot of work and that maybe I’m aiming a little high for a grade 3 technology class and I would totally agree with you, had I not been introduced to Gamestar Mechanic.

Over the first couple of lessons, the students worked their way through the Quest.

The Quest is, well, just that, a quest (a game) in which students learn the fundamentals of games development. They learn about two common types of games: top-downers and platformers. They learn about sprites (good guys, bad guys, blocks, coins). They learn about important game elements like timers and player life.

Along the Quest, students accumulate badges which, in turn, unlock items that they can later use when making their own games.

All of my grade 3s have just about finished the Quest and are now creating their own games.

Gamestar Mechanic is more than engaging, it’s addictive. I’ve had numerous students working on their games outside of class. I’ve had one student upgrade to the premium account. I’ve also had one student develop a 20 level game – well beyond my expectations for the project.

Gamestar Mechanic is a fantastic way to introduce students, in particular, elementary students, to games programming.

EDIT: Here’s a link to a game made by David in Grade 3.

Image Credits:

  • Payneful by me

PBL and CBL – What’s the Difference?

What I’ve Been Reading:

This Week’s Question:

  • Write a blog post reflecting on your understanding of project and challenge based learning and how how it applies to your curricular area, grade level, and own theory on technology in the classroom.

Below, is my attempt at identifying both the common and distinguishing features of project-based learning and challenge-based learning.

In the mutual (overlapping) part of the diagram, I tried to avoid including obvious features. For example, problem solving was left out as I think most people know that problem solving is a component of project-based and challenge-based learning.

The purpose of this diagram is more to identify the distinguishing features of the two types of learning than it is to identify the common ones.

If you have any additions you’d like to make, please click on the image. Anyone can edit it.

CBL Ideas
Below are a few ideas I’ve come up with for challenge-based learning projects. I had my grade 9 and grade 10 ICT classes in mind when I was thinking about the projects. The essential question is first, followed by the big idea in brackets.

  • Do we learn from computer games? (Education)
  • How effective are computer games as an educational tool? (Education)
  • Does the Internet make us smarter? (Education)
  • Does the Internet really make us less sociable?

Teachers, Students and Tech Standards

What I’ve Been Reading:

This Week’s Question:

  • How can teachers and schools ensure that students are meeting technology standards in their school within an integrated model?

First, wow, these questions (the ones for Course 4) are tough! Really tough. They’ve definitely gone up a level.


Straight into It
Ensuring students are meeting technology standards, as you might expect, is no easy task. There are a number of pre-requisites that need to be satisfied before students can start meeting technology standards.

I want to stop here, just for a moment. I’m interpreting this question in two ways. The first interpretation goes like this: what needs to be in place to ensure students can meet technology standards? And the second interpretation goes a little like this: how can teachers and schools assess whether technology standards are being met by their students?

When I began this post, I was thinking more the first way. But now, I’m thinking more the second way. I might just try answering both questions.


One thing that I feel needs to be in place before students can start meeting technology standards (like NETS) is that teachers are meeting the standards. Is this a given? Am I just writing about the obvious? I really don’t know.

How are we as teachers expected to measure the degree to which a student has met a technology standard if we ourselves don’t fully understand the standard?

I just want to add here that I understand that there are NETS for students and NETS for teachers. What I’m trying to say is that teachers, ideally, should be meeting both.

Without really meaning to, I’ve realised my answer to the first question (the first interpretation) could also be used to answer the second question. How can teachers and schools assess whether technology standards are being met by their students? Well, having a teaching faculty that already meets those technology standards is a start.

How About Through TPACK (Ensuring Students Are Meeting Technology Standards)?
I didn’t make the connection between this week’s driving question and TPACK until just now.

Drawing up a TPACK diagram for a unit (even for a course) is one way of ensuring that units are aligned with technology standards – that units are providing students with learning experiences that enable them to meet technology standards.

I need to gain more experience with TPACK usage before I can comment on their effectiveness and thoroughness.

Image Credits:

Mathematical Concepts Through Images

What I’ve Been Reading:

I’ve been putting off this post for a long time.

I’ve never used images in my teaching before; nor have I, before, really considered using images in my teaching. So, because of this, it was tough to get started on this post.


The following animation I came across one day on Wikipedia when I was reading about pi. It demonstrates the relationship between diameter, circumference and pi………. very effectively.

This (the relationship between diameter, circumference and pi), from my experience, is something students have trouble understanding/visualising.

The current book we’re using in class doesn’t do a great job of explaining this relationship. And, to make things harder for the students, I too have a tough time explaining it.

It’s (the animation) something I’m definitely going to use next school year when I teach area of a circle again.

The next image, I’m planning to use when I teach functions again next school year.

In many ways, a function is comparable to a machine (or at least this type of machine) (and by the way, I have no idea what this machine does.) They both take an input. They both do things to this input. And, finally, they both give an output.

I might need to photoshop input and output arrows into the image. Input on the left and output on the right. I might also need to photoshop a function into the image (just above the machine) so that students better understand the analogy.

Image Credits:

Looking Back on Course 3

The Workshop with Andrew Churches and Kim Cofino
One of the big things that I left this workshop with was the project plan (and assessment rubric) that my group wrote up and the subsequent project that we implemented.

My team was made up of three science teachers, one mathematics teacher and me, an IT teacher. Two of the science teachers taught chemistry and the other taught biology. Anyway, as you might expect, our project was chemistry-related.

I just want to insert here that I’ve never studied chemistry before.

After we were all given the green light to begin our projects, one of the chemistry teachers threw out (onto the table) chemical bonding as a possible topic on top of which we could base our project. I had never heard of chemical bonding before in my life.

After a couple of laughs and a bit of discussion, it was decided: chemical bonding was to be the topic.

I’m going to stop here on this thread. But, before I do, I just want to mention that the project plan, in its current form, really isn’t of much use to me and my students, as we study technology. So, when I get the time, I think I’m going to spawn a new version of the plan. In this new version, the topic being dealt with will be computer networks; specifically, the different types of topologies (and maybe protocols.)

I’ve embedded at the bottom of this post the project plan that we came up with.

More Reflection
I’ve been introduced to a variety of social media in Course 3 that I’ve never encountered before. Digital stories and infographics are two of these. Both are powerful ideas. (To read about how I plan on integrating digital stories and inforgraphics into the classroom, please refer to my posts below.)

Course 3 also introduced me to the idea of visual literacy for the very first time. Wow. What an incredibly important ability (is that the right word?) visual literacy is.

As a result of all the visual literacy reading we had to do, I’ve changed the way I blog. I’ve changed the way I take pictures. I’ve changed the way I make presentations. I’ve also changed my mind on what I regard as a beautiful blog, what I regard as a beautiful presentation and so on.

Bring on Course 4!

Image Credits:

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (2TechKrew Remix)

What I’ve Been Reading:

We’re Going on a Jaguar Hunt
In my grade 2 technology class, we’re doing a remix of the well known children’s book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. (I didn’t think any of my classes were doing anything remixish until I sat down today and thought about each and what they’re doing… the wonders of reflection.)

The name. Where do I start.

Grade 2 have been learning about rainforests in homeroom. They have also been learning about the animals that inhabit rainforests. And the jaguar is one of these (or at least I hope the jaguar is one of these……………….. Just checked. Yes, jaguars inhabit rainforests of Central and South America.)

Stone Zoo Jaguar Pattern

What About the Book (the Real One)? What Is It About?
The real book is about a family that goes off in search of adventure (I think that’s right.) After venturing through some pretty inhospitable habitats, they encounter a giant bear in a cave that scares them, and chases them all the way home, through all those inhospitable habitats. I think that’s the way the story goes.

Anyway, in our remix of the book, a class of Saint Maur students go off on an adventure, passing through all these different habitats (including a rainforest) and then at some point, encounter a jaguar that scares them all the way back to their classroom.

Technical Stuff
We’re doing all the pages of the book in Paint. (I must say, the new version of paint that comes with Windows 7 is pretty nice. They’ve made some huge improvements to it, such as the variety of brushes on offer.)

Next, we’re uploading the pictures to VoiceThread, ordering them and then overlaying some narration.

I have two grade 2 classes and neither of them have finished the project yet (by the way, I’ve assigned one page to each student, including narration.) But, once they’re finished, I’ll be sure to link to them right here on my blog.

Image Credits:

Infographics in the Classroom

What I’ve Been Reading:

I really like this infographic. One reason is because, more so than other infographics I’ve come across, it communicates its dataset effectively. At a glance, you can clearly see the regression of Palestine over the decades.

This infographic, on the other hand, while having a nice design, fails at communicating its dataset effectively (in my opinion). To learn anything about Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, I really need to examine the infographic.

The data behind the second infographic appears to be unrelated, a random bunch of statistics, and maybe it’s harder (I’m guessing it is) to communicate all this effectively in a single infographic.

Back to the Point
In my grade seven math class, currently, we’re learning about functions, plotting functions, gradients and y-intercepts.

I was thinking, once the students have learnt about positive and negative gradients, a nice exercise might be to give them an infographic, like the one above (the one of Palestine), and have them plot the data.

The exercise could be extended by asking the students to find the equation of the resulting slope or line. (I might need to remind them before they start the exercise that their graphs need to be linear.)

I’m thinking, the complete opposite or the complete reverse could happen also: students are given a plotted function and then asked to go ahead and make an infographic that represents this data.

Second Idea
I haven’t really given this idea much thought. At least, not as much as the idea above.

A very relevant infographic exercise/project for my students (and for other international school students in Japan) would be to develop an infographic that shows Japan’s declining population.

At first, I thought the exercise/project would be best suited to geography. But now, I’m thinking it could work in math and technology too.

It could even become a cross-curricular project where, for example, students are given time in geography class to gather the data (and make sense of it) and then given time in technology class to create the graphic.

Image Credits:

Storytelling in the Modern Age

What I’ve Been Reading:

This week, I’ve been reading about digital storytelling and, I must say, the idea is very cool. In this post, I’m going to look at how I could use digital storytelling in my classroom. I’m also going to look at a few questions that popped up while doing the readings.

Crystal Phoenix

Do Digital Stories Need to Be Personal?
What I mean is, if I were to make a digital story, would it have to be about me? My Grade 4s have just finished a unit on the Aztecs. If they were to make videos about the lives of the Aztecs, would these be regarded as digital stories?

The answer to all these questions is: digital stories can be about anything.

Here, for example, is a digital story about the great mathematician, Pythagoras.

And, here, for example, is a bunch of digital stories about the lives of those involved in organ donation.

Where Could Digital Stories Be Used in My Classroom?
My grade 4 technology class are about to finish a project on the Aztecs that’s taken about six weeks to complete. (I see the class once a week.) They’ve made a bunch of awesome posters using research they did in their homerooms.

The posters are all quite different. Some students chose to base their poster on the games that the Aztecs used to play. Others chose to write about (present?) the various roles that used to exist within Aztec society.

Back to the Question
I’m thinking the next time we do this project, instead of making posters, what about making digital stories?

PowerPoint, iMovie, Movie Maker and even VoiceThread are all tools the students could use to to bring their digital story ideas to life.

One thing I like about digital stories that posters simply can’t offer is sound. And from doing COETAIL for nine months, I’ve come to realise that, in digital media today, sound is integral.

Closing Remarks
Here are some guidelines for digital storytelling that I’ll be sure to follow in the future when making digital stories with my classes:

  • Digital stories can be instructional, persuasive, historical or reflective. Digital stories can be about anything.
  • Digital storytelling is best suited to the individual.
  • Digital stories are typically between two and four minutes in length.

Image Credits:

PowerPoint Design Principles

What I’ve Been Reading:


A few months back, I gave a presentation on Moodle to the teachers in my school. In this post, I’m going to look back at that presentation and evaluate it using some of the guidelines Reynolds gives us in the two articles above.

Note to Self:
Insert link here to presentation.
Here’s a link to the presentation.
In fact, no, I’m going to embed it.
Nope, not working. Here’s a link to the presentation.

Don’t use templates.
This is one of the first tips he gives us.

But what does this mean? What exactly is a template? I did use a built-in style on this presentation – does that count as a template?

Well, after playing around with PowerPoint, I discovered that templates aren’t styles and styles aren’t templates.

It appears that templates are ready to go presentations – all you need to do is add the content and delete the slides you don’t need.

So, for the time being, my presentation’s in the clear.

Enjoying the Sunshine

Don’t make the text difficult to read.
Well, this is one guideline that I think my presentation follows pretty well.

I’m pretty sure it was back in university that I learnt about the importance of contrast in interface design – colour contrast is what I mean. And ever since then it’s been a design principle I think about when creating basically anything on the computer.

The contrast of the bright orange and white against the dark grey would have been one of the major reasons I chose this particular style.

Avoid three-dimensional charts.
My presentation doesn’t have any three-dimensional charts. In fact, it doesn’t have any pictures at all. None. Just text. I’m wondering what Reynolds’ take on this would be?

I have a feeling that good presentations, just like good blog posts, should always have a couple of images to break up the text.

But what if you can’t find any good images? Is a presentation with no images better than a presentation with poor images?

Anyway, it’s something to remember for next time.

Use declarative sentences at the top of each slide.
This is something I definitely didn’t do.

The fourth slide in the presentation has the title “Facts and Figures” (not the most creative title I know) and deals with the usage statistics of Moodle.

A more appropriate title for the slide might have been something like “49,952 schools and companies are using Moodle.”

Again, something to remember for next time.

Image Credits: