NETS Revisited

What I’ve Been Reading:

This Week’s Question:

  • Whose job is it to teach the NETS standards to students and how do we ensure they are being met in an integrated model?

Next school year, my role within the school will be changing. I will continue teaching IGCSE Computer Studies to Grades 9 and 10 and math to Grade 7, but will be relieved of my elementary technology classes so that I can become a technology coach.

I’m over the moon with the decision because COETAIL has directly and indirectly introduced me to some great ideas for technology integration in the classroom and I want to share these ideas with the teachers at my school. And being a technology coach will enable me to do this.

Anyway, enough about me – on with the post.


So whose job is it to teach the NETS standards to students?

Well, next year, at my school, I’m pretty sure this responsibility will fall onto myself and the teachers I coach.

Do I think this approach should be adopted by other schools?

Well, I don’t know. I’ll be able to give you an answer to that next year. But, in theory, I like this approach. Because anyone that expects a teacher to go out there and get familiar with a bunch of different technologies and then get familiar with the NETS standards, in addition to teaching their regular load, in my opinion, is expecting too much. (COETAILers, I’m not talking about you. You guys are special.)

The technology coach helps bridge the gap between teachers, their classrooms, and, ultimately, the NETS standards.

Image Credits:


This Week’s Question:

  • Reflect on your own use of laptops in the classroom.

Next academic year, we’re going 1:1 with iPads in Grades 6 and 7 at my school. And, it just so happens that I’m the Grade 7 Math teacher. Below, I’m going to discuss how I plan to integrate student use of iPads into my lessons.

I want to add here that most math apps I’ve seen are just animated textbooks: You’re given a question. If you get it right then a nice little animation plays. If you get it wrong then you keep trying until you get it right.

I want to avoid apps like this.

I want students creating.

Apps like this, however, might come in handy as a supporting tool before and during the creating. I mean, how can I expect a student to create a video of a math concept if they don’t really understand the concept to begin with?

But, no. I don’t want iPad usage being limited to these animated textbook apps only.

My Bokeh

Bearings and Scales with Google Maps
I touched on learning about bearings through Google Maps in my course/project reflection. The idea is really quite simple. Students create a new map in Google Maps. They then choose two locations and drop a placemark on top of each location. The two locations are then connected by a line. We now have a “visual”.

Next, I would get the students thinking about how to describe the location of Placemark 2 from Placemark 1.

After coming to the realisation that NSEW won’t be sufficient, I would then introduce the students to bearings.

Algebra with ShowMe
ShowMe is a nice little app for, well, showing people stuff. Rather than trying to explain it, I’ll just provide the link to ShowMe’s website.

The idea here is to get students making their own Khan Academy.

They make a short video of a concept they’ve learnt recently, using ShowMe, and then embed this video on their personal blog for math.

As always, questions and comments are more than welcome.

Image Credits:

  • My Bokeh by Jsome1. Found on Flickr. Creative Commons Licensed.

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

Fantasy Footy in the Classroom

What I’ve Been Reading:

This Week’s Question:

  • Write a blog post reflecting on your understanding of reverse instruction, game-based learning, or play and how how it applies to your curricular area, grade level, and own theory on technology in the classroom.

When I first thought of the idea, it made me have a little chuckle. Fantasy football in the classroom? You’ve got to be dreaming, Jamie. Indeed, I thought the idea was that chuckle-worthy that I slipped it into a few of the conversations I’ve had of recent with fellow COETAILers and teachers from my school.

But, in all seriousness, is there a place for fantasy football (or fantasy footy as we Australians like to call it) in the classroom? In particular, the math classroom?

Red Football - The 365 Toy Project

Let’s take a look at some of the knowledge/skills that one reenforces by being a member of the fantasy football community. (This is by no means an exhaustive list.)

Interpreting Statistics
I wouldn’t say statistics are at the centre of fantasy football, because the real game is. Statistics are that layer that wraps around the centre. That doesn’t sound right. What I’m trying to say is, statistics are central to fantasy football. They are what drive it. To master fantasy football, you need to first master the statistics. Point averages, point projections, break evens, estimated price fluctuations, trades remaining, cash in bank, you name it.

Weighing Up Options
Understanding what these statistics mean is the easy part. Things get tough when one of your players gets sidelined for six weeks with an injury forcing you to trade him out and bring in someone new. Do you upgrade? That is, do you use some of the cash you have safely stored away to upgrade to an even better player? Or do you downgrade to a lesser player and in the process generate a little bit of cash?

Was that the right move or wasn’t it? Should have I used two trades or just one? (You’re only given 24 trades to burn over the 19 week competition.) Should have I gone with that player or not? Should have I upgraded or downgraded? These and many more are the questions each fantasy football coach asks themselves in the days succeeding a weekend of footy.

So, fantasy football in the classroom. What do you think?

Image Credits:

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?

What Ever Happened?

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Dr Seymour Papert by the staff at Edutopia. I figured I wouldn’t forget it if I pasted it on my blog.

If you know the history, this is the way that mathematics happened: It started not as this beautiful, pure product of the abstract mind. It started as a way of thinking about controlling the waters of the Nile, building the Pyramids, sailing a ship. It started as mathematical thinking, just edging into real activities, what was really being used. And then, gradually, it got richer and richer and finally the jewel of the human mind — I’m a mathematician, I really think that it is the jewel of the human mind — gets broken off as pure mathematics.

In school, we reverse that process. We start off teaching pure math. Nothing is more pure in abstract mathematics than the stuff we teach in elementary schools. And it has to be if you’re going to have such a thing as the “mathematics classroom.” Because as soon as you have this other thing, it doesn’t fit into a “mathematics classroom” or “mathematics lesson.” I think we have to reverse this order of things — that the order in which we teach mathematics and science today starts with the most abstract, the most static, and you learn to do manipulation of numbers, then you learn to do algebra, then you learn to do calculus, and at last you can apply it to something real.

I want to turn that around. We’re going to start with applying it to something very real. So, I look for activities like — here again, I’ll use this example again — it’s just one of many, though: Building these robotic devices but putting mathematical principles into the way you build them. So that you’re doing physics and mathematics and engineering and project design all in one go, but your content is not what is usually considered to be age-appropriate in that way.


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: