Monday, May 30, 2011

Assessing Creativity

If you don't think you can't assess creativity, or how do you promote creativity in your classroom, here is a 4 min video to watch.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Reevaluating criticism

As I read "How To Win Friends and Influence People", I find myself guilty of many of the principles I should not be doing.  Here is one that spoke to me deeply. Don't Criticize, Condemn or Complain!

Throughout history many killers or "evil" people have been jailed and caught; from "Two Gun" Crowley to Al Capone.  What is mind-blowing is when these people were asked about their lives the majority would blame others, or even suggest they are men of great heart.

"Two Gun" Crowley, a man who killed many in cold blood, was caught after a 2 hour shootout with police and wrote "Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one - one that would do nobody any harm"

Reflecting back, when a person has criticized my own actions I would take offense and also feel as I am one “who would do nobody any harm”.  Even though I have heard it is a strength, most cannot and will not admit to their own inadequacies or mistakes.  Next time you are about to criticize someone I ask you to reflect on this passage:

Do you know someone you would like to change and regulate and improve? Good! That is fine.  I am all in favour of it, but why not begin on yourself? From a purely selfish standpoint, that is a lot more profitable than trying to improve others – yes and a lot less dangerous.  “Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbour’s roof,” said Confucius, “when your own doorstep is unclean”.

It is very easy and simple to criticize the actions of other people, but I believe it takes a stronger person to reflect on their own actions, to forgive, and be truly understanding of the shortfalls of those around them.

Another example illustrating how sometimes we focus on criticism is “Father Forgets”, which tells the story of a father who, instead of letting his son be a child, focuses on improving his actions towards adulthood.

As I go forth, I have made an oath to myself that I will keep these quotes dear to my heart and attempt to criticize, condemn or complain no more.  Instead of be judicious of others we should be looking at the world through their eyes and trying to understand their actions. 

Lastly, I ask youto read the following poem by Nixon Waterman

If I knew you and you knew me--
If both of us could clearly see,
And with an inner sight divine
The meaning of your heart and mine--
I'm sure that we would differ less
And clasp our hands in friendliness;
Our thoughts would pleasantly agree
If I knew you and you knew me.
If I knew you and you knew me,
As each one knows his own self, we
Could look each other in the face
And see therein a truer grace.
Life has so many hidden woes,
So many thorns for every rose;
The "why" of things our hearts would see,
If I knew you and you knew me.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Au Revoir to old ways of testing

Here is the finale and the solution to the Call of Duty Project.

Wanted to share what occurred in my math class when I challenged the definition of a "test".

Step 1:  Give truly open ended questions:

1)       Illustrate the knowledge of graphing a trigonometric function by using the function, and its first and second derivative.  The function, the first derivative, and the second derivative, when combined, must use at least three different trigonometric functions.

2)      Illustrate the knowledge of displacement and distance covered on a closed interval, using a trigonometric equation for distance.  The function, the first derivative, and the second derivative, when combined, must use at least two different trigonometric functions.

3)      Show a real life application of an angle changing with respect to time.  The use of a video, appropriate measurements and illustrated work must be shown. You must solve for the exact change of the angle at a certain time.
Step 2:

Allow students to use any interest to demonstrate their knowledge
Step 3:

Ensure that the students truly have demonstrated their knowledge about the outcome.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Leading with our linchpins

“The problem is that most schools don’t like great teachers. They’re organized to stamp them out, bore them, bureaucratize them, and make them average.” -- Seth Godin

Chris says,

How many educators do you know that try to change the system of education? How many educators do you know that just stick to the status quo? How are these two different types of people treated by school and district leaders?

As a principal, I want people who challenge the education system and take risks to benefit our kids. I want people that say the way we have always done things is not the best way. I want people who reflect on current structures and practices and say to themselves: is this what is best for kids? I cannot recall who stated this but if we continue to do what we have always done, we will get what we have always had. To me, that’s not good enough.

In the past year, I have spoken to a number of people who are trying to create change in their classrooms and in the schools but have been told to “toe the line” both by administrators and colleagues. These important educators have been told to follow their lizard brain and conform, comply and follow instructions. Does this sound familiar? Is this what many schools also teach our kids? Is this what we actually want in our education system?

It is EASY to do what has always been done. When you do this, you rarely get criticized and you rarely even get noticed; you please the resistance. What is difficult to do is to be the one to change the system - to challenge the current norms and to be what Seth Godin calls a “Linchpin”. A linchpin is someone who is indispensable; someone who fights the resistance and uses their creativity to live on the edge of the box. “The linchpin feels the fear, acknowledges it, then proceeds.”
We need to be teaching students to not just “do school” but to take risks, try new initiatives and become indispensable. What better way to teach students this than to model this as educators? Now I realize that we have laws that govern education but as leaders and teachers, how can we work WITH our passionate staff and students who are taking risks, challenging the ‘truths’ and norms, and changing the education system?
Godin asks the question: “Would your organization be more successful if your employees were more obedient? Or, consider for a second: would you be more successful if your employees were more artistic, motivated, connected, aware, passionate, and genuine?”.

What kind of school culture do you want? How are you providing your staff with the autonomy to fight their lizard brain and challenge the status quo? Do you silence or encourage the voices of change?

How do you lead with your Linchpins?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Vectors In Math class

Engaging Lessons on Vectors:

1)  I have created a glog with an embedded YouTube clip illustrating the power of cross winds on planes.  We then discussed the solutions of the two problems, also embedded in the glog.

2)  Next, we talked about heading and bearings with GeoCaching.  I created a scavenger hunt around my school, using the actual blueprints of the school.  The assignment is below.  Each group received a different set of instructions.

 “Find the Apple”.
Get Notre Dame Map draw in the following (Start on the outside left door)
a.       [030o] for 7 cm.
b.       S10oE for 5 cm.
c.       [210o] for 15 cm.
d.      E5oS 10. 5 cm.
e.       Take the stairs up.
f.       [330o] for 10 cm.
g.      N60oE for 9 cm.
h.      [220o] for 20 cm.
i.        E40oN for 4 cm.
j.        Take the stairs down.
k.      [020o] for 8 cm.
l.        [025o] for 8.5 cm.
m.    Go find the apple with a number 1 on it.

3) My students researched and worked on a real life application of vectors, by measuring the distance across the lake of their choosing.  The project is below.

Math 30 Applied Vector Project
Objective – Students will use vectors to determine the length of an object which can be measured directly.
1.      Using find a lake for which you will measure the distance across.

2.      Take a screen shot of the lake and enough surrounding area to create two connecting vectors to the opposite side of the lake.

3.      Open Paint and paste the screenshot.  Print off the picture as well as save it to your H: Drive.

4.      On the paper copy, draw two vectors for which the resultant vector will be a vector across the lake.

5.      Determine the magnitude and direction of the resultant vector.  You may not take any measurements across water.  In practicality, your survey equipment would be in one central location, therefore, you may only measure the angles where the two vectors begin; all other angles must be calculated mathematically.

6.      Create a scenario to represent the resultant vector.

7.      Using Prezi, PowerPoint, or any other multimedia tool, illustrate your work.  Show your screenshot, your vectors used, and all work associated.
Here is an example of a student’s work.  **Super cool part… I had students completing short stories in math class on step 6!!!**

Friday, May 20, 2011

Twitter for Math Nerds

I took a video from Josh Sundquist, and edited out some information.  This should allow math teachers to use it in their classrooms as they see fit.  FEEL FREE TO TAKE AND USE!

Here is the video:

Here are some questions you can use:

Twitter for Math Nerds:
1.      Determine the amount of whale fails in one year.

2.      Determine:
a.       The amount of followers Lady GaGa will have in 5 years.

b.      Which year the entire world will be following Lady GAGA.

3.      As of May 19th, 2011, here is a list of certain people and the number of followers

Lady Gaga
Johnny Depp
Justin Bieber

Determine the mean and standard deviation of people following the celebrities.

4.      Determine:
a.       The standard deviation of the normal curve in the video

b.      Determine the z-score of a tweet reply which is “creepy”.

c.       Determine the probability of a person replying longer than 19 hours.

d.      Mr. Martin, on average, sends out 300 tweets a month.  Determine the number of tweets he would receive a reply to in under 6 hours.

e.       Determine the 95% confidence interval for the twitter curve.

Also, here is a link to the real video

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Glogging in Math Class

The results are in and my students absolutely LOVED my new idea around testing.  I have received amazing videos, and my students worked much harder on these three questions, than I have witnessed students work on 30 multiple choice questions.
To further illustrate, beyond the Call of Duty video, below are two other students’ work, and how they chose to demonstrate their learning of derivatives involving trigonometry.  First, here was the “test” question:
Show a real life application of an angle changing with respect to time.  The use of a video, appropriate measurements and illustrated work must be shown. You must solve for the exact change of the angle at a certain time.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Creating not Telling

Many people have shown interest in the "non-traditional" math instruction, here is how I changed how I introduce a concept.
In the past, I taught math by:

1) Put the steps on the board, for which the students will need to know to solve a problem

2) Complete questions of increasing difficulty.

3) Complete a word problem.

4) assign the odds on page XX; next year it would be the evens (my attempt at differentiated assessment)

I found it very strange that I would actually give steps before I have shown the students WHY they would require the steps, or even given them a chance to CREATE the steps themselves.

Here is how I have changed.

These are the steps I took to teach "How to graph a function from an equation"
1) To start, my class and I had a discussion about the importance of seeing a graph of a function. 

2)  While my students sat in groups of 4, I gave them the following question, “If I gave you a function, what would you need to graph the function?”

3)  I gave them 5 minutes to brainstorm all the information needed.

4) We then compiled all the information on the board, and determined whether we would use the function, the 1st derivative, or the 2nd derivative for each information.

5) In each group, students then graphed functions that we created as a class.

6) Finally, in groups of 2, each student had to illustrate they understood the steps required to graph a function.

Here is an example of one of the “illustrations”.

I truly believe my students can call this learning their own, as they were the ones who CREATED the learning in their mind, as opposed to sitting there and being TOLD what to do.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

2 movies about math

Here are two YouTube movies which, through edititng, could become an engaging math problem.

If you would like to use either and can't edit them to fit your needs, please let me know and I can edit or "beep" out certain parts of the movie.

If you do use them, please let me know how so I can share with others.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Emailing and sharing

Here is another example of the power of sharing through a blog, twitter, or any technological device.

I have spoken before about why I blog and tweet, however this weekend something very cool happened to me. 

I received the following email, in response to my Calculus and the Justice System.

Good morning David,

This is very informational to me. We experienced the same thing when we went to Miami for vacation this spring (April 26). from Florida turnpike, merging to 95 north. We were clocked 83mph on a 65mph zone about 30 seconds from the merging point. Our GPS and car's speed when the police sirened was about 69mph. I did NOT feel we went over 80mph. Is it possible to have 83mph from the point we merged (speed about 35 mph) to the point we were sirened by the officer - speed about 69mph; distance between merge point to sirened point is 1/4 mi and time is about 30 seconds?

I was driving a Chevy Tahoe, 2006; 2 wheel drive; it probably went max of 3RPM; I am not sure the max acceleration rate, maybe we went 73 mph in 1 or 2 seconds.
 Your opinion/ mathematical reasoning is highly appreciated. 

This problem will now become my new introduction to integration in my class. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Solution to speeding.

I have been asked about the math behind the Justice Question:

The data I use is off a website somewhere.

The Celica accelerates at 8 mi/h/s which is 28 800 mi/h/h ( a = 28 800)

Therefore to go to 62 mph would take 7.75 seconds. (using integration then converting time from hours into minutes) (v = 28 800t) and to go to 45 mph it would have taken 5.6 seconds.

D = 14 400 t ^2 The distance covered in 7.75 seconds is 0.066 miles or  352 feet to get to 62 mph from 0, and 184 feet to get to 45 mph from 0.  168 feet to go from 45 mph to 62 mph.

This shows it is POSSIBLE for the car to accelerate to 62 mph in the 400 feet stated in the article, IF the driver accelerated at the cars maximum acceleration, and there were no vehicles in front of it impeding its speed.

The car had traveled 1980 feet in 30 seconds.  The average velocity is 45 mph.  For an average to be 45, and he was stopped at one point then he would have had to be traveling OVER 45 mph at some point.

For the average speed to be 45 mph, the area below 45 must be equal to the area above 45  on a V-T graph.

Assuming acceleration and decceleration are equal, to accelerate from 0 - 62 then back down to 45, would have taken a total of 520 feet with 152 ft MORE above the graph, and 9.9 seconds.  Thefore he must have slowed down below 45 mph.  He could have drove down as far as 10 mph  and back up. 

This shows it is quite possible he was speeding.

In my class, due to the math of each side I made the ruling of NOT GUILTY.  I made the ruling based on the arugements of my students not the actualy math.

Some students made calculation mistakes, for which the other side criticized. 

Call of Duty and Calculus

Recently, I have decided to challenge the definition of the word "test" in my calculus class. 


I would hand out 10-20 MC questions, 2-5 NR questions, followed by a long answer.

This year:

I gave my students the following three questions:

1)       Illustrate the knowledge of graphing a trigonometric function by using the function, and its first and second derivative.  The function, the first derivative, and the second derivative, when combined, must use at least three different trigonometric functions.

2)      Illustrate the knowledge of displacement and distance covered on a closed interval, using a trigonometric equation for distance.  The function, the first derivative, and the second derivative, when combined, must use at least two different trigonometric functions.

3)      Show a real life application of an angle changing with respect to time.  The use of a video, appropriate measurements and illustrated work must be shown. You must solve for the exact change of the angle at a certain time.
I gave my students time to work on the "test" in class, as well to hand it in as many times as needed to achieve 100%.

Students were allowed to create a rough draft, and keep handing it in until their question reached a level of perfection.

When students handed in their work, I never once wrote a mark on it, but only supplied each student with comments. 

Here is one of the videos I received from my students:

In the video, it is depicting a character in the game shooting a ballistics knife, and then running to it and picking it up.  The student calculated the rate of change of the angle with the knife and the ground, from the perspective of the point in which the knife hits the ground.

The work which was done:

The students researched the speed of the knife.

The students used integration techniques (which I have not even taught yet), since the knife is not falling at a constant speed.

The students counted the number of steps the marine ran to pick up the knife.

The students researched the average length of a running step and height of a marine.

More videos are coming in and I plan to upload them all.

It is amazing what was accomplished when I removed my assumptions of what a “test” must be.

A comment from a student who created the video, when I informed him of how I was using it on my blog to inspire other teachers:

"Lol Thanks! I'm glad they liked it! Hopefully it can help you inspire more teachers to try testing students this way because I feel I learned way more than I would have from traditional testing!"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

RSA Video made in a school

I have the honour and privilege of having Adam Robb @adamRobb as a guest blogger on my site.  First watch this amazing video and learn more about Adam below:

I teach high school English and Social in Jasper, Alberta (it's tough, but somebody's gotta do it). I have a real passion for community planning and how the built and natural environment can influence behaviour. I also want youth to become more actively engaged with the decision-making in their communities because I see a need for real change both from a social and environmental perspective. I also know better than to depend on politicians to create this change - I guess it's left up to crazy teachers that don't sleep, but absolutely love what they do (that's me, and I'm guessing that's you too).

Anyway, within the CTS strands (Natural Resource Management and Environmental Stewardship), I designed my own "Sustainability" class this past year - expanding on a youth club I had that dealt with the same issues.

I have 24 grade 11's and 12's in my class. There is no set agenda for the class. We seek community development projects both within Jasper and in other communities to work on. My kids then work alongside planners, architects, engineers, conservation officers, School Boards (bleh), businesses and government agencies on real projects that impact and hopefully help real people. The class is done outside regular school hours and students sign up for whatever projects interest them the most. It's been a huge success, but a ridiculous amount of work on my end - getting everything and everyone organized. Anyway, 24 kids have generated around 200 credits so far this year (not that it's all about credits, but when you want to keep teaching a new course, it sure helps).

Anyway, we just returned from presenting at the Living Future unConference in Vancouver. This is North America's leading 'green' conference for everything to do with the built environment. These are the real leaders in creating better communities, buildings and even interiors. Our kids were given the chance to present during the "15 Minutes of Brilliance" segment of the conference. My kids first performed the song, "Sprawl ii" by Arcade Fire and led a surprise glow-stick flash mob within the 850 green professionals attending the conference (that clip is on the YouTube site as well). They then presented their idea of "Educational Sprawl". Their contention is that the traditional school system leads to the creation of unsustainable, sprawled communities centered around conformity and mass efficiency. What a cool idea.

The presentation was the absolute hit of the conference. Since that day, my kids have been mobbed with attention and feedback from those attending the conference and beyond. So far, they've been invited back to speak at next year's conference in Portland, Oregon, they've also been asked to speak in Edmonton and Las Vegas of all places! Keep in mind the live version was more exciting than the YouTube version that the kids posted, but I think you get the idea.

Our most interesting ongoing project seems to be dealing with the development of our new high school which we're eligible to have built. I'm pushing my way into the whole development and design process to make sure that the kids get to take part in every stage. It's a definite battle. My goal is to have students help create a learning centre that embodies 21st Century education and also our unique environmental context of being in a National Park. If any school needs to be a model for sustainable change, it should be this one - hopefully we could become a model for Alberta and Canada. This is the dream. Alberta Education and its bureaucratic capital projects is the reality. We'll fight though - I feel that we absolutely have to.

Any more questions, contact me anytime,
Adam Robb
Jasper High School
Twitter: @adamrobb

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My PD chair Platform

I, David Martin, am currently running for Local’s PD chair.  I have been asked questions about my philosophy around PD, my goals of PD, and other various questions.  Here is a simple FAQ about my ideas around PD.
1)      What is your philosophy around PD?
I believe we should be focusing on teacher learning and not about teacher professional development.   Some teachers may only associate PD days with the term professional development, and therefore actually believe PD is an event, a workshop, or a program, rather than an ongoing daily part of a job.  How then do we make deeper daily learning a reality for teachers?  Replacing the concept of professional development with professional learning is a good start; understanding that professional learning “in context” is the only learning that changes classroom instruction is a second step.  Also, recent research shows that traditional methods of presenting classroom innovations to teachers in workshops does not generally result in either changed classroom practice or improved student learning.
2)       How do you plan to implement PD in the local?
The planners of PD need to avoid the “one size fits all” approach and remember different educators have different expectations.  Mandated PD in top-down programs sometimes does not recognize the differences required by the teachers it is mandated to and thus can destroy the teachers “will to learn”.  Andy Hargreaves said, “Most teacher development initiatives, even the most innovative ones, neglect the emotion of teaching.” We need to understand that classroom practices will improve, assessment will change, and more learning will occur if we motivate instead of mandate.
3)      What does PD look like?
I believe that true professional learning could range from formal credentialed post-graduate courses to simply having a conversation with a colleague over a beverage.  Teachers, myself included, have learned many innovated educational ideas solely from “googling”.  Recently, I read: “Guest speakers with PowerPoint presentations are the norm and informal learning time is viewed with suspicion.  Administrators with board or school improvement plans to implement may insist that PD opportunities meet the latest “edu-babble” criteria;”
My response: If professional learning is truly personal then it cannot be mandated to anyone by anyone.  I will encourage that PD stays in the hands of the teachers.
Vote Dave Martin for PD chair!

Monday, May 9, 2011

How do you react to creative thinking?

I encourage you to watch the following YouTube video and reflect on your practice.
This video speaks volumes to me.  In the past, when I witnessed a student doing something out of the ordinary, I would ask the student to "get back in line".  Over the last 2 years, I have changed my outlook on creativity in the classroom.

I truly believe it is the reaction of the adults, or teachers, which can determine the outcome of the amount of creativity in a school.  As Mararu Ibuka would say "Creativity comes from looking for the unexpected and stepping outside your own experience"

Currently, I try to encourage students to "step outside the box" and try to complete math in a way that makes sense to them.  I also struggle greatly with the idea that "math can only be assessed by a traditional exam". 

If there is one quote of creativity which inspired me to change my teaching practice it is "Creativity has more to do with the elimination of the inessential than with inventing something new" - Helmut Jahn

I now ask you:

How do you react when you see something "out of the ordinary"?

How do you allow for true differentiation of an individual in your class?

Friday, May 6, 2011

What is Math and Science?

Math and science are not ONLY textbooks, worksheets, and homework.  Some might ask then, "What is Math and Science?"  Here is my response:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Math word problems

The age old question of "If Jim can mow his grass in 3 hours and .... how long does it take to mow together?"

Watch this.

As a math teacher, I am trying to find ways in which students can solve these problems, without being told how to do it.  I am true believer in discovery method, and I feel as if students discover the solution, then they will truly understand the concept.

I fear, before I started my own transformation, my students were very similar to the one depicted in the video.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Driving and deriving in math class

Here is another example of how a student can do math without the use of a textbook or a worksheet.  Many times I have, and will continue to, argue that math is not about repetition but actually deeper understanding.  Also, in math class instead of learning about or for problem solving, we should be teaching students to learn through problem solving.

Problem solving is NOT completing a word problem at the end of a class, or using an algorithm to solve a problem.  In the words of Andrew Wiles "The definition of a good mathematical problem is the mathematics it generates rather than the problem itself".  Below, I will illustrate the 6 steps of implementing a well thought out problem solving activity in a class:

Step 1:             Present an idea which students would want to solve.
Step 2:             Have students ask the question
Step 3:             Create a range of answers (students will feel safe to provide an answer)
Step 4:             Provide any other information that a student may need to solve the problem....HOWEVER....have the students ask for the information.
Step 5:             Allow for true autonomy to solve the problem.
Step 6:             When students finish, or THINK they are finished, extend the thinking by giving a question that is not more of the same work, but entirely different solving.

Recently, in my calculus class, I showed the following video and gave a laptop to each student, with the video uploaded on it, to analyze it.  Here is my lesson plan.
1)  Watch the video.
2)  I then asked the class, “Any questions about what we just watched?”  (REMEMBER: We should get the students to ask the questions; there will then be no extrinsic rewards but only true intrinsic motivation to solve the problem.)

One student asked “How fast is the other car going?”
For which I responded, “Good question

I then asked for the lowest possible speed of the car, and we determined that to be 109 km/h, while the upper bound for the speed would be 180 km/h.

As students worked they started to ask me for the length of my vehicle. Answering honestly, I informed them that I did not know this.  They then followed my response with a question about the year and make of the vehicle I was driving, which was a 2011 GMC Terrain.

Students started to pull the actual length from the GMC website.

After several conversions, and 8 minutes of work, I took a picture of a student’s work and showed it on my projector.  We then discussed alternate ideas, and where did this student have to estimate and where was he/she exact in calculations.

3) I then asked, “Is there anything else we could solve?”  Again, another student asked, “What is the change of the distance between each driver as the car drives by?” 

**Since I could not take an aerial photo of the situation, I did provide the students with a distance of 12 feet horizontally between the drivers**

Again, I asked the class to solve the problem.  Within minutes, they realized they would need a specific time, and answered with “Solve for the instantaneous change of distance of the drivers after 3 seconds.”

After some solving, I took another picture and discussed the results with the class.

4) I asked the class if there still anything else we could solve.  One student asked about the change in the angle of the arm that swung the camera.  I responded with "Let's figure out the exact change in the angle at the time above".

This task took a little longer for some, while minutes for others.  Those who did finish, or thought they finished early, I asked to calculate again but use a different method.  By using a different method, they are applying a different strategy and also checking their answer at the same time. 

We then did discuss various methods in the class. 

Overall, I believe this lesson was a great success!!

Here are some pointers I have realized about true problem solving. 

Tell the students they are correct or incorrect, ask if there is a way they could prove their answer another way.

Tell the students HOW to complete the problem, but instead ask them guiding questions.

Tell the students which way to solve the problem, but let them chose a method.

Scaffold for struggling students.

Answer questions, even if the answer is irrelevant to the problem.