Day 1 2016 – Staff Development Day

Well one of my new years resolutions was to be far more active on social media – including this blog, which has been suffering over the last couple of years.  In fact I have found that since I moved to Killara High School, my blogging and tweeting was the first thing to be left behind –  ironic as they were the best source of self reflection and innovative practice.

After the usual congratulating one another on an outstanding year of academic results we spent the first few hours working on what it means for students to be successful learners – directly linked to our school plan. As a faculty we have been discussing how we can encourage our students to be more independent learners. Late last year while working on the PDP goals for 2016 and reflecting on the process that new scheme teachers have to do in providing evidence we threw around the idea that perhaps students can be given the outcomes (kid friendly) that they need to demonstrate and provide their own evidence that demonstrates their understanding – this can be anything they believe demonstrates their understanding.  Our goal is to trial this approach with Year 7 in 2016.  Today’s session gave me the idea that perhaps students could use their work and give self reported grades , or +, – and = to record whether their work was better,worse or equal to their previous attempts.

A couple of other key things stuck with me:

  1. A quote from Simon Breakspear “Education is richly social but intensely personal”
  2. I don’t give enough time in class to go over feedback, and often the feedback given is not personal to a student but more generic
  3. Detective marking – give the students a mark and they then have to determine why they got that particular mark…
  4. Metacognition is like programming the Google self driving car – see TED video below
  5. Title pages as a concept map, on the title page for each topic, students are asked to write down what they have learnt at the end of each lesson and at the end of the unit they have a summary of what they need to study. Alternatively, the teacher could provide students with a summary of the concepts and skills the students are expected to have learnt by the end of the unit. Students can then tick off as they go.
  6. “What did you learn in mathematics today? Provide an example to demonstrate your learning?” as homework


To LMS or not?

An interesting discussion on Twitter for #ohedchat today about blended learning which not surprisingly turned to the necessity of an LMS for effective teaching in a blended classroom. But first what is blended learning? Wikipedia defines it as:

Blended learning is education that combines face-to-face classroom methods with computer-mediated activities.[1] According to its proponents, the strategy creates a more integrated approach for both instructors and students.

The terms “blended,” “hybrid,” “technology-mediated instruction,” “web-enhanced instruction,” and “mixed-mode instruction” are often used interchangeably in current research literature.[2] However, recent researchers in the United States tend to use the term “blended learning” with more regularity.

To me it is the use of digital technology to enhance and extend classroom learning experiences.

So is an LMS essential? Well it depends….

My first teaching job was at Trinity Grammar School Kew – the first school in Australia to have a school wide wireless network to support a laptop program. In the same year I started they also employed a teacher to look at a means of providing access electronically via the web to resources. He designed his own LMS (called school tool from memory) and I spent lots of time trying to break it. Anyway after a couple of years out of teaching I went back into a school that used Moodle – once again I always pushed the boundaries (often getting frustrated and the limitations!) using Moodle extensively.

The change of schools (and systems!/ states) to Coffs Harbour High school also coincided with the start of the Digital Education Revolution – so of course I set up a school Moodle ( ) that is still up and running today. the reception to this was to say the least varied! But now four years on I myself only use Moodle for some things (e.g online administration of diagnostic tests at the commencement of the year and for subject selection for senior years) preferring to use a blended (pun intended!) mix of tools to assist with the digital support of students learning. This includes blogs, Edmodo, Adobe Connect, Facebook, OneNote, DropBox,Mathletics, Mangahigh….

Of these I have found FaceBook to be the most successful (for senior students) mostly because it is an online ecosystem which my students already inhabit. Ever since I started teaching my mantra with regards technology has always been “see what the kids are using in their own time and try to find an educational use for it”. If I post a message on Facebook (in our class group) at 5:30 am (I am a morning person!) 90% of my class will have read it before school – why because the first thing they do when they wake up is check Facebook! But this approach is not for everyone –  it is to unpredictable and ever changing.

Whenever a new way of digital delivery is suggested many teachers want to: be trained;  know exactly what it should be used for; know how it will be managed etc. Now this is all fine but my question is how will you ever keep up with the continual changes if you expect a training course in everything! Consequently many just don’t do anything! An LMS offers a nice safe place for these types of teachers and will perhaps expose them to alternative options down the track.

The biggest problem I have  with any LMS is that it is a walled garden (this includes things like Yammer too!) but once again this is what makes them attractive to some people and institutions.

I guess there is no “One-size fits all approach” some will want to use an LMS and others not – but at what point does an institution no longer provide an LMS for those who want to use it and are not confident elsewhere?  Will removal of something perhaps destroy the confidence of a teacher who has either just taken or is about to take steps to use online tools in the classroom? How can our professional learning as educators be more about taking risks and experimenting with new tools? And WHO IS GOING TO TAKE OVER ADMIN OF OUR SCHOOL MOODLE? :0 Any volunteers?

Staff Development Day Term 3 2012 – The National Curriculum, Feedback, Deeper Thinking & Rich Tasks

National Curriculum and Feedback

This presentation gives an update on the national Curriculum, discusses the importance of feedback as part of the teaching and learning cycle (including a practical example applying feedback to student work).

The content on Feedback was taken from a CLiC presentation – originally by the Curriculum Corporation

Other stuff is below:

Some Deep Thinking

I am using TED-Ed a fantastic initiative from the creators of TED.

They allow a very easy FLIP teaching model for using video to stimulate deep thinking. (Well easy when YouTube is ever unblocked!)

The example we worked through is presented here Kevin Slavin: How algorithms are shaping our world (Join in! – You will need to create an account on TED-Ed)

Some student examples

Bonus Rich Tasks

I have included some rich tasks I have either created (or modified! – thanks to those who came up with the idea initially!) and used in the classroom. Some suggestions about links to the syllabus are provided. The size of the file is next to the link (for the big files!).

NS 4.1  -Operations with Whole Numbers, PAS4.2 Number Patterns

An investigation of the patterns in Pascal’s Triangle including application to real life situation. Extension looks at further patterns.

Pascal’s Triangle Investigation
Pascal’s Triangle  Extension

Pascal’s Triangle Extension Solution
Pascal’s Triangle Template 
 (For those who wish to do the Pascal’s Triangle activity electronically)

DS 4.1 Data Representation, DS4.2 Data Analysis and Evaluation

In this Smarties Project students take a sample from one box and compare it to the whole class’s samples. They then conduct a survey to determine which colours are preferred and make recommendations about how the composition of a box of smarties should be changed to improve sales. As an extension students could design an advertising campaign for the new and improved smarties boxes!

Smarties Project

MS5.1.2 Trigonometry

This is an entire unit that introduces students to trigonometry through investigations using Geogebra. Included are screencasts that explain how to conduct the investigations and how to apply the concepts. I have used it as a Moodle Course  but all the files imbedded in that course are below.

Trigonometry Unit  (Big File 118MB)

Non Linear Functions (PAS 5.2.4, PAS 5.2.5, PAS 5.3.4) – really designed for National Curriculum

This is a unit of work that investigates non-linear functions created for the Curriculum Collaborations Project. It specifically addresses ” Linear Relationships and Non-Linear relationships pages 240-242; Outcomes 5.1.3 and 5.1.6″ – note the page numbers may be incorrect in the second draft of the syllabus.

The unit consisted of 6 activities commencing with some investigative work adapted from “A graphing matter” – Mark Illingworth, into which we explicitly instructed students in Mathematical report writing skills.  Students were also explicitly introduced to 2 visible thinking routines (Project Zero) to promote more explicit discussion about the thinking being undertaken. Specific Geogebra skills were then included in the unit with clear links to investigating the properties of non-linear functions. Final assessment was through an extended task that incorporated the use of skill and content knowledge obtained over the course of the unit.

Non Linear Graphs Unit (13.3 MB)

Angles (SGS 4.2)

An investigation that looks at maximum possible angle for a milk carton to lean before it falls over. This activity has links to fractions, decimals and percentages as well as cross curricula links to science

Leaning of Life

Fractions (part of NS4.3  -but only really an introduction)

Egyptian Fractions

Maths Extension 2 Using Technology Day

Conics Files

All ConicsGeogebra FileHTML Applet

EllipseGeogebra File HTML Applet

CircleGeogebra FileHTML Applet

ParabolaGeogebra FileHTML Applet