Thursday, 7 November 2013

Formative is to testing as summative is to creating

Streaming kids due to slight variances in intelligence is not a good thing. They create too much division, possibly oppressive structures of "smart" and "dumb" classes, and they are usually filled with a single type of thinking style. There needs to be less of a focus on assessment and streaming into AP classes to give students that "step ahead". Dividing and categorizing can be helpful to organize information but we are going too far. Our assessments are too flawed to be able to definitively select who should be in what class due to their intelligence. 

Even assessing our students within the classroom, there is a lot of subjectivity between a 60% and a 65%- not to mention the smaller increments in between. If our real goal is to provide our students with the best educational experiences we need to change the assessment methods that we have in our classrooms. We need to get rid of tests being our main focus of summative assessment and focus more on students creating something using the concepts that they have learned. Now, I understand that this would only increase the subjectivity of the assessment but I think that it creates better learning. The focus needs not to be on the assessment and seeing whether or not students can meet outcomes. The focus should shift to what one can do with what they have learned because, in the end, that is the real test, isn't it?

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Taking the Future Seriously

I am not sure what the context was for this student to do this or what the straw was that broke the camel's back was BUT it's important to remember that every lesson that is taught in class is literally preparing the nation of tomorrow for tomorrow. As teachers, are we going to trust BLMs and booklets to do that? Maybe some people will, and maybe rightfully so. However, I tend to place my trust in people as opposed to pulp and paper products.

I apologize for the language, however, I feel as though this is an opinion worth hearing.

provocative video.

Monday, 31 December 2012

6 Months Away From Seeing '13 Grad Hoodies

I have a great feeling about this next year!! I'm loving 2013 so far! However, I would like to take a moment to remember 2012.

This past year I was able to revisit a camp that I love very much, experience a new camp that I enjoy very much, I was given the experience of doing two sermons at my church, I celebrated a second anniversary with my girlfriend, I received a scholarship that allowed me to stay in school, finished my last ridiculously overloaded semester in my undergrad, and just had a great time with my family in the past couple weeks (just to name a few highlights).

This year I hope to just have more fun, play more sports, and to be more dedicated to what I do and who I am. I have a great feeling about this year and I hope that you all do too!

Happy holidays everyone and Happy New Year!!!!

Reflection of week: Family time is great- spending time cherishing memories with family is the most refreshing and enjoyable thing to do! Happy New Year- cherish the old and be happy in your futures!

Saturday, 22 December 2012


Well, as funny as the apocalypse jokes have been all week, I would have to say that my favourite part of the week is that everyone is now finally done the semester. I have just gotten back to my home town and am very ready to simply relax and look forward to my second semester that consists of a much lighter schedule. With this semester now in the books, I would just like to say that I really enjoyed all of my classes this past semester. Some more than others of course, but I would say that this has been my most professionally enjoyable semester in that many of my classes actually made me interested in continuing to develop upon the knowledge base that I had started. It's a good feeling to be done, yet it kind of feels like I haven't finished. Maybe it's because I only have another 3 semesters until graduation, but I would like to think that I'm starting to truly understand what it means to be a lifelong learner- to keep learning even when it isn't for marks.

I just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Joyous Kwanza etc. and share with you a simple reflection that I had thought of after my seventh, and final, overloaded university semester:

Learning happens over your entire life and takes place in many different ways. The mistake that I have made is that I have valued my formal education a great deal higher than my informal education and disrupted that balance that should exist in my life. Keep on racing towards the goal, but set a pace. For what good is the goal if you are alone in your victory?

Reflection for the week: Take time, smell the roses. Disappointments, triumphs, and even knowledge will come and go, but the love that you spread lasts forever, in the lives of the people that you touch.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Semester in Review

Just under three and a half years ago I began my university career. In the program in which I am currently enrolled, I have come into contact with some very incredible people who will be graduating in less than 4 months. As I attended a friend's recital this past week I found myself going on a long walk down memory lane where I realized how short a four year degree really is, and how much one can learn in such a little time. I then started to wonder when all of this learning happens and came up with the answer, that seems obvious, that it happens in every moment that we choose to be fully engaged in our education. This includes, but is not limited to, all of the morning classes that we chose not to skip, every lecture that we decided to listen to as opposed to go on Facebook or fall asleep during, every study session that we attended, addressing all of those mistakes that were made and taking responsibility of them in order to ensure that they wouldn't happen again, and largely in the way that we connect with other people. If we are engaged we learn.

I would like to take this time to share with you all a Prezi that I made to show what I have learned in my ICT class this past semester. 

Lesson of this course: I have learned that in all things that we do, we need to feel connected and supported in our explorations. This is so we are encouraged to continue our educational journeys past the end of the courses we take and into an ever changing, unpredictable, and bright future.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dress to the 9's with Voicethread

Alright, another week closer to the end of semester and Christmas holidays! I don't know about anyone else, but I am so stoked to trade the time with my projects for enjoy time with my family in a couple of weeks.

This past week I was able to play around with a new app called Voicethread. This application is an internet conversation tool that can be used for classroom conversations, collaborations, and various other classroom assignments. I tried to put together a short clip where I would post a physics demonstration and try to have students figure out "What is Going On?" A video like this would be posted about once every week to once every two weeks. Students would have to respond to the video with an audio, written, or video comment to answer the question, "What is Going On?" Most, if not all of the demos that are featured in the videos would have been shown in class as well. A seemingly decent activity with accountability in its assessment.

Being a beginner to this application I found it rather finicky and seemingly full of limitations. All audio comments have to be uploaded or taken in one prolonged take. It was nice to be able to doodle on the video, however, I still had difficulty performing a perfect take (which I never did quite do) without the ability to pause mid take or to use bits and pieces of different takes. I can see how this would be a useful application, however, I feel as though the lack of editing capabilities, low user-friendliness, and the inability to  save the video file to your computer makes this application something that I will not continue to use. I do see that it has value, however, I am unsure if the time that it will take to learn how to use it (and teach students how to use the program) will really be worth the ability to use this program.

Here is the link to the video that I made with the attempted explanation of what was going on:

Something that I did learn through reflecting is that I find it difficult to properly explain things in one medium. This is something that I certainly need to work on if I plan to be effective as an educator.

Lesson for the Week: It is essential for development to confront our weaknesses. For me, this means to practice explaining situations clearly and in as few words as possible.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Yoda on Pass-Fail

This past semester I had my first experience with pass-fail courses. In order to show my bias, I will say that I love the pass-fail system as a student. I feel as though I can really explore the world that the course is introducing me to. I feel free to take chances and make mistakes because I know that I will pass if I do my best. Which is an essential part of a safe learning environment, no? I just think that there is so much more room for learning in a pass-fail course than there is in the traditionally graded classroom! Even if you make the argument that students will only do the bare minimum, I know that there are many students already doing that in traditionally graded classes.

In my undergraduate I have come to realize that all of my courses are really just introductory courses to a larger world of that subject area. Our public schools offer introductory courses to these introductory courses. Meaning, to me, that if all learning ends in the classroom, not one student will discover the world that this subject matter belongs to until later in their life when they choose to take it in again in university (and it isn't eve guaranteed at that point). Which is unfortunate. I see pass-fail courses as a chance to manipulate activities, assignments, and projects to suit your own needs in order to differentiate the learning of every individual even more than usual- relating the content to the student as an individual on an even deeper level. If a student is able to connect to the subject matter I believe that they will continue their learning outside of class and they will come to know the subject matter in a truer form than most students who receive 90% will by filling out their worksheets, memorizing facts, and doing a couple presentations based on a few Wikipedia articles.

Grades are supposed to be an accurate reflection of the student- the work that they do and the outcomes that they meet in a class. However, a 90% in Language Arts does not describe that this student has an incredible ability to write in the third-person. It simply says that the student received 90% of the marks available. An 83% in Math does not say that a student is able to derive unique equations in order to solve problems. It simply says that the student received 83% of the marks. There is no substitution for words when it comes to describing a student's abilities (in my mind), which is why I don't understand why we find the need to assign people various percentage grades to describe their abilities. 

I believe that every classroom is a micro-chasm of society and that if we can create a perfect classroom that we can make a perfect world. However, with numerical grades we promote this idea (whether we would like to or not) that one person is better than another because they have a higher average. Yes, it feels good to know that you did better than someone else. However, if it's always going to be a competition we will then always have the competitive nature of the outside world too- as opposed to possible idea of a collaborative world in which we utilize the skills of each individual in order to benefit the whole global community.

I do not mind a percentage made up of numerous pass-fail assessments, but large scale percentage assessments seem wishy-washy to me at times. In many ways I believe that there are two options in meeting an objective and/or receiving a grade- meeting or not meeting (approaching). If one is not meeting the objective they are still approaching but, ultimately, they have not yet met the outcome. For example, when Luke Skywalker attempted to move the X-Wing from the swamp he was unable to do so. He almost did, but Yoda did not give him a 68% and send him on his way to Jedi graduation. Instead he had Luke stay and continue his training on Degoba. Yoda knew that we was not yet a Jedi because of his disbelief in himself. 

Before Luke had tried moving the X-Wing, Yoda says, "Do or do not, there is no try." This is the attitude that we should have towards our students. With people to support, encourage, teach, and to believe in them they can become the Jedi Master that they were destined to become. We need to push our students to meet their goal and not just 75% of their goal- simply because they can do it and they can do it better!

Reflection for the week: We must encourage our students to learn beyond grades and into the world of developing skills, character traits, and exploration so they can save their X-Wings and destroy their own opposing Death Stars. Do or do not, there is no try- pass or fail, there is no 55%.