About Thinks

Sometimes good thinks happen and sometimes bad thinks happen. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two.

Some thinks need immediate action and some thinks may remain as thinks forever. Thinks can be angry and heated. Thinks can be joyful. Thinks should never be cold.

These thinks are linked to many other wonderful thinks and I like to attribute these.

These thinks do not necessary reflect those thinks of my employer.

Think long, think on.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Maths lesson inspired by Dan Meyer

Don't you just love it when you hear someone speak and it changes your life?

Dan Meyer's recent TED had this effect on me and my maths teaching and long may it last...

As you can see, this is largely set in the secondary school context, but we in primary school can figure this out ... surely.

So here is my first attempt at it. I started this last Monday.

My maths class had been working on addition and subtraction strategies for 3 digit numbers. Specifically, we were working on place value strategy and compensation (also known as equal addition).

I was browsing through the numeracy project resources (www.nzmaths.co.nz) and thumbing through a numeracy project based textbook and I just couldn't go through with it. I looked at the questions and wondered how I could "DD MYERS" them and none stood out as even slightly inspirational.

I tweeted a pretty indirect cry for help but nothing happened. I googled "DD Myers primary school context" nothing much. I racked my brain, went to bed, gave up...

Then at 3am I woke up chanting "money money money money money MUUUUNay" (you know the one).

That morning at 7am I was parked outside the local supermarket waiting for it to open. I went to the trolley park where they keep stacks of promotional mailures and carefully counted out a class set of them. (incidentally a bolshy checkout chick called security on me and I had to go to another supermarket but that's another story!)

Anyway, 2 hours later, they were looking at me and I was looking at them.

I explained to them that they would be using the fliers for maths for the day.

Then came the ambiguous statement...

Then they started to generate the questions, the rules, the formulas

"How much money can we spend? I have more people in my family, do I get more money? Do we have to buy breakfast? Can we buy anything we like?

Together we narrowed it down to a budget of $120, they had to buy breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. The lunch had to be suitable for school lunches.

Within minutes they discovered that the mailer did not have milk, so we went online and found the woolworths online shopping page where they list the prices for most grocery items (enter your nearest suburb and away you go).

By the time they were really getting into it, it was the end of the maths session. The time flew by!

The next day I made up a sheet outlining the success criteria and blank lines for them to write a list of all the food items they would need.

I asked them "If a kilo on mince costs $7.99, how much would 1/2 a kilo cost?

It would cost $4.00, Litia relplied.

"And how do you know that?"

"Well $7.99 is really $8 and half of 8 is 4"

Interestingly if I had asked her what 8 DIVIDED by 4 was she would look at me blankly. The previous week when I was asking them to round up number like 799 (for compensation purposes) they really struggled with that concept.

Then, like magic, the genuine question came out ...
How can we add these up without a calculator?


"If you needed to add $7.99 for a kilo of mince and $2.30 for a packet of pasta how could you do this using the compensation strategy?"
We'll add 1 cent to the $7.99 to make it $8 and then 'steal' 1 cent from the $2.30 making it $2.29
$7.99 + $2.30 is the same as

How many cents do we have? (PLACE VALUE STRATEGY)
How many dollars do we have?
So the answer is ... $10.29

Then we started adding bigger lists of numbers ... For fun!

Then it was time for the session to end ... again. Again time flew...

The next day a child came into the class with a countdown mailer tucked under her arm and asked if I could show her again the way to add the numbers up!

So as a warm-up I ask the kids to find the prices and then add some random items using the place value and and compensation strategies. Not only did they do this enthusiastically but they actually knew what I was asking them to do.

I was out of the classroom for the next two days so it will be interesting to see if they have completed their original mission (Of feeding their families for three days) most of them were fairly close by the end of Wednesday.

What I found even more compelling about this series of lessons was the incidental learning along the way and the meaningful conversations also.

"is it appropriate to feed your entire family a bag of oven fries for dinner? Those bags are only 500gms How many fries do you think that would be each"

"Would you normally have a king-size block of chocolate for breakfast?"

"How many loaves of bread would you have to buy to make sandwiches for 4 kids?"

"How many sandwiches do you have in your school lunch, how many kids in your family? How many slices of bread is that?"

The greatest part was that the kids were genuinely asking the questions and genuinely wanting to know how to add things together.

ePorfolios Ewan McIntosh


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Big Brother

How a webcam can be used as a self-reflection tool in the classroom

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Computer/Internet use agreements

Image source http://www.kidsmart.org.uk

Thanks to a comment made by Peter Kent I have been chewing on this issue over the last two weeks. There is not a lot that can be done about it on a school level. It's just a thought for the policy makers out there ...


I was at a panel discussion at the IWB.net conference run by Peter Kent. As we were walking into the room he suggested that this discussion was for principals and policy makers. Being neither of these things I nearly made the decision to leave but in the end I stayed.

During this discussion Peter Kent made the comment that in Australia's ACT they have done away with computer and internet use agreements. This was met with many a gasp (including my own).

He then converted me:

The use of computers and internet is integrated meaningfully through our entire curriculum. Should we be denying children their right to learn if they (or their parents) refuse to sign an agreement? Imagine a scenario where we could say,
"today we are learning about cats in the library (except you Ruth you haven't signed the safe use of library agreement, I have something else for you)..."

I accept that many things can go wrong on the internet, but many things can go wrong with ALL tools we use in the classroom and beyond. When things go wrong- or look like they can potentially go wrong - it is our job as educators to deal with it, and educate our children so that they can learn from their mistakes.

If a child threatens another child with scissors, we remove the scissors, we have discussions about the scissors, we reiterate what behaviour is expected when using scissors and eventually we give the child another opportunity with the scissors. We do not demand that every child (and their family) sign a scissor safety agreement before being allowed to use them. We assume that our children will act within the rules and take action if they don't.

Why do we assume the worst for Internet use?


I have been using the Internet since 1995. The internet was so slow back then that you had to click on a button called "auto load images" to stop the images being loaded. Once you could see what was on the page (5 minutes later) you would then make the decision whether or not you were willing to commit to the page.

Since 1995 I have NEVER 'stumbled upon porn'. The closest I have come is seeing questionable thumbnails on an image search (but that has been more GORE than PORN) and sometimes if you mistype a web address you can see something you are not looking for. I have read cases where peoples caches have 'magically filled up with porn' but they must have downloaded some kind of wacky programme for some 'other' reason. Generally school filtering systems are pretty good. Programmes can not be downloaded without an admin password.

And if my child was to accidentally 'stumble' across something that was not appropriate I would hope that they had been given some kind of education about how to deal with that.

Speaking of my children, my delightful eldest child and his mates thought it would be funny to image search for 'jugs' in their year 6 class at school. We were all hauled in to discuss it. Funnily enough the internet use agreement that all the boys signed was not considered by ANY of the boys before they made the decision to search for jugs. Internet use agreement or not, behaviour like that can be dealt with by schools without having to wave a piece of paper around. It doesn't make anyone less liable.


In outdoor ed we don't flatten the mountains to stop children falling from cliffs. In aquatic education we do not drain the pools, lakes and oceans. In hard materials education we do not remove all the sharp implements. We educate our children so that they can keep themselves safe. So why is the Internet any different?

Internet predators are taking the same spot as 'stranger danger' did when I was at school. Check the child abuse stats - it's not really strangers and internet predators that are hurting the majority of our children, is it? *Interesting* added Aug 16th 2010


Do we sign a playground use agreement before we are allowed to play outside? Educate the bully, educate the victim. The answer is NOT to say, "Perhaps you shouldn't play in the playground if you are going to get bullied..." surely?

Schools should be integrating the use of ICT throughout the entire curriculum. If this is the case, every child has the right to be a part of this.

My edtalk on this ... http://edtalks.org/video/do-we-need-cybersafety-agreements

IWB.Net Conference

The IWB.net conference.


Andrew Churches Key Note (fantastic presentation of where we are at, where we have come from, and where we are heading in regard to ICT.)

Peter Kent's many workshops and panel discussions. Very interesting stuff regarding policy surrounding ICT and what they are up to in Australia's ACT. We didn't always see eye-to-eye but I agreed with him on most things.

Other Stuff:

Many content based workshops using ACTIVE boards which were interesting but not too helpful if you have a different product.

My own workshop was on using the SMARTboard as a launching pad for webdesign. The basic premise was that Notebook software gives kids the opportunity to focus on design. Notebook enables children to hyperlink, attach, create backgrounds and insert pictures in the same way that they can with online bogging products such as googlesites, yola etc.

They can do this in an environment that is not internet dependent and decisions can be made and learned from without being uploaded.

I told this story of an Authentic Inquiry one of my year 3-4 classes conducted on e-Waste and how I made the assumption that the kids would be good with design and I would teach them the 'techy' stuff. I quickly realised however that the opposite occurred. The kids took to the technical stuff like a duck to water and their initial design was less than desirable. Look out fot the rainbow pen!