Nek Nomination? NO! #TeachNomination!

This is my first vlog! I was very excited to be nominated by @ChrisBrennan03, and check out his teach nomination! This was started by@MichErnesto and has been done by @bgabriel77, and @kelseywilk. I encourage you to watch their videos and follow the hashtag #technomination:

Mitch Ernesto

Kelsey Wilkenson

Ben Gabriel 


Genius Hour

I LOVE TWITTER! Shameless Plug.. @randiklassen

genius hour

Twitter has the ability to show you things that not even my education classes at university can show me, and if you really think about that, it’s amazing. I have been recently intrigued by genius hour, which I simply stumbled upon when I saw the #geniushour hashtag being used. I have been pondering the idea about how I can use this concept in my classes. The idea of genius hour is that students are given a promised allotted time to work on learning something that they want to learn. I think that the benefits of this could be outstanding! This idea actually started at Google, because they use this to increase productivity in their employees. Their research found that if they gave their employees time to learn about something that they were interested in, that their productivity went up and their job satisfaction sky rocketed. That is a very neat idea that could and should be applied somehow in education!

Now the hardest part of genius hour for me is the structure of it, or the lack there of. Somewhere along the line there has to be assessment done on it, whether formal or informal to see if its working, and if students are learning. If we aren’t doing that, we aren’t doing our job. But the problem is, how do you assess something so broad? Well, this post by Kristen Clarke sparked an idea. If they are required to document their learning, I can still keep it flexible but I can also see if it is successful. With cell phones, tablets and many different apps, it is very accessible for students to document their learning with videos, and then be able to share it with their classmates and with the world if they want to take advantage of social media!

Do you do anything like this with your students, i’d love to hear from you!

Math Class Needs a Make Over

Dan Meyer  is a math curriculum writer in the United States.  If you click on the link it will take you to his twitter page. I encourage you to take a quick look through the photos that he posts. It gives great insight into who he is as an educator, how he teaches math, and how he is hoping to change the way math is taught.

I believe that our “Math Makes Sense Curriculum” (which is still fairly new) is intended to do the things that Meyer talks about in this TED video. Our curriculum is supposed to enhance reasoning skills, take the kids away from the formulas and get them to think through problems. This will also help their retention in math from one year to another. From Meyer’s observations, he lists the things that he finds is hardest about teaching math.

Lack of Infinitive

Lack of Perseverance

Lack of Retention

Aversion to Word Problem

Eagerness for Formulas

From my small experience in teaching math, I would have to agree that these things are the real issues. Where I was teaching there was a disconnect between the way the curriculum was intended to be taught and the way that it was actually being taught. I found that students were not being required to have to think through, ask questions and develop a solution to a problem, because there was simply no time to do so. There was two options, the first is having students work through a problem, maybe applying a hands on activity where they could ask questions, come up with steps to solve, come up with answers and discuss answers. With this type of structure it would take a whole class period to get through one problem, and my experience is that to get through the curriculum, you need to be addressing a new section every day. The second option, was to get through the curriculum by doing example problems, having students practice as many questions as they could, and helping students along when they didn’t’ know the answers. So two strings are pulling at me, I want to see them actually DO and understand math, but I am hired by the government to teach the whole curriculum.

When it came to chemistry, I had students, in grade 12 who couldn’t isolate x in a simple algebra problem (multiplying/dividing, adding/subtracting only). They would look at the problem like it was completely foreign, but I know that in math they have been working on that skill since grade 8. My cooperating teacher thought that it is probably because they do not get enough drill and practice, which could be true, but I also know that their reasoning skills do not get enough practice either.

So what do we do? Do we have to compromise on covering the content to spend time working on reasoning skills? Or is there a way that both can be done? In my 6 weeks teaching math, I am sad to say that I did nothing hands on (which is the opposite of how I taught sciences) because I felt that I really didn’t have the time. What do you do in your classroom to beat the monster that is time while developing understanding skills?

Breaking through the I don’t know’s

One of the hardest and most frustrating things for me is the words “I don’t know”. I would say that it is rare that I ask students questions and really want them to get the right answer. Most of the time, I am looking for a guess that will spark discussion or give me something to run with. I am looking for pre requisite knowledge, or to just have a classroom where my students want to talk to me (which I found was harder as the grade level got higher). I found an article through @gcouros that sparked my interest. It is called Wonder, Prediction and Student Engagement.  It discusses the ways in which we can pull curiosity out of our students. It specifically uses the concept, which in science education, is called an engage activity. It is a small thing to spark wonder and get them asking questions. For example the article suggested this question: Why do “choose” and “goose” not rhyme? I found that these activities worked really great in sparking interest but getting students to talk about their guesses was painful and usually ended up in I don’t know’s. The article suggests that you go back and forth with the student searching for any kind of guess, even if it is a wild one!

I think this is a great technique, but it is one that you have to use carefully. First of all, you have to, from day one, create a classroom environment that allows students to be wrong. This can be incredibly difficult because the words you choose can deflate this environment very quickly. I realized during my internship that simply over praising the “right” answer, can discourage students from providing other answers that may be right as well! I caught myself doing this over and over, and I would really have to focus on ways that allowed multiple students to answer the same question (before I commented), so that the answer could be discussed at the end. One of my favorite techniques is to use groups and chart paper, once the groups all have answers written on the paper, they can post them on the wall and then we can discuss them as a group. No one has to be made fun of  for a bad answer then!

A tool that I am kicking myself for not using during internship is Today’s Meet. Students can text comments, answers and questions and a live stream of it can be projected from the internet onto the wall or board, it can be anonymous which might help the shy students. Has anyone tried something like this?

I am always looking for more ways to get students to talk about things in class? Do you have any techniques that work with students to help facilitate discussion? What about the students who are very quiet? How do you get them involved? Remember in Kindergarten when everyone wanted to raise their hand and tell the teacher a story, how do you get grade 12’s to do that?

Welcome to Gather and Gab!

Gather and Gab

For me, one of the best parts about teaching science, is the numerous resources we have to bring real, applicable and current science into the classroom. This year, the Saskatchewan Government has rolled out new Science 20 curriculum that is being piloted by teachers across Saskatchewan. The new curriculum focus’ on health, environmental, and physical science. These new plat forms allow students to explore science in a way that is meaningful to them, by exploring current technology, career options and scientific advances in the news under these broad topics.

Kelsey Rogers and I have decided to focus our major project in #ECMP455 on something that we will find useful in the future. We have come up with the concept of Gather and Gab. We want to gather teachers in the area of science and connect them with science experts to bring the world into their classroom. We are hoping that through the power of our twitter page, @gathergab we can connect teachers who want to skype with people working in science so that their students can explore careers in the field that they are studying in class.  To me, this looks like nurses and pharmacists skyping with a  health science class or a civic science organization such as Nature Watch tweeting back and forth with an environmental education class.

Our first step in this project involves your help! First, follow us on twitter so that we can connect Saskatchewan teachers to science professionals who will enhance the learning environment for their students. Technology is about bringing the world into our classrooms and that is what this  project is about.

Our main goal is to find a Saskatchewan teacher who is piloting either the health science or environmental science curriculum. Not only do we want to start an online community for connecting professionals in the fields of science and education, but we want to see if we can make it work in a real classroom setting! We are looking for one teacher to work with us to see how these ideas work, we were thinking that we could find four professionals to skype (or other methods) with your classroom over the course of four weeks.  We want to be flexible and see if we can add something to your classroom by allowing your students to explore careers in the field they are studying. If you or anyone you know is interested, haven them contact us through twitter, @randiklassen, @kelseywilk, @gathergab or email us at

We look forward to connecting with you!

What do you Think About a Recess without Rules?

This article and news video discusses the effects that the “cotton wool era” has had on our students. Student play grounds are designed to be as safe as possible to avoid student injury and school liability.  Students in a New Zealand school are part of a experiment conducted by a university that says students should be able to play however they want. They say that the risks of kids not developing properly because of abnormal play out weigh the risks of kids actually getting hurt during play.

To conduct the experiment, the school simply said that recess has no rules. They have seen a decrease in bullying and behavior issues as a result. They have also seen an increase in risk taking in the classroom, and they believe this is due to students being able to take risks on the play ground.

If the results of this experiment are accurate, I don’t see why Canadian schools can’t adopt some of the same ideas. If the rate of injury hasn’t increased, and they see improvement in their school environment, maybe it is worth a shot.

I went to an elementary school for grades k-5. During that time, my parents and I saw a significant change in the playground rules. When I started elementary school, we used to go sledding on the hill behind the school at recess, we played contact games on the field and we messed around on rope nets and tire swings on the playground. By the time I was in grade 5, there were rules against almost all these activities and the “dangerous” jungle jim had been removed and replaces with safe, and quite frankly, boring playground equipment. These changes happen because one kid gets hurt, and schools do not want to be held liable if it happens again. Although I understand their fear of children getting hurt under their watch, I don’t think that it is the equipment or the games that kids play that makes it dangerous. Kids are just inherently dangerous. There is a need to explore and risk take. I believe that is just built into who kids are, and that is how they learn.

I am not schooled in elementary pedagogical theory when it comes too play and development at young ages, but this school may have a point. A recess without any rules seems extreme, but maybe there is a middle ground that can have the benefits of both ideologies.  What do you think about a recess with no rules?


Modifying Genetics to the Point of Mutation

One of the best things about teaching science is all of the new science that I can show my students to engage them. If I was teaching right now I would use this as an engage activity to talk about GMO’s, genetics, or how the nature of science allows us to manipulate the environment.

An article written about this contriversial topic says “they are modifying the genetics externally to the point of mutation just to satisfy our consumer needs”.  As consumers, we are always looking for leaner and meatier beef, and science is providing us with that. I would ask:

– Are we changing evolution?

– Do we know the long term affects of doing this to animals? What about the butterfly effect?

-Should science ever overtake natural development?

– Are we consuming more then our world can provide?