Todays Run

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DER One year on – a rant

Following an email from the HT English yesterday (@madiganda) in which she noted the negative attitude that Year 10 students displayed toward the use of the DERNSW laptops in a letter to the editor as part of their Trial School Certificate I decided to come out swinging…..

To me it is not unexpected that the students are commenting that laptops have caused distractions and are actually having a negative impact on their learning because generally as a school we are not using them properly yet. (Disclaimer – there are some teachers who are!). From my conversations with Year 10 students the sum of the laptop usage at the moment is to: copy notes down from the board into a “One Note”; access the internet for research; and play Mathletics.

While these represent a start none of them seem to promote higher order thinking or seem to be a change in pedagogy as a result of the DER program. In fact while the NSWDET has done a fantastic job with the introduction of the DER my only criticism would be that it gave teachers an out with regards the opportunity for a “revolution”. A common phrase bandied around is “the laptops don’t have to be used every lesson”, “we can do this slowly”…etc. While both those statements are true I would never have said them! It is the same as me saying to my students: alright you really need to do these problems by the end of the week they an essential part of the course – but if you are not confident then just do one (or none!) and that will be enough. Too many teachers in my opinion have latched on to the option that laptop use is optional.

The obvious answer is training of teachers so that when they are not confident they seek out support – with an emphasis on the teachers seeking the support. At present it appears as if there is an expectation that training be provided – but what in? What program? How? When? Who pays? (I know there is a DER PL fund!). In a reply email yesterday @madiganda noted “Maybe the kids don’t like it as much because it does require them to use their initiative a bit, to be self-directed and many are not capable of this yet – again, we need to train them from Year 7 for this self-directed learning.”. I think she is spot on – and not just for the students.

Teachers themselves need to become independent and self-directed in their learning of the technology – to seek out information when it is required – as it is required. Venture into the unknown – take the risk – challenge all previously held perceptions of how teaching is undertaken. Model being a learner to our students. Make mistakes – be a non-expert.

I think I understand the “softly, softly” approach that has been taken with regards the politics of education. But I do not agree with it. In fact it reminds me of a quote from Douglas Adams in the ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ : “utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”. Do we fit that mould?

One year on I think we should be focusing on the “revolution” part of the DER. And revolutions are often bloody. I for one have taken my gloves of – I will no longer accept the idea that technology should not be an integral part of all education – particularly when access issues are removed. Students and teachers must now embrace the opportunity. To steal President Obama’s famous phrase: “Yes we can”.

A future post will contain a brainstormed list of suggested activities that promote higher order thinking using technology.

SDD Term 3 2010

Nothing like leaving it until the last minute. I am presented 2 sessions at the Maths Collegiate SDD tommorow. My session is on how using Web 2.0 makes teaching Maths so much easier. I will eventually post all of my resources here but to start I have adapted the networked teacher to include some examples of web-sites that represent each of the spokes.
Netwworked Teacher Final

I will also be posting all my resources
Sign in as a guest – enrollment key is pythagoras

Negative Numbers

An interesting discussion with my 6 year old son over dinner this evening got me thinking. He loves doing mental arithmetic at the dinner table and we were doing sums like 6+3 = and 9 – 4 = when I threw in 1 – 2 =. His immediate response was “What is the number before zero?” After I told him it was -1 I then asked him 2 – 5 = which he immediately got correct. This was followed by -2 – 5 = and other similar questions.

The logic of the number line continuing was obvious for him but this is often not the case for many students. Many of my current Yr 9 class struggle with any form of non-calculator arithmetic (and yes I am forcing them!) becoming particularly muddled when negative numbers are included. It appears to me that most have remembered just one rule (when you have two negative signs it becomes a plus) with very little understanding. Of course this rote learning will never be an adequate substitute for true understanding – so why does my 6 year old comprehend naturally something so many have a great deal of difficulty with? Perhaps it is their (negative?) exposure to Mathematics in the classroom over many years? If Mathematics was only ever “rules” to be learnt rather than understood? An over-reliance on the use of calculators? Any thoughts?

So I just changed my lesson for Period 5 tomorrow. My objective now is to see how much the kids in my class really understand about negative numbers and arithmetic operations with directed numbers and to identify any misconceptions. Previous ways I have tried include – number lines – walking backwards and forwards modeling the number line and actions – walking up and down stairs to model operations. Does anyone have any better ideas?

Part 3a – Waiting game produces more fear/anger

Had some negative opinions expressed today when I raised the possibility of going to a DER PL session. It is increasingly becoming obvious that the digital divide is causing a large amount of angst amongst some staff and this is exposing itself as anger against the provision of new technology that will upset the status quo.

How do I convince / cajole someone who believes that laptops will have absolutely no benefit for his class and does not want to even open his mind. Hmmmm…. a challenge. I don’t want to just give up on one of my best Mathematics teachers!

As the rollout to students at our school moves closer those with their heads in the sand are realising that it will actually happen soon! HELP!

As most of my staff are digital immigrants (not yet arrived!) they claim that it is useless to teach them a software program (e.g. GeoGeBra) when they won’t use it for several months – they will forget it. On a more positive note – one of the faculty who was issued with a T1 laptop used it today for the first time with a projector to show the Yr 12 class past examiner comments!

Any suggestions that are left of centre would be greatly appreciated

CHHS Maths Dept towards DER – Part 3 Waiting

Well since I wrote my initial posts a lot has changed.

However some things also haven’t changed. There is still a large element of fear (in my faculty and generally) of the introduction of laptops and the impact that this will have in our classrooms.  More often than not this fear is expressed as denial – “I’m not going to use laptops – they won’t help my teaching at all”, or as an excuse “I can’t start teaching with laptops until the department provides all teachers with one”.

While I agree that it certainly would be better if ALL staff had laptops before the students so as to facilitate skills acquisition and good will, it simply is not going to happen.  In fact Dianne Marshall explained the financial reasons at the North Coast ICT conference the other day – it is linked to the financial year spending of DET as the teacher laptops are funded through the state and not the Commonwealth DER project. As educators we NEVER have the perfect environment in which to perform our duties. Sure we should always aim for the best, but have to have coping mechanisms to deal with the actual reality. Simply refusing affects our students far more than attempting in less than perfect circumstances. – End of rant 🙂

The wireless install has been fraught with glitches. Some of the information that has been passed on to our network administrator and the Head of the ICT committee by the contractors is just wrong.  Thank you to the DET online communities and Tweeps for passing me the correct information. We needed to locate our new box approximately 20 metres from the Campus Distributor – and put in the adjustment paperwork prior to install. Conduit was run to enable the two boxes to be connected.  When the IBM guys turned up 3 weeks ago to hook them up, they only had the short leads, then proceeded to spend 3 hours arguing with the network administrator that the new box and the Campus distributor would communicate with each other wirelessly! Needless to say eventually they realised that this was not the case and left….. 3 weeks ago.

On a more positive note, like many schools CHHS had only 2 of 4 building distributors with optic fibre cabling, with one BD (that serves Maths & TAS) a run of over 110m of Cat 5.  However as part of our 7.5 million Capital Works Project the Maths faculty has just taken possession of 2 new classrooms – and the Cat 5 cable that supplied the BD was replaced with Optic Fibre! 🙂  I will post some pictures of our new classrooms later!

A lack of available LAN connections in our staff rooms means that the majority of T1 rollout users have not connected at school (only at home) and subsequently the copies of Windows are now past the 30 day trial – annoying but still functional. It will take considerable time before the teachers at my school are taking responsibility for their own PL in non-school hours, there is still a common opinion that this should all occur 9 – 3 and the amount of upskilling that is required WILL NOT be possible during these hours. I have already dedicated 1 Maths Faculty Meeting to the GeoGeBra introductory course.

But I do agree with Stu Hasic – DER NSW is an awesome accomplishment thus far and it has only just begun.

Twitter in 4 easy steps – creating a PLN

Step 1 – Join.

This doesn’t work at school – Twitter is blocked. You have to join at home. I will explain later how to tweet at school.

Go to Join – create a username that identifies who you are. Make sure that your profile allows someone to get to know you a bit – e.g. Maths Educator with an interest in technology (or whatever). Don’t protect your tweets, or noone will know to follow you (counter productive for a social network)

Step 2 – Sign in.
Then find people to follow – a good place to start is to follow someone you know is already on Twitter. I am SimonBorgert there is another Maths Teacher SimonJob Once you started following a couple of people look at who they follow or reply to – it gives you other people to follow as well.

Step 3 – Start tweeting.

This is where you say what you are doing in 140 characters or less. BUT for educators this is more about the sharing E.g. “Just found this really cool website“. If someone tweets something that you like you can either favorite it – or retweet it (that is where it is rebroadcast to your network). Follow more people. The @SimonBorgert stuff is where someone is replying to a user. Start replying to people that you like what they are saying. Then they will start following you.

Step 4 – To tweet from school. If you already have an IGoogle page there is a Twitter Gadget. Otherwise goto and sign in with your username and password.

Some Useful Links

An interesting compelation of tweet about the DER with suggestions for teachers (back when it was called L4L) from @darcy1968 a DP on the South Coast

This last link is from @lasic on twitter

I will put all of this on my blog

Enjoy happy tweeting!