…math for mastery: “do you like your mark?”…

This post is based on a Pre-Calculus Math 11 parent letter I sent home today.  In one sentence,

For the first time in 10 years, I’m really trying something new…

Hello Parents,

I just wanted to take a few minutes to connect with you regarding this year’s Pre-Calculus Math 11 course.  It was encouraging to see many of you at parent-teacher interviews last week.  It is actually because of those conversations that I am typing this letter.

I am now confident that the goals I had for this course in August are taking shape.  In other words, the things I had hoped to happen in this new style of instruction is happening.  Let me explain more here.

For the past 9 years I have taught Math in a traditional way.  I have used a textbook, I have given class notes, homework, quizzes, and tests.  For the purposes of this letter, I will call this the ‘Old Way’.

The Old Way

In the ‘Old Way’, I would either use a textbook or would use a purchased reproducible workbook as a note and homework package.  But, the most defining thing about my high school Math classes is that I would teach for 80 minutes.  Seriously, I would stand at the front of the room and give instruction for the entire class period.  This would mean that there was very little, if any at all, time for student questions.  Any individualized help was offered outside of class time.  Finally, student “homework” was a student starting their practice questions…and completing them at home.  Then, they would come the next day for the next lesson.

The New Way

Let me take a few moments to explain what this year’s ‘New Way’ of Math 11 looks like.  The textbook is on the computer.  Students receive their lesson from a digitally enhanced video (flash animated).  Students still take notes and complete practice questions by hand.  The largest difference in this method is that my 80 minutes in class is NOT spent talking to the class as a whole.  Rather, I spend the entire class period speaking with individual students.  My role now is not to deliver the content – the video does that.  My job is to make sure my students’ understanding is clear.  So, when the textbook (video-lesson) is not clear or when a student needs extra clarification – they must be quick to find me.  I do mini-lessons at the board when needed, or I do questions at student desks on post-it notes.  Students are encouraged (expected) to find me at school for help.  They know they can come to my office and find me – and if what I am currently working on is non-life threatening then I will drop it to help them.  Student “homework” now looks like this: students WATCH the next lesson, they take notes on that lesson, and they begin that lesson’s practice questions…until they get stumped.  Then, they stop, and they move on to a different subject.  But, the next day, they must ask a friend or find me to ask their question so they can continue moving through their practice questions.

Assignments for Mastery

Also, this year I have changed how I’m doing review assignments.  In the ‘Old Way’, students would complete their review assignment.  I would mark it, and give them back their assignment.  Suppose they received a mark of 60% on the review…they would probably say, ‘I guess I need to study a bit more for my test.’  Then, they would probably get 60% on their test.  Why?  Because I did all the correction work on their assignment, and, in doing so, I stole the ‘learning process’ from them.

But, in this ‘New Way’, I am inviting (forcing?) my students to complete the full assignment to 100% correctness.  So, a student hands in an assignment – all I do is identify which questions are NOT-correct – and I hand it back to them.  They then re-work the questions needed, and re-hand it in.  This process continues until they have 100% on their assignment.

At first, this was very different, even difficult, for me.  Yet, this method of pushing students to fully complete their assignment is a great process of ensuring they fully understand these math concepts.  I believe this leads them to be in a very strong place in being ready for their unit tests.

Tests for Mastery

Another added bonus in this ‘New Way’ of teaching is that with this online textbook I have access to a never-ending number of re-tests.  Students know that a re-test is ALWAYS available.  Students must bring me their corrections from their previous attempt to be ready for their re-test.  Really, when a student gets their test back, the conversation starts like this:  “Do you like your mark?”  The student has a decision to make – either they like their mark and continue to the next unit, or they don’t like their mark and they continue working towards one or more re-tests until they are happy with their result.

[  NOTE: I was never able to provide re-tests like this before.  Perhaps my next post will explain the software that I am using to flip my math classroom.  Long story short, in the past I chose not to put in the effort to create 5 different tests and keys for each unit in my course.  That was my main reason for not offering an unlimited number of re-tests.  ]


In conclusion, there is no doubt that this year’s video-based math instruction is different from my previous 9 years of teaching Math at Heritage.  And, it is very different for students who are used to learning from a teacher standing at the front of the room.  But, I believe the positives outweigh the negatives in this ‘New’ method.  Please know I evaluate and re-evaluate constantly.  I make no promises for Math course delivery next year.  I mean, yes, certainly, we will be teaching Math – but I’m just not sure yet which way we will be doing it.  I will wait for results in May and June as my students have processed the entire course.


If you are still reading this post I am thankful.  If you are still reading this post I wonder if you would be willing to consider these questions:

Have you ever gone through a philosophical or mechanical change in your work process?  How were you feeling about it on the front-end?  How did it finish on the back-end?

I would love to hear your thoughts.



…thoughts from my first edcamp – #edcampok…

EdCamps have been on my radar for a few years – following event hashtags and speaking with people who have attended them.  I’ve been near ready to spend 4 hours in the car to participate on a Saturday event with zero participants I know personally…just to take it in.  I understand and really appreciate EdCamps’ collaborative, and almost ‘organic’ approach to professional development.  In a nutshell:

EdCamp is the edu-space created when engaged collaborators ask “what is my current reality?”  &  “what am I interested in learning & sharing today?”

The EdCamp model is so successful for so many participants because of its ‘freshness’…versus a ‘staleness’ of sorts.  I offer these two words because this is often how educators view big-box Pro-D…as a one-size fits all approach to an idea or topic that might or might not (often not) have any direct impact on classroom experience Monday morning…

This freshness is evident in the EdCamp format – you sign up and suggest topics you wish to learn about…and in turn…you suggest ones you feel comfortable leading.  Now, when EdCamp says leading, it really just means one thing:  You are responsible to ask the first question, OR, you are responsible to start the discussion…and allow the room to take over.  Here is a photo to help you see the topic suggestion process at work, tweeted by the organizers themselves:

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending my first EdCamp here in Kelowna, BC.  Early in the day participants received wonderful advice from EdCamp guru and former Principal turned Educational Consultant Tom Schimmer (@tomschimmer) regarding each of our own mindsets and attitudes as participants at this EdCamp:  

Be selfish with what it is you want to learn…go out and find it…

The day was a pleasure.  The people there truly wanted to be there.  This showed in each conversation I was involved with, and it also showed in the backchannel as educators joined the discussion from Twitter.

As of today’s post, three people have offered their reflections on EdCampOK via their blogs.  There, they give more detail about the contents of the day’s sessions and each highlights a different aspect of an EdCamp.  Each of them are worth a read – I recommend them all.   They are at the bottom of this post for your reference.

Now for some of my Take-A-Ways:

1.  Conference Culture:  I often measure my take-a-ways through my twitter-filter…in other words, can my take-a-way be a one-liner?  Or, did someone’s tweet stick in my mind and cause me to reflect?  Well, the following tweet is from an outstanding Math teacher at OKM in Kelowna.  He is comparing a very large Pro-D conference to the one we just experienced: 

I hear him highlighting the community feel, the partnering, and the value of a local PLN that can be present when educators from the same region get together.  Additionally, it was very special for me to finally meet face-to-face with many educators who I have followed via Twitter and Blogs for quite a while.

2.  Fresh Grade:  One of the sessions I attended was on the topic of Assessment.  It was well voiced by all present.  One participant, Steve Wandler (@stevewandler), admitted that he was not an educator at all.  Rather, he was just a concerned parent.  This got my attention.  He shared that he knows of many parents who really desire to know how their kids are doing in school – beyond the required report cards (3 in elementary and 4 in high school) that schools must legally provide to parents.  So, he did something about it.  

He has co-founded Fresh Grade, an edu-assessment start-up that aims to help teachers more easily collect both small and big pieces of data (formative and summative) and to provide that information clearly and meaningfully to parents.  Our campus school currently uses a web-based assessment and attendance program that provides parents with a daily report card of sorts.  At HCS, when a family changes schools, I know first hand that the number one thing that family misses about our school is that they miss knowing their child’s updated marks each day.  Good on you, Fresh Grade (@freshgrade), for helping parents and educators connect around their shared students.  Keep up the innovative work!

3.  No Risk – No Reward.  What does this mean you ask?  Well, it means that during the first time slot I ended up leading one of the three sessions that were offered.  At the start of the day I added this to the collaboration white-board:  Hands on with a Chromebook & GoogleApps for Education.  Prepared or not – I just put it up there.  I did bring two Samsung Chromebooks with me (that I didn’t even end up putting on the WiFi).  But, because I had a bit of material on this blog regarding the CBs and GoogleApps, I thought I could tell our 1:1 story.  It wasn’t the most attended session of the day and I am very thankful for that.  Similar to the tweet above, our small-ish group fostered open conversation.  To be clear, I certainly did not have any answers or definite best practices to share.  I simply gave an account of what we are up to as a registered Google School, with the use of Moodle as our LMS, and in our being WiFi friendly for grade 8/9s and having a 1:1 BYOD & school provided hybrid in grades 10-11-12.

4.  Professional Proficiency:  On a personal note, although it was only one day, and by no means did EdCampOk claim to have the Okanagan Valley’s exhaustive group of cutting-edge educators, it just felt good be a part of the day’s events.  I felt like I was at the table, like I had things to offer, like our small school’s voice was heard (and even caused some to take note).

This is my 10th year at Heritage.  I love it.  One year turned into ten.  I have transitioned from full-time teacher to half-teacher and half-VP, and now this year have begun my 4th year as high school principal and Math teacher (two teaching blocks but teaching 4 courses…yes…I am the scheduler!).  I have been given incredible freedom to explore, listen, lead, try, fail – all of this in our great community of families, teachers, and students.  I am thankful that my school saw potential in me and covered the entire cost of my graduate degree through Gonzaga.  I am also defining a PLN in our school’s Christian school association, ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International).

Yet, somewhere, in the back of my mind, I feel like I have ‘missed out’ on something by not being in the public district.  I feel like perhaps I have not developed as much at HCS as I would have in the big-machine.  I don’t know.  Hind-sight is always 20-20 and I know that the greener grass next door only exists because it is fertilized like crazy…and then they hire someone else to mow the lawn…  I just know that being at EdCampOk provided me a sense of personal and professional validation and confirmation that God, for the time being, has me where He wants me.

5.  Self-Admitted Failure:  Like the point above, this will be another personal note.  [ I am not against personal notes on this blog…I mean, it’s my blog.  Yet, often in a professional setting I hesitate to share as openly as I sometimes wish to.  Has that ever happened to you? ]  Anyways, part of the EdCampOk registration was to add topic ideas to a GoogleDoc.  I added this: Possible round-table discussion on helping increase student accountability and responsibility in a 1:1 or device-friendly environment with today’s ‘instant-on’ and ‘easily distracted’ teens.  I really wanted to hear what other schools are doing about student self-discipline in our device-crazy culture.  I wanted to know if others are seeing a need to talk about this topic.  I wanted to share that my school has many students who use their 1:1 device for PLAY all day, yet continue to FAIL their courses.  I wanted to find the golden key that would unlock the answer to the question of student self-motivation and self-discipline.

Sheepishly, when I returned home following the EdCamp I realized that I was the one who needed to learn this skill.  I was the one who showed a lack of self-discipline and a lack of discernment.  You see, as professionally awesome as this EdCamp’s potential was, my family was home sick.  And I went out to edu-‘play’ on a Saturday.  In the grand scheme of things I landed on the wrong side of the life-balance spectrum:  I chose work over family.  Unfortunately, as educators, we do not have a 9-5 job.  We will forever have marking, prepping, IEPs, sporting events, Grad events, and students needing extra times in our classrooms.  All I know is that in the future moving forward, my family is far more important to me than one great day of Pro-D.  As good as my EdCamp day was, I failed to make the right choice.

Ah, isn’t it by Grace that we walk day-by-day?  Sure is wherever I walk…

By the way, here are the refection blogs mentioned above from #EdCampOk – each worth a read:

Blogs and Connected Educators

The more I reflect on my role in my school, the more I learn there is more to learn.
In the past 4 years I have made an intentional effort to glean from – via blogs and twitter – educators and administrators who offer ideas, successes, and failures.
This is the first ‘re-blog’ I have done on eduglean. I have read Tom’s posts for a long time and his words here are concise and composed. His argument for educators blogging is right on. So, Tom, thank-you for your post – I appreciate your thoughts.

My Island View

A Weblog, or a Blog, as it has become to be known, is a form of writing that entered the scene with the advent of the Internet and personal publishing. It could be described as a digital magazine feature article or a digital news article depending on the content. What makes it unique however is that it is personally published without needing permission from anyone except the author. The author becomes the publisher and determines what will be posted, which is the digital term for being published. The authors of blogs are Bloggers.

Now that we have established what a blog is, what does any of this have to do with Connected Educators? Blogs are having a profound effect on Journalism most specifically, and other industries in general. Blogs are becoming more than just a tool for information. By being able to comment in real-time about a post, the readers…

View original post 642 more words

…ACSI Oct 11 – our 1to1 journey…

Hello ACSI staff, and thanks for joining us today for our Technology Strand presentations.  I feel humbled to share our (Heritage Christian School (HCS) student laptop (1:1) journey.  No matter where you are at in your school’s tech journey, I hope this session gives you something to consider and chew on. Here is a general breakdown of what I will be covering today:

  1. Philosophy of Technology in the Classroom & 1:1
  2. Our Heritage 4-Year 1:1 Journey
  3. Hands-on Participation & Demonstration of Classroom Tools (GoogleDocs & Moodle)
  4. Possible Applications & Future Thinking

As you begin today’s session, I invite you to please answer the following 3 questions HERE.

In a tweet, this is one major thought of support for tech resources for our students:

Here are a few more Key Thoughts:

KEY: In all that technology can do for our students, we must place it as a tool to serve their learning.

KEY: Can this tool do more than what is traditionally available?  IE – can doing this digitally do more than what I can do on paper?

Let’s quickly take a look at the talking points of the outline above:

1.  Philosophy of Tech in the Classroom & 1:1

  • Technology:
  • Many of you are on-board with technology in the classroom being used as a tool…for you, this is a matter of preaching to the choir…you own a laptop/smart phone/third device…you search for web content with the goal of ‘learning’…you know you can network quickly with others through the web…
  • For others among you, perhaps the web is still a bit of an unknown entity, or perhaps ‘all things digital’ signal the end of our established, competent, traditional way of doing things.
  • Technology has helped move our classrooms towards greater student access to information
  • IE – photocopiers, Overheads, and now most resources in my high school are being produced by a teacher on the computer, being printed, and being handed out to students.
  • Technology in the classroom: can this technology move us beyond what is currently happening?  Can it not only replace, but improve, what is today’s ‘norm’?
  • IE – Computer as word processor or search engine.  Well, these two things currently exist – paper production and encyclopedia…but the computer might offer more speed and one-place access to information that would be found in countless books.
  • We must remember that just because it’s tech doesn’t mean it’s better…  Is this device or software simply a substitution for the current process, or is it an improvement or an upgrade?
  • Technology is a way to leverage engagement equity when working with our students.  *Key, as teachers, we must be ‘into’ whatever our kids are into – Hockey, Ballet, Pogs, Twilight, video games, and yes, technology of their choice…etc.
  • 1:1:
  • The role of “the laptop” is changing…A “Flash Drive” used to be the norm…this is where my original file lives…the device not the key – access is the key – log-in to any computer to gain access to your information…now your laptop is in the sky…
  • In the last two weeks I have created 5 word docs (template), 2 quizzes (template), and about 25 shared files to be used between our office, secretary – COLLABORATION
  • KEY: Laptops/devices – are they required for curriculum or do they serve as top-up for enrichment?  (this is at the heart of the 1:1 debate)
  • What do devices do that paper cannot?
  • These tools must exist to highlight Collaboration, Access to Information, and Media Production (IE – creating digital momentum…or Klout)
  • BYOD VS. School Provided VS. Mix
  • What software infrastructure are you going to use?  IE – Does your curriculum live in the cloud?  Will you host your content somewhere:  Moodle, student blogs, GoogleApps, etc.

General Comments About Teaching in a 1:1 Environment:

  • Must determine what the 1:1 devices will do – 1st level – they are replacement for paper & research; 2nd level they promote collaboration and give access to documents from any device
  • All regular classroom management techniques still apply
  • TRUST ISSUE:  Is your relationship with your kids one of authoritarian and moderator, or one of coach?  IE – Are you checking their work habits each time you walk by?  Is that the only reason you are coming to their desk?  This is a trust relationship – they must earn your trust & they must be trusted to work when you are not ‘watching’.
  • Teacher’s desk behind the students?  Either move the desk, or have the kids face the other side of the room.
  • “Screens down” – kids shut their screens to 30 degrees…
  • It’s okay to have a non-computer class or assignment every once in a while…

2.  Our Heritage 4-Year 1:1 Journey

  • Our 1:1 was driven out of need.  We take our Grade 12 students to Mexico for 6-weeks.  They were going to complete Chemistry 12 without their teacher on the trip.  Question: What if kids could keep working on their material, and Skype in for class…  So, we used portions of our online school’s Chem12 course.
  • ’09-’10 – Mexico 6-weeks (CHEM12) – used OL course – purchased 20 Acer 10″ Netbooks
  • ’10-’11 – Purchased 55 more Acer Netbooks – Just giving kids a computer to use – no real 1:1 plan…
  • ’11-’12 – Still Netbooks (but they are starting to die…)  Now we have Moodle running for every academic course (and some electives)
  • ’12-’13 – 3rd and final year of Netbooks.  Better use of Moodle in our courses.
  • ’13-’14 Chromebooks (CBs) purchased for Grades 10-11-12.  BYOD if you can, if not we will provide CBs.  We are registered as a Google School – gives school Google Accounts for App use.  3 everyday web programs:  Students Achieve, Moodle, GoogleApps.

What does our 1:1 school & classrooms look like?

History 12 lecture

History 12 lecture

Prezi in action during History 12 lecture

Prezi in action during History 12 lecture

Lunch time – kids chatting music…

Group Projects

Socials work period

Regular scene in Socials 11

Socials 9 Socratic Circle – Great Discussion – No Tech Needed

Food game during chapel – notice the three boys taking video…

3.  Hands-on Participation & Demonstration of Classroom Tools (GoogleDocs & Moodle)Group work – place yourselves in groups of 4 to 6 people.  Chose one member to be ‘Computer Person’.  Send that person up to me to gain access to this GoogleDoc.  This was modeled by our Sr. High Humanities teacher.  Worked very well in class.  The document produced was shared with class at the end of the lesson.

Individual Scaffold – if you are new to GoogleApps then this may be a place to start.  Q: How could you use this type of document with your staff?  Students?   We have used it for staff meetings and also for sharing ideas/lists/etc with our office staff.

Calendar Event – with our Google School status we can quickly produce shared docs, groups, and calendars.

Subway Example – “Where is the official file”

Moodle – Digital Binder holding curriculum.  From simple handouts to self-contained full courses.  Gr 8/9 – being forced to complete a GooglePresentation using GoogleDocs to store info.

Google Apps – Collaboration, Access, Security – for students, teachers, and parents.  CEA use very discreet, can check in with more than one student at a time.

Online Marking – Students Achieve has a student and parent portal.  We call it our ‘Daily Report Card’.  It pushes a daily email with any mark updates.  Also has a calendar that shows any upcoming assessments.

4.  Possible Applications & Future Thinking

Whit is the next digital step for Heritage?

  • We must have our students do more that docs & research.  They must create a ‘movement’.  They must create digital momentum, Klout…FaceBook, Twitter, Blog, Comments…
  • We must help our students in their organization – including cell phone access to their content & info.  IE – smartphones that can have our GoogleApps running *Calendar!

Q: How do I get started?

  • A: Must first ask, “Where am I at?” & “Where is my school at?”
  • Perhaps it is creating a personal GoogleDocs account and sharing it publicly.  Perhaps it is getting one mobile lab going?  Perhaps your school isn’t ready for 1:1 yet – can you do anything in your classroom?  BYOD discussion.

KEY: What programs/software are you using?  Is it doing more than what paper can do?  Or is it just a replacement for paper?

KEY: Collaboration, and access – two very powerful ideas.

Second last thing:  As a place for continued thinking on this topic and for some feedback for me, would you please consider commenting on today’s session via this anonymous form?

Last thing:  Keep this conversation going – I invite you to leave a comment or question below.  Through comments we can all glean together.

…005 – 10 healed, 1 says thanks – luke17…

This audio is from our High School Chapel on Thursday, October 3rd when I had the pleasure of sharing from Luke 17.  This is the account where Jesus heals ten men with leprosy.

One leper awakens to the grace that he has been given by Jesus…and returns with thanksgiving…

Download Audio HERE

I describe how lepers in Bible times were considered outcasts – unfit to be with any human.  In all regards, lepers were considered to be ‘dead’.  But, just like these lepers had a dreaded skin decease called physical leprosy, we have a dreaded spiritual decease called spiritual leprosy – sin.

Yet, the message of this account is that while Jesus’ grace is sufficient enough to commune with physical lepers…His grace is also sufficient to deal with our sin and to call us to relationship with Him.

Lord, help me understand your grace…