Tag Archives: 1:1

…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.



…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.

…chromebook roll-out: a snapshot…

Today we rolled out our Chromebooks.  Students were very excited to get their hands on the new machines.  Many students were surprised by how ‘nice/small/shiny/cute/light’ they were…  Kids were in awe to be getting a new machine.  It was a special moment being able to provide something they were really thankful for.

I heard many comments about these CBs being the perfect size.  They have 11.6 inch screens but the best part is how thin and light they are.  And, being 16GB of flash they open & respond almost instantly.  Anyways, I’ve snapped two quick photos so you can see it as compared to my 15′ MBP.

CB on a Mac          CB beside a Mac

As kids activated the machines by log-in to the machine, many asked questions like ‘how to change the background or passwords’, and ‘can I merge my existing Google account?’  Today I decided I would bite my lip and try not solve/answer their question/problem immediately.  Instead, I just replied with simple statements like, “You’ll figure it out…”, and “have fun with that”.  Also, I used the classic, “Hmm, what a great question…let me know when you work it out.”  Our high school secretary was cracking grins as she heard me interacting with the kids.

But, as the day went on these were the bumps that turned up:

  1. “My .docx downloaded, but it won’t open.” – just learning how to display a non-editable file (.docx, etc) versus uploading and converting a file into an editable GoogleDoc…
  2. Students signing into Chrome with their school Google accounts on their personal laptops (not the CBs) should say “yes” to syncing all data – just learning why Chrome makes sense if/when using multiple machines for access…
  3. “Where are my files?”  – just learning how the OS works (downloads folder and a GoogleDrive folder)…
  4. “Umm, I can’t download any Apps…” – just learning the user settings of the machine…

These were great questions/statements to hear today.  I am quite eager to see where we find ourselves on Monday…

…google chromebook trial: days before the roll-out…

…well…the Chromebooks are here…I hope we are ready…

In all our thinking, researching, and testing last year I am happy to say that we have chosen Google Chromebooks as our 1:1 device of choice.  Yet, the rubber hits the road this Friday as we roll them out to students.

I spent much of today in the back-end admin functions setting up a few trial groups.  These will help staff quickly deploy GDocs in Drive and set due dates in GCalendar.  Also, I searched for apps that will be helpful for staff and students and shared them with staff to consider.

Because I am flipping my Math 11 and 12 this year my students have been using devices already this year.  But, other courses have used BYOD combined with our school mobile lab to ensure students have devices when needed.  The Chromebooks will ensure that students have a device 24-7 for the year.

We use Moodle for course delivery and I have already seen the added benefit of this year’s school-based Google accounts.  Students have collaborated together in note, research, and HW documents.  They have set their cells and laptops to sync and push GCalendar updates and due dates.  They have also experienced the ease of cloud-based systems by moving from one laptop to another only to find their information waiting for them as they log-in.

If these were some of the early successes or benefits, my mind is full of possible challenges and ‘as of now’ unanswered questions.  Here are a few of them:

  • How do students handle previous gmail accounts…what if they ‘don’t want to’ use our account? Continue reading

…google chromebook trial: a student perspective…

As I mentioned in my previous Chromebook trial post, I wanted to get a student’s perspective.  I have spent time with the machine, but before we commit to the next three years with new hardware I think it wise to consult the users who will be producing on the item.

So, here is a guest post from Measha, a grade 11 student,who spent a week with the Chromebook:

My Chromebook Experience Continue reading