Priorities- they all seem to scream “I’m first!”

The last two months are always busy in the life of a teacher.  Individualized Program plans, report cards, exam prep, prep for next year and all the year end activities that go along with being a teacher.  This year, however, things are a tad busier.  I am finishing my master’s program at the University of Calgary which includes my capstone project that has morphed into a book, and starting my CEP program at Michigan State University.  I was using all of my brain power to juggle everything that I needed to keep track of, so little was getting done.  At that point in time I searched for an app to use because there is always an app for that!  After looking at a few I chose the app  Priorities.  I will post images off my Ipad version of the app and tell you why I have found it extremely helpful.  I will apologize some of the images are not as clear as I would like due to coating on the screen to protect it.


page listThe first thing that drew me to the app was the ability to make different lists.  To make the app more useful the lists are colour coded.  Even more useful you can more the order of the lists around anytime you need to.

The second thing that drew me to the app was the ability to make points with sub points to allow multi-step projects to be in the same place.  I have send the developer a request to add sub sub points and they actually wrote back saying they would add it to their list.  The list also writes the date  of when I check an item as done.  You can auto select it to remove things that are completed but I like to keep a record.MSU List

You can add due dates forCalendar the things on your list, which places those items into my Ipad Calendar.

Any item you deem important you click the star icon and it compiles them on a master list call Priorities.  Here you can see the most pressing items with the due dates.


They write the due dates in red just to make them stand out.  You also have the availability to have priorities make things a priority.  You can set it to autostar items on your list at a certain number of days in advance and even have reminders sent to you.

Priorities has helped me to do as David Allen said in his Ted Talk to, and I am paraphrasing here, forget what you need to do to , in order to actually do it.  If you haven’t taken a look at Priorities on the app store  I’d really urge you to check it out… and make your priorities wait their turn.

Allen, D. (2012, October 31) The Art of Stress-Free Productivity: David Allen at TEDx Claremont Colleges .  Retrieved from

Hand Carved Code, LLC. (2013). Effortless and intuitive task management with Priorities. Retrieved from Priorities:


My Professional Learning Network

I have used the website Popplet to create a mind map of my professional learning community. This is a brief look at where I go for information that is related to my work and who I rely on for good information.  I did not name names of people for two reasons.  The first being I believe that everyone has the right to their privacy so posting their names would infringe on their rights.  The second reason is a more empathetic one, I would be sad if I listed names and forgot one which caused that person to feel slighted.  It is but a brief glimpse at who is on my team…who is on yours?

Who's on your team?

Who’s on your team?

My Quest to Level Up as a C++ Programmer

Begin with the end in mind is the refrain I heard  at a professional development workshop based on the book Understanding by Design(Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).  So I begin my quest with the thought that one day I will be able to program in C++.  I am a unrealized programmer just waiting to show my skills to the world.

What made me decide to learn to program in C++ as my project you ask?  The answer to that question is a story, of which I will tell you the short version, that started almost two years ago.  Two years ago I looked into doing Master’s courses at my local university.  I found two that I really thought would be interesting; a program entitled M4T, or Mathematics for Teaching and one in Educational Technology.  I spent a long time thinking about which program to do and finally decided to do the M4T program because the Ed Tech program had programming requirements to be accepted.

When I was at the bookstore picking up my copy of the APA manual I came across the book Reality is Broken (McGonigal, 2011).  Reading that book made me reflect on the problems of engagement I was having in my math class on any days that did not involve a game, cartoon, or other activity based learning.  Thus began the start of my journey to design a Massively Multiplayer Math Online Roleplaying Game.  Creating the Research support argument for why it would benefit students, teachers, and the education system as well as the start of the game design is the project I am presently finishing for my Master’s Capstone Project.  It has turned out to be longer than what a journal could publish so I am going to publish it when it is finished.

The book, however, is just the first step in my journey.  I want to make the game that lives in my head a reality, and to do that I need to start with C++ as most programs used to design video games are based on it.  I know that eventually I will need a team of people to work with me to finish the game so that the reality of it matches the theoretical version, but one needs more than an idea to get others to buy in.

So tonight I went on Youtube and started with a tutorial that made my brain hurt….and admitted to myself that I needed to find a video for the N00b that I am. I did program in Basic and Logo in university but as the first video made me see, I’m not in Kansas anymore (Flemming, 1939).  So I went through some more videos and found one to start with.

I downloaded the required open source software and followed along through the video.  I managed to understand everything he said, so I guess I picked the right level of video to start with:) More to come in the quest to learn C++.  More videos to find and community how-tos to locate, but I made my program do the same thing as his did, so one small step…

Check back for the next installment of C++ programmer


Flemming, V. (Director). (1939). Wizard of Oz [Motion Picture].

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality Is Broken. New York: the Penguin Press.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

What the expert must remember to help the novice succeed!

Malcolm Gladwell (2008)  describes the ten thousand hours that are necessary to become an expert.  He looked at a range of experts in many fields and found that while many started with talent that was not always the case.  What experts had in common that delineated them from others and made someone an expert was the amount of effort that the person put in en route to becoming an expert.   Carol Dweck (2006) also found that if you viewed your talent as being changeable through the effort you put in, you were more likely to become an expert than those that relied on their talent alone.  So what does this effort required to become an expert do to the learning process?

Often during my teaching of mathematics in a junior high classroom, I need to stop myself before I utter “it is so easy, I don’t understand why you can’t do it” to reflect on the fact that my students, unlike myself, are novices in the learning of mathematics.  As an expert, I need to be mindful that how I process mathematical knowledge is different than how my students do.  I have the ability to recognize patterns in the problem that allow me to link my prior knowledge to the situation to come up with a more sophisticated solution than most of my students would (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000).   I need to be cognizant that my brain is able to chunk information into units so that my working memory is freed up to manipulate more information and to process it in multiple or novel ways (Bransford et al., 2000).  While I am working with students the fact that my brain requires less effort to retrieve the information necessary to the question at hand  (Bransford et al., 2000) necessitates me to allow more think time for students, usually more than I think would be necessary.  I find that my students are more likely to just put numbers into a formula instead of taking the time to figure out what the problem is asking them to do and applying the correct numbers, operations and formulae to solve a given problem  (Bransford et al., 2000).  At my school, we have been exploring students’ ability to extract necessary information from written text to answer mathematical questions.  The range in ability to pull numbers from a written text and apply the correct operations or formulae to solve the question asked was marked.  This reinforced, for me, that the term novice is not a singular descriptor.  The term novice is a large continuum that ranges from brand new beginner to almost expert and as teachers we need to be aware that this complexity (Davis, Sumara, & Luce-Kapler, 2008) exists in our classroom.

The first aspect of complexity that exists in classrooms, especially those at my school, is the range of prior knowledge.  Many of the students at my school have had large gaps in their formal education.  Trips back to their country of origin are frequent with little to no schooling occurring during the trips that can span several months.  In addition, some have had very little formal education in their home country if at all due to living in war-torn countries, refugee camps, natural disasters, or poverty.  Adding to the complexity one then needs to look at the range of prior knowledge due to the wide range of cultural and religious backgrounds of our students.  Nothing can be taken as shared (Davis et al., 2008) at my school unless it is created inside the classroom or school community.  The instance that highlighted for me the need to be aware of assuming prior knowledge came during the probability unit with my grade sevens.  At the start of the unit I posed a question about having the cards in their suits.  One of my students, a very new immigrant to Canada, asked me for some construction paper, scissors, and tape to complete the task.  Flummoxed as to why he would need those supplies I handed them over and continued on with my lesson.  Checking in with the student about 5 minutes later I see that a few cards were now sporting little suits.  For him, suit is a cultural reference to clothes for important occasions, so trying his best to please me as the teacher he went about putting the cards into suits even though when asked later he said he felt the request was odd.  Prior knowledge is watch allows the expert to recognize patterns and to chunk information to make using that information in novel setting easier  (Bransford et al., 2000). Thus ensuring that the prior knowledge that is necessary for a skill is both accessible and correct becomes extremely important.  Learning is easier if there is something pre-existing to connect ideas to and if the ideas that something is connected to are valid given the context at hand (Bransford et al., 2000).

In using technology, it is important to realize that good teaching practices are good teaching practices no matter the medium.  It is important that we ensure that what is best for students is at the forefront of our minds as we incorporate technology into education so that the student is not overshadowed by the lure of new technology.


Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (Eds.). (2000). How People          Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition.            Washington D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from         
Davis, B., Sumara, D., & Luce-Kapler, R. (2008). Engaging Mind               Changing Teaching in Complex Times second edition. New York:            Routledge.
Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Sucess. New              York: Ballantine Books.
Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The Story of Success. New York:                 Little, Brown and Company.