Passion and Curiosity Quotients in my work

This week in CEp812 looks at an article by Thomas L Friedman that talks about his belief that the Passion Quotient and Curiosity Quotient will be as helpful and in some cases more helpful in the future than Intelligent Quotient at having the right people doing the right jobs.  While I do not think the situation is as dire as he makes it out to be I agree that passion and curiosity are valuable traits to have and to foster in my students.

We were asked in response to this article to create something with some digital technology that shows our passion and curiosity in our job and how we use digital technology to foster that passion and creativity in our students.  When I got this assignment I was really at a loss as to what to do to show my P.Q. and C.Q. that I have for my work but I knew without a doubt that I show them everyday at work.  When talking to my colleagues at lunch they said just film yourself doing anything and that will be good enough, but I was not satisfied with that.

This year I was inspired to try gamification in my classroom using points and badges to monitor formative assessment and to leave the marks that go on the report cards to summative assessments.  I knew I wanted to do this but I struggled with what that was going to look like.  That is when I discovered the blog of Michael Matera.  He has created a system that mimics the points, levels, and badges found in many digital games.  I purchased his set of google spreadsheets and got started setting up my classes with it. Since I started investigating gamification in the classroom I have seen many iMovie trailers on youtube.  So for this project I decided to make one for myself.  I had never used iMovie before but I felt confident I could do it, not to mention curious about the old fashion map animations I saw, so I got started.  I decided to create the trailer to whet the curiosity of my students about what they could expect math to be like this year in the gamification world called Foxhaven.

My students asked to watch it a 2nd and sometimes a third time and kept asking what the different pictures meant.  The excitement was palpable in the room today. I hope it continues as the year progresses.  I can’t wait to start the exploration of Foxhaven in my classroom, hopefully it will help to foster curiosity in learning mathematics and create students who are passionate about learning as much as they possibly can.  I do not look at the work I do as a job but as a calling so I love what I do.  Every year the learning needs of my students increase and as a result I need to be curious to figure out what exactly will work for each child.  While Friedman labeled the CQ as curiosity quotient I think it would be better served to be Creativity Quotient.  Nothing changes if you are just curious it takes creativity to make the changes you want in the world.

Friedman, T (2013, January 29) It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q.. The New York Times Opinion Pages. Retrieved from

References from the iMovie trailer in order of appearance to make it easier to find what you want.

NASA/JPL-Caltech. (2005) NASA Scientist Finds World With Triple Sunsets [image file] Retrieved from

Tangient LLC (2013) Landing on Mars [image file] retrieved from Mars 1650 wikispaces at

4EL Classroom connection (2013) 33078-Clipart-Illustration-Of-A-Female-Math-Teacher-And-Students-With-A-Calculator-And-Numbers Retrieved from

Wohl Isard (2013, August 22) OMG-AIMS [image file] Retrieved from Raising Arizona Kids

The Physical Educator (2011, October 21) Responsibility Badges in Physical Education [image file]Retrieved from

geralt (2006) learn note sign directory direction arrows street [image file] Retrieved from

We Want To Know AS (2013) Dragonbox algebra (2012) Virtual Manipulatives!/id471341079?mt=8

Tetz (2013) Education as a force for equality Retrieved from

The Math Learning Center (2012) Geoboard

Thirteen (2011) Cyberchase

Holladay, Justin (2012) 4 Dice: Fraction Games

Launchpad Toys (n.d.)  Toontastic

AR Entertainment (n.d.) Grid Drawing for Kids Lite

Brainingcamp, LLC (2012) Algebra Tiles

DigitWhiz Inc. (2013) DigitWhiz

Alberta Education (2003) Math Continuum Retrieved from Learn Alberta

Assessment and Evaluation at the end of CEP811

This week is the last week in my CEP811 course from Michigan State University.  The focus of this course has been on the idea of making or contributing to the society and not just consuming.  Our last assignment for this course is focusing on assessment and evaluation.  Not only assessment and evaluation of our professional growth but also assessment and evaluation of our personal growth as well.

Professional Assessment & Evaluation:

Looking at my maker kit that I have worked with over the last seven weeks I am going to be using the activity I have designed in my classroom.  I am waiting on additional LED’s from Squishy circuits to be able to complete the activity.  I however have decided to not use the dough as the shelf life is not very long on the insulation dough.  I had mold on the dough within 2 days, which made breathing very difficult.  The salt dough is still mold free so I am going to continue to use that dough in the student wand.  I am going to change the conducting dough to insulated wires to removed the need for the conducting dough and increase the length of time that the activity can be used.  If I want students to be able to try, make mistakes, and then learn from their mistakes the activity needs to be available for more than two days. I will measure the effectiveness of this activity by the willingness of students to try again.  I know in the past with similar activities on paper getting students to look at their mistakes and figure out how to fix their mistakes has been very difficult.  I am hoping by integrating technology into the activity it will remove enough of the school pressure to be able to learn from their failure. However, I see the squishy circuits as a tool to help me engage students in learning something in my mathematics classroom not an activity in and of itself. I enjoyed the experience of looking at the activity through the lens of Universal Design for Learning, as it helped me to look for ways to ensure every student can participate. I can see using this method every time I plan a new unit to help me ensure that all students have the largest chance to be successful.  Our school is trying to ensure that all students are successful by adequately programming for all students.  On the flip side of that our school is also implementing a policy to hold students accountable for passing if they are being programmed for correctly.  Failure due to unwillingness to try is no longer an option but making mistakes to improve your competency is.  This year will be full of growth and the growing pains that go with it as both students and teachers work together to create an environment where student success and growth is a given.

Personal Assessment & Evaluation:

To look at evaluating and assessing my personal growth I will refer you to the evaluation philosophy of Michigan State University which is as follows:

As adult learners, we are most interested in your growth — and you will be evaluated on the basis of how far you go, not on the basis of where you started. This doesn’t mean that different standards apply to different students. On the contrary. We hold each MAET student to a very high standard of academic and professional excellence. We expect each of you to push your limits — whatever those limits are — and to contribute your own, unique learning experiences and perspectives to our learning community. We expect each of you to write well, and in accordance with the elements of style outlined in the APA manual.  We expect each of you to meet deadlines.  We expect each of you to ask good questions. We expect each of you to seek out answers by leveraging all of the resources at your disposal. We expect each of you to adhere to professional standards of academic integrity, to respect the work of your peers and to offer thoughtful, constructive suggestions that sharpen our collective understanding and focus. (Michigan State University, n.d., MAET Evaluation Philosophy)

So where did I start in CEP811 and how did I grow over the course?

The conference proposal was an interesting exercise because I have attended many conferences I have never presented at one.  I never felt that I had the skills or expertise to offer to other teachers.  I have a different way of viewing teaching and learning that is not the way many other people do their job.  Thus creating the conference proposal really made me feel that I had something of value to share.  While, I am not yet at the point where I will actively seek out presentation opportunities, I know I could do it, if I so chose, something I did not think was possible less than eight weeks ago.

At the beginning of CEP811 I had not used any of the technology used in this course before.  Some of them I was able to great things with like Sketchup Make and some I got something accomplished but not without great frustration like Popcorn. The frustration I felt with Popcorn will help me to get inside the frustration students often feel in math class and to help them see a way through the frustration to learning.   I understood the idea of Universal Design in regards to things like sloped sidewalks for wheelchairs also helping those with strollers but I had not thought of it in regards to education.  CEP811 has also pushed me in how I was using Twitter.  Before stating the CEP program at MSU I only used Twitter to see where the local food trucks were set up, I did not even see Twitter as a tool for education.  During CEP810 I used Twitter to post links to my blog as assignments dictated , but I looked at little else but the tweets put out by other members of my class.  In CEP811 I have started to look more at what information is being referred to in Twitter.  I have started following more people because of the educational learning potential that is there.  Although I am still unsure how to get my posts to show up in a hashtag search, seems Twitter doesn’t consider me a real person yet:(.  Using the Squishy circuits also taught me something valuable about my creative process.  I have figured out that having something and being told to do something with it, makes creating something more difficult for me.  I spent many hours thinking of how I could use the squishy circuits in my mathematics classroom.  I find I am the most creative when either I have a concept and I look for something to help me engage students or when I see something that sparks my imagination and the ideas just seem to leap into creation.  I guess that links back to the idea of TPACK (Koehler & Mischra, 2008 ) in which they urge educators to figure out what to teach and then decide what technology will be best to facilitate learning and now rush for the new toys and say now what am I going to do with this.  However, having to experience design from here’s a technology now do something with it has increased my caution with wanting new technology because it is new.  Unless seeing or using the new technology sparks new ideas to make, design, or create I will choose to say no thank you and look for things that inspire me in my quest to facilitate learning for the most number of students possible.

Koehler & Mishra (2008) Teaching Creatively: Teachers as Designers of Technology, Content and Pedagogy [Video file], Retrieved from Vimeo

Michigan State University (n.d.) CEP 811: Adapting Innovated Technologies TO Education, MAET Evaluation Philosophy Retrieved from

Choose my own SoLT adventure-again

This week in CEP811 we were asked to use the Michigan State University Library to find and reference 5 scholarly references that pertain to something that we want to improve in our teaching practice.  The reason why I titled this week’s blog SoLT adventure-again is that for the last two years I have been living this adventure.  In June I finished a two year Master’s program at the University of Calgary in a program called Mathematics for Teaching (M4T) in the educational research department.  While we had to read scholarly articles that pertained with to our course of study as designated by our professors, we also had to research a topic of our own interest from which our own capstone project would emerge.  I have always used games and game based learning in my classroom because I know I have too fight to learn when I am bored or uninspired so why would I assume my students could learn or become passionate about mathematics under the same conditions.  As the advances in online role playing games graphics increased so too did my imagination wander to what it could be like for students if they were immersed in a world full of mathematics in such a way that the mathematics was not an impediment to actually playing but a way to experience the world.

These wonderings led me to purchase the first book I am going to talk about, Mathematics Education for a new era, by Keith Devlin.  I include it as it provides context to this journey that is again moving forward.

Devlin, K. J. (2011). Mathematics education for a new era: Video games as a medium for learning. Natick, Mass: A K Peters.

This books explores how video games and the principles found at their design core could be used to improve the mathematical proficiency demonstrated by many students.  It looks at how an immersive environment could make more real world connections for students to how mathematics is used.  He also explores the history of educational games, what is wrong with previous versions, and what could be done to create a video game in the future that supports the development of mathematical understanding and proficiency.

In June I finished my Master’s degree by completing my Capstone Project which looks at what my vision of a Math Massively Multiplayer Online Game, think WOW or SWTOR here, would look like and what research supported that vision.  Even though my project is finished in relation to the university , it isn’t finished to me.  I am still working on ensuring my work really encapsulates what I would like to see in the game, and when I am satisfied I am thinking about publishing it as a book.

Even though the video game is just a glimmer in my head, I am really energized by the potential benefits I have found in regards to student motivation and engagement.  This led me to wonder what could I do to bring the video game qualities into my classroom now.   To this end I started following the tweets and blogs of Mr. Matera. .  He has been using a game system in his social studies classroom.  I am  going to give his system a try starting next week as this new school year opens.  However, I feel like a need more information about how exactly to make this work in a classroom instead of a video game.  This led me to search the MSU library for more on this topic.  I did send a request to the librarian asking about where to best search for resources on gamification in education or game based learning but, at present, have not yet received a reply

So I decided to go ahead and search on my own and the following are some resources that I think will help me explore the possibilities of using gamification in my classroom.   I have not read them all yet, due to the fact that they are books not articles.  In my search through the library I did not find any recent articles that I felt would help me in my exploration of gamification.  My Teacher Personal Growth Plan for this school year will revolve around setting up a gamified learning environment in my classroom and reading these resources will be part of how I will accomplish my goals for this year.  The resources I have picked to help me reach my goal are:

Sheldon, L. (2012). The multiplayer classroom: Designing coursework as a game. Boston, MA: Course Technology PTR.

I had just purchased this book but had not yet started to read It when I found it in the search of the MSU library.  This book is very specific to education which I like, and also highlights the research behind what is being suggested.  It is another account of how a teacher implemented gamification into his classroom.  I have only made it through the introduction, which defines all the terms for any non-gamers, but so far I am eager to see how his experience correlates or differs from that of Mr. Matera.

Kapp, K. M. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: Game-based methods and strategies for training and education. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

This book is also a recent acquisition for me. I am especially excited to read this book because it deals with the theories and research in an explicit fashion.  The theories and research are addressed on their own chapters making them easier to find in the writing.  I am also looking forward to comparing this take on how to use gamification in education with the other two versions.  I want to find the things that all three have in common as those are most likely to be the most sound principles and then look at the differences and weight them against what I know about gamification and teaching.

National Research Council (U.S.)., Honey, M., & Hilton, M. L. (2011). Learning science through computer games and simulations. Washington, D.C: National Academies Press.

I choose this book to see how games and simulations could be used in STEM classes.  Most of the information I have read on gamification usually deals with a humanities classroom so I was pleased to find one that related to the sciences.  Although I teach math not science I feel that the principles that they talk about in relation to using games and simulations in science will be easier to transfer to math than those from humanities.  While this book does not deal with gamification is does give examples of how to integrate computer games and simulations into the classroom.

Whitton, N., & Moseley, A. (2012). Using games to enhance learning and teaching: A beginner’s guide. New York: Routledge.

This book was not available in digital format in the MSU library so I will need to find a copy myself.  From reading the abstract , I am looking forward to not only seeing their take on how game principles can be integrated into the classroom, but also their suggestions for how games can be made using relatively inexpensive low-end technologies.

Technology Integration in My School

This week in CEP812 we were asked to send a survey to our colleagues asking them about how they use technology in their classroom and how they would like to improve that integration in the future.  This year at my school we are moving from separate computer classes to tech integration so this survey comes at a perfect time for useful feedback for change in my school.

I created a survey and sent it out to my colleagues using our school email.  Below you can see the survey questions.

Survey page 1 Survey page 2 Survey page3 Survey page 4

Unfortunately, I am enrolled in CEP811 during the summer and a single week is not enough time to get feedback especially during the last week of summer holidays.  So the results I  will be talking about will be conclusions based on only 4 of the 30 people who work at my school, so not enough of a sample size to make real conclusions to base changes in our school on.  However, that being said, My school heads back to work on Monday, and my Assistant Principle is going to ask everyone to complete it then so that he can use this information to plan Professional Development and Technology Integration for the year.

Due to not having many responses to my survey, there is only one area that has clear enough results to make any conclusions about and that is the section on what type of professional development they feel will work best to further their learning.  I create an info-graphic to show what the results were.  You can view them on the web here.   Using this information I have found out that the staff that answered prefer Professional development to occur, from most to least, time to explore themselves, time to work with colleagues in development, study group, provided by teacher, provided by company, and offsite.  This says to me that professional development that occurs around technology during this school year should be in the form of teachers exploring on their own or exploring with their colleagues and that my admin team should not spend money to have technology training done by the company or one offsite.

I am rally interested to see if these results hold up after all participants have a chance to answer.

Education as a Force for Equality

The title of this week’s blog is a quote from James Paul Gee’s book Anti-Education Era (2013, preface par 34) .  The title, however, is not enough for you to glean the importance and to follow my train of thought so I am giving you the full quote and will be referring back to it as this post continues.

We have forgotten education as a force for equality in the sense of making everyone count and enabling everyone to fully participate in our society.  We have forgotten education as a force for drawing out of each of us our best selves in the service of an intellectually and morally good life and good society. (Gee 2013, preface par 34)

This week’s challenge in CEP811 is to redesign the activity we designed in week 2 and then added to in week 3 , to ensure it is a force for equality and that everyone can count and participate.  To accomplish this goal we were challenged to use the Universal Design for Learning guidelines (CAST, 2011a) to ensure our activity allows the most number of students to be successful. When students with special needs were integrated into classrooms, the students with special needs were expected to adapt to the regular classroom.  However, this was often not successful and many students not identified with special needs were also not successful.  Universal Design for Learning (UDL) focuses on how making changes to how the curriculum is taught can benefit all students(CAST, 2011a).  Here is a quick video to help you get the basics of UDL before we move on.

When using UDL to plan a lesson you must focus on three areas, the What, the Why, and the How of learning(CAST, 2012).  It talks about how you can you have more students be successful, by accessing more areas of the brain.  But in looking at the info graphic that follows (CAST, 2012), I was a little lost as to where to begin.  How could I provide multiple means of representation, of action and expression and of engagement.  What did that exactly mean?

brain UDLLuckily enough CAST provided me another chart that highlighted what they meant by each category.  I have provided it for you here as well (CAST, 2008).

UDL guidelinesI especially liked the fact that at the bottom(CAST, 2008), they provided a reason for what implementing those changes could do for students, a why this should matter for teachers.  I find it is always easier to look at change when you realize the benefits that come from it.  If we have students who are resourceful, knowledgeable, strategic, goal-directed, purposeful, motivated learners then we have learners that are capable of “drawing out of each of [them their] best selves in the service of an intellectually and morally good life and good society”(Gee, 2013).  In that vein education would really become the force for equality that Gee envisions.

While this new chart provided some direction in what I should be trying to change in my lesson plan it left me wonder what exactly these changes would look like.  At this point I dove into the UDL Guidelines (CAST, 2011a).  While this document is 36 pages long it takes you through each section.  It not only provides an explanation of why this change is important and which students it could benefit, but provides you with examples to help you visualize what the change could look like in a classroom.  I used this guide to help me fill out a google doc (CAST, 2011b) that is set up to make sure you look at all the sections (you can access your own copy here).

Before I talk about what changes I made to my activity, I want to give one caveat.  While, I believe this process is important in order to improve our education system, it is not a process I would use for a single activity.  This is a process I would use when planning out a unit, to ensure that the unit was a all encompassing as it could be.  While I will keep in mind the guidelines as I plan future activities, there is no possible way I could plan every single activity in this much detail.  Honestly, I spent four hours working on filling out the google doc due to the reading, thinking, reflecting on the activity as it is and then deciding on what could change.  While I believe I will get faster at it with practice, expecting a teacher to do this for every activity individually will lead to more teachers leaving the profession due to burnout.  That being said, I believe that every unit should be planned with UDL to ensure that we as teachers are working towards creating resourceful, knowledgeable, strategic, goal-directed, purposeful, motivated learners.

UDL Redesign of my Cartesian Plane Activity

In week 2’s blog I repurposed the game Stratego and my Squishy Circuit makers’ kit to create an activity centre that relates to the outcomes in the Grade 7 Mathematics Program of studies for the Province of Alberta.  Specifically I am going to link this activity centre to Specific Outcome 4-Achievment Indicators 2 and 3; and Specific Outcome 5-Achievment Indicators 2, 3, and 4.

grade 7 program of studies

In Week 3’s blog  I walked you through the learning theories that support the use of this activity centre for student development, what some possible uses for this game board are, including the affordances and constraints (Watson, 2004) this activity center offers.  I have reprinted the whole activity from Week 3 and I will be adding in the new UDL pieces in purple, blue, and green to match the section to which the changes relate.  I will only comment on the link to UDL the first time it occurs in the activity , in order to reduce the redundancy that I have built into the activity.

Squishy Circuits, Stratego, and Embodied Mathematics

Everything we learn, including what we learn about mathematics, is learned through our experiences in the world, or related back to previous experiences.  The English language is full of metaphors that map one domain of experience onto another.  For example, I received a warm hello, maps the domain of temperature onto the domain of social interaction, the hello isn’t warm in temperature but positive feelings are warm because of their relationship to being warm when held.  Feeling being perceived as warm could also be due to activation of neural circuits associated with warmth.  Mathematics, like the English language, also uses conceptual metaphors to link understanding of concepts to already known understandings (Lakoff & Núñez, 2000).  Take the number line, for example, numbers do not actually exist in a line, however, thinking of them in this manners makes some of the more advanced mathematics easier to understand.  The arithmetic grounding metaphor of motion along a line allows understanding of positive and negative integers even though numbers do not occur in lines.

This embodiment of mathematics does not just extend to the actually doing of something but also to using the body to highlight what your mind is thinking about while doing mathematics.  A study out of University of Rochester conducted by Susan Wagner Cook (University of Rochester EurekaAlert, 2007) looked at the use of gestures in teaching.  Her study looked at teaching the same lesson using speech cues, using speech and gesture cues, and just using gesture cues.  The retention of students with gestures alone was ninety percent as opposed to only thirty-three percent from the group with speech cues alone.  Interesting to note was that the group who were taught with gestures alone had retention of ninety percent as well.  This seems to reinforce the idea of Confucius; “I hear and I forget.  I see and I remember.  I do and I understand. (n.d.)”

While this activity centre will not be the first exposure students will have to these concepts, it will be  a new example of the concept to help to occasion a “firm foundation of factual knowledge” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000, p. 20). .  Students learn best when there is enough redundancy that a pattern emerges so that they can construct and generalize their own pattern.  It encourages capability not specific ability (Ernest, 2004). It is also important that students are the doers in their quest for understanding and the activities need to take into consideration what makes each learner unique (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000).  By having students use the wand them are actively locating the points and during activity three they are physically embodying the tranformations in the movement.

Game Board Information

The game board has two sides, one red, and one blue.  I punched holes into it to create a 4 quadrant Cartesian plane as in grade 7 students need to work with in all four quadrants.  I marked the x and y axes in the center of the board respectively so that each quadrant consists of four lights horizontally and three lights vertically, not including the lights along the axes.  I have not numbered the axes for two reasons.  The first reason is by not numbering the axes it is possible to use the game board from both directions affording me the opportunity to create two versions of the same activity. The idea of having two choices for the activity ties into section 7.1 to allow them some individual choice.   The second reason that I have not numbered the board as this creates the opportunity for students to figure out how the axes would need to be numbered based on their present frame of reference, either from the red or blue side. The fact that this activity is a physical version of a previous task it pairs the written and physical to increase retention as talked about in section 3.4.  Additionally, if a student with visual difficulties was paired with a student to scribe their colours or to video tape their effort, a student with visual difficulties could use the fact that that the LEDs are raised off the board in much the same way that they use Braille as was talked about in section 1.3. Video taping responses would also tie into section 4.1.  This video taping could also be used with students who have difficulties turning their thoughts into written work, or just as a way choice for students who desire a new way to record their answers such as was talked about in section 5.1.

photo (4)

Activity One

Activity One is based on Specific Outcome 4- Achievement Indicator 3.  This achievement indicator says that students need to be able to identify a point given its coordinates in any of the four quadrants.  Activity One and Activity Two are not sequential and may be done in the reverse order.  In Activity One, I will create two sets of cards (one for the blue orientation and one for the red orientation, that give students a coordinate pair that corresponds to a single LED on the board. Looking at section 1.1, I need to ensure the size and the font choice make the cards easy to read for a wider range of students.   Students will need to locate that specific LED and touch it with the wand so that the Squishy Circuit is completed and the LED lights up.  Students will then record the colour of the LED at that location.  Looking more closely obstacles to this activity and the ideas of section 1.1, I need to choose either red or green LEDs as using both will cause issues for any students with red/green colour blindness.  In section 1.2, I realized that I need to have the instructions available to students in three ways.  They need to be able to review instructions in auditory form, in demonstration form, and in step by step instruction form with pictures that capture the meaning of the words in question.  Having pictures with step by step instructions also ties into section 3.3.If I ensure that the reading level is low enough to be understood by my English Language Learners and other students with reading difficulties this ties into section 2.4.  Having step by step instructions, with prompts to help students continue helps to support planning and strategic development discussed in section 6.2.

The LEDs are arranged in such a fashion to help me provide feedback as to what challenges students are having.  That is to say, none of the other possible errors have the same colour LEDs so that I can determine if they are having trouble with the direction of movement along the x axis, the direction of movement along the y axis, or direction of movement along both axes.  The lights are arranged in a way that over time through exploration students will see patterns as discussed in section 3.2. Having the lights arranged so that specific skill feedback can be given helps to support the monitoring of progress discussed in section 6.4, as well as the mastery feedback discussed in section 8.4.

The cards will start with points in the first quadrant to tie the new learning back to their understanding of graphing in quadrant I from grade 6.  It is important that we tie learning back to prior knowledge in order to help students connect new learning to old conceptual understandings. (Pirie & Kieren, 1994).  Moreover, the difficulty of the cards will increase from points in the first quadrant, to points in the other three quadrants, to points along the axes.  By increasing difficulty as the student progresses, the student’s learning is scaffolded (Vygotsky, 1978) by allowing students to build their confidence before tackling more difficult questions. By having the students choose which questions they complete, and allowing multiple opportunities to work with the activity, students would be able to optimize their challenge in reference to section 8.2.  By having the questions increase in difficulty it helps to build fluencies as discussed in section 5.3.

Activity Two

Activity Two is based on Specific Outcome 4 –Achievement indicator 2.  This achievement indicator involves students identifying the location of a given point.  In this activity students will locate a LED of a specific colour and record the location of the LED using an integral ordered pair.  By allowing the students to choose which of the many lights of a specific colour to identify, it allows students to have agency (Gee, 2005)  in this activity.  Agency is feeling like you have the power to accomplish your goals.  The proceeding principles help students to foster this feeling of agency.  Agency brings motivation to achieve more as the belief that success is possible is there (Walshaw, 2001).  Gee (2013) also talks about providing ways for people to feel that sense of agency in what they are doing to allow them to use digital tools smartly.  Having the ability to make choices is the idea behind section 7.1.

Activity Three

Activity Three is linear as it build on the knowledge of Activity One and Two.  This activity focuses on the Specific Outcome 5- Achievement Indicators two, three, and four.  It pushes students to inventise (Pirie & Kieren, 1994) their understanding of coordinate geometry in new ways that occasion the possibility of pushing the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978)for each student, thus deepening the understanding of the mathematical concept.  While this activity meets all the criteria for achievement indicators two and four, it only meets the initial criteria for achievement outcome three as it focuses on a single point instead of a 2D shape.  In this activity student begin to investigate the transformational concepts of translation and reflection.  The concept of rotation is not included as while it is possible, rotation of the objects is more difficult than could be attempted by students alone.

Part A

Students will be asked to choose pairs of LEDs and then determine the horizontal and vertical distance between them.  This allows students agency to be able to choose a pair of LEDs that they feel they will be successful at obtaining the distance between them.

Part B

Students choose an LED to start at and then select a card that states a translation to perform.  Students use the want to navigate the grid and then record the location of the location of the LED after translating the wand tip according to the card selected.  As the starting point of the LED translation is random some of the translations given will move the students off the grid.  Students need to be reassured that that could happen and encouraged to write why the translation is impossible on the current grid instead of the final location.  If students can extrapolate the location of the point that is off the grid, that should also be encouraged as it shows greater facility with the understanding of a Cartesian plane and moves their understanding from Enactive to more Symbolic in nature (Bruner, 1966).

Part C

Students again choose an LED to start, and then using a MIRA students reflect the point across the y axis, x axis, the line y=x and the line y=-x.  These choices are arranged in difficulty from least to greatest and the progression will be student dependent.  Once students understand how the reflection works using the MIRA they will be encourage to replicate that understanding without using the MIRA.

NEW approach to Cartesian Geometry

For the last five years, I have been teaching this unit using dot-to-dot puzzles that the students have told me they enjoy.  In the past, my idea of integrating technology into this unit took the form of computer versions of the same activity or computer games built on the same premise.  After watching the TED talk by Richard Culatta (2013), I feel that there needs to be new versions of activities created by leveraging the power of technology not just digital version of the old ones.  This ties into the video by Mishra and Koehler (2008)in which they talk about how creativity makes things NEW all in capitals which stands for ideas that are Novel, Effective, and Whole.  I feel that this activity is certainly novel, which I hope will spark motivation in my students.  Play testing on my family showed that it has the potential to be effective.  This activity also meets the definition of whole in that the technology is an integral part of the activity and not just an add-on.  The activity would not be complete without the Squishy Circuits, nor the Squishy Circuit lights without the activity to give it a reason to be useful.

What I have added to my activity due to UDL

I was quite surprised over all how many sections my initial activity covered.  One thing that I think is lacking in my activity, is a pre/post survey to go along with the activity.  This survey will help students to capture what they feel they know well, what they are unsure of and what they feel they do not know at all.  This ties into section 6.1 on goal setting, section 6.4 on capacity to monitor progress.  With a post survey that also highlights the same skills in the same ways students will be able to see growth and know what exactly they have learned through the activity.  This would tie into section 8.1 and 9.3.  I am even more excited to use this activty with my students this year.  As school starts next week, I do not have long to wait. 

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My InfoDiet

During CEP812, we have been exploring Gee(2013) ideas that it takes a group of unlike minded people to solve the worlds biggest problems.  Yes that is correct, unlike minded people.  Gee has stated that most of the world’s problems are created or are not yet solved because only people who think the same way work together to try and solve problems.  As a result, these problem solving groups do not have enough diversity to have ideas bounce off each other to allow the creation of new ideas.  This week in CEP812 we were introduced to the idea of a filter bubble (Pariser, 2011).

The concept of filter bubble is the idea that the algorithms that control many sites on the web including Google filter your query results based on your previous interactions with Google.  I can honestly tell you I was shocked.  I knew that what I received on Twitter or Feedly were restricted by who I chose to follow.  But Google…that really made me go hummm.  This week we were challenged to add three new sites to our RSS feed to help expand the information making it to us through our filter bubble.

When I started CEp810, it was the first time I had used twitter for a professional learning community, and the first time I had used an RSS feed.  I was really unclear how to choose sites to go into my RSS feeds and so I just looked at the sites that Feedly gave me when I typed in key words.  I was looking for sites that would support how I viewed teaching, especially teaching of mathematics and teaching using gamification.  You might think this narrowed my filter bubble to just things that interested me, but in a more profound way it has expanded my understanding of what teaching mathematics can be, what gamification of learning could be, and how to integrate technology into my classroom.  You wonder, how can finding what is the same help to broaden your understanding of things not restrict it?  It expands my understanding because it gives me new ideas to ponder, new techniques to try, and new understandings of how to teach in this ever changing world.  It allows new ideas to collide with my own to create something new to try and explore.  I do not get this collision of ideas at work, not because my colleagues aren’t good teachers, but because we view the world of teaching mathematics very differently and rather than value the diversity, it is often rejected as too outside the box.  Fortunately my principal is willing to allow me the freedom to experiment with new ideas to find ones that work for my students and I, we just know that rarely will those new insights extend beyond my classroom.

So to find three new sites to expand my info diet, was challenging.  I really needed to think about what three new sites would expand what I was getting from the other 21 sites presently in my Feedly feed.  TO do that I first had to look at what I had.  I found that I had math educator blogs but no researchers in the field of mathematics education.  I found that I had a lot of American content but little Canadian, this really distressed me and I wonder why my filter bubble focuses more on American content.  I found that had I had education sites from  a variety of disciplines but no non-educational sites.

I decided for my non-educational site I would add the site Pariser co-founded called Upworthy.  Upworthy is a site where videos that are deemed to matter are gathered in one place.  If the videos matter to you is up to the viewer, but seeing the variety of videos present expands my view of what matters to beyond just an educational one. The first video I watch from that site, ended up being one that is close to my heart.  I have been a gamer/geek since I was 8 years old, and have often faced the comments that are behind the creation of the video.

I am still working on RSS feeds for notable mathematics education researchers.  I added Jo Boaler’s blog only to realize that it hasn’t been updated in a year.  Marian Small does not have a blog to add.  I also tried John Mason and Anne Watson, who I had the privilege of learning from last summer, but no luck their either.  As for, Canadian math educators I have added three to my RSS feed, however they have published little, probably due to it being summer, so I can not comment on how they add to my Info diet.

I have found the flow  of information on Feedly staggering at times, not to mention twitter.  I have come up with a system where I spend 5 minutes looking through all the new items and then favourite those that I think might expand my understanding of something.  Then I go through them all later when I have time to actually comb through the items.  Additionally, every session that I go through the new items, I have been choosing to pick 3 things that I think might be interesting, or might offer a different perspective to try and widen my info diet.  I can honestly say that not everything that I have picked has been something I will keep on my favourite list, but the few that have remained have helped me to see the world through slightly different eyes.

The ideas in today’s blogpost remind me of a poem, I read in junior high.

OUTWITTED by Edwin Markham

He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!


The question now becomes, if Google and other algorithmic filters are shutting us out from  all of the information out there that contradicts our present view point, what can we do to change that so that these filter work for us, to create a more complex conglomeration of information to base our decisions and viewpoints on.

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Gee, James Paul (2013) The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning [Ibook edition] New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan

Markham, Edwin (1901) Outwitted part of the Epigrams Retrieved from

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My Dream Classroom- Redesigning my classroom space

I need to start this blog post by saying I love my classroom.  I am one of the lucky ones whose classroom has enough space to contain 36 students in multiple arrangements.  I have a SmartBoard, three white boards, 5 bulletin boards and ample wall space.  So this week’s challenge to design my room, required some thought.  For inspiration I watched two videos by David Kelley that talk about redesigning.

I had some more ideas about redesigning a space but still no clear ideas as to what I would do in my classroom that I already love so much.   So I started playing with a new program to me called Sketchup Make.  I want to say that this new program while challenging and more frustrating than I hoped, was much less frustrating than my foray into using Popcorn Maker.  Due to the fact that the walls are integral parts of my room, I have made the room larger than it really is to be able to navigate through it.  I originally started with the room to scale and spent all the time in the walls making everything more difficult.  I started again and made the room larger but kept the room proportions and shape the same.  I can say that not all of the elements I desired are in my mockups because I have not yet mastered all the skills required to use the program effectively.  The tool I found the most difficult, was the rotate feature.  It always was a surprise when I managed to rotate something into the correct position.

Still unclear as to what I would do to my classroom, I watched a trailer entitled Remake Your Classroom (Edutopia, 2013). This video inspired me more than the work of David Kelly because it helped me to see what change could look like.

After watching this video I dived into the list of 79 ways to use design to transform teaching and learning (The Third Teacher, 2010).  I looked at the list and immediately thought, “okay where do I start?” I felt a bit overwhelmed.  I then moved on to a different version (The Third Teacher, n.d.) that described what these ways were and I started to relax.  I didn’t need to change everything, just find a few things that I could change to make a difference in my classroom.  So then I sat down and decided that I was going to pick 7 from the list and make those changes in my room.  The changes I decided on were, #8 sound-absorbing materials, #19 Bring the outside in, #27 Naturalize play spaces, #54 Think Hands-on, #23 Make classroom agile,  #77 Bridge the digital divide, and #12 Support Great Teachers.  All of the pictures you will see below are screenshots of the model I make in Sketchup Make.

#8 Sound-Absorbing Materials

My classroom only shares a wall with one other classroom, which is extremely lucky.  However, I do not think there is any sound barrier between them as there is always the noise from that classroom creating background noise in my classroom, and when they watch anything with audio on the SmartBoard you can hear the audio with no difficulty in my room.  As I have talked about in a blog post for CEP812, I have had for the past two years and will have in the coming year students with hearing difficulties.  The need for less background noise is extremely important for these students and may even help students who are English Language Learners, students with ADHD and students with other learning difficulties (Millette, 2008).  What I propose is sound baffling on the ceiling, sound  insulation between the two classrooms and to change the floor from tile to a soundproof spongy material.

#19 Bring the Outside In and #27 Naturalize the Play Spaces

nature corner

Since I teach mostly grade seven students, they are in transition from elementary school where they have recess and junior high where they do not.  The only time they get outside during the day is during lunch, Physical Education, or other options like Outdoor Education.  I am lucky that my room has large windows on three walls and for the majority of the day I can run my classroom with no artificial light.  However, sometimes even I feel a bit cooped up inside and I think having a picture of Moraine lake here in Alberta, and the Northern Lights provide the sense of wonder that only things larger than ourselves can bring.  The green wall along the back would be a living wall full of plants, and perhaps a fountain or mini waterfall.  Not only would the water be peaceful and perhaps those students who need to relax a bit, but the plants will be able to purify the air in the classroom making it seem less recycled than the present system.

#54 Think Hands-On

My classroom is more hands on activities and game based learning than activities that are of the traditional variety.  However, due to storage restraints students only have access to the manipulative and games when I have decided to use them as I have to go and retrieve them.  I would, therefore, like a storage shelf where all of the manipulatives could be housed.  With all the manipulative accessible students would have the freedom to use the manipulatives that they feel would work best for them.  You never know what new conclusions they could come up with , due to the exposure to a new manipulative or way of looking at something.

#23 Make Classroom Agile

modible classroom top view

Right now in my classroom, I have large trapezoid tables set up in groups of two to make a hexagon.  I love the fact that this allows me to have my students work in groups, however the tables are large and awkward to move.  Thus, rearranging of the classroom takes a full class period so it happens very infrequently.  I would like smaller tables that still have enough room for four students to sit at comfortably.  I would also like the tables to have wheels on the bottom that could lock to allow the tables to be stationary when needed but move quickly when needed.  With having square or rectangular tables it allows the grouping of the tables to change from four to six to larger as the need arises.  Right now the trapezoid tables have a lot of wasted space that takes away from the floor space.  Setting up the tables to allow for me to walk through the classroom in any pattern has become a long and strategic planning session.  Moving table group even a little can make certain areas impassible.

#77 Bridge the Digital Divide

The digital divide refers to the “disparities between those people who have opportunities and skills enabling them to benefit from digital resources, especially the Internet, and those who do not have these opportunities or skills” (, n.d.).  According to the FCC fifty percent of all jobs presently available require technology skills, and they expect this number to
soar to seventy-seven percent within the next decade (FCC, 2012).  Over eighty percent of the Fortune 500 companies, such as Wal-Mart and Target, are moving their job application
process online (FCC, 2012), leaving those without digital skills less capable of securing gainful employment. The cupboards under the counter that presently runs around two walls of my room would be used to serve two purposes.  One they provide individual work spaces that students could access when they need.  Two they could be wired to become recharging stations for laptops and IPads in the classroom.  This would allow may of my students who would otherwise have no access to technology a chance to integrate the technology as they need it.  Presently, the technology requires prebooking of a cart that is stored elsewhere in the building, or prebooking the computer lab.  This means that students are not using the technology as they need it, but when it is available.

#12 Support Great Teachers

teacher storage

This counter area and cupboards, becomes my teacher desk,  It allows me to organize what I need that is not in the way for student learning but it removes the teacher desk from the room.  This means I am more free to wander and work with students as they are working, instead of them having to come to me and lose the momentum they have occurred in their learning.


I have not looked into the cost of the changes to my room but I know they are presently out of my budget.  It would be possible to stage some of the changes, but some would have to be done all at once.  However, all the changes would need to be approved by my principal, then passed up the chain to be approved.  I know our computer lab has taken two years from initial idea to actual implementation so I do not imagine the change would be a quick one.  Realistically, perhaps a shelf for manipulatives, permission to paint, or new tables if I was supper lucky would be all I would get.  The plant wall, extra storage, and recharge stations for my own computers are all very long term possibilities , if they are approved at all.  Dreaming is wonderful as it allows us to look at what could be, though what is possible now is a challenge all on its own. (n.d.). digital divide. Retrieved from Unabridged:

Edutopia (2013, March 14) Remake Your Class (Trailer) [Video file] Retrieved from

FCC. (2012, July 16). Fact Sheet, American Job Centers Announcement Event. Retrieved from Federal Communications Commission:

Johnson, Karl S.(2012, July 28) Moraine Lake in Banff National Park [Image file]. Retrieved from

Kelley, David (2002, February) David Kelley: Human-centered design [TED Video file]. Retrieved from

Kelley, David (2002, March) David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence [TED Video file] Retrieved from

Millette, P (2008) Sound Field Amplification Research Summary.  York University Retrieved from

Moussette, Philippe (2004, July)  Northern Lights at Observatoire Mont Cosmos, Quebec, Canada [Image file]. Retrieved from

The Third Teacher (2010) 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching + Learning. Retrieved from

The Third Teacher (n.d.) TTT Ideas Flash Cards. Retrieved from