A Thoughtful Note (on Building Thinking Classrooms)

This past week I attended a PD session facilitated by Peter Liljedahlentitled Building Thinking Classrooms.
Two things I noticed right away:
1) No mention of the word mathematics in the title. It's about the thinking.
2) Participants were tossed into the role of learners. It's about the students.
(We were thinking about mathematics but the thinking proceeded the math)

During his consolidation piece, Peter Liljedahl discussed the role of note taking and suggested that perhaps we encourage students to write notes entitled "A letter to my future dumber self" (or otherwise known as thoughtful notes).

So here it goes...
A letter to my future dumber self,

It wasn't too long ago that you saw the acronym #VNPS and thought really?, isn't that just a whiteboard? A gentle reminder to dig deeper before forming an opinion. Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces represent a shift in the learning environment that directly impacts the student experience. The name means something becau…

Celebrate Monday

Every year on Labour Day weekend I run to my favourite little alcove along the beach that is filled with the most wonderful rocks of all shapes, sizes, and colours. I collect a jar of my favourites for the first day of school. Each student selects a rock, writes their name on it, and says a little something about why they picked the rock they did. Each rock is placed in a glass container on our prayer table to show our uniqueness.

Last year, a student said something during this activity that I will always remember (Thanks A!). She said:
"Each rock glitters in its own way. Sometimes you have to pick them up and take a closer look to see their beauty."

Isn't this the most relevant reminder for the starting of a new school year?  Each student comes to us with their own lived experiences, perceptions, hopes, and fears. All of these things, and so many more, impact their interactions in the classroom and school community. As educators, building relationships with our students…

Time for Talk: The unexpected benefit of trains & travel

Picture this: sixty-six international educators boarding the train for a weekend excursion in China. Cues forming (well, more like scrums) ready to board. Selfies snapping sporadically amongst the group - as well as a few with inquisitive onlookers. Upon arrival, unforgettable landscapes and cultural experiences await. As beautiful as the Shaolin Temple and Longmen Grottoes were, the real story of this blog lies in the train ride.

It is here that a conversation about robotics unfolded with my friend and colleague John Burke from Arizona. I had the pleasure of meeting John last year at SFLS and was delighted that we were both back again this summer. We had over two hours on the train, refreshments in our hands, and so much to talk about in light of our shared interest in STEM. With no time limits and no pressure, our conversation just ebbed and flowed. We talked about the previous school year - what new things did we try? What went well? What flopped? I shared our success at WCDSB'…

What "More and Less" Are Encouraged?

What "more and less" would top your list?

This question has been on my mind since attending a seminar by Liu Baocun from Beijing Normal University during my two week experience at Shijiazhaung Foreign Language School in China.

He spoke about current experiences of students and teachers in the Chinese educational system. Many of these were evident while teaching grade 7 and 8 students during the two week summer camp. First and foremost, I will note the great care that the teachers I worked with had for their students - wanting the very best for them and working very hard to incorporate new practices into their lessons. All of this with obstacles such as very large class sizes (40 - 60 students per class) and testing. This is something that I have come to find transcends borders - the close relationship between students and teachers. Our conversations, although challenging at times with language barriers, were tempered with a common love and understanding of our profession. It …

Prism Puzzler 3D Printing Project

I am so excited to share the process of our Prism Puzzler challenge. It was one of those learning tasks that just kept rolling. Each stage increasing in complexity and depth of thinking. Students were engaged, motivated, and demonstrating deep learning competencies throughout. The learning just made sense to students. They could visualize their learning and make connections during each stage. An educational WIN! When utilizing unconventional teaching strategies and methods, this does not always happen (refer to my first posts this year on failure) but it such a joy when thinks unfold as this did.

Specific Curriculum Expectations:
– solve problems that involve the surface area and volume of right prisms and that require conversion between metric measures of capacity and volume
– estimate and calculate the area of composite two-dimensional shapes by decomposing into shapes with known area relationships
– sketch different polygonal prisms that share the same volume
– determine, through invest…

Deep Learning Lab

NPDL Deep Learning Lab
In his opening remarks, Michael Fullan challenged us to consider our own definitions of creativity and adapt these definitions throughout the Learning Lab.
Mine started something like this: Creativity is generating novel solutions to real world problems. 
I was blown away by Daan Roosegaarde's presentation.  Studio Roosegaarde Creativity starts by LOOKING. Be annoyed, be fascinated, be curious. — Jessica Weber (@missjessweber) May 1, 2017
The principle of MAYA- most advanced yet acceptable! — Jessica Weber (@missjessweber) May 1, 2017
@DaanRoosegaarde "3 phases of innovation" from a new Idea:
- Not possible
- Possible, not allowed
- Why didn't you do this before! #npdl — Bill Corcoran (@BCor_2) May 1, 2017
Definition refined: Creativity starts with LOOKING. It is generating novel solutions to real world problems THAT MATTER.
Insight Session 1: The Story …

Fall to your Knees with Deep Learning

At her session called The Right Question at the Ontario GAFE summit,Holly Clark spoke of those 'fall to your knees' moments as educators when something goes so absolutely right, when the learning is so tangible, that you feel like falling to your knees in pure bliss and gratitude for what you are a part of.

I have learned through my experimentation with varied pedagogical approaches and adoption of new technologies, that these moments are to be treasured and are what fuels passionate educators to continue with their pursuits to innovate and inspire. For each 'fall to your knees' moment there are also moments of failure that serve to 'reflect and refine' practice. Both moments equally as important and rich with learning for students and educators.

I had a 'fall to my knees' moment witnessing my Grade 7 students so enthralled with their heat design projects that time stood still and it seemed as though I was in some amazing innovation incubator somewhere…