Category Archives: collaboration

Week 3: BC Teachers are (almost) free of the shackles of Provincial Exams!

If I remember correctly, BC brought in Grade 10 exams back in 2007 (please correct me if I am wrong).   I had already been teaching for 8 years and I distinctly remember my new found frustration getting the better of me. With the new Provincials, I would have to remove the fun from both my Math and Science 10.  I had spent years creating engaging, corporative projects, only to have abandon them all so that I would have enough time to cover all of the prescribed learning outcomes.  I never taught Science 10 again— I was in a state of mourning over the course I had spent almost 10 years developing.  Why would I teach a class that only had time to superficially touch on an insane number of factoids? (Thankfully, being the only Physics teacher in the school, I had the freedom to not teach Junior Science, should I not want to.)

And here we are, nearly 10 years later. The government, in an effort to roll out their “Big Ideas”, realized that if teachers were to accommodate inquiry based learning, that the Provincials would have to go.  They are probably not sad to save a few bucks, either.  Teachers, should they choose to do so, can now go back to those inquiry based approaches, that they had long before “Big Ideas” ever came out, and hope to capitalize on facilitating more opportunities for students to learn and remember on a deeper level.

But in true government form, by plugging one hole, another hole (holes?) has formed– at least in the subject area of Mathematics. I read this week’s study with great interest.  What educator doesn’t want to learn about optimal learning and remembering conditions?  In particular, the authors, on multiple occasions, stated that educators must build on students’ background knowledge so that the new knowledge would be able to “attach” or “link” itself to the previously learned material. It is then, and only then, that higher level learning can take place.

So what’s my new problem?  It’s the “Big Ideas”.  In my opinion, “Big Ideas” need to be removed from the mathematics curriculum.  The new curriculum minimizes overlap and generates massive jumps between years of learning.  For example, combining fractions appear, disappear, then reappear. Similarly, order of operations is introduced, it vanishes, then reappears.  Skill based content, unless practiced and built upon, does erode the retrieval mechanisms, hence we risk not accessing the LTM information.

I’m not anti-Big Idea for everything.  Bring it on in Science, no question!  Expecting kids to remember information and skills from two years ago is unrealistic.

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Filed under assessment, collaboration, ETEC 512, General thoughts

Week 8: e-Rubrics r Gr8!

The question that I would like to focus on this week is:   

Are there other methods that are equally as economical, particularly in terms of instructor time, that are more suitable for assessment in a digital age?

where the “other methods” the list included were:

multiple choice tests, written essays, project work, e-portfolios, simulations and educational games

For me, this is the Holy Grail of teaching pedagogy– how to be effective as an educator and effective as an assessor.  Unless you are married to a teacher, or you are a teacher, it is likely that you have no idea how much time is consumed assessing student work.  It is the biggest time consumer of my week, now that most of my lessons are fairly under control.

Having observed my fellow Physics and Math colleagues assess, we all do not put in the same amount of time and feedback into our assessments.  It can take me over 2 hours, sometimes 3 hours, to mark 30 Physics 12 labs.  It is so time consuming that I have allowed students to hand in one copy between two lab partners, whenever I can. When I employ a rubric, I definitely cut my marking time down, and it seems as though student satisfaction with the feedback has not been comprised.  

Recently, as a GAFE adopter, I tried using Alice Keeler’s Google Sheet Rubric which allows you to adjust and weight each outcome, it totals the score, and then emails the rubric back to the student.  It also provides a space to enter additional comments.  As the students completed the entire lab on a Google Doc, I also provided comments on their labs directly.  Because I work in a high school in a district that allows students to self-consent for their FIOPPA permissions, Google Apps are at my finger tips–  I recognize, however, that this is not necessarily the case across the board.

If anyone is interested in seeing an e-rubric in action, I just made a screencast of a lab I just assessed for my Physics class.

Since this was my first time using an e-rubric, the learning curve sucked up some of the saved time, however, now that I have tried it once, I know that it will be smoother in the future.

Ironically, one of the best forms of assessment that I have introduced this year is not very high tech at all. I bought 18 individual white boards (on Clearance at London Drugs for $1 each!) and I will start most classes with collaborative warm up questions.  If a pair of students seem stuck, I send other students to peer instruct them. It is non-threatening, very efficient and NO MARKING.  I love it!

I”ve dabbled a bit with Google Forms this year, putting a “check in” on the Google Classroom.  Students receive 2 marks for participating.  Using the Add-on called Flubaroo, I can run the add-on in Sheets and immediately email students their results. Although it is pretty cool to do, I honestly think that the whiteboards are better use of class time– collaboration via peer instruction is pure magic!  The one advantage to the GF is that since I have it as an “assignment” on the GC, students who were away are still responsible for completing the check-in.  Perhaps I should have both!!! 🙂


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Filed under assessment, collaboration, ETEC 565, Google Apps For Education

Collaboration: The good, the bad & the ugly.


© Copyright Peter Ward and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

“When I die I want my group members to lower me into the grave so that they can let me down one last time.” ~Someecards

When I first heard this quotation, I thought it was the funniest thing ever. Funny, because at the time, it was true. I was in a particularly difficult situation with a group and I felt that I was unequipped to handle the challenges.

This was unquestionably NOT the case for my Platform Evaluation!

Here is the thing… When a group works well together, is respectful of each others opinions, has members that equally do not want to let the “group down”, incorporates humour, and brings a level of professionalism to the table, EVERYTHING IS LIKE RAINBOWS AND UNICORNS.  It’s the best.  It is like going to Cloud Cuckoo Land. (Lego Movie reference for those of you who may not have seen this most excellent movie.)

But when one or more of these attributes are missing from a group’s dynamic, I find that an incredible amount of thinking time is wasted on wishing that the project would be over and/or wanting to stab myself in the eye with a pencil.

For this group project, I came late to the table.  I erroneously gave our organiser my g-mail address with an “” extension.  Brilliant, I know. Days went by where my group mates hashed out the initial stages of our project without my input.  Thankfully, one mate realized that the e-mails had been “undelivered” and I was brought into the planning.

I was “THAT” person.  I very much loathe being “THAT” person.  I do everything in my power to never ever by “THAT” person.  So when it does happen, I go to “THAT” place.  “THAT” place is the place that some of us people-pleasers go when they think that other people think negatively about them.  I know.  At the age of 43, I should adopt more of a “Honey-Badger attitude” (you HAVE to Google that one, if you do not know what I am talking about.  Your welcome.).  But alas, we are who we are, so I immediately thought that my entire group thought that I was a big loser who was in an educational technology Masters program, yet could not freakin even share her own email address properly.

So what do people-pleasers do in this situation?  They make up for it and then some.  Why?  Because we have not only do our part but we have to make up for the perceived part that we perceived we didn’t do.

I truly hope I accomplished my mission.

But this is where my group really came through.  Not once did they make me feel like I had to “make-up” for anything.  It was all in my head.  I admit to being a bit in Cuckoo Land on this one.

Funny story, though.  My group mates don’t even this one (don’t tell them, OK?)

I had to bring my bit of the project to the Google Doc two days after everyone else due to my semester turnaround week at work.  When I visit our Google Doc (the most excellent way to collaborate, on-line, in my opinion), I read the introduction that had us portrayed as a group of Grade 8 Middle School teachers from Vancouver.  I thought to myself, “Great. I’m not part of the group.”  I let it go.  I thought, OK– I can pretend that I live in Vancouver and teach Middle School.” After all, I needed to be a team player.  But then, after awhile, it started to bug me.  My name was on this and I didn’t want to misrepresent myself!  So I said something on the chat function of the Google Doc.  After some back and forth, my group mate piped up and said, “Neither am I!  I live in Thunder Bay and teach Math 10!”  For some reason, I didn’t realize that the whole idea of this project was to write from one institution’s voice.  We had a good laugh.

If I could change one thing about this particular experience, it would have been to have prioritized having a couple of Google Hangouts. I missed not having actual conversations with people and flushing things like not knowing that our scenario was fictitious.  Completing this degree on-line is great for so many reasons, but I truly yearn for face-to-face experiences, as well.   I think that as we venture into more on-line learning, that as educational technologists, we need to keep at least a smidgen of actual conversation into our practices. A screen just doesn’t cut it, 100% of the time– in my world anyway!


Filed under advice, collaboration, ETEC 565, General thoughts, LMS, obstacles

Week 2: When “Secondary Criteria” trumps “Primary” when implementing educational technologies

One thing that I have noticed now that I am one-third through my Masters, is that I enjoy the week’s readings more when they take me a long time to read due to long pauses devoted to thinking about what I do in my own classroom. Thankfully, this happened as I read this week’s article, ““Educational Technologies: A Classification and Evaluation”” (Nel, Dryer, and Carstens, 2010)!

A huge technology stumbling block in my school has been having access to reliable wi-fi.  Some days, I can not even show a video from YouTube, because of the length of time to buffer.  If all of my students attempt to access the wi-fi at once, the system becomes a constipated mess and nobody gets anywhere. In my classroom, I can not even use the data plan on my phone, due to extremely poor reception.  In addition, most teachers do not have all of their students with their own device.  Although 2/3 to 4/5 of a class may have a smart phone, every student obviously needs to be able to access the app, the LMS, the websites, etc. Sadly, costs, access and operability issues seem to prevent most teachers at my school from wanting to spend their free time designing “new school, pedagogical practices.”

Despite these challenges, my Principal has begun a new initiative this year, in the spirit of collaboration, leading to more progressive learning practices. In exchange of having a “lieu day” on our May Pro-D, interested teachers are meeting for a couple of hours over four Fridays, after school. These days are called “Collaboration Fridays” in which we are actually spending time sharing our ideas and developing pedagogy.  Naturally, I gravitated to a group of other “tech-minded” teachers!  I am presently working with two other teachers who are interested in student blogging. The other technology group has decided to figure out “Google Classroom” (as this is the direction our district is moving towards).

A factor that seems to be missing from the list of Secondary Criteria (p.247) needed for successful implementation of educational technologies would be time.  With larger class sizes, and classes with diverse learning needs, educators have very little time to redesign their courses. In BC, our curriculum has just undergone a major revision in which many units have migrated into other grades. Teachers are going to be spending an enormous amount of time simply learning their new curricula– asking them to concurrently change their entire approach to teaching, may be asking too much, at least for right now.

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Filed under collaboration, ETEC 565, General thoughts, obstacles