Author Archives: Bryn Hammett

Why are my veins blue?

Common Misconceptions

Watching the video on common misconceptions about the causes of the seasons and the phases of the moon, I was reminded of when I taught Biology 12 this summer and just how challenging it was for students to grasp the mental model I was trying to communicate.  I tried to be creative in how I delivered my lessons by using analogies and manipulatives but still I found many students would erroneously add details or fill in gaps with incorrect information.  Why weren’t they able to acknowledge gaps in their understanding and ask for clarification?  Why did they invent facts?  I don’t believe they were simply too embarrassed to acknowledge their misconception.  Our brains are great at finding patterns and filling in for missed information.  In the image below, it is difficult not to see the unbordered white triangle in the middle.  Our brain fills in what it can’t see.  I feel like this is analogous to how students fill in missing information in order  to complete a mental model of a particular process.  Unfortunately in science, if these assumptions go unchecked, students risk carrying the burden of their false assumptions year after year.  I no longer rely solely on written output to find out what my students understand.  I have long since adopted oral assessments whereby students are asked to explain their understanding of processes fundamental to the unit of study.

In many cases, the students are actually taught misconceptions.  There is mounting research that shows that misconceptions concerning science are prevalent among teachers.  Nancy J. Pelaez et al. (2005) for instance, investigated the prevalence of blood circulation misconception  among prospective elementary teacher in the US and found that “70% of prospective elementary teachers did not understand the dual blood circulation pathway, 33% were confused about blood vessels, 55% had wrong ideas about gas exchange, 19% had trouble with gas transport and utilization, and 20% did not understand lung function”.  I would be curious to see how many of my colleagues would agree that veins in their wrists are blue because they carry deoxygenated blood (deoxygenated blood is still red). My hope is that through greater inquiry based education, teachers will be less required to the absolute bearers of all knowledge and can focus on teaching students the skills required to consolidate, criticize and explain information.


“Kanizsa Triangle.” Optics For Kids – Optical Illusions. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2017.

Pelaez, N. J. “Prevalence of blood circulation misconceptions among prospective elementary teachers.” AJP: Advances in Physiology Education 29.3 (2005): 172-81. Web.

Hello from the North Shore of Vancouver!

Hi everyone,

My name is Bryn and I live on the North Shore of Vancouver.  I teach a grade 6/7 class for the West Vancouver School District at an awesome school on Bowen Island in the middle of Howe Sound.  I have moved into teaching elementary just over a year ago and was previously teaching senior math and physics at various high schools around the world.  I began teaching in China for 3 years and then taught on a tall ship with a program called Class Afloat.  I have really enjoyed my recent shift to the elementary level but look forward to returning to high school math and physics one day.

I feel fortunate to be working in a school district and community that fully embraces technology in the classroom.  Students bring their own devices to school and I incorporate technology in almost every unit of instruction.  Google Apps for Education, Khan Academy, and the inquiry-based model are all cornerstones in my classroom and I love trying out all sorts of innovative programs in my classroom.

I look forward to expanding my understanding of technology in the math and science classroom and explore current best practice with devices in the classroom.   I look forward to gleaning new ideas from my new set of colleagues and sharing my experiences with you all as well.

Beyond teaching, I love adventuring outside.  My free time is often torn between kayaking, mountain biking, skiing, trail running, sailing, and cycling.

I look forward to working with and learning from you all this semester!

From MacPlus to BYOD in the grade 6/7 classroom

One of my first experiences with computers was in grade 6 and 7 when my teacher would take us to the school computer lab outfitted with brand new Macintosh Plus computers.  I was under the impression that computers were primarily used as fancy typewriters because all we did was practice our typing with cotton placemats over our hands.  At the time, students who were “good” at computers were those who could type more than 35 words per minute.  Fast forward 20 years and I am now the teacher of a grade 6/7 split classroom after starting my career teaching senior math and science.  It was great to see that the computer lab has morphed into laptop carts and that my district has fully adopted Bring Your Own Device programs throughout its schools.  I was amazed that in a class of 27, all but one brought in a personal device to school each day.  These 11 and 12-year-olds were already familiar with Google Apps for Education (something I had just learned a few years prior) and they could acquire, interpret and present information to an astonishingly high level.  There were still the usual frustrations- student’s forgetting passwords, wifi deciding to stop working…- but these students were using technology beyond my wildest dreams of 20 years ago.  I wondered, beyond not being taught cursive writing anymore, what other skills are this demographic of learners not being taught in place of developing their skills in technology?  What are the consequences of such an early adoption of devices in the classroom?  I will admit, I am a huge advocate of technology in the classroom and strongly believe we need to keep working towards greater accessibility to computers but I am also wary of any unintended consequences that will undoubtedly arise.