Monthly Archives: February 2008


Over the summer holidays I'd been pondering how to improve my Mathematics program using inspiration, ideas and resources from Dan Meyer's blog. I wanted to harness the potential of my classroom interactive whiteboard to the engagement and purpose of digital materials presented using some of the effective information design principles that Dan so passionately espouses. My original idea was to break the back of the Year Six Maths curriculum by designing the flipcharts by topic or concept before school started back but having a real holiday break and spending quality family time after a really intense 2007 put paid to that ambition. Instead, I've made a conscious effort so far this year to stick to my concept and while what I've produced so far could always improve in quality, I reckon I'm on the right track.

I'm not naturally well organised so establishing some base concepts early on has been helpful. I created some template flipcharts using a colour code system to identify the strand. (e.g. Green gradient background = Measurement, Yellow gradient background = Number although the cruddy Toshiba projector I have in my classroom turns that into a dirty lime.) From there I have been seeking out maths related Flickr cc images to hook the kids' interest, get the class thinking and then I try to clearly introduce the concept, process or skill using clear good sized fonts (Tahoma is my favourite) and minimal word based instruction. I'm scouring del.ici.ous links for useful web based simulations, games and embedding them in the flipcharts so that they can become an integral part of the lesson.

So, I've gone from a wild variety of fonts, backgrounds and amount of mathematical information:



To something that is starting to be more about the maths concept and how the kids will learn that than how it's all going to look.



I've also taken Dan's ideas about effective worksheet design on board as well, designing my own worksheets instead of pulling stuff out of textbooks (where time allows) and even when I do use something that someone else has used, it has at least been with a critical eye and conscience.

Just having a plan of attack is doing wonders for an area of the curriculum I have less than progressive in over the last couple of years. My co-teacher and I reckon our classes are up for the Feltron Project next - modified for 10/11 year olds, of course.

And using this approach is turning up some digital gems. Last night, I started hunting down supporting material for the topic of timelines, starting with units of time measurement, moving to sequence of events in varying time frames and then adding some scale to those timelines. For starters, this time keeping page was an ideal starting point (until the data projector froze this morning and I had to do some fast paddling to get the laptops out, logged on and kids directed to the right spot in cyberspace - a non-digital plan can be a helpful back-up) followed by this great timeline of events based around the fatal tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo. Tomorrow, I will get them analysing a day of their own life using the ReadWriteThink timeline tool before we look at how to introduce scale into the concept.

Still not sure how to use this timeline on the history of McDonald's in my class but the tool that creates it , xtimeline oozes potential for older users.


Dan's not so sure that self nomination is the way to do it.

Identifying what makes a blog worthwhile to recommend to others, that is.

Tom Woodward's comments further down on that post are really worth a read though.

This idea is probably way too subjective to push into too deeply. But it ties neatly with a conversation I had with Sue Waters a few weeks back (on twitter, where else?) about what style of blog qualifies as good writing. To paraphrase what we tossed about in less than 140 character comments, we found that we both appreciated very different qualities in the readability of blogs. What I might find artful and clever wordsmithing might be painful reading for another. Step by step instructions with annotated screengrabs and how-to-be-a-great-whatever appeal to some people but have me reaching for the "Mark As Read" button.


Your trash might be my treasure.

Or vice versa.

It can be a bit worrying when bloggers I love to read for their rubber band expertise with words start resolving to become more professional in their writing. Try this quote from my colleague Alex Hayes:

You’ll notice some changes in this blog structure and the way it reads again so here’s hoping this is the end of the spring clean for 2007 and that I can get down to some serious summer business.

Compared to this gem which was a contender for best start to a blog post for 2007 for me:

I love my suit.

It’s the only one I own.

I wear it to weddings, funerals and other important educational meetings.

blogoff.jpgAnd the problem with my own blog is that it lacks the focus to document and explore issues and ideas in well thought out detail, but doesn't make the jump to the wondrous language-mangling of an Artichoke or a Ken Rodoff.

It'd be a pretty boring world if we all liked the same stuff. And I suppose liking your own prose and rating it highly is OK in this new form of reflections, connections and objections.


More try-hard phrase turning.


kiwis.jpgI think the Kiwis are doing a lot of things right for teachers. They know how to get the focus right in a number of ways. They don't use technology titles for their conferences. They use great names like ULearn and Learning@School. They give regular classroom teachers the opportunity to step out of the classroom and spread their expertise to others. People like Jane Nicholls and Allanah King. I'd like to see that happen more here in South Australia.

Hmmm... Probably no surprise that there seems to be a whole swag of classroom based bloggers in the Land Of The Long White Cloud - try Chrissy Hellyer, Lynne Crowe, Rachel Boyd, Greg Carroll, Simon Evans and David from Turning The Supertanker.

And there's plenty more...


I've been keen on the idea of a Digg style site that can be customised for a classroom since last year but the demise of CrispyNews put paid to that avenue. But I'm been using another site, CoRank, to build something similar for this year and it looks promising. I haven't seen much in the edublogosphere about this site so I thought I'd let you know.

You basically set up an account (valid email only required) and then you can choose from a few templates to set up your site. You can then invite others to join the site so that they can help submit news stories and websites that can then be commented upon and voted up or down Digg style. This way you set up your small voting community and watch as topical stories surface and climb or fall according to the preferences of the participants. There are tabs where you can see all stories submitted, they can sorted by tag, rank, and every user can see their activity history as well.

Why might this be useful in the classroom?

I figure it can be useful in a number of ways. Firstly, there is a lot to be learnt in terms of the students sensibly starting and managing a web account and how to be protective of their identity via their profile and the creation of a fun avatar. It can be useful in terms of teaching younger kids how to start contributing to the web without having to author original material but instead getting them to start making insightful comments. It gets them thinking about the wider world and making judgement calls about suitable material for the site both by voting up or down and then via posted contributions.

You can get a bit of an idea by looking at the site I created. I've gone with the SpinTheGlobe theme thinking that we might restart our connection to Doug Noon's class with this as one distributed point where we can find topics of interest together for 11/12 year olds. Already, students have been really keen and have added some articles already, and started the commenting. The voting feature is a hit - please bear in mind that this is barely a week old but it is a tool that is worth a good look in terms of tapping into your students' interests and assisting with information literacy skills and general internet awareness. Check it out.

Spin The Globe Classrooms > Top via kwout


Well, after one week back in the classroom it sort of feels like I've never been away. Same room, similar year level and even nine of the same students as 2007. But I'm determined that my classroom practice this year will continue to evolve and change, blending the best practice of my work colleagues along with the boundary pushing ideas of my online learning network. Time as always is the enemy, conspiring to eat away at these good intentions and the wealth of expertise and resources I want to sort through and adapt for my own students' gain.

The first week always seems to be about negotiating ground rules, setting expectations and procedures before launching into any sort of timetabled routines. I have spent far too much time talking at and with my students but I'm yet to find a more efficient method of establishing a shared understanding of how our classroom will work. We managed to come up with a pretty good class vision statement - Our classroom will be a calm, focussed learning environment where all learners are free to make mistakes and strive for their personal best. - brainstorming key words and phrases for our six Classroom Agreement rules on the interactive whiteboard and then getting the students to shape then into statements. We also discussed and then photographed visual examples of our rules in action, uploading them into BigHugeLabs Motivator poster tool to save, print and display. This is an idea I initiated last year with our upper primary classes - every class has these colour coded in this format but with their own negotiated statements. See here for an example; students' photographic identity has been obscured by distortion. The posters in our room are crystal clear and are a great visual reminder of what the classroom is aiming to be like in 2008.


Anyway, the first few weeks are about laying down the foundations for a successful year. At this age level, explicit lessons in the initial part of the year help give the scaffolding and structures that will enable the students to become more independent and develop their initiative. There's plenty of time to start shifting the curriculum. That job will be more efficient if the students are settled, clear about expectations and know how to lay their hands on necessary resources as they need them (technology included).