Cobwebs blowing around in here

It has been a ridiculously long time since I’ve wrote anything here. It’s not because I’ve given up writing, it’s because I haven’t been in the teaching game…until now. I’m in a new city, new province, and just started on the sub-list for two different school boards. I had my first sub day today, teaching elementary/jr. high gym!  I also have a couple lined up more later in the week.

I’ll have lots to write about, but right now I have to go get another pair of spandex for my other classes tomorrow.

globogymguy

Just kidding!

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Good news on the math front in Nova Scotia

At least I think it’s good news…from today’s Herald:

Math classes to get overhaul in bid to improve grades

A curriculum announcement by the Education Department Tuesday will add up to big changes in how math is taught in this province.

The department is changing the math curriculum for grades Primary right through to Grade 12, and also changing the Grade 10 academic math course from a semester course to a full-year course.

The change to how Grade 10 academic math is taught means students will learn the course material over 220 hours of class time spread over the year rather than 110 hours in one semester, Jennex said. The number of concepts students are expected to be proficient in is also being reduced, with the rest being introduced in later grades.

You can read the rest of the article here.  Nova Scotia is also modifying the curriculum to be in line with the WNCP Protocol . I personally think this is a change for the better, but not everyone agrees.

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Can Canadian School Curriculums Please Follow This?

Computer science teachers offered cash incentive

By Judith Burns Education reporter, BBC News

High-flying graduates are to be given a £20,000 golden handshake to train as computer science teachers.

Ministers have asked Facebook, Microsoft and IBM to help design the training for the new teachers.

You can read the rest of the BBC article here.

I’ve brought the topic of computer science getting a makeover in Engand before, and I  have to say that as a computer science grad who purposely chose the education field, I find this article both encouraging and discouraging. Encouraging because it’s happening in Britain, and discouraging because I’m not a part of it.

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Back In Black. Or at least back. Maybe.

Well well,

I have certainly neglected this blog over the last couple months. I just didn’t have very much to write about it. With my official graduation coming up in less than two weeks, unfortunately, I do not have a full-time job yet. My current plan right now is to finish out my current non-teaching related work contract, which is the end of December, and then make a move to Western Canada and try my hand at supply teaching until something more permanent comes up. Everything is open right now.

In the meantime, I still follow education-related blogs and articles. I also occasionally crack open my math books and do some reading or work through some problem sets. Something I’m considering is using this blog to write more math and technology stuff not directly related to teaching.

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Khan Academy: The hype and the reality

Here’s a good Washington Post article about Khan Academy that I’ve come across: (Hat Tip: dangerously ! irrelevant )

Some quotes from the article worth sharing:

…effective teaching is incredibly complex. It requires planning. It requires reflection…

…the truth is that there’s nothing revolutionary about Khan Academy at all. In fact, Khan’s style of instruction is identical to what students have seen for generations: a do this then do this approach to teaching that presents mathematics as a meaningless series of steps.

The real problem with Khan Academy is not the low-quality videos or the absence of any pedagogical intentionality. It’s just one resource among many, after all. Rather, the danger is that we believe the promise of silver bullets – of simple solutions to complex problems – and in so doing become deaf to what really needs to be done.

Overall, I think the article is harsh on Khan, calling him a “bad teacher”. I don’t think Khan is a bad teacher, at all. In fact, I think the opposite, he is very natural and has a knack for explaining things.  What Khan isn’t is revolutionary, nor is he a great teacher. His style is a typical monologue you would expect from a knowledgeable, but otherwise average high school teacher or college instructor.

The strength of Khan Academy is it’s breadth of videos, price, and convenience,  and I wouldn’t hesitate to send students there to brush up on their skills to help them prepare for tests, but to hold it on a pedestal as an example of quality education? It’s just more of the same, minus a social learning environment and a teacher who actually knows the student trying to learn the material, and actually cares about their success.

Luckily, I have yet to hear too much noise about Khan Academy here in Canada, as of yet. Teachers know it exists, some may even use it, but seeing it as a silver bullet to improving math education? If only it was that easy.
PS, It was nice to see Kate Nowak was mentioned in the article as an example of someone who is “doing it right”.

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I’m still here

Well, I’ve been really slack updating this blog lately. I’ve been bogged down with work and school, so I’m just writing a quick note right now to say I’m still alive here in the blogosphere and I plan on getting back to regular updates soon.

In the meantime, one interesting development here in Nova Scotia, is that standardized province-wide math exam have been moved from Grade 12 to Grade 10. The article about it is here.  Standardized testing is always a contentious issue, but I think if they’re going to have them at all, it’s a good move to have students write them in Grade 10 rather than 12. More on that later.

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No Zero Policy

Margaret Wente from the Globe & Mail weighs in on the current no-zero controversy from Edmonton:

The classroom hero of zero

A funny thing happened to Lynden Dorval, a mild-mannered physics teacher at Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton.

He’s become a folk hero.

Mr. Dorval, 61, has spent 35 years in the classroom. He has a reputation as an able and respected teacher. His principal and his school board, on the other hand, regard him as a troublemaker. A week and a half ago, the school board, at the principal’s request, took the highly unusual step of suspending him for unprofessional behaviour and for “negatively impacting student achievement.”

Did they catch him smoking dope with students? Letting them skip class? Slipping neo-Nazi propaganda into the lesson plan? No, no, and no. What he did was worse than that. He gave them zeroes. Zero on a quiz if they missed it without a good excuse; zero on assignments they never handed in.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Continue reading

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