Sunday, May 12, 2013

Students from PES NZ: better than the traditional media

Last week there was quite a bit in the news about the visit of Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas to New Zealand. While he was officially appearing here as part of clothing company promotion, he also visited Point England School and the Manaiakalani cluster in Auckland and made a donation of $100,000 to the cluster!  The students from our class were wishing that they lived in Auckland for this experience.   This video is from Point England School of the event and was embedded from their site.

Firstly we heard about it originally through our friends from Room Thirteen at Point England School. They've been one of our longest buddy blog sites and the students have always got wonderful work that is posted. We have their page on our side bar, so when the visit happened at thier school we heard about it quickly. From there we were able to look at other reports and see this wonderful video. Over the following days some of the students from Point England School wrote about their expereinces. You can see Darius recount here. Josephine is another student from PES, she's been featured during the holidays on this blog because she was posting so regularly and also because she was out posting our entire class earlier this year you can read her thoughts on the event by clicking here.

The other great thing apart from hearing and seeing this event so quick is that the students present have blogged about it in detail, much more so than we were able to see on the news later that evening.  There would have been students from our school who would have known more about the event than before it aired on the news later that evening. 

And at the end of the day thats really the experience that we should be working online for our students for.  Getting an amazing experience is one thing but linking it in with the literacy of the event and the whole process just adds value to an amazing experience.

I was very fortunate to have some experience working in the area where this all took place, and while it was some time ago now the project that the students, the schools and the community are involved in is breath taking.  If you have an opportunity to ever hear anyone from the cluster speak, as they have presented at numerous conferences, then it is a jaw dropping I-can't-believe that they're doing it and doing that much for their students way.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Time To Move On

So today I really borked this site. I tried to uninstall the commenting service disqus and now I can't get the blog to take comments. I suppose I see this as a sign and have decided to stop my writing on here. I have moved my old posts over to a new blog where I will be writing now.

I would like to apologize to my fellow contributors to this blog. Maybe one of you can fix the mess I caused.

In the future I will be posting on my new blog #WmChamberlain Thanks for all the comments (which are no longer here because I screwed up) and hopefully we will continue the conversations elsewhere.

Wm Chamberlain

It Would Have Been More Fun If It Was Figuring Out a Trip for Us: Mr. C, What Is a Real World Scenario Part 2

The students finished figuring out the expenses to my baseball trip in July yesterday. Depending on the price of hotel and tickets it will cost between $1,000 an d$1,100 dollars for a three day trip. Apparently you need to be a major league baseball player to afford going to back to back to back games :(

After the students all shared their totals I asked them if they liked the activity. I had two very interesting responses from two different students. One student asked me if I liked the activity. I told them I really enjoyed their enthusiasm for the project. Another student then told me that she would have liked the assignment more if it had been a trip she wanted to go on. (This is what we in education circles call a teachable moment ;) So we immediately started making plans for a trip they will research.

I gave them some guidelines to help them:

  • The trip would be five days long. We picked a week in July so they wouldn't miss summer school :)
  • I told them they needed to budget $75 a day for food per person.
  • I also had them spend $50 a day on souvenirs. 
I learned a lot in just the first day:
  • Several students planned the trip around a real trip they are going to take later this year.
  • Many students wanted to plan the trip together so they could share the experience (although I don't know if they want to share the actual trip or just the planning.)
  • Most of my students have a very limited view of where they can go on vacation. I had to emphasize many times that they could go anywhere for those five days. Money was not an issue. Most still tried to find bargains with their hotels. 
  • Many of the students wanted to visit relatives that don't live nearby. Isn't that wonderful!
The reality is this has been a great way to get our minds off of test prep for a few days and get them engaged and rejuvenated for math. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mr. C, What Is a Real World Scenario?

"Mr. C, what is a real world scenario?" asked Stephanie. This question yesterday caused me to completely change today's math lesson. Instead of more test prep/review which we have been doing, I decided we needed to do something different.

I have been really excited about baseball this year, probably more excited than I have been in 25 years when the Royals were really good. After reading about the Edutour I checked the baseball schedule at KC to see if the tour stop coincided with a home stand. Yes, that was a random thought but that is how I roll.

I then had the inspiration to see if there were a way to get to meet Nick and Tim and combine that with a couple games. I noticed that the Royals had a home game the day before the pit stop and then I looked at the Cardinals schedule and found they were also playing a home stand at that time. I could do back to back games in different stadiums! Next I checked the Chicago Cubs schedule, but they were playing away at that time but the White Sox had a home stand then too. I could actually pull of three games in three different stadiums in three days!

Of course when I approached my wife with this all she wanted to know was how much it was going to cost. Seriously, I am excited about the stars aligning like a sign from heaven and she just wants to know about the Benjamins! I knew I was going to have to figure out what it would cost to do make the trip. Can you imagine what I decided to do? Yup, I created a real world scenario!

Today in math I told the students about how I wanted to make this trip and I gave them the dates of the games. I told them I wanted them to figure out how much it would cost me to go. I gave them the following data to use:

  • I estimated gas in July at $4 per gallon.
  • I estimated my car's miles per gallon at 25 .
  • I told them I wanted to stay in each city after the game at a hotel.
  • I told them I wanted the hotel to cost no more than $80 a night.
  • I estimated I would spend $100 a day for food.
  • I estimated I would need $70 a game for souvenirs. 
  • I told them I wanted 2 tickets for each game. 
  • I told them I wanted the seats to be on the bottom deck and not way out in the outfield.
We went into the computer lab and they got started. As they worked I gave them advice such as using to find the driving distances between the cities and how I really enjoyed staying at the  hotels in the Choice chain. Not all of them took my advice and I noticed a lot of different online tools being used to get the information they needed. How cool is that?

I spent an hour today running from student to student (ok, I was actually slowly sauntering) helping them pick out good seats, okaying or nixing their choice in hotels, looking at Google Earth images of the different ballparks, and in general answering the small questions that come up with this type of activity. 

Things I noticed during the class:
  • The kids were asking good questions like "Do you want a free breakfast at your hotel?" and "How far away are you willing to stay from the baseball stadium?"
  • The normal loud social buzz that my class seems to thrive on this time was centered around the task. That is a big #eduwin for my students. 
  • A few times I caught myself thinking that my students sounded like professional travel agents.
  • Everyone was engaged and most were really excited. 
  • There are a lot of hotels around the baseball stadiums.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

They Had to Fail to Prepare for Success

I am observing my class work on an assignment due yesterday. They spent 4+ days pretending to do what they were supposed to. I say pretending because they obviously (today) weren't prepared to share. For all intents, they failed. The obvious question is "Why?"

I am sure that the responsibility lies with me. I intentionally keep my mitts off the students work. If they ask questions I send them to other students to have them answered. Typically this works very well. It requires the students to get over their fear of asking others for help (others who are not the adult in charge.) It didn't work this time because none of the groups really understood what to do.

It wasn't that they were not capable or that I didn't show them (several times). Their problem is they excel at school so much they don't know that they can't figure it out even when they aren't really paying attention. Basically they get started before they hear the instructions and assume they can figure it out.

I have known this and yet I am still surprised by the failure. I could have lost it; I could have blown up. I didn't, instead I redirected them to work and now I am watching them finally work together like they should have done in the beginning. I suppose they had to fail to prepare for success.  I guess the next question (or extension as I call it in science) is 'Will they remember this or will they repeat it?'

This post was inspired by @Philip_Cummings's post: Asking for Help

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lunch Project Days 6-10

I haven't forgotten the project, we have just been working through a bit of the drudgery. The first thing we had to do this week is get our survey and instructions created. I wrote the instructions intending for them to sound like the instructions students during our high stakes test. I was hoping the tone would convey to the students the survey was important and they would then take it more seriously.

Instructions to be read to the students taking the school lunch survey.

Thank you for participating in our lunch program study. The survey that will be handed out has a list lunch choices. These are actual lunch choices that have been given this year. You will look at all of the lunch choices and then pick your favorites.

You will assign your most favorite choice to #1, your second favorite choice to #2 and so on. When you have chosen your top ten favorite choices you are finished with the survey.

You must be silent from the time we hand out the survey until everyone is finished. If you or anyone in the room talks during the survey, it may become invalid and the whole groups’ surveys may be thrown away. Are there any questions?

At the top of the survey you need to write your grade on the line next to the word ‘Grade’.  I am going to hand out the survey now, please write ______(grade) as soon as you receive it. You may begin as soon as you write the grade number on your paper.

(Make sure you circulate the room and check that the correct grade is entered.) (If there is any talking during the survey, note what the speaker says so we can decide if the survey is compromised when you bring it back.)
The survey included all of the items that had been offered over the period we looked at. The students read the instructions and then handed out the surveys.

We discussed the number of surveys we needed to take to get a good 'sample'. Many of the students wanted to survey every student in the school. I explained how impractical it would to be survey all 360+ students. I convinced them that getting 20 surveys at each grade level would be enough, that is still 120! I think after having to go through the surveys they would agree.

One of the things I wanted the students who gave the survey to watch out for was students sharing their choices aloud. I really stressed to the students before they gave out the surveys the need to emphasize to the students they should not talk while the survey was being filled out. Interestingly, we actually had two classrooms where one or more students 'shared' what they were choosing during the survey. We decided to throw out those surveys and give another survey to a different class. 

We spent three days collecting the surveys, working around the schedules of each classroom. This week we will finish going through those surveys and on Wednesday the plan is to aggregate the datum. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why Blogging Isn't Transformational for Our Students Yet

Dr. Chris McGee wrote a blog post wrote a post on his blog Coaching in and out of the Classroom on the importance of blogging. It helped me verbalize some thoughts that had been swimming through my head for some time:

There are many things more important than blogging, especially how it is often used in the classroom. As you know I argue that blogging and other forms of social media have the potential to be transformative when they are used to connect students with others around the world. Unfortunately this isn't the norm of blogging or social media use by our students. 
When teachers refer to authentic audience they often confuse it with a larger audience. Authenticity means that the readers want to read the writing. They choose it, they don't have it chosen for them (even when they are assigned to do it through comments4kids). We don't develop authentic audiences with our students because that requires we give up control of where the students go and what they read.  
If we want blogging and commenting to be transformative we have to let students choose to blog, choose to respond, and choose to not participate. Then the power of connections can truly transform our students thinking. I truly believe that connections made by future generations online will help bring about a more peaceful and caring world, the question is will educators lead the way or will we continue to stifle it through our lack of understanding?
What do you think? Is this right or am I full of crap? I would love some dialogue about this.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Interesting Student Observation About Peter Pan

While discussing the movie Peter Pan (2003) I asked the question, "Why is Mr. Darling and Hook always played by the same actor?"

One of my students came up with a brilliant observation. He said that because Mrs. Darling had given her secret kiss (read the book Peter and Wendy) to Peter, Peter was jealous of Mr. Darling and imagined him as the villain of Neverland.

If that is the only thing any of my students discover during our year long project, it will have been totally worthwhile! This is why sharing a long term project is so valuable, students have opportunities to revisit information and draw conclusions. Here is a link to our project. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lunch Project Day 5

Today was a turning point day, after we figured out the mean, median, mode, and range for each choice  we discovered that the first choice (average) was picked 62% while the second choice was picked 24%, the third 7% and 8% on average brought their lunch. There was a large discrepancy between the ranges of the first and second choices, while the third and fourth choices were very consistent.

After we discussed that I decided to let them think about where we need to go next, this is where I got into trouble. Instead of making a statement that steered them into one direction, I left it too open ended. I had that deer in the head lights stare looking at me. Then everybody had an idea, but it was about changing specific items or how often items were on the menu. None of which we can control, especially since we have no data showing that a large number of students care.

I decided to take over the show and pick an activity we could do to gather more data that could be used for decisions they wanted to make. I didn't want to do it, but they simply aren't ready to understand what is needed to move to through the process. In retrospect I should have had them think about the project overnight and come up with a plan of action to be submitted in the morning. While I don't think most would have come up with something, there might have been a few who did and because I didn't give them time to think about it I won't ever find out.

To tie the math we are doing with science I pulled out my old standard the steps of the scientific method. I identified the problem, we don't know what entrees the students like the most. We came up with a plan. We will survey a random sampling of the students. We decided that sampling 20 students per grade level will give us enough information to work from. Tomorrow we write the survey and the instructions the students will give when they administer it.

Because I made a mistake and didn't let my students attempt to come up with a plan of their own, I have decided that after this survey is complete the students will come up with an extension that they can follow up with based upon the information we receive. Hopefully this will engage a few of the students to really think of something interesting for us to do next.

I can think of a few things they could choose to do next:

  • They can come up with a new menu with different choices.
  • They can create a petition for the students to sign that addresses the choices that were liked least.
  • They could survey the kids to see what choices are liked least. 
  • They could research the nutritional value of the top 10 choices to see if they are healthy enough to want to eat.
  • They could design vegetarian or vegan entrees to be added. (This may seem strange, but there was a lot of discussion about vegetarianism and veganism this week.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Maybe This Is Why We Don't Share Our Failures

Photo by RusselDavis
I presented a session at METC on students creating video reflections. As you can (if you know me at all) imagine the emphasis was less on the technology, more on what the students were reflecting. I also spent a large percentage of the time discussing my mistakes and failures throughout the process.

Today I received the feedback from the session. These are the two comments that I received:

Terribly boring. No new information. Hardly any technology.

The presenter showed us examples of video reflections but they weren't good examples. He even admitted that they were bad! No instruction was given on how to record the videos or how to upload them. He also didn't share how these reflections could be an instructional tool but just a fun project. I wish this session went deeper and was more meaningful and applicable.

No wonder so few choose to share their failures.

The Lunch Project Day 4

Here are the observations that some of the students made after looking through yesterday's datum:

  • Francisco: Chicken patties are selected >80% each Wednesday
  • Jace: 'Brought' stayed between 5-10%;
  • Nicole: Salads range between 3-10%
  • Katlynn: Pizza are selected >80% Fridays
  • Brittney: When 2 popular items are on the menu, they have a really close percentage (nachos and chicken rings)
  • Juan: Salads are never more than 10%
  • Cheyenne: When it is Chicken Patty or Pizza, fewer salads are chosen
  • Julian: Chicken Patty and Pizza seem to be the most popular
  • Johann: Chicken Patty was 85% 3 weeks in a row
After discussing these observations the students began to work on finding mean, median, mode, and range for each lunch choice. 

Students asked a few questions about the food. They were interested in how the food was ordered, how they decided how much quantity to order, and other things like that. One of the students decided to ask someone in the kitchen to come and talk about this with us. Hopefully they will agree and come talk about it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Lunch Project Day 3

Today we worked on finding the percent each lunch choice had been chosen daily. Then we started looking at that data. The students are looking now at the datum to find any interesting or seemingly significant trends or observations. I am not expecting much, I am not sure they have ever been asked to look at data and draw conclusions from it in this manner before.

Just a few of my own observations:

  • The Friday that we had Valentine's parties had the largest attendance of any day.
  • Chicken patties easily squash any other choice on Wednesdays.
  • Chicken rings and nachos seem to be equally popular.
  • Pizza is constantly a twelve to one choice over PB&J.
  • Wednesdays seem to have better attendance than Fridays. Does this mean kids come for chicken patties that miss for pizza?
  • Some of my students are beginning to find this interesting, others not so much. I am fascinated.