I was in high school back in the early 80s when personal computers first came out. I knew what a mainframe was and even got to tour the Credit Union Central facility in Regina and see their mainframe set up. The computers hooked to the mainframe were called "dummy" terminals. The terminal did not do much but allow you to enter commands and send them to the mainframe. All of software and data resided on the mainframe.

I have been reflecting on the Google Chrome OS netbook that was announced recently. It runs apps and is more powerful than a dummy terminal but operates on the same principle as a mainframe. All of your data is stored on a server in the clouds. Very much like in the days of the mainframe.

Google seems to have gone back in time and taken the mainframe idea and applied it to todays computers. Google has figured out that what most people want is a cheap computer that allows them to surf the net and access their data anywhere and anytime. How do you achieve this model? Store everything on a server and only access what you need when you want it.

I have to chuckle that we have come full circle. The personal computer allowed us to unchain ourselves from the mainframe mentality. However, it appears that the most cost effective way of computing is the centralized server with a bunch of "dummy" terminals connected to it.

The Math dept. spent some of our time today, during our "snow day", writing student friendly outcomes for our Math 20-1 course. One of the things we immediately noticed is that MANY of the outcomes ask students to "explain" Mathematical processes.

I experimented with having students videotape explanations of factoring quadratic equations. This worked OK. However, was a bit time consuming.

We discussed having students answer "explain" outcomes on the summative exam. But, I pointed out that we want to know BEFORE the summative assessment if they can explain or not.

Any suggestions of how else we can get students to explain a mathematical process?

Also, I developed a rubric to assess the explanation of the factoring of a quadratic equation. The rubric seems to work well. I gave the students the rubric after I watched their videos BUT they did not get to re-watch their video to compare it to the rubric. This is a downfall.

I DO NOT feel we need to assign a grade to the explain outcomes. I feel that the rubric is more beneficial. However, we have to document the assessment. I guess we can keep a copy of the rubric in our "Marks book" and record the level they achieved on the rubric in the "Mark book" then we have evidence to show parents.

Yesterday, I read a blog post by David Cox. He used a flipcam to videotape some of his students explaining a mathematical concept. As I watched the video a light went off in my head. One of the outcomes that is in the curriculum for my Math 10 C class is "Explain your strategy for factoring a trinomial". I could try to have the students write out an explanation but having them videotape their explanation would be even better.

So, today I took my Kodak zi8 into my class and had my students videotape each other as they explained how to factor a trinomial. What an awesome experience!!! I was able to watch every single one of my students factor a trinomial and explain it. I gained a lot of insight into the skills and the abilities of my students. Way more than just walking around the class and observing.

I just finished watching every single video and grading it using the following rubric.

This was such a success that I will definitely use it again. Video is a very powerful way to assess your students. I would suggest you give it a try. Once you do I do not think you will disagree with me.

Today, I tried an experiment in my Pure Math 30 class. I gave the students a photocopy of the notes for the day and asked them to read the notes, add to the notes, discuss the notes amongst their group. (I have my students sitting in groups of 4).

Essentially I was having my students learn the material on their own!!!! Man was this awesome!!! The lesson that normally took me 60 minutes to teach was transformed into a self-paced, personalized learning experience for each and every student. It was amazing!!! The students help each other and clarified their understanding by asking me specific questions while I wondered around the room.

After about 20 minutes every single student was working on their assignment for the day. They now had the opportunity to complete their assignment in class, ask each other for assistance and ask me if they were really stuck.

About half way through the class I asked the students how they liked what we were trying today. Here are some of the responses.

"I could learn like this everyday." "I like this way better" "I don't learn like this. I need to hear the explanations."

All in all I can't think of why I did not try this a long time ago. I guess fear had a little bit to do with it. Today I jumped in to the deep end of the pool and did not drown. In fact, because I took a risk my students are having a far better learning experience than I have ever provided to them before. I am really glad I took the risk today.

Myself and my other dept. members (Lara and Emerson) have spent the last few days creating our first unit exam for our Math 10 Common course. Since we are running this course using a standards based grading model we had to come up with a test creation blueprint. Thanks to Lara, our keener, here is the blueprint we used to create our unit exam.

This blueprint is also what we are going to have our students use to self-assess how they performed on each outcome on the exam. The students will then use this self-assessment to help determine which outcome(s) they wish to reassess on.

I did not post the actual exam for fear that my tech savvy students would locate the exam. That would just be bad news.

If you would like to see the exam just drop me a tweet or e-mail and we will make arrangements for this to happen.

So, today I returned the graded quizzes to my Math 10 common students. Some were happy with their "grade" others were not. Then I had them turn to the self-assessment rubric on the back side of their quiz. I gave them a few minutes to rate themselves on how they performed on each outcome. I was amazed at how serious most of the students took the task. Then they had to explain why they gave themselves the rating they chose. Finally, I asked them to write a sentence or 2 about how they were going to try to improve on the outcomes they did not perform well on.

I had them hand this in so I could read what they wrote. Here are some of their comments:

"I need to do my homework." "I am going to go back, re-read my notes and do some of the questions in our workbook that were not originally assigned." "I am going to ask my mom if she can find me a tutor." "Keep doing what I have been doing because I kicked butt on this quiz!!!"

The students pretty much nailed it on the head. Their reflections and observations were pretty much what I would have told them.

This whole exercise took less than 10 minutes. Getting the students to reflect on their performance in relation to the outcomes of the course was well worth it.

I am glad our entire math dept. has decided to try out standards based grading. Our students will be better for it.

Last week was our first week with students at Cold Lake HS. Our entire math department has decided we are going to start to make the transition to standards based grading. We started our journey last school year by meeting with assessment specialist Deana Senn. She did an awesome job of helping us to understand Assessment for Learning and Assessment of Learning. We then took the next leap and began looking at the outcomes in our NEW Math 10 Common curriculum. This curriculum is new starting Sept.2010.

We spent approximately 4 months rewriting the curriculum outcomes in student friendly language. The result of our work is this document.

We have broken these outcomes down into units and during each unit we will be exposing our students to the outcomes for that unit. Here is what we gave our students for unit 1 on Radicals and Exponents.

After one week I am preparing to give my first assessment to my students. It is a quiz but has a twist. After the students write the quiz and I grade it the students have a self-assessment rubric to complete. Thanks to Deana Senn for helping me polish up the rubric. The purpose of this rubric is to help the students identify where their weaknesses are and what they need to continue working on. I did not come up with this rubric on my own. I "borrowed" it from Matt Towsley's materials from his summer course on Formative Assessment and Standards Based Grading.

Stay tuned and follow myself and my dept. on our standards based grading journey. Feel free to provide us with some feedback and guidance. We welcome it!!!

It has been approximately 2 weeks since I returned from ISTE 2010 in Denver, Colorado. I find that ISTE is the best conference I attend because of all of the conversations that occur outside of the sessions. It is a conference where you can sit down and talk with some of the gurus of educational technology. People like, Jeff Utecht, Will Richardson, David Warlick and Dean Shareski. These people are in fact educators like you and me. They LOVE to have you walk up, introduce yourself and engage in a conversation with them.

Part of the benefit of ISTE is making connections with colleagues from around the world and sharing your thoughts, ideas and theories. I know many people have never attended ISTE or may never get the chance (if you get the chance you HAVE to go). So, this blog post is about sharing with my PLN. Those of you that read my blog.

I attended ISTE with Jared Nichol, a colleague of mine from Cold Lake HS. Jared and I share many of the same views on technology in education even though we teach different subjects. I teach mathematics and Jared teacher English and Multimedia.

Jared and I had the privilege of attending not only ISTE but TedXDenverEdu. It just so happens that this TED event was happening in Denver at the same time as ISTE. The entire event was focused on education. While many of the keynote speeches were excellent this one stood out. It is delivered by Keith R. Krueger who is CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), a national nonprofit organization that serves as the voice of K-12 technology leaders, especially school district CTO's, who use technology strategically to improve teaching and learning. Keith not only talks about the problems we are having in education but also offers solutions to these problems that will not cost a huge amount of money.

While Jared and I attended great sessions throughout the entire ISTE conference there are always a couple that stick out as "really good"!!

The final keynote presentation by Jeff Piontek ,who is the Head of School for the Hawaii Technology Academy, was a great way to end the conference. We left this keynote presentation with that "feel good" feeling in the pit of our stomach. Make sure you fast forward this video to 16 minutes. That is where Jeff's keynote talk begins.

Well, I know I have only shared a couple of sessions from my ISTE experience. I hope these two videos go a little ways towards inspiring you for the upcoming school year. I know I am pumped!!!

Summer vacation is a great time to sit back and reflect. All of those ideas that have been bouncing around in my head can now be given some more serious thought.

One of the things I have wanted to do since attending NECC 2009 in Washington D.C. is to organize an EdubloggerCon event right here in my hometown of Cold Lake, Alberta. I really like the format of EdubloggerCon. You get a bunch of educators together, they decide what topics they would like to discuss, you set up an online schedule on a wiki and the attendees decide which topics they would like to participate in. The key word here is "participate". There are no "speakers" at the sessions. Everyone gets together and discusses the topic for that session. It represents the collective sharing of knowledge amongst each other. We share our successes and failures, we help solve each others problems and the best thing of all, we develop connections amongst colleagues we may have never known before. This is truly powerful.

So, I guess my first goal for next school year is to organize EdubloggerCon Cold Lake. Stay tuned to find out how it works out.

If you have any experience or ideas for our event please leave a comment!!!

I have been trying some different Assessment for Learning(AFL) strategies in my high school Mathematics classes this semester. Yesterday, I gave a vectors assignment to my Applied Math 30 class. I had them complete the assignment in class but after each question come to my desk and have me check over their work and their solution.

It worked great!!! I was able to see how each student was progressing, I was able to reteach or assist the students with difficulties or misunderstandings. In the past, I gave out the assignment, had the students complete the assignment and them took it in for grading. The OLD way let me see what students knew and did not know but did not allow me to help them out in any way.

The problem I have is that in the past I would have had a mark to place in my markbook. Even though I did "mark" every students assignment as they did it I do not have anything recorded for this assignment. I realize that it is assessment for learning so the students are still 'learning" the material but I should document some how the progress of each student on this assignment.

Do I use a rubric? Do I use a checklist? Not sure how I can document my students progress. Any suggestions are welcome.

In all of my classes we are currently having our students prepare for their final exams that begin in about 5 days. In my Applied Math 20 class I had two students request to borrow a laptop out of the cart to study for their final. I was curious what they were going to use the laptop for.

So, I said "Why do you want to borrow a laptop?"

Their response was, "I have lost some of my notes and my binder is really disorganized. I want to use the laptop to go to the class wiki and look at the notes you have posted. They are really organized well and I will be able to more easily study the material for the final exam."

I immediately got each of them a laptop.

Inside of me I had the biggest smile!!!! These two students made my day. They "get" why we have a class wiki and they were going to use it to help themselves out. Hopefully, the other students around them see how these two students are using the class wiki and make use of everything I have posted on it.

These two students are living proof of why I use class wikis. It is because it "helps" students. Sometimes you just know you are doing the right thing.

This past Christmas we decided to get our two daughters a Macbook Pro as a gift. My daughters are definitely digital natives. They both have an iPod Touch that they use everywhere and they were continually borrowing mine or my wife's Macbook Pro.

So, a couple of days ago my youngest daughter, Sarah, said, "Dad, can I take my Macbook Pro to school to use in class?"

My first question was, "Don't you have carts of Macbooks at school that you can use?".

Her response was, "Yes, we have carts of Macbooks but our teachers NEVER let us use them!!"

I discussed this with her a little. She informed me that most of the teachers are either scared of using the Macbooks with their students or just do not want to bother. Interesting!!

I told my daughter that I would have to check with the Director of Technology (a good friend of mine) and her principal before I allowed her to take her Macbook Pro to school. I am all for letting her take her Macbook Pro to school as that is a TOOL she uses to learn and work. Why would I not let her use it at school!!!!

I did not want to step on any toes by just letting her take her Macbook to school.

I e-mailed the Director of Technology to see if he was OK with having my daughter bring her Macbook to school. He e-mailed me back and informed me that they are just adjusting the network at school to allow student owned devices on it. He asked me to wait a few weeks. Once things are functioning he will get back to me and things are a go.

Nice to see my daughters school district is preparing to let student owned devices be used at school.

I am very glad to see that my daughter is asking to use the tools she is most comfortable with to assist her in her learning. This skill of advocating for herself is going to be very useful in later life.