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Stuck in a Rut or a Groove?

The Principal of Change George Couros - 15 March, 2017 - 10:20

I am taking part in the #IMMOOC “3 Blog Challenge” this week.  3 blog posts under 200 words.  If you are interested in participating, details can be found here.

I noticed this commercial (which is rare since I never watch commercials) from Chick-fil-A, which had a gentleman standing in a hole, and his colleague comments about him being “stuck in a rut”, to which he is oblivious. When he comments that he “thought it was a groove”, she states, “classic ‘rut’ thinking”.

It is pretty rare that a fast food restaurant gets me thinking about education, but this commercial really got me thinking.  How often do we as educators think we are on a right path when in reality, we are just doing what we have always done and are not moving forward?


I know I talk about social media quite a bit, but I believe there are many educators were exposed to their own “ruts”, thinking they were in a groove.  They noticed what others were doing in the same positions and thought, “Why am  I not doing that? What is holding me back?”

When we have access to see what others are doing, it pushes us to become better.  The traditional isolation of education is being challenged, and it changing the way we see education.

One of my favourite quotes is, “To innovate, disrupt your routine.”  Sometimes we need that “shock” to our learning to make us wonder why we do, what we do. We need to sometimes provide that disruption for others (students and colleagues), yet, do we do that to and for ourselves?

Categories: Planet

Epic Ways to Celebrate Pi Day

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 14 March, 2017 - 22:16

Episode #32 with Scottish Maths Teacher Chris Smith

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Chris Smith @aap03102 is a Maths teacher from Scotland where his irrational passion for Pi earns him geeky renown. He is an enthusiastic ambassador for the beauty and usefulness of Mathematics and shares this message with his anyone who will listen.

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In today’s show, we’ll discuss:
  • How Chris’ car became the centerpiece of one Pi Day
  • The Pi-M-C-A song that won Chris’ classroom international attention
  • The Math-sterpiece his class is creating this year
  • How to make math more exciting all year long
  • How to find your spark for math again

I hope you enjoy this episode with Chris!

Excited to unveil this ‘Mathsterpiece’ on #PiDay …Each pixel (pi-xel!) is an individual photo of someone holding a digit of π! #PiDay2017 pic.twitter.com/Lw375mNs3y

— Chris Smith (@aap03102) March 14, 2017

Selected Links from this Episode

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Full Bio Chris Smith

Chris Smith is a Maths teacher from Scotland where his irrational passion for Pi earns him geeky renown. He is an enthusiastic ambassador for the beauty and usefulness of Mathematics and shares this message with his anyone who will listen.

Chris writes a free weekly Maths newsletter for teachers with puzzles, lesson ideas, resources, Maths facts- if you’d like to join the list of almost 2000 subscribers, send him an email (aap03102@gmail.com). He’s always excited about making new connections with Maths fans across the world!

Chris regularly speaks at Maths conferences in Scotland, has delivered a TEDx talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TACPw5NtUk), helps run the Enterprising Maths in Scotland National Final (http://www.scottishmathematicalcouncil.org/wp1/enterprising-mathematics/), is a co-creator of the free-to-download-Pi-visualiser “Pi-Wire” (http://piwire.co.uk/), serves on the TES Maths Panel (https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/blog/tes-maths-our-panel-teachers) and is a a member of the Scottish Mathematical Council (http://www.scottishmathematicalcouncil.org/wp1/members/).

Outside the world of Maths, Chris is married to Elaine, is dad to Daisy, Heidi and Logan (born in perfect arithmetic progression in 2007, 2008 and 2009), plays piano in Jiggered Ceilidh Band (http://www.jiggered.com/) and is a follower of Jesus.

The post Epic Ways to Celebrate Pi Day appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Kevin Honeycutt inspires us to reach troubled kids in poverty #mondaymotivation

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 13 March, 2017 - 21:30

10-Minute Teacher Episode #31 | 10MT

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Today Kevin Honeycutt @kevinhoneycutt grew up in poverty and attended school in many cities across the United States. As he witnessed education around the country he collected powerful experiences that still influence his conversations and his work with educators.

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As Kevin Honeycutt shares his story as a troubled kid, we’ll talk about:
  • His difficult experiences as “that kid”
  • The teachers who connected and related to him
  • The inspiration to be the teacher who relates and connects to kids

I hope you enjoy this episode with Kevin!
Want to hear another motivational Monday? Listen to teacher Jim Forde’s inspiring song, “you’re the teacher.”

Selected Links from this Episode

Download the transcript

Full Bio Kevin Honeycutt

Kevin grew up in poverty and attended school in many cities across the United States. As he witnessed education around the country he collected powerful experiences that still influence his conversations and his work with educators.

He spent 13 years teaching art K-12 in public school and for 17 years spent summers leading creative adventure camps for kids of all ages.

In 1991 he received the Making IT Happen Award which is an internationally recognized awards program for educators and leaders in the field of educational technology integration in K-12 schools. The program identifies and rewards educational technology leaders around the world for their commitment and innovation.

In 2011 he became an Apple distinguished educator and he continues to train students and teachers in the use of Apple’s powerful learning tools.

In his life he’s gone from being an at-risk kid doing stints in foster care to traveling the globe talking to audiences of educators, business people and kids.

The post Kevin Honeycutt inspires us to reach troubled kids in poverty #mondaymotivation appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

March Madness and Programming Projects

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 13 March, 2017 - 21:01

Yesterday was selection Sunday and the NCAA announced the teams entering the 2017 basketball championships. So of course I thought about programming projects. I mean there is data and something a lot of my students are interested in so it is a natural. Now there are already all sorts of automated bracket generating tools on the Internet. LOTS of them. But being me I needed my own.

The first thing I did was build a data file. (NCAA 2017 seeding information) That link gets the comma separated data file. It looks in part like this:

It’s pretty basic with the seeding number, the university name and for most of them their record. Once I had that I could write a program to read in the data and display it. My next step was to write code to semi randomly (its weighted by seeding) pick which team went to each next step of the competition. I get graphic so I generated the following:

I’m thinking I could let students do something more simple in output. I did this with parallel arrays but I can see creating a class making some things easier. In any case I get to p[lay with reading and parsing data, building and processing arrays, and other data manipulation. There are many variations I could do here.

Students could create their own schemes for generating brackets. Or they could write code that lets the user select which teams would advance. I’m open to other suggestions as well. What sort of project would you assign with this data?

Categories: Planet

Conferences for K-12 Computer Science Educators

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 13 March, 2017 - 11:00

If you are a K-12 teacher looking for conferences about using technology in education there are many conferences one can go to. If you are a post secondary school computer science educator there are a good number of conferences you can go to. If you are a K-12 computer science teacher you have fewer options. Sure you can go to the higher ed conferences and look for things applicable. And you can go to tech education conferences and hope for some good CS education content. But if you really want conferences with a lot of value for you in particular there are fewer options. I’m going to go over a few I like.

The CSTA Annual Conference is of course your number one event. Workshops, concurrent sessions, networking with CS educators from all over – this conference has it all for K-12 CS educators. It’s my all time favorite. And it is growing in sessions and attendees every year. And it is during the summer so you don’t have to miss school to attend. You should be there.

SIGCSE is my number two choice. Sure it looks like it is for higher education people but there is also a lot for K-12 people. The sessions on how to teach work for all levels. The chance to talk to great educators is a big plus as well. Friday has a lot of special sessions and events for K12 people My big problem is that it is during the school year. With snow days like we have here in New Hampshire I feel bad about skipping school to go.

ISTE I really like ISTE. While it is really about using technology in education I have been seeing more and more computer science content in recent years. Plus it attracts a lot of people who see themselves as teachers of some other subject first and computer science second. So you get to meet some people who teach CS but who don’t go to CSTA or SIGCSE. A bunch of big computer companies exhibit here so I spend some time visiting with them. I get to ask some good questions and learn stuff which makes it worth while.

TCEA is also a big conference about using tech in education but Texas has a lot of computer science education and that makes TCEA stand out for me. Like ISTE, TCEA has a lot of teachers who are not full time CS teachers. There are also more CS sessions than a lot of other ed tech conferences and with its size there are a lot of networking opportunities.

A year ago I would not have brought up SxSWEdu (South by Southwest EDU)  SxSWEdu has a reputation of being for and about tech companies and startups trying to sell tech to teachers. This year that was a lot of computer science education content. It may be too early to see if this continues but I hope it does.

Other than SXSWEdu I’m been to all of these multiple times. I’ve learned a lot from these conferences over the years. I’d love to hear other people’s opinions both about these conferences and others I might have missed. Where do you go for K-12 CS learning?

Categories: Planet

Find problems, create solutions.

The Principal of Change George Couros - 13 March, 2017 - 10:26

I am taking part in the #IMMOOC “3 Blog Challenge” this week.  3 blog posts under 200 words.  If you are interested in participating, details can be found here.

I asked the following on Twitter:

Wide open question…what are some ideas or practices we need to rethink in education?

— George Couros (@gcouros) March 12, 2017

The responses were amazing and had such a wide range of answers (seriously…click on the tweet and see what educators are saying…it is fascinating).

As I was thinking about the responses here, I thought about this process with a staff. I have neither been a part of a professional learning day where this was asked, nor did I pose it in my role. Opportunity missed, because the conversation would be so valuable.

So an idea for a staff day…

Have groups discuss the same question (what are some ideas or practices we need to rethink in education?), and then think of a consensus three to bring to a larger group.  Then pose “ways forward”, and what is possible now to make these realities.

Two things here…

This creates time for “problem finding” and “problem solving”, not one or the other.

The other point is that it shows people that we can create the change we want, and that we do not have to wait for someone else to do it for us.

As I have always said, the biggest barrier to innovation is often our own thinking, not any outside factor. Find problems, create solutions. No one is going to do it for us.

Categories: Planet

Intellectual Property in a Digital Age

The Principal of Change George Couros - 12 March, 2017 - 02:29

I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on Twitter.  Yet the conversation about “intellectual property” and “does the school own my work?”, has come up several times in the last month and I wanted to share my thoughts.

From my rudimentary understanding of intellectual property, older practices in education (that still might exist today) state that when you worked for a school district, the things that you created in relation to your job, while under contract, are owned by the employer.  When there is a physical element in play, this does make some sense.  You create something, use school supplies, resources, and the only one for you to “own” the physical item, would mean either taking it, or copying it, which would cost money to your employer.  But what happens when it is digital?

Technically, this would still solely be owned by the district (in many cases).

Here are a few problems with this thinking…

  1. Educators may become reluctant to spend time creating digital resources, or share them with colleagues, if they know they would have to start from scratch if they were to move.
  2. Because of the above, you may limit “innovation” because educators may be told that they have “ownership” over their learning, but in reality, it is owned by someone else.
  3. Not only does this hurt the move to a culture of innovation, this also just hurts culture. If you get into a situation as an educator when you are leaving and a district says they own your content online, this is not the best advertisement for new educators coming in.  Many people judge their time in any organization based on how they were treated when they left,  not necessarily the majority of their time with the school or district.  Who will you attract long term?

Now with digital, it is easy for both parties to have access; not just the teacher, but the district. I can understand that if you created resources while working for a district, why they would want access, but I can also understand why the educator would want to take this with them moving forward if they are to leave. With digital, you can have both.

Since this is just something I am starting to research more, I would love your thoughts.  Yet the reason I bring this up is that this is a traditional practice that needs a rethink in our world today.  We need to look at ways where we attract and develop people who want to be innovators, not discourage the process.

“Who owns the learning?”, is not a question that applies only to students, we will have to look at this question from the viewpoint of educators as well.


Categories: Planet

What’s New in C# 7.0 for Beginning Programmers

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 11 March, 2017 - 12:37
Well it looks like Visual Studio 2017 is out. I've installed the community edition on my Surface (not enough disk for everything I'd like :-( ) but enough to try some things out. I found this awesome blog post on what is new with C# 7. I wonder if there is one coming for Visual Basic?
As usual, many, perhaps most, of the improvements are exciting to professional developers or more advanced students. I teach raw beginners and I don’t have near enough time to cover as much as I would like. But there are a couple of new things in C# 7 that I think I will use with my students.
The improvements in out variables will be useful for example. I use TryParse with my students a lot and being able to declare the variable inside the TryParse will save a step and prevent some errors. Maybe create others but that is ok.
C# 7.0 allows _ to occur as a digit separator inside number literals now. This is cool. Especially with binary literals. This may let me do some additional cool stuff with Binary flag bits and maybe make parsing some numbers easier or more interesting.
Well that is a first look from me. I’m still playing with things and hope to have some insights into what is new with Visual Basic and Visual Studio the IDE soon. IN the mean time, what is everyone else finding interesting?
Categories: Planet

Spinning the chocolate wheel

Bluyonder Greg Whitby - 8 March, 2017 - 09:47
Chocolate Wheel 1920s (State Library of NSW)

I think I’ve been in education too long because I’m becoming more frustrated with changes continually being made to the ‘curriculum’. Recently we read that the Year 12 Higher School Certificate syllabus will be overhauled following concerns that subjects were being dumbed down and we continue to fall behind globally. It is interesting to see that everything announced has been done before. It didn’t work then so why do we think it will today? The only impact seems to silence the critics seeking recognition of their ideological or cultural bias of what young people need to know or should be taught. Let’s just spin the [school] chocolate wheel again and end up with the same old prizes.

If the history of curriculum design, development and implementation tells us anything it’s that we are in a slow moving cycle of repeating the same curriculum constructs with a different emphasis every decade or so. Where is the new thinking, new constructs, the innovation that is demanded in today’s world?

Successive state governments have been tweaking the curriculum largely along ideological lines and we see now that history is repeating itself with the next iteration on depth and rigour, maths and phonics. In the midst of this tweaking cycle, other forces of change emerged. The first and most important in my view was the increase in educational research, which has helped shape a better understanding of what works in schools and classrooms and what doesn’t. The work of researchers like Patrick Griffin, Dylan Wiliam, Viviane Robinson and Helen Timperley etc is internationally recognised.  Yet is difficult to find similar influencers in curriculum design.

Secondly, the rise of international testing and the development of national league tables has had a profound effect on education ministers who are continually being asked to explain why their education systems are ‘failing’ compared to high performing nations. These comparisons do nothing more than distract our attention and dilute the work of teachers.

Thirdly, the emergence of the over-crowded curriculum. Schools are being asked to teach across a broad range of social issues. It started with driver education programs to now include de-radicalisation and everything in between. Where are the enlightened discussions on these curriculum intrusions?

Finally, the federal government has introduced a national curriculum to which all states have signed onto in various degrees. However, the hidden curriculum has been ignored or is at least implied. The justification is that any change made will somehow fix the system and improve schooling. The curriculum isn’t the issue here – it’s only a tool and no improving the tool will ever improve teacher practice. The curriculum doesn’t teach. Unless we change the way teachers do their work we are condemning another two generations of past practice with past outcomes.

Can we not imagine a curriculum that is designed around the needs and interests of every single learner? Can’t we aim for a vibrant community of collaborative learners who have responsibility and choice when it comes to their learning? The bottom line is that schools have to transform themselves from the one size fits all structures, mindsets and processes that have dominated for a century.  It calls for re-imagining not improving.


Categories: Planet

Understanding understanding and its implications — The Learner's Way

Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 5 March, 2017 - 18:35


  • There are terms within education that we use with reckless abandon and as a result cause great levels of confusion. Understanding is one such word and its usage and our ‘understanding’ of it can have a significant effect on the learning we plan, deliver and assess. With multiple definitions and its broad usage in curriculum documents, philosophies of teaching and learning and as an indicator of the quality or depth of student learning it is a word we should better understand.  - Nigel Coutts

Tags: understanding, education, teaching, learning

by: Nigel Coutts

Categories: International News

Meet Felix

Chris Betcher - 30 January, 2017 - 21:23

Doing a photo shoot can be tricky. Setting up the location, finding the props, getting the lighting right, etc, can be time consuming and sometimes expensive. If you want a specific picture of an object in a particular setting, you usually need to get that object, set it up, light it, and photograph it.

So I’m finding a new beta from Adobe quite interesting. Called Project Felix, it lets you assemble 3D objects and render them into a Photoshop file. I’ve been having a play with it and it’s pretty simple to use, and has lots of potential.  Just drag objects from the library into the canvas, use the move, zoom and rotate tools to assemble the scene just the way you like it, then render as a finished image. Export that image into Photoshop as a PSD file and keep working on it.  Lots of possibilities.

Check the minimum system requirements though… the rendering process can be pretty computationally intensive. Rendering even a relatively simple image on my MacBook Air with an i7 processor took quite a l-o-n-g time. Still, it got there in the end.

Check it out at http://www.adobe.com/au/products/project-felix.html

Categories: Planet

OK Google

Chris Betcher - 24 January, 2017 - 19:50

You probably realise that when you search for something on your computer that your browser keeps a history of those searches (and page visits).  You can of course clear that browser history at any time.  (For those of you with paranoid tendencies, perhaps you should be using Incognito Mode?)

You might also realise that a full history of your search and web browsing activity is kept by your search provider. In my case, that’s Google. This search history is not kept on your own computer, but rather on the search engine’s servers. You can also visit your web history page online to review (and delete if you wish) your search history or the pages you’ve visited.

But what I think is not very well known is that you can also see the full history of all the voice searches you’ve ever made using your phone.  Yes, every time you pick up your phone and say “Ok Google”, then ask a question, that search is recorded.  And by recorded, I mean the actual recording of your voice asking the question. Naturally you can have full access to these recordings and listen to, or delete them if you wish.  Personally, I find them fascinating to go back and listen to.

I recently visited my voice search history and then used Audio Hijack to record them to a file, and Audacity to tidy them up a bit.  I removed the gaps, tightened them up and placed them all back to back. I was struck by not only the number of searches but the variety of what I was asking for.  I remember asking most of them, and funnily enough I remember getting reasonably useful answers to most of them too. I often get told I’m a fairly curious person, and when these voice searches are all compiled in one stream like this, it becomes fairly obvious.

If it’s possible to ask – and I mean literally ask – your “curiosity questions” about basic facts and get quick answers, then we really do have to rethink the nature of what we ask our students to do in schools. When “fact recall” is simply the low hanging fruit of knowledge, we can (and must) change the way we think about information and knowledge building. I’m not saying that “knowing stuff” doesn’t matter. Of course it does. And a well rounded, knowledgable person should “know stuff”. But when our ability to find a basic fact quickly becomes so simple, surely we need to think about asking better, more interesting questions.

And it makes you wonder, to whom did we direct our many daily “curiosity questions” before Google came along?

Header image: Curiosity by Mohammad Abdullah  CC BY-NC

Categories: Planet
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