Monday, 17 December 2012

Snowflakes

I was a frequent user of Make-a-Flake but discovered SnowDays this year. Make-a-Flake strives for authenticity: virtual scissors with sound and all cuts are straight and follow the laws of actually cutting a snowflake. SnowDays is a little more lenient. You can do polygon cutting or just click and drag cut, which allows for nice curves. The edges need not be honoured.
Plus you can view others' flakes and download them if you like them. It's a lot of fun to do. Here are some of mine.
Atom!
Mo-flake


Thanks @miken_bu and @MattersofGrey for this one!
Guitar or Dress?
Apple
I'm experiencing the craziness that is the week before Christmas doing a video workshop in an elementary school this week. I thought this might a fun way to for the teacher to save her/his sanity, the students to play and use symmetry and shape math skills too.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Fonts

I love writing. Usually this is said about the process of writing and, yes, I love that, but I love the writing itself: the letters, the shapes, the individuality, the variation, the history.
5 different alphabets and 5 latin fonts.
Throughout my life much of my spare time has been spent on letters. I've learned the English alphabet, French alphabet, German alphabet, International Phonetic Alphabet, and Greek alphabet. I'm working on Cyrillic and Hangul, have a table of Futhark runes somewhere, and have spent some time looking at abjads, Hebrew and Arabic, where vowels don't get to be letters, and syllabaries too.
I also make my own. This has primarily been in notebooks or sketchbooks, on loose-leaf, scrap paper. I don't remember them all. Once I borrowed from Greek to expand the English alphabet into a phonetic alphabet. I've made a syllabary or two. Recently I tried to make a non-linear alphabet where successive vowels would be represented by different coloured triangles within triangles and consonants would be represented by four different diacritical marks in one of six quadrants. Initial consonants would be "open" and final would be "closed". It looks something like this:
I've nicknamed it TriForce
These alphabets I've made don't get much use. I test them out with the names of relatives and friends. The quick brown dog jumps over the lazy fox is very frequently written down, but beyond that my alphabets have  not done much. Kristin and I would often write notes to each other and grocery lists in Aurebesh, an alphabet developed for Starwars. When I'd sit in on friends' university classes I would often take notes in a transliterated and slightly modified Greek alphabet (I added a ' on top of chi to represent English's [ch] sound.).
Now the internet has exploded. Any sort of font you want is available. I frequent sites like www.1001freefonts.com, www.dafont.com, and even www.fontsquirrel.com, but there are so many more! "Free fonts" turns up 42.4 million results as a google search.
I've downloaded fan-made Aurebesh fonts, fonts imitating ancient Roman inscription, many handwriting fonts and the list could just keep going. You simply download, unzip the file and copy it into your Windows Fonts folder and it works in all YOUR programs (after you close and reopen them if they were open during the font installation). I've learned the hard way that they don't transfer to other computers. Find an awesome font for a title for a project? Open it up on the school computer and it's reverted to Arial! I've come up with two solutions: 
1) I carry fonts around with me on my flashdrive.
2) I open paint, type what I want in the font I want, and save it as a .png and insert it as a picture into whatever I want it to be in. Like I've done with this post. Here is a sampling of my downloaded fonts:
Even better than all the free fonts available online -- yes, something is better than that -- is www.fontstruct.com: where you can BUILD YOUR OWN FONT!!! All my alphabets can now be typed. I've played around with this a fair bit and recently made an alphabet I've called Runic
It takes Germanic Runes as its inspiration, but separates consonants and vowels stylistically. Consonants are vertical/quick and vowels are horizontal/long. Mulitple vowels in a row are stacked on top of each other, so all the numbers, special symbols and most punctuation marks are actually dipthongs. The little slash through some consonants or over some vowels represents a space. If you want to download it, feel free. Leave a comment or email me and I'll send you a keyboard map of the font too. Oh, I also added a symbol for ŋ (The sound we usually write as 'ng', though it shows up in words like bank and pink too.). I can now type a word document totally in a font of my own making and print it and hand it in. I've just assumed that if I've printed it is for an assignment, though thinking about it I might just print a page to see my font printed. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Winding Down - Winding Up

The university semester is winding down. Final assignments are being given. Final class dates are being determined.
However, things are winding up for me. Fellow student and blogger, Miss L, and I have the honour of presenting at both the Byte Conference and BU. We're talking about why we blog, but Miss L does us more justice, so if you want to learn more about it click here.
Also, this week I'm heading back to a school I worked at last year to run a video editing workshop. I made the following video to capture the interest of the students and to use for guided practice with video editing.

I love making videos and am glad to help others learn how to make their own. I'm also going to bring this workshop to BU in February and a Professional Development session for education students.
I'm going to end up being pretty busy, but it's something I enjoy and rarely even seems like work. I hope to get permission to showcase some videos made during the workshops, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

More on Movies

My cooperating teacher at my most recent student teaching placement has a huge collection of video resources he uses in his classroom: from lectures to concepts in action. They are a very effective way to differentiate and engage.
However, physics is a real-world course. It attempts to explain the patterns and relationships observed in nature. Watching videos or simulations can abstract the concept and make it harder for students to see the real-world connections. Live demonstrations are great for showing concepts, but my CT strongly encouraged students to be more than just consumers, but to extend themselves and become producers. Why just watch the demonstration, when you can do the demonstration? Why just watch Youtube videos in class, when you can make the Youtube videos?
Every year, for every unit he encourages students to figure out how to apply concepts in their life and film their demonstrations. A large percentage of his video collection is past student-made video demonstrations. There are videos on the Doppler Effect, conservation of momentum, circular motion and many more. Making video demonstrations require higher order brain functions and forges a stronger connection to the concept than simply memorizing a formula and diagram.
I plan on implementing this strategy in my teaching and will model production over consumption by making videos (both for fun and for class-use) and sharing them with my students.
Here is a sample of some of my recent production:


I'm participating in the Star Wars Uncut project. Check it out!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Writing From Memory


I attended a PD last week about a daily writing exercise that focuses on writing from memory. It only takes 15 minutes and then can form the basis of future writing. Students are given a trigger word, say shoes. You give them about three minutes to jot down as many memories they associate with shoes as they can. Then you ask them to pick the memory that stands out most in their mind. They single out that memory. You ask the students just to think about the memory, while you ask leading questions. For shoes it could be, "Are they new or old?", "Are they your shoes?", "Are you wearing them?", "What colour are they?". This gets them to examine the memory in more detail. Take about two minutes to do this. Then say, "Go!" or "Write!" or some equivalent and the students are to write for ten straight minutes. Their memory needs to be in the present tense and start with, "I am...".
Students are told not to erase anything, just keep going. Also, that if they hit an impasse or a block to doodle on the side. Keeping the pen moving keeps your brain moving and taking the pen off the paper can easily take your mental train off its rails. Also, spelling doesn't matter. Just write down your experience. At the end of the ten minutes have students finish the sentence they are writing and put down their pencils.
These drafts are saved for a week or two, to allow for the writers to become detached, and then reviewed. The students pick a piece from that week that they like and then work on revising and polishing it into a final piece.
The rationale is:

  • This gets students into the habit of writing, because it is hard work.
  • They are generating a lot of text, which increases fluency.
  • They are learning how to develop detail in writing.
  • The motivation to write is authentic as the topic is something important to each individual.
  • It instils confidence.
An inspiration for this method was Lynda Berry's book What It Is. It is a graphic novel that outlines writing from memory, and is itself an example of it. There are two questions we frequently ask ourselves when writing:

  1. Is this good?
  2. Does this suck?
Both undermine our writing and Lynda suggests every time students (or ourselves as writers) we ask ourselves one of those questions we answer ourselves with
A first draft is never meant to be perfect or better than someone else's writing. It is solely to get our ideas out of our head and onto the page. I think it is a great way to practice writing and to get people who would classify themselves as non-writers interested in writing.

If you want to read more about it, or just want to check out an awesome graphic novel, click the book below and buy it!
picture from
http://www.drawnandquarterly.com/shopCatalogLong.php?st=art&art=a45a8141b837f5
Here's what I wrote (unedited) in the 8 minutes provided. The theme was shoes.

Monday, 15 October 2012

What If Isaac Newton Didn't See That Apple

Newton was a very bright man and wrote on a wide variety of subjects. Suppose on that fateful day something else caught his eye as he lounged in an orchard. Not an apple, but a book. Perhaps dropped by a worker in the orchard. Newton examines it, enthralled. A wind blows through the orchard loosing many apples. Thud, thud, thud, but he takes no notice. The book is a diary and chronicles the orchard man's daily life: work, family, hopes, dreams, failures, successes. Newton, captivated, wonders what laws govern writing and turns his scientific mind to the task.
He thinks, experiments, revises, and experiments again. Someone else is left to describe the laws of motion, but Newton gives the world:
The Three Laws of Writing
  1. A pen in motion tends to stay in motion, while a pen at rest tends to stay at rest.
  2. A final piece is the product of inspiration and perseverance.
  3. Any energy a writer puts into a piece is met by equal and individual energy from the reader.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

My Fab5

Fab5 is a conference for teachers in their first five years of teacher, as well as pre-service teachers, like myself. It is put on by the Manitoba Teachers Society in both Winnipeg and Brandon. The conference spans three days.
Kirsten, Jennifer and I with Mitch.
THURSDAY NIGHT
After registration there was a light supper provided and some mingling. I talked with some friends I knew were coming and got to know some Ed students I hadn't had the privilege of meeting before.
The highlight of the night was keynote speaker, Mitch Dorge. He is the drummer for the Crash Test Dummies and loves to share the lessons he's learned with others. His energy, enthusiasm and silliness are contagious. The clapping, shouting, knee-slapping, feather-beating, rubber-chicken-abusing, and ninja-screaming band he turned all of us into is ample evidence of that.
Through his activities, stories and an amazing drum demonstration Mitch urged us:

  • To know the unique energy  we have and bring 100% of it to everything we do.
  • To realize that everything we say and do affects people - the intended and the unknown.
  • That we have something to learn from everyone, regardless of how MUCH they know.
It was a great way to get started and a message worth remembering.
Afterward, there was a mingling time and I got to speak with some MTS Staff Officers and meet Mitch himself. He posed for some pictures and took time to get to know everyone who spoke with him.

FRIDAY MORNING
I had two sessions Continue the Adventure of Laughter with Mark Essay and Resiliency with Audrey Siemens.
It's obvious why Mark does a session on laughter: he is hilarious! He used stories, actions, wacky voices and was incredibly engaging. He shared that laughter is relaxing and world-wide, comes from interaction, and is contagious. He gave a lot of practical tidbits and strategies, but two things especially stood out for me.

  1. If I want enthusiasm and engagement in my class it is MY responsibility to maintain and sustain it.
  2. That if we are subjected to limitations we learn not to exceed them and will continue that way even when the limitations are removed (or weren't real in the first place). We need to provide a classroom where the lid is off and show kids that it is safe to jump as high as they want.

In the second morning session Audrey shared wisdom from teachers she works with and her own on how to stay resilient as new teachers. We came up with a group definition of what resiliency means. I thought the metaphor of individuals as jugglers was very apt. We juggle a series of balls: work, family, health, friends and integrity. All are made of glass, which may shatter if not kept aloft, except for work. Work is a rubber ball. We also received a stress apple in this session and it is a great, tactile reminder of the juggler metaphor.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON
My two afternoon sessions were Classroom Management with Blake Stephens and Teaching Aboriginal Topics with Wade Houle.
Blake has spent many years working with children with behavioural difficulties and shared his experience with us. He stressed building relationships, rationally detaching and active listening. I appreciated his story about helping students avoid trouble instead of getting them into trouble. He used some very memorable metaphors, like carrying around a bucket of sand and equality is banning glasses. He stressed the importance of using positive language: "You can go outside when..." v. "You can't go outside until...", and that I can't stop doing what I enjoy just because I'm busy. Blake's insights are going make my future classroom a better place.
Wade used his session to share, share, share. He gave us over 30 lesson plans and activities, with exemplars and explanations. To have things that have been successfully used in class is invaluable. One particular activity, the tic-tac-toe, stands out for me. It had nine assignments in a grid. The students had to choose 3 of them to do and they must all be in a winning tic-tac-toe line. It's a fun way to provide choice, but Wade used it even more effectively. Each row was an assignment geared to a different learning style. Visual learners could go along the top row. Students without a strong preference could choose a column and do three different types of assignment. So, now the instrument of choice becomes an instrument of differentiation as well. I love it!

SATURDAY MORNING
The final day's sessions focused on showcasing MTS Special Area Groups of Educators: specialized associations within MTS that provide resources and development for members. I chose to go to A Window to the World: Blogging in the Classroom with Leslie Dent Scarcello & Erin Malkoske of ManACE, and Creating an Environment of Mathematical Literacy by Tricia Licorish of MAMT.
Leslie and Erin shared how they started blogging personally and with their classrooms. Their rationale is that blogging:

  • Increases engagement
  • Gives an authentic, worldwide audience
  • Makes connections
  • Is a way to pay it forward
  • Enables discussion about digital citizenship
They gave a quick tutorial on how to set up a blog on blogger and shared important considerations, like setting criteria for posts and comments, and adminstration and parental permission for posting online.
They showed a few of the blogs that inspired them and on one of them there was something amazing! An assignment to guess a fictional character by the apps on his/her fictional iPhone and then create an iPhone, apps and personalized case, for a character that has been studied during the year. It's engaging (I want to do it right now) and to be successful you really have to get inside the character's head and then make inferences.
Tricia's session was practical and hands on. She shared websites that she has found very helpful and activities for all streams. We were able to wander and try out the activities ourselves, to see how they work and to fix them in our memories. We each left with a CD full of Math resources and built an infinity card with rules for adding, subtracting, multiplying and diving integers. I'm so thankful for sessions like these. I feel like these activities and lessons shared with me are building a foundation for my career. The more I have to draw on for planning, the more I will be able to focus on effective teaching when I am in my first classroom.

FINAL THOUGHTS
For the PD sessions alone this conference is well worth the cost; however, it was much more than that. Two breakfasts, a lunch with dessert, light supper, snacks, drinks, wine and cheese are included. You get a free text book, time to network with colleagues, presenters and MTS staff. There are also extra prize draws. I almost won one, but the wrong Tyler was called.
I'm very glad I went and plan on attending for the next 5 years as well! Fab5 is fabulous!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Course Outlining

In my senior years science methods course we are tasked to develop a crowd of course outlines as one of our assignments. Fellow blogger, MissL, has posted her first draft on her blog and I thought I'd do the same. It's good to get feedback: from peers, from those marking me, from anonymous people selling miracle diets. I have never had to make a course outline and I know that being good at something takes practice. So, what's good and what needs improvement?


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

My ELA Identity

We had an assignment in my senior years ELA course to think about who we are and what that means as future teachers of English. It was a great way to reflect on the fact that who I am influences my teaching. I need to make the best of my strengths and focus on my weaknesses to reach all students across all learning styles/preferences. So, this is where ELA and I intersect.
 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Sporcle

Sporcle homepage.
My brother introduced me to this site close to two years ago, I believe. It is a collection of user made quizzes, games and trivia challenges. I have spent many free hours testing my knowledge. A few of my favourite quizzes are: The Countries of the World, The Periodic Table, and Movie Posters.
There are a wide range of categories and the days' most popular quizzes are posted on the homepage. Quizzes posted on the homepage are verified by Sporcle to be accurate.

I have mostly used sporcle as a mentally stimulating diversion, as the catch phrase says. However, being back in University has got me thinking of using sporcle in new ways, educational ways. Verified quizzes can serve as great review tools. They can also serve as an interesting way to see student's prior knowledge. If you have enough computers students can do the quizzes individually and share results or it can be a class group activity with a designated typist or clicker, there are two types of quizzes. (Parenthetically, I've recently been demoted from quiz typist when I play with my wife. I'm an inaccurate typist under pressure.) Clickable quizzes could be very Smartboard friendly, I think.

I started along this train of thought because I made my first quiz last week. I signed up, agreed to the conditions and am now a quiz master! An assignment in the math class I'm in is to make a mental math game or activity. I was immediately drawn to sporcle. My quiz is Radians to Degrees and is intended to be used as review in pre-calculus. Making your own quizzes allows you to tailor them specifically to your students' learning.

Another, and again math related, way to use sporcle is that data is kept on every quiz, every time it is taken. This allows a quiz to be used as an investigation of statistics. The percentage each answer is guessed correctly is tallied for every quiz, as well as final score. You can see if a quiz has a normal distribution or is skewed in a certain direction. You can see which answers are the most common and the least common.
It can be a great way to move into discussion about what the statistics actually mean. The stats I've shown on the left are from the 1 to 100 in Hexadecimal quiz. It has a very even distribution, except that most people only get about 60% through the quiz. What does this actually say about the quiz? Do most people who choose to do a hexadecimal quiz only know 60% of the numbers? Or since there is a 1 minute time limit to the quiz, does it really speak more about typing speed?

I think it can be a valuable resource in the classroom. What other ways can we use it?


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

International Talk Like A Pirate Day X

Imagine I's holdin' a deadly blade.
Plottin' mutiny!
In honour o' ten voyages o' International Talk Like a scurvy Pirate Day here be some pictures o' me participatin' in a buccanneer-y play in Tasmania. 't be here I learned th' two letters in th' Seafarin'  Alphabet: Arrrrr an' Aye!

Good night me hearties an' long may yer big jib draw.


(Translated with http://www.syddware.com/cgi-bin/pirate.pl and check out http://www.talklikeapirate.com/ for all things related to talking like a pirate. On a side note, I'm very thankful we don't celebrate acting like a pirate. I don't think I would appreciate being pillaged.)

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Meta-blogging

I currently write four blogs.

  • ICTyler (this one) about explorations in the world of ICT and education.
  • The KT Adventures - Personal things like travel pictures, stories, thoughts and such.
  • Tried It! - a chronicle of my attempt to overcome pickiness and food in general.
  • Poetic Times - a multi-author blog where we create found poetry from current events to use a resource in the classroom.

I started blogging in high school on Teen Open Diary. As for purpose I'd say a lot of it was that other people were and that I wanted to articulate my thoughts for an audience, plus I love being silly.

There are as many reasons to blog as there are people. As an individual, I use blogging as a creative outlet, a way to connect with family and friends while travelling, a way to organize and sort through my thoughts. As an educator, I use blogging for building connections, sharing resources and seeing new ideas and perspectives.

Blogging is an amazing reflective tool. To sit and think what you want to say on a topic/experience makes you sort through it. You re-engage with things.

Going back to Teen Open Diary. The concept of an open diary is a great way to think of a blog. It is your personal opinions, thoughts, experiences, but left open for any interested passerby to read through AND comment on. Comments can be inane, advertisements, vitriolic, or instructive, insightful and helpful.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

ToonDoo

#1
Thanks to the wonder of twitter and @MissZadorozny and her blog I found ToonDoo today. It's online and very easy to use. I have made comics online before, using make beliefs comix, but ToonDoo takes the online comic making experience to a whole new level. There are many more characters and clips available and ToonDoo also gives me the ability to draw and create unique characters (TraitRs: not the best name for them in my opinion).
It's got me excited to make some comics and it's ease makes me think it will work great in the classroom. It makes comic creation easy for everyone. It's a great way to engage visual learners and to use the viewing and representing arts in ELA.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Science Fair 2.0

When I came across this I was so excited. A global science fair is such a neat idea. As a teacher it enables me to teach ICT literacy skills, the scientific method, and global awareness all together! It gives students an exciting audience. There are even lessons and resources supplied @ http://www.google.com/events/sciencefair/educators.html to make bringing this into the classroom even easier. Everyone teaching science to children ages 13-18 should take a look.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Egg Drop

Egg Drop edit 
Today we conducted our egg drop activity designed to make us put our science knowledge into practice. It was a lot of fun and a beautiful day to be outside. Here's what happened:

Videos of each drop are availabe in the picasa album. Featuring tweeps: @MrDanMacfarlane, @Jennasis22, @aj4ca, @TLetkeman, @BrookeGelo, @DocCoc, @BrookeOliver, @alainacook10, @MissLwbt

I feel like activities like these are of great value to the classroom. I still fondly remember our high school physics spaghetti bridge and catapult competitions, even though the cold weather on catapult day snapped the exercise band that powered our hockey stick catapult. Design projects give tangible evidence of students' understanding of science concepts, especially if they are linked with a rationale paper. If science were an airplane, observation and design would be the two blades of its propeller. We observe something happen and design a way to test if it will happen again and observe the results then design a better test and so on, with observation following design and design following observation. This cycle needs to continue for science to move forward.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Scope & Sequence

I just handed in my first attempt at a year plan or scope and sequence. I worked with a good friend and we focused on Grade 7 ELA. The year plan is by nature generic, but we came up with a lot of ideas I am excited to bring to the classroom.

Here's the link to it https://skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?cid=80018fb28502a939&resid=80018FB28502A939!337&parid=undefined

Feel free to take and modify ideas at your leisure.

In our course we are going to continue to focus the year plan by developing a unit and then lessons from that unit. Once we finish them, I'll share them too.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Barriers to Inquiry



The video highlights some barriers to implementing inquiry based learning in a classroom.
How can we overcome them?

Pages

^ The tabs to get to the pages are under the blog header ^
I have recently added pages to my blog. I feel they are a great way to add extra content without having to search through the blog archives to find it. At present I've added three pages:
Pictures - This page contains links to free to use pictures, like the flickr creative commons, a picasa album I've started where everything is free to use and an instructional (though admittedly out of date) video on how to search for free to use images on google.
Links - When I come across useful links I'm going to post them here. This page is currently under construction.
Files - This page is going to be like the picture page, but with files. If I make a powerpoint template, music video, radio play, etcetera I'll post them here. This page is currently under construction.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Digital Storytelling PD

I attended the Digital Storytelling (K-12) Professional Development session at BU today.
It was presented by Ron Nordstrom, Art Teacher and Technology Co-ordinator for Beautiful Plains SD.
http://brandonu.wikispaces.com/ contains links and examples of all the things he went over in our session. Not only did we learn about various methods of digital storytelling, we got to play around with them too.
He went over Audio Storytelling, Photostory, Comics and Online Scrapbooking
One major focus was that whenever you use technology in the classroom you are to use it with a purpose. We are to judge the curricular outcomes and not the technology.
There are some very entertaining videos in the show off your skills section, including the now famous, Sean Quigley, from Oak Park High School, and Walk Off the Earth's cover of Someone I Used to Know where five people play one guitar.
He had an awesome speaker the l'il wiz
For audio storytelling I downloaded  Audacity, a free audio editing program. I explored and worked on a radio ad from the script he handed out and as a group we did a reader's theatre based on the Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.

I also downloaded photostory. Prof. Nantais gave us an overview of this in his class, so I was familiar with it.
video
I had my flash drives with pictures, so I whipped this up in our tutorial. It's our tour of Melbourne Park, where the Australian Open is held, including the Rod Laver and Margaret Court Arenas.

Comic Life was already loaded onto the school computers, so I switched and tried it out. It's not a free program, but I think it is worth an investment.

I used one of the sample photos that come with windows and some screenshots of the movie Superman Returns to make a mini-comic dealing with the isolation felt by the man of steel.






We also covered Online Scrapbooking. I created an account at scrapblog and made a simple e-scrapbook. It's a neat way to make a presentation and now I can see why people get into scrapbooking. This is what I came up with:

All in all a great session. I recommend, if you are a BU student, that you take this if it is offered next year. If you can't get into the session, then check out his wiki that I linked to at the top.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Presentation Pointers

At one point in our course we went over what made a good presentation. This reminded me of a lesson my co-operating teacher gave while I was student teaching. It was for a biography project where the students would present someone they had researched.
This is the link to the presentation the lesson was based around: www.iasted.org/conferences/formatting/Presentations-Tips.ppt
[WARNING: It contains, possibly, the worst powerpoint slide ever created. View with caution.]
I know I've been more conscious of slide design since I went through this.