Showing posts with label Software. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Software. Show all posts

Monday, 26 May 2014

Using Technology to Make A Midsummer Night's Dream "Run Smooth"

Building on last week's post, English teacher Laura Vlahos shares how her Grade 8 students have used Oxford Next to get the most out of Shakespeare this year.

Reading Shakespeare for the first time can be a daunting task, especially for middle school students. This year, however, the students in Grade 8 English had access to a fabulous tool to help them understand and analyze Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – no matter what their level of readiness.

Oxford Next is a website that has previously been used in senior grades, and was piloted for use in Grade 8 this year. Oxford Next allows students to explore the text from multiple angles, including through the use of images, audio recordings, film clips, an interactive play script, and a graphic novel.

When I spoke to students to find out which section of the website they found most useful, there were almost as many different answers as there are students in the grade. One student mentioned that the graphic novel wasn’t useful at all; overhearing this, another student exclaimed “What are you talking about? It was the most useful part!” This exchange highlights the fact that a multi-faceted approach to a text truly allows each student to access the material in a manner that best suits their individual learning style, interests, and ability level.

The end result of having a variety of tools at our disposal has been that we have been able to dig much more deeply into the material than in previous years. In the past we have focused on simply understanding the plot, the characters, and a single theme. This year we have been able to delve into dozens of themes and explored the language in a much richer way. Students created seminars in which they explored many different elements in a single scene, and assisted their classmates with their understanding of the text.

We finished off our unit with some inspired performances, ranging from Lysander waxing poetic about true love, to Bottom comically mixing up his words. All in all, I think the Bard would have been proud.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Exploring Programming Possibilities in Computer Science

How are games made? How do programs work? How does an animation work? How does a computer know how to solve problems? Computer science and math teacher Will Truong explains how Greenwood's computer science program helps students tackle these tricky questions.

Students learn the basic ideas behind programming by
working with Scratch, which allows users to program
 theirown interactive stories, games and animations.
When students enroll in computer science at Greenwood, they come from a variety of backgrounds. A few students have some programming experience, some have a great understanding of hardware and most have little to no programming experience.

Students in Grade 11 computer science first learn the basic ideas behind programming using Scratch (view some of the projects here) and then move onto more formal programming using Python.

The challenge isn’t working with students of varying skill - this is surprisingly easy to manage. The challenge as the classroom teacher is to avoid guiding students towards how I would write a program.  Instead, I work with the students on their own ideas and help them to develop a solution based on those ideas.

In class, students learn the fundamental skills through videos and class discussions. Students are also encouraged to work with each other and possibly find other resources. It's not uncommon for students to find their own websites and discussion forums to help with the ideas they're working on. This often leads to great discussion between students and helps them to develop their own programming style.

Computer science is always evolving - new programming languages, new environments to work in, and new advances in technology all contribute to this evolution. Because of this, it's important that students learn how to seek solutions and how to approach problems. Developing these skills in an individualized manner is an important part of learning how to effectively navigate a new language within the computer science classroom.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Preparing Students for Postsecondary Learning

One of our key goals here at Greenwood is to ensure our graduates make an effective transition to learning in the postsecondary environment. I read my alumni magazine from the University of Toronto (U of T Magazine) with this point in mind.

I was pleased to see in the most recent issue (Winter 2013), that Coursera has arrived at U of T. If you are not familiar with Coursera, here is some background. As they note on their website, Coursera is a social entrepreneurship company that partners with top universities in the world—to date 33 universities have signed on—to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. Like our blended learning approach at Greenwood, Coursera uses online lectures and multimedia resources that enable students to master key concepts at their own pace.

According to the article in U of T Magazine, U of T is Canada’s first university to partner with Coursera. At present, U of T offers five courses through Coursera. 82,000 students from around the world are enrolled in an introductory programming course in computer studies, with 350 of these students being from U of T. Though the Coursera courses are non-credit, the resources offered in their program provide the U of T students with online modules they can use at home, and come to class better prepared. This approach, according to Professor Paul Gries, “frees up class time for more creative and interactive learning and allows for the best possible experience.” In effect, this approach being used at U of T resembles our approach to blended learning here at Greenwood.

Aside from recognizing the value of online learning, officials at U of T are also working to design programs that allow their students smaller, hands-on experiences. The Winter issue describes New College’s ONE program, which “gets students into small classes and out of the lecture hall.” The ONE program is a collection of interdisciplinary courses that focus primarily on hands-on learning and the development of writing and critical thinking skills. By limiting enrolment in these courses, the hope is that first-year students will have an opportunity to develop relationships with peers and professors, thus making the transition from high school to university a bit easier.

All in all, it is good to see that one of the world’s leading universities sees the merit in a small, hands-on learning environment where teachers adapt to meet the needs of students and the importance of online, self-paced learning, all of which are vital components of personalized learning here at Greenwood.

Allan Hardy