Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Drawing Conclusions in Advanced Functions

The CN Tower was one image students could choose to recreate with the graphing
software Desmos.

Math has lots of applications, but you may not have known that drawing pictures was one of them.

A big part of truly understanding mathematical functions is understanding what they look like. How does an adjustment to a function affect how it looks on the page?

Our Grade 12 Advanced Functions classes recently got more familiar with visualizing functions by doing something you might not expect: drawing. Each student was challenged with replicating one of several existing sketches in the graphing software Desmos using functions alone. Students applied their knowledge of what each function looked like to get just the right series of lines and curves to create images from butterflies to the CN Tower.

“We used this as a fun assignment last year, and the students not only enjoyed it, but found it to be really valuable,” says Advanced Functions teacher Megan Clark. “We formalized the assignment this year as a great way to get students more comfortable with visualizing functions.”

One student chose this especially complex "extension" image for her project (and she
made sure she didn't miss any of those eyelashes!)

The project is the perfect lead-in to the class’s upcoming short culminating evaluation. Each student will create a roller coaster path, but this time they’ll do it algebraically.

As Megan explains, the drawing assignment also allowed students to group themselves by readiness. “Each student chose a ‘Level 3’ or ‘Level 4’ image to replicate,” she says. “They then had the option to add difficulty to their chosen picture based on their comfort level. For example, some students opted to add more complex functions to their pictures.”

No matter which image they tackled, students were excited to take on this new challenge. One student even affectionately named her function-elephant “Peanut.”

“Everyone was really into it!” Megan says.

This student even took the time to graph out her elephant's name.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Fostering Creativity with Smart Design

"It's an excellent space for supporting different modes of teaching," says media arts
teacher Marcio Sargento.

When it comes to creating an amazing digital media lab, technology is only part of the puzzle. The thoughtful design of our new media arts space plays just as big a role in fostering students’ creativity.

The media lab is equipped with everything a filmmaker or media artist might need: 22 iMacs loaded with Adobe Suite, three flat-screen monitors, a wide-format printer, a high-fidelity sound system and a soundproof recording and editing suite. However, it’s the design of the room that allows students to take full advantage of these tools.

“It’s an excellent space for supporting different modes of teaching,” says media arts teacher Marcio Sargento. “We can have a teacher-led lesson at the front of the room, individual work in the middle of the room and small groups at the back, all in one period.”

The digital media lab's 22 iMacs are equipped with Adobe Suite.

Film teacher Doug Brown agrees. “The long layout of the space, along with portable whiteboards, allows us to execute multiple lessons in the same room based on student needs.”

Collaboration is key in courses that facilitate the creative process, and students need ample opportunity to bounce ideas off of their classmates and provide constructive feedback on each other’s work. The openness of the new lab gives students the freedom to move around and gather as needed, and to break into small groups. And with three projection screens spread throughout the classroom, students have the ability to see lessons from every part of the room.

Grade 12 student Amelia used the media lab to create this "Day of the Dead" illustration.

Though students and teachers love the light-filled room, it’s sometimes necessary to block out natural light to deliver an effective lesson. With this in mind, motorized blackout blinds were installed to allow for control over the space when film students are learning about advanced lighting techniques.

The new media lab presents endless possibilities, and we look forward to seeing what our students create!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

A Space for Artistic Endeavours to Flourish

Our student actors can now rehearse regularly in the space in which they will
eventually perform, which helps build skills and confidence.

When the cast, crew and musicians  take the stage for tonight’s opening of The Lion King, they’ll do it in our very own state-of-the-art theatre.

An ideal theatre is a blank slate - a space that students can use as a tool to express themselves. Greenwood’s theatre, designed in consultation with theatre experts Rick Schick and Philip Silver, encourages students to give their creativity free rein. Whether they’re performing in drama class, rehearsing for a school play or screening a film, our new theatre provides the perfect space for students to hone their skills.

The theatre's 144 seats can be retracted when not in use, giving students more room
for drama classes, rehearsals or grade-level activities.

How Does Our Theatre Make a Difference for Students?

Highlights of the theatre include:

  • Regular access: Our student actors can now rehearse regularly in the space in which they will eventually perform, which helps build skills and confidence. Having the theatre in the school helps build community, as student audiences can attend dress rehearsals.
  • Black walls: Students can use props and lighting to turn the theatre into anything they choose, from an office building to the African savannah.
  • Retractable seating: Our 144 seats can be retracted when not in use, giving students even more room for drama classes and rehearsals, or provide a large space to gather for grade-level activities.
  • The latest technology: Greenwood’s theatre is one of only three in Canada - and the only high school in the country - with full LED lighting. Coupled with a new sound system, our technical setup gives students early exposure to forward-thinking technology.
  • Accessibility: The theatre is fully wheelchair accessible and is enabled for Hearing Assist technology.

Our new theatre is one more example of giving students spaces to develop character. Through performance, students build confidence, learn how to work together and experience what it’s like to see the world from viewpoints other than their own.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Students Use pH Probes To Watch Chemistry Take Shape in Real Time

With LabQuest, students can see
their data displayed graphically, in
real time, as they collect it.
Use of Vernier technology has become widespread in the Science department this year. Almost every student in the school has now had an opportunity to experience the LabQuest 2, along with various probes and sensors, in their science classes.

Recently, the Grade 12 Chemistry class used the LabQuest with pH probes while conducting a titration to determine the Ksp (solubility product constant) of calcium hydroxide. Having performed several titrations in Grade 11, this procedure was fairly routine. Using this new technology, however, the experiment was really brought to life.

The Impact of Instant Feedback

With the LabQuest, students could now see their data displayed graphically, in real time, as they were collecting it. There was an immediate shift from students being passive observers to becoming more actively engaged in the experiment.

The visual feedback given by the Vernier equipment helped students develop a deeper understanding of the process of titration and made the experimental results more meaningful.

What did students think?

Many of the students reflected on the use of the LabQuest in their lab report assignment. Here are a few of their comments:

  • “Using LabQuest technology makes our experiments much more accurate and allows us to measure parameters that would be practically impossible to measure otherwise.”
  • “This technology is a great way to get accurate measurements and visually show us the titration curve forming.”
  • “The LabQuest can zoom so we could see the exact moment when (we) reached the equivalence point. After the equivalence point we could see the the shape of the curve has changed and that there was a huge drop in pH as it became more acidic. We were even able to take the derivative of the curve…”

Having become comfortable with the method and the technology, this past week Grade 12 Chemistry students used the pH probes to explore buffers. They each designed an experiment to compare the buffering capacity of various beverages (juices or soft drinks) and collected data and compared results using the LabQuest. This activity was a great example of how we can leverage this technology and allow students to personalize their lab experience.

Julie Way
Science Teacher

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Learning Plant Physiology Through Interactive Lab Experiences

As we begin the Plants unit in our Biology classes, we are emphasizing the use of inquiry techniques to investigate plant processes.

The Biology team has worked closely with the Vernier Summer Institute group to utilize a variety of labs geared towards helping students understand plant physiology.

After executing two Vernier labs within our Biology classroom (about seeds and leaves, respectively), we asked for student feedback about the experience. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Students:

  • Appreciate how well the labs connect to our course content;
  • Find the lab experiences particularly useful, saying these help them to visualize complex concepts, and dispel misconceptions about plants; and
  • Like that these labs allow them to explore the Plants unit in an authentic way, rather than focusing on rote memorization.

In addition, many students commented on how the new learning cycle that was developed for Biology creates predictability in the classroom, especially when they have missed class.

  • They appreciate the consistency and clarity within the note packages.
  • The question of the day gives students the opportunity to explore ideas that underscore the relevance of the content we are learning in class.

Overall, by creating opportunities for exploration and discussion with our Biology classes, our students are more engaged in the content, and in its application.

Nancy Clarke and Vanessa Floras
Science Teachers

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Leveraging Technology to Monitor Student Learning & Streamline Assessment

Hapara allowed teachers to reinforce
positive behaviour and promote
digital citizenship through encouraging
collaborationon shared documents.
In December, Grade 8 students immersed themselves in Toronto City Council business and municipal politics with proposals to improve City of Toronto drinking water treatment. We were able to leverage Hapara, an online education platform, throughout the project to help improve student learning and streamline teacher assessment.

Throughout the learning process we shared templates and resources with students in their Integrated Project Folders on Hapara. Students used these same folders to develop their ideas and create their proposals. All Grade 8 Teachers had access to the folders and we could monitor individual progress to prompt deeper learning and identify students who required additional support. This technology also allowed us to reinforce positive individual and group behaviour, and promote digital citizenship through the collaboration process with shared documents.

Once the Grade 8 students completed their final proposals to the City of Toronto and presented their ideas to City Council, the integrated project was complete. Each student’s proposal included curriculum expectations for mathematics, English, Canadian Social Studies and science. Teachers worked together to mark the final products. Hapara significantly streamlined the assessment process as teachers from different disciplines could efficiently access students’ products to mark the appropriate curriculum expectations.

In the integrated project, students created products that examined a social issue with improved breadth and depth by looking with different subject perspectives. The careful design and implementation allowed curriculum expectations from four disciplines to be effectively addressed. Using technology, we were able to help ensure each student was supported and challenged throughout the process, and student products could be efficiently evaluated.

Elysia Jellema
Grade 7 & 8 Math and Science Teacher

Erin Klassen
Grade 7 & 8 Math and Learning Strategies Teacher

Want to read more about our Grade 8 Integrated Project? Read a student's perspective and a teacher's perspective.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Using Vernier to Accelerate Learning

Now that the school year is in full swing, science classes in all grades have had an opportunity to try out our new Vernier probes and LabQuest 2 devices in their science classes.

So far students have been able to investigate:
  • Carbon dioxide levels with reference to climate change
  • Accelerated motion
  • Temperature change in different substances

The Grade 11 physics classes used the Picket Fence (pictured at left) and photogates to measure acceleration due to gravity. Many of the students were really impressed by the simplicity and accuracy of the equipment.

Small groups worked together to collect several sets of data, which were then downloaded to each student’s computer for analysis. Once uploaded, the data will automatically save on each student’s computer, giving them the opportunity to work through the analysis at their own pace. 

The graphs that were generated were easy to understand and manipulate, giving more time for students to analyze and discuss their results. 

This lab activity allows for the students to investigate why and how objects accelerate towards the earth due to gravity, and gives many opportunities for related extension activities.

Emma Seaborn
Science Teacher

Friday, 20 November 2015

Student-Centred Biology: Getting Student Feedback and Using Technology to Provide Choice

Lab Option 2 gave students the
opportunity to practice Punnett
, which are used to predict
the outcomes of breeding experiments.
Recently in the Grade 11 Biology classroom, we asked for student feedback about our revised learning cycle and student-centred approach to teaching Biology.

The feedback was positive:  students enjoy the predictable patterns in assessment and consistent exit card quizzes.

Online exit card quizzes are used as an assessment for learning. Students can practice their multiple-choice skills by completing these assessments as often as they would like to check their understanding of content. Students have mentioned that the multiple-choice quizzes are difficult and give them a good sense of the course expectations. Because the quizzes provide marks immediately, they get the instantaneous feedback they need while reviewing or studying.

Recently in our classes we provided students with two different fly lab assignments (Option 1, Option 2). Fly labs involve studying inheritance patterns in fruit flies. Both assignments met course expectations, and allowed students to investigate a lab they may complete in their post-secondary studies, but allowed for different levels of support and areas of focus. One simulation allowed students to proceed through a fly lab with the same steps they would complete within a post-secondary environment, while the other focused more on a more complex inheritance pattern, and allowed for students to practice creating Punnett squares to prove their understanding of concepts.

As teachers, we continue to seek out opportunities for students to experience choice, and engage in course material in a way that is meaningful for their needs. We look forward to investigating the diversity within a biological community when students grow their own bacterial samples in the lab in our upcoming unit.

Nancy Clarke and Vanessa Floras
Science Teachers

Friday, 6 November 2015

Vernier Technology at the Greenwood Summer Institute

Our goal for the Greenwood Summer Institute was to immerse ourselves in Vernier technology in order to better understand how we can fully implement its use within the science department. Vernier manufactures interfaces, sensors and software for scientific data collection.

Last year, several groups of students used the LabQuest 2 and various probes and sensors in their classes to collect authentic scientific data. We quickly realized the huge potential that this technology has to change our science classrooms, but we needed additional time to research applications, practice using the equipment and plan solid curriculum connections. The Summer Institute gave us this opportunity and proved to be an incredibly productive week.

We began our investigation by exploring all of the basic and advanced functions of the LabQuest 2 interface, the Logger Pro data analysis software, and the Chrome Vernier Graphical Analysis App. We discovered numerous functions and useful tips that we are now able to share with both our students and fellow colleagues.

From there, we aimed to identify course-specific activities in the Vernier resources that could be modified to suit our needs as a department. Based on the current curriculum and requests from teachers, we ran trial experiments to determine the feasibility of using these activities in our classes (see images). In all cases, the results were incredibly exciting.

We now have a deeper understanding of how this technology allows students to collect rich data which aids in their understanding of the concepts being studied in class.

The technology can provide enrichment opportunities for students and give teachers the tools to enable a more personalized program in terms of student-designed experiments.

An introductory workshop was provided for the Science Department during our August Professional Development week. We will continue to offer training for teachers to learn and expand their skills during our designated IT workshops as part of our Wednesday morning Professional Development Model.

Stay tuned for details of how this technology is being used in our classes in upcoming blog posts!

Julie Way
Science Teacher

Friday, 6 March 2015

Vernier Technology Takes Science Learning to a Whole New Level

Science teacher Julie Way explains how the implementation of the Vernier LabQuest 2 technology is providing Greenwood science students with unique opportunities to extend and enrich their learning.

Using probeware to measure temperatures inside three different
toy cars to compare the heat released from different road surfaces.
New to the Science Department this year, this interface is a stand-alone tablet that connects to various probes and sensors used to collect and analyze data. A wireless connection allows students to share their data so that it can be further analyzed on their own personal computers. The use of probeware enables students to deepen their understanding of abstract concepts and allows them to design and carry out experiments in ways not previously possible.

The LabQuest 2 has already been used at various grade levels for a wide range of experiments.

Grade 9 Physical and Chemical Properties: Temperature Probes

Earlier this year, while investigating physical and chemical properties, Grade 9 students used temperature probes to explore what happens when water boils and freezes. The heating and cooling curves visible on the display helped students understand that temperature remains constant during a phase change.

Our initial exploration of boiling and freezing points led to an extension activity for several students who in turn designed an experiment to explore the effect of salt concentration on the boiling point of water. Having sensitive temperature probes and the ability to save and export data allowed the students to fully experience the scientific method at work. The students compared initial trials and continued to modify the experimental design until a suitable plan was established. Even more valuable than coming up with a final conclusion was the process of reviewing the results and critically analyzing their experimental design.

Grade 10 Climate Change Project: Temperature Probe

As part of the climate change project in Grade 10 Science, one student chose to use the temperature probes and the LabQuest 2 to compare the amount of heat released from three different road surfaces.

Comparing the heat absorbed by different road surfaces
(asphalt vs. cement)
Her experiment was left running for the entire winter holiday, set to record the temperature every minute over this period of time; thus, she was able to collect a huge amount of data. A significant variation in the temperatures from the different surfaces was noted. This type of experiment would not be possible without this new technology.

Grade 12 Physics: Magnetic Field Sensors

The Grade 12 Physics class recently studied gravitational, electric and magnetic fields. Using the Magnetic Field Sensors, the LabQuest 2 and a Slinky, students were able to investigate how the magnetic field varies inside and outside a coil of wire when an electric current passes through it. This investigation also led to an interesting discussion of how the Earth's magnetic field might affect the data being collected.

Electromagnetism and magnetic field strength are abstract concepts that can be difficult to grasp, but the ability to accurately measure this invisible field and display it on a graph significantly helps students deepen their understanding.

As the Greenwood Science Department continues to explore the diverse range of Vernier applications, it becomes clear that the benefits to student learning and engagement are vast.

For more information on the LabQuest 2 and the Vernier Connected Science System, click here.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Computer Literacy Skills Both Stretch and Support Student Learning

Grade 7 and 8 students at Greenwood participate in a Grade 9 course titled Information and Communication Technology in Business (informally referred to by staff and students as BTT) which gives them the opportunity to reach ahead and develop skills they will use in their other courses. BTT teacher Sarah Thornton discusses how this personalized, independent course helps students gain valuable skills in communications, technology, planning and organization.

Students complete the BTT course independently over two years (with fifty percent of the course completed in Grade 7 and the remaining fifty percent in Grade 8), which is both valuable and challenging. To scaffold this effort, there is a BTT coordinator appointed to the Grade 7 and 8 programs respectively. The coordinator oversees the BTT co-curricular periods that are supervised by each student's Adviser, marks assignments, and tracks and reports individual student credit accumulation to students, Advisers and parents. The personalized support provided by the individual Adviser and the oversight of the coordinator ensure that the students are able to set and meet clear goals so that they can achieve the credit in the most efficient and organized way possible.

The enrichment that Greenwood students gain by participating in the BTT course is twofold. Firstly, they are able to demonstrate the mastery over communication technology and online organization necessary to be successful in Greenwood's innovative technological environment. Moreover, participating in the course challenges and further develops students' executive functioning skills, as they are required to take responsibility for their work in a course that exists beyond the walls of their physical classrooms.

In this way, their participation in the course encourages perseverance. It teaches them how to implement and execute strategic plans, as they negotiate their way through the personalized assignment options. It provides an opportunity for Advisers and the BTT coordinators to coach the students on how to choose the best and most effective way to navigate an assignment or topic. Finally, the BTT course challenges students to maintain a clear organizational system that allows them to balance the homework and assignments required to complete the BTT course in a timely manner.

Grade 7 and 8 students benefit in both the long and short term by participating in a BTT course. This course prepares them to be successful throughout their high school careers, by giving them freedom of choice to personalize their schedules and perform to their best, as well as equipping them with critical technological skills. It also allows them, with the support of their Advisers and the BTT coordinators, to practice and apply executive functioning skills that will allow them to be successful in their current courses and beyond.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Minerva: The University of the Future?

Critics of contemporary North American education often claim that it’s driven by flavor-of- the-month thinking. Not surprisingly, personalized learning has been described by these same critics as the latest educational fad. As followers or occasional readers of this blog realize, we take exception to such criticism, as personalized learning is at the heart of our educational approach here at Greenwood.

Consequently, it was refreshing to read this month’s cover story in The Atlantic, “The Future of College?” and learn that other educators are not content with the preservation of the status quo. The article by Graeme Wood, a graduate of Harvard, focuses on Minerva, a small for-profit university that has established itself in San Francisco. What makes Minerva unique is its use of an online learning platform, which uses technology to re-imagine the traditional university lectures and seminar.

The strength of the online platform is that it forces students to engage actively and be accountable for their learning. By using this technology, professors can simultaneously communicate with each student. Unlike the traditional seminar, there is no opportunity to sit back and let others do the work, nor is there the typical stand-and-deliver lecture in which the professor does almost all the work. Professors use the online platform to group students to debate topics and gauge learning through pop quizzes. After experiencing one of these 45-minute seminars, which Wood describes as “good, but exhausting,” he observes that Minerva’s seminar platform “will challenge professors to stop thinking they’re using technology just because they lecture with PowerPoint.”

One other benefit of this approach is that it forces professors to think more carefully about how they teach. Rather than seeing teaching as an art and a science, the leaders of Minerva believe teaching is “a science and a science.” In other words, effective teaching is dependent upon student learning. Lesson design is rooted in research related to retention and engagement. Ongoing assessment, which is a key element of personalized learning, is used to group students effectively and to support remediation.

Though Minerva makes no claims about personalizing education, their efforts at reinventing the traditional university model bear some similarities. Rather than educating large numbers of students in a cost-effective manner (which is why lecture halls exist at universities), they instead are focused intently on individual learning. The entrepreneurs of Minerva are also leveraging technology to make this possible.

It is reassuring to know that our use of blended learning and other aspects of personalized learning at Greenwood are preparing our students to be able adapt successfully to the inevitable changes that are happening or will soon take place in the world of higher education.

Allan Hardy

Monday, 9 June 2014

Thinking Differently to Meet Students' Needs

Two years ago, I posted “Reinventing the High School Experience,” which reflected upon one educator’s claim about the need for high schools to “revolutionize” themselves. As the postings on this blog over the past two years demonstrate, Greenwood has made great strides in this direction.

Here are some of the highlights:
  • 15 high school courses, ranging from Grade 9 to 12, are now delivered using a blended learning model. Using this approach has allowed students to learn at their own pace and freed up class time for more individualized and small group learning. 
  • Non-blended courses continue to leverage new types of learning technology, such as Oxford Next and The Academic Zone, which enable students to customize their learning. 
  • 6 Grade 7-10 subjects are now scheduled in a block format, which enables flexible grouping based on readiness or interest within a grade cohort. 
  • Our Grade 7-8 Arts program has introduced a major/minor approach where students can specialize in one or two of our four arts electives. 
  • 75% of our teachers now use Hapara on a regular basis. Use of this Google tool allows teachers an overall snapshot of individual student learning. 
  • We have re-modeled two classrooms to create one flexible learning space, equipped with state-of-the art technology and furniture.

Ann Marie Kee, the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Independent Schools, recently observed that independent schools are often reluctant innovators. I am proud to be leading a team of educators that have the expertise and courage to think differently about high school and how it can be improved to better meet the needs of our students.

Allan Hardy

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.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Greenwood English Department Moves to Oxford Next

This week, English teacher Heather Wright explains how technology enriches the study of Shakespeare for Greenwood students.

This year during our Hamlet unit Grade 12 English students enjoyed using new software, Oxford Next, to support their learning. In the past, the English department has taught Shakespeare plays using a more traditional, teacher-led approach; however, Oxford Next allows for much greater personalization.

Oxford Next Screenshot
Oxford Next allows students to view Shakespeare
scenes, and to check their understanding with
short quizzes.
Using various online tools, students can work at their own pace, watch various film versions of each scene, and take self-check quizzes to assess their understanding of the material.  Scene summaries, definitions, and a study guide are also available for when students run into difficulty. With the great variety of learning tools at their disposal, students can use the resources that best meet their needs and learning styles.

Current Grade 12 students are in a unique position; they were taught Macbeth in Grade 10 without the use of Oxford Next, so they have been able to experience both approaches to learning Shakespeare. The feedback from students has been very positive, with each student using and appreciating different aspects of the software:

“I enjoyed Oxford Next very much. I specifically liked that there was a media center so that I could watch the films and understand the language more effectively. I also enjoyed being able to hover over words and see their definitions in modern English.” - Noah Flatt

“I really enjoyed having quizzes.  It was helpful to test my understanding and to ensure that I did not miss a major event in the story.” - Madeline Chisholm

“Compared to reading from the physical text, finding quotes was simple.  I liked having the ability to copy directly to an online notebook. Compiling a list of important quotes was easy.” -Thomas Cole

Given the positive feedback, the Oxford Next approach to Shakespeare has also been implemented at the Grade 10 and Grade 8 levels for the study of Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  

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.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Video: What does blended learning look like at different institutions?

Blended learning looks slightly different at every school and in every class, but there are many common features. Three experts share what this approach looks like at their institution.

Greenwood hosted a Blended Learning Panel Discussion on February 4, 2014, featuring speakers from both the postsecondary and middle/high school levels:
  • Dr. Brenda Ravenscroft, Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning, Faculty of Arts and Science, Queen's University
  • Paul Gries, Senior Lecturer, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto
  • Heather Thomas, Vice-Principal, Student Learning, Greenwood College School
Over the next several weeks, we'll post video excerpts of the evening's discussions, broken up by topic. Each video provides not only insight from these experts on where blended learning is going, but concrete examples of what students can expect in a blended classroom at college and university.

Watch the first video below, and check back next week for the next installment!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Blended Chemistry: Resources Make the Difference

How do you know you've got a good resource? Your students recommend it to their peers. Science teacher Liz Greflund discusses how Greenwood's chemistry resources bring the best of the new and the traditional to the science classroom.

Flash Video Still
Visual reinforcement, through materials like
this flash animation, promotes understanding
rather than memorization.
Blended learning in chemistry has evolved over the past few years at Greenwood. As a team, the chemistry teachers have been determining how to use course resources to best enhance student learning. Our aim is to increase student perseverance while providing a supported education in chemistry. 

The class time is run in a traditional manner:
  • The teacher runs a lesson and coordinates activities.
  • The Moodle page contains many resources that students can use to solidify their understanding.
  • We make an effort to build community in class, often beginning with a starter to get the students engaged and working efficiently. We then move on to a lesson which ends with students practicing the material.
This approach is quite straightforward, and is practiced in many chemistry classrooms across the country. The difference in the blended learning chemistry classes comes with the resources, including:
  • Completed class notes: These are posted for student reference, as well as a variety of activities, videos and interesting links.
  • Visual learning: The image included here comes from a flash animation developed for the Grade 11 Chemistry course. For some, it is the visual reinforcement that allows students to understand the problem as opposed to memorizing the process.
  • Online problems: Students complete a series of problems, and check each answer before moving to the next problem. Prompting is given if the answer is incorrect.

What do students think?

Students respond well to these resources. I often hear students say “you should watch the video - it was really useful." We constantly evaluate the effectiveness of the resources, and we think we have found a nice balance. The students enjoy the demos, lab and lessons that run during class and are able to access the material at home as they wish. We think this blend is the best of both worlds.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Personalizing by Readiness - A Grade 9 Math Approach

Personalizing by readiness can take many forms and have many functions. During the "Solving Equations" unit in Grade 9 math, students were given a chance to self-pace through a series of two lessons. Some students grasp how to solve equations quite readily, while others take more time and practice. Allowing students to self-pace in this topic gave us the ability to stretch some and support others.

During these lessons, students in my class worked through the following learning cycle:
  1. Watched a video created by Greenwood teachers and took notes as they followed the examples given. Students were able to pause and replay as desired.
  2. Completed several practice problems from the textbook. 
  3. Completed a Check for Understanding.
  4. Showed the Check for Understanding to me for feedback. Students used this feedback to correct their work.

Next, students moved on to a second video teaching a slightly more challenging concept within the unit, and then followed the same cycle of notes, practice, and a Check for Understanding.

This whole process spanned two classes. Students who finished before the end of the two classes were given extension problems. Students who needed more time to complete the tasks were identified and supported throughout the process, allowing them to finish within the two-lesson time period.

In speaking with the students about this process, there were several common reactions. Some of the stronger students expressed how they really liked being able to race ahead and work on more challenging questions after the basics were covered. Other students expressed how they liked being able to pause and replay the videos, as well as receive more one-on-one attention from me throughout the process.

Using self-paced lessons to teach solving equations allowed me to meet the needs of individual students within my class.

Megan Clark
Teacher, Mathematics and French

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Personalization Through Writing

This year and last we have had the unique opportunity in our Grade 11 Learning Strategies classes to work with Brock University to design and implement an online writing program. Academic-Zone™ is an innovative online learning resource that takes our students through a series of modules designed to enhance their writing and research skills and prepare them for postsecondary writing.

As this is an online program, it allows students to work at their own pace and, with teacher support, personalize their experience based on readiness. There are activities associated with each of the eight modules. A student is not able to move on to the next module until they have mastered the skill found in the current module.

As the classroom teacher, I am able to support or extend as needed based on each individual student. For example, in the “Developing a Thesis Statement” module, some students require additional support beyond the program. We work individually or in small groups on breaking down a thesis even further into concrete steps. Other students who need little support in this area can continue with the module and extend into developing thesis statements for argumentative, comparative and expository writing.

I find the Grade 11 students feel empowered and challenged knowing that they are able to work at their own pace and receive support when they need it. Because they are working on a writing program that is intended to prepare them for postsecondary writing, they see value in the program and want to learn.

Jennifer Lillie
Teacher, Student Success Centre