Scribes & Chat

Look at what the grade 11 students are chatting about tonight:

Richard C.
9:12 PM Sep 29, 2005 IP 161:173

(Feeling Better) So... Who went to the MATH CONTEST today???

Aichelle S. 9:24 PM Sep 29, 2005 IP 45:172

haha yeah who did go? and when is the scribe scribing?


Rannell d.
9:49 PM Sep 29, 2005 IP 77:215

Sorry for the late scribe guys, I saw the msg Aichelle. Haha. Sorry again.

Richard C. 9:51 PM Sep 29, 2005 IP 161:173

It's OK

Rannell d.
9:59 PM Sep 29, 2005 IP 77:215

Oh, and Richard, it did take super long to make all the photo's for this post! >_<

Richard C.
10:02 PM Sep 29, 2005 IP 161:173

Hahahahahahaha. There good though ;)

Aichelle S.
10:11 PM Sep 29, 2005 IP 45:172

it was worth the wait because that was most excellent!

The post they're talking about really is excellent. And from reading the comments it seems two of them are having a nightly race to see who can be the first one to leave the day's scribe a positive comment!

The scribe posts are really outstanding! The only instruction I gave them was to summarize what happened in class on the day you are scribe and blog it. A future post will talk about the impact of having a scribe in every class blog each day .... metacognition, reflection, impact on students, impact on teacher and teaching, many other benefits. This is all my student's work, I've had very little to do with it. Like Bud says, mine is not the dominant voice, their voices are ... and it's a good thing. ;-)


In August Will Richardson posted this, the first three paragraphs of which are reproduced below:

English teacher Tom McHale sets down his cup of coffee and boots up the computer at his classroom desk. It's 6:50 a.m., and he's got about 45 minutes before his sleepy Journalism students will begin filing into his classroom.

He logs in and opens up his personal Weblog on the school intranet. There, he does a quick scan of the New York Times headlines that are displayed on his homepage and clicks on one of the links to read a story about war reporting that he thinks his student journalists might be interested in. With a quick click, Tom uses the "Post to Scuttle" button on his toolbar, adds a bit of annotation to the form that comes up, and adds it to his journalism tagset at the ScuttleEDU intall on his school server. With this one step, he archives the page for future reference and automatically sends the link and his note to display on his journalism class portal for students to read when they log in.

Next, he clicks the link to open his Bloglines aggregator and he scans a compiled list of summaries that link to all the work his students submitted to their Weblogs the night before. Seeing one particularly well done response, he clicks through to the student's personal site and leaves a positive comment about her submission. (He notices that a couple of his students have already left some positive feedback to the author as well.) He also "Scuttles" that site, adding it to his "Best Practices" tagset which will send it to the class homepage as well for students to read and discuss, and to a separate Weblog page he has created to keep track of all of the best examples of student work. It's 7:00.

Ten minutes. Think about that. Then go read the rest of what Will wrote. It's a powerful vision of the future.

Using RSS and the latest AJAX technologies we can personalize and manage vast amounts of content incredibly efficiently.

I've recently started subscribing to blogs and news feeds from Australia. I love what the Australians do. One of my favourite math resources, SMARD (Secondary Mathematics Assessment and Resource Database), comes out of Australia and so does Leigh Blackall, whose blog I've been following with interest -- I almost always learn something from Leigh. Tonight someone from nearby New Zealand hit this blog and I followed the link back to Netvibes. My head is still reeling from that discovery .... "The future is here," and it can be evenly distributed!

Hey! Where's the Math?

Has anyone actually seen the content behind the front page of the Hey Math! site? Do they really deliver on the promise of:

HeyMath's mission is to be the math Google - to establish a Web-based platform that enables every student and teacher to learn from the "best teacher in the world" for every math concept and to also be able to benchmark themselves against their peers globally.

If this is for real NO ONE should have to pay for it. If it is genuinely a collection of tools collaboratively built by teachers all over the world to deliver the best math education in the world then it should also be freely available all over the world. After all, teachers all over the world built it. Or did they?

Maybe it's just another flashy presentation of drill exercises delivered via computer over the internet. On the other hand if they've found a way to help kids accomodate difficult concepts (like this one is trying to do) then lets all get on board and share the wealth.

If anyone has seen it I'd love to hear your opinion of it.

A New Level of Functionality and Interactivity

The Chatbox I installed on the blogs has turned out to be a great tool! The "chat" is preserved for a short time allowing asynchronous conversations to take place. Here are a few that really struck a chord with me ....

The grade 10's had a test today. Many of them spontaneously started posting reflections (their word choice, not mine) about the test:

8:17 PM Sep 22, 2005 IP 66:94

Were we supposed to post a reflection of the test? ._.

John D.
8:17 PM Sep 22, 2005 IP 161:170

no, we're not. we just want to. ^__^

Some kids were still having trouble figuring out how to create a post in Blogger. In particular, the scribe for yesterday was having a hard time; Jojo tried to help ....

Question Mark (?)
7:32 PM Sep 21, 2005 IP 161:147

How do you make a blog. When I try to make a blog it says "sorry, this blog is not valid."

7:43 PM Sep 21, 2005 IP 66:94

Question mark log into your blog account you can post up one when your signed in

Question Mark (?)
7:56 PM Sep 21, 2005 IP 161:147

I already signed-in. The error came up when it asked for the blog address.

8:05 PM Sep 21, 2005 IP 66:94

Aftre signing in click Pre cal 20s under"Dashboard" on the top left of yoru screen. you will automaticaly be at editing posts. on the top left click

8:05 PM Sep 21, 2005 IP 66:94

"create" and type in your message and your done. If that doesnt work I don't know what else to do.

Question Mark (?)
8:12 PM Sep 21, 2005 IP 161:147

It does not say pc20s on the dashboard

9:16 PM Sep 21, 2005 IP 161:48

did today's scribe post anything?

Question Mark (?)
9:58 PM Sep 21, 2005 IP 161:147

Today's scribe is ocuppied. He computer is being difficult.

Following this "chat" in the grade 11 chatbox Richard took the initiative to solve the problem for everyone:

7:51 PM Sep 21, 2005 IP 76:128

How do you write the blog?

Richard C.
8:42 PM Sep 21, 2005 IP 161:164

Well you go to the dashboard. Then click on NEW POST under BLOGS. Then after you write stuff you click on PUBLISH POST to post on the blog.

This proved to be helpful to one of the AP Calculus students ... the younger student unaware he was teaching the older one:

9:57 PM Sep 21, 2005 IP 77:96

hey how do i post a new one?

Mr. K.
11:32 PM Sep 21, 2005 IP 161:98


Mr. K.
11:33 PM Sep 21, 2005 IP 161:98

Read this post [link] from the Pre-Cal 30S blog -- it says it all. ;)

Aichelle caught a typo in a review sheet I handed out ....

Aichelle S.
3:50 PM Sep 20, 2005 IP 45:175

****the answers on the review a) and b) are mixed up

They are actually using the links I post to help them!

6:02 PM Sep 20, 2005 IP 66:94

err.... does anyone know how many questions we should/have to do for that factoring thing assignment? lol

John D.
6:04 PM Sep 20, 2005 IP 161:48

i don't know.. it only said just practice until you get it..

6:05 PM Sep 20, 2005 IP 66:94

hmm. nevermind, i guess we can just do as many as we like. :)


10:12 PM Sep 20, 2005 IP 66:94

is 20 problems enough to do????i'm sleepy.....

The chatboxes have brought a whole new level of functionality and interactivity to the blogs. Tonight we had "Meet the Teacher Night." I met some of my student's parents, gave them the course outline with the blog urls for their children and encouraged them to get involved. Let's see where this goes ....

My Wife is Brilliant!

On Friday I changed the RSS feed for the sidebar math resources from Maricopa's MLX to MERLOT's most recent math resources. Then I stumbled along this resource; a collection of short instructional math videos (about 5 to 10 minutes each) from the University of Idaho. Anyway, I found material relevant to all the classes I'm currently teaching and posted the resources to the classes (here, here and here) to learn from over the weekend. In my post I asked:

Let me know what you thought of the videos in the comments to this post. Did it help you learn? Is it clear and easy to follow? Should I post more of these? ;-)

My wife and I were discussing it this morning. I was thinking out loud about the value that students would get from this resource and shared with her this comment from one of them:

Factoring a trinomial part 2 is good for those who do not yet understand how to do a question like 3x2 + 14xy + 8y2 helped me, er-- with the exception of much pause, rewind, playback, pause, rewind and etc hehe.

..long division of polynomials is just a pain in the ..head ^_^

"Wouldn't it be great," I said, "if students could do that to their teachers whenever they needed to? Pause, rewind, repeat. Pause, rewind, repeat ..." As we talked about it more she suggested that we create more of these instructional videos at our school. I immediately thought: "What a great topic for the next BPRIME workshop." As a staff we would decide on what videos we'd like to make, carefully script them so that they stay at around 10 minutes or less, and work together using a sort of lesson study format. I get very excited about stuff like this. ;-) I started going on about what a great professional development opportunity it would be for everyone who participated in it. At the same time we would be contributing to the international math community by making these videos freely available online. Maybe other schools would follow suit and we'd really have a fantastic international resource. The BPRIME Wiki could be a clearing house for all these resources!

When I finally took a breath, she turned to me and said: "I meant you should get the students to do it."

My wife is brilliant!

Learning Inspired By Students

For several years now I've encouraged all my classes to get together in groups of 3 or 4 and form study groups. A lot of learning happens when kids talk to each other.

One of the goals I have with regard to incorporating blogs into my classes is to encourage student dialogue. My grade 10 class has taken this to another level. They started using the blog as a chat room. I received over 60 email notifications that a comment had been left on the blog! A lot of "Ha ha ha, lol, ;-) :P :S " One of them suggested we get a "Shoutbox." Never having heard of this I looked it up.

While they were still chatting in the comments. I installed the shoutbox, changed the name to chatbox -- I'd rather they didn't shout at each other ;-) -- and posted to the class blog about it. They jumped right in and started chatting immediately! (How's that for being responsive to students needs?)

A student from another of my classes stumbled over the grade 10 blog and asked: "Why doesn't our blog have one of these?" So I had an email conversation with the fellow behind the Shoutmix site. I explained what I wanted to use the Shoutboxes for and he was very accommodating. He made it easy for me to set up 5 free accounts! (I had asked for 4 because I'll have that many concurrent blogs running next semester.)

Today I posted at my other two classroom blogs and installed the chatboxes. I'm eagerly awaiting feedback from my students. Check them out and leave your feedback in the comments to this post. Thanks. ;-)

25 Carnival of Education

Check out the latest Carnival of Education: The 32nd Edition. It's hosted by Ms. Frizzle, a middle school science teacher from the Bronx.

The theme of this week's Carnival is "The First Day of School." Lots of good reading! I submitted one of my posts too. If you write an education related blog consider submitting one of your own posts for the next Carnival.

Mathematically speaking, 32 is a very interesting number!

24 = 42 = 16

16 is the only number with this property, namely, where exchanging the base and exponent results in the same number. 32 has two 16's!

More than that, it can be written as a power whose base is the only even prime number, as well as the first prime number (2), and whose exponent is the third prime number (5). If you multiply five 2's you get 32! (25 = 32)

This Carnival is shaping up to be a prime event. Very exclusive. Attended by only the most interesting characters! Don't miss it! ;-)

(Ahhh! I LOVE the smell of math in the morning!)

A New Beginning

I usually start my math classes with a brief introduction to me, the course and an overview of what materials students will need. Then we jump right into the curriculum. I didn't do that this time.

I started by telling them a story; the Myth of Sisyphus. Just the story. Then I asked them three questions:

  • »Is Sysiphus a villain?
  • »Is Sysiphus a victim?
  • »Or is Sysiphus a hero?

They seemed to like the story. They were relaxed and interested. Then I told them I'll want their answers to the questions in about 5 or 10 minutes. We'll get back to this soon ....

Then we talked about how much time we're supposed to have and how much time we actually do have to cover the course material. This raised their anxiety level a little bit.

We went over the course outline focusing on what I call the Critical Path to Success.

A student who wants to succeed in this course will:

   »Always be on time for class.

   »Always arrive to class prepared to work with all materials needed.

   »Always attempt ALL their homework assignments.

   »Review their class notes every night before going to bed.

   »Always ask LOTS of questions about anything they don't understand.

   »Always gets extra help from the teacher when they feel they are falling behind.

   »Find one or two people to be their study partners and form a study group.

   »Consistently set a regular time of day to do homework assignments.

   »Regularly participate on the course blog.

I have only one "rule" in my class. It's more of a required attitude really. Be polite. Those first two bulleted items are a direct consequence of this attitude. Treat others they way you would like them to treat you. Students have a right to expect me to be in class on time and prepared to teach. Likewise, I expect students to do the same. It is rude to arrive late and interrupt 30+ people who are hard at work pursuing the business of learning.

Before we discussed the important distinction between attempting all the homework assignments and getting them all correct (If they never made mistakes they wouldn't need to be in class to learn! A mistake is a wonderful thing -- an opportunity to learn something you didn't know.) we got back to Sysiphus and I asked them for their answers. Most kids saw how Sysiphus was a villain; he was a highwayman and had cheated the g-ds time and again. They also saw him as a victim because while his actions may have merited punishment, that the punishment should last for eternity struck them as excessive. Seeing Sysiphus as a hero took a little more thought.

A few students saw him as a hero because while he had Thanatos (Death) locked up no one could die -- he saved the lives of countless innocent people including many children. I explained how I saw him as a hero.

Sysiphus has been set up to fail. As soon as he just about gets that boulder to the top of the hill it falls back down again. Sysiphus knows this is going to happen. Again and again; without end. The way I read this story, when the boulder rolls down the hill, Sysiphus doesn't get upset. He doesn't get angry or cry in frustration. (I would if it were me.) He never gives up. He calmly walks down the hill, turns, puts his check against the boulder and begins again. Step by step he rolls it back up the hill. He is not and will not be defeated. "When you are faced with that almost insurmountable pile of homework. When you've tried that problem six times and you still can't get it right. Remember Sysiphus. Be calm and start again. Go slow and recognize when you need to ask for help. You have each other, you have your study groups, you have me and you have our blog. Unlike Sysiphus, you're being set up to succeed. Take advantage of every opportunity and resource available to you and you will succeed and get your boulder to the top of the hill."

We talked a little about the Forgetting Curve and spent a little time doing the VARK survey for young people to identify each student's preferred learning style. Then class ended.

I was very anxious about this dramatic change from what I've always done in the past. So much time given over to Sysiphus and talking about learning styles. I anticipated many students saying "What's all this nonsense?!? This is supposed to be math class!"

Thankfully, that didn't happen. One of my grade 10 students, new to me and new to the school, lingered a little as the class was leaving.

"You're my favourite teacher." he said, and walked out.

I had two very different feelings about this. He made my week and validated the risk I took in trying something new. I felt relieved. Then again, his favourite teacher? On day one? That's a lot to live up to for the rest of the semester. Now I'm anxious all over again.


I've been thinking a lot about mentors and blogs. I hope to get something started on two levels.


Last year I had one classroom blog; Pre-Cal 40S. This year I will have a total of six. Three begin tomorrow (here, here, and here) one of which will last all year. Another three new ones begin in February.

I had asked last year's grade 12 class if any of them would be interested in being mentors for the new classes of students beginning now. A few of them said yes. I'll email them this weekend to see if they are still interested and ask them to begin the mentorship process. Assuming they say yes, I'm wondering what kind of guidance would be appropriate to give them as mentors. I know one of the guidelines I'll give them is: "Give as much as you are comfortably able. You'll get at least as much as you give."

This article helped to give my musing some focus. Adapted for the context of former students mentoring new students ....

Top 10 List of The Characteristics and Activities of Mentoring

1. Mentor-protege relationships grow out of voluntary interaction.

2. The mentor-protege relationship has a life cycle: introduction; mutual trust-building; teaching of risk-taking, communication, and study skills; transfer of educational confidence; and dissolution.

3. People become mentors to pass down information to the next generation.

4. Mentors encourage proteges in setting and attaining short- and long-term goals.

5. Mentors guide academically and personally. Mentors teach proteges skills necessary to survive high school and promote advancement to post secondary education.

6. Mentors protect proteges from major mistakes by sharing their own past experiences.

7. Mentors provide opportunities for proteges to observe and participate in their learning.

8. Mentors are role models.

9. Mentors support proteges academically and personally.

10. Mentor-protege relationships end amiably.

Some of the questions I need answers to: [please take a crack at any or all of them ;-)]

  • »Is this list sufficient guidance to answer the question I know they'll ask: "What does a blog mentor do?"
  • »How do they do #7? Should it be deleted making this a Top 9 List?
  • »How often should a mentor post?
  • »What should they post?


As the department head, I've made it standard practice for all teachers teaching the same course to follow the same sequence of units to make it easier for us to support each other by sharing materials and create opportunities for us to discuss pedagogy in a common context.

Three of us in my department are teaching Pre-Cal 20S (grade 10) and Pre-Cal 30S (grade 11). We've already decided that we will have a common Go For Gold assignment twice over the course of the semester. We've also agreed to call the Pre-Cal 20S and 30S blogs ours as opposed to mine. If nothing else, they can let their students know about the blogs as resources and keep themselves arms length from getting more intimately involved. But I don't think they're going to do that. They are both enthusiastic about trying out this technology together; I'll mentor them through it. They can go at whatever pace they are comfortable with. We've got all of our names linked in the blog sidebars and they each have administrative access. I'm really excited about this collaboration. One of my colleagues met with me for about 30 minutes for a quick introduction to how to login and make posts and how to invite students to be contributors to the blogs. We're going to have an awfully long list of contributors; which I think is great! This is going to be an exciting semester. I'm going to enjoy watching it unfold.

Wiki Pod

Here it is, the long promised second podcast Bud and I did. It was recorded on May 24, 2005. We're crossposting here and there. Go get 2 cups of coffee or tea and sit down for while; we go on for about 40 minutes this time. ;-)

Like last time, I'd suggest leaving this window in front of the one that will open for the mp3 file you're about to hear. That way you can follow along with the links below which are arranged in the order they were discussed. We had lots more questions than answers this time around; we'd love to hear what questions or answers you've got to share. Either way, let one of us know your thoughts, questions, concerns, comments, complaints, compliments, confusions, anxieties or any good jokes. ;-)

The Wiki Pod

Show Notes: The Wiki Pod


Wiki Confluence and a Brilliant Blog Concept

Pre-Cal 40S Wiki Notebook

Brian Lamb, Learning Objects, Wikis, Flickr, RSS-- They Wanted it All (No Fooling) (Alan's Post)

Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, Ready or Not (Brian's Article at Educause)

Bud's Blogging Experiment Wiki

Elle's Experimental Expedition

Student Blogging Rules

Student Dude Blog

Student Blogging Questions

Blogging Prompts

Meta Wiki

The Teachers' Lounge Wiki

Rob's Blog

Google Search for choose your own adventure

Is Blogging a Habit? Should It Be?

Email us: Darren or Bud

Thanks for listening.....