Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! #ThankATeacher

Today is Teacher Appreciation Day, and the entire week is dedicated to thanking teachers for their dedication, patience, and extra efforts beyond the classroom. We’ve all had those “game-changing” teachers who interjected at crucial times and helped us forge our paths. I had a history teacher in high school (yes you, Mr. Sutton!) who was such a … Continue reading Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! #ThankATeacher

Cheating and Plagiarism

A letter to students on cheating and plagiarism: Learning to think and work independently is all part of the educational process. Your school expects you to take responsibility for your work and actions in your courses. Sometimes the expectations to obtain a certain grade or meet a tight deadline can make you feel pressured to take short cuts … Continue reading Cheating and Plagiarism

What is Academic Honesty?

The persuasive essay, the lab report, the informative presentation – all of these tasks involve putting forth your ideas in efforts to convince others or to reveal what you’ve found in your research. In all cases, whether in your science, music, history, English or other courses, the support you gather, that is, the information you … Continue reading What is Academic Honesty?

Three Ways to Use Whiteboards to Enhance E-Learning

When you think of e-learning, you might not associate it with paper and pencil, but many students also now use  different new tools in addition to their course content for learning online. An alternative to the traditional method that is gaining popularity in education is the use of whiteboards, or non-permanent surfaces, to replace pencil … Continue reading Three Ways to Use Whiteboards to Enhance E-Learning

Rubrics Part 8: Writing Rubric Level Descriptions

In a previous rubrics post, Rubrics: Parts and Pieces, I discussed the various parts of a rubric, including: levels, criteria, and success descriptors.  Today, I’ll look closely at success descriptors. Success descriptors are the text within the cells of the rubric.  They describe what success looks like at any given level.  They can also be called level … Continue reading Rubrics Part 8: Writing Rubric Level Descriptions

3 Things I Wish I’d Known Before College

When I went to high school, my goal was to be accepted into a post-secondary program of my choice. Then in university, my goal was to graduate and then enter the workforce. To be honest, I struggled through my first year of university. In reflecting on my experiences, I wonder what my high school teachers … Continue reading 3 Things I Wish I’d Known Before College

Part Two: Technology As a Conduit for Critical Consciousness

Some may wonder if online learning is conducive to critical pedagogy and if transformative education can be accomplished in the virtual classroom. The answers in both cases is yes: online education supports and encourages curiosity and critical inquiry. This blog indicates how such learning can transform the process. As outlined in my previous blog post, … Continue reading Part Two: Technology As a Conduit for Critical Consciousness

Let’s Start a Collabor-nation!

The science of mathematics has developed through collaboration. Every theorem, statement, and axiom builds upon the work that other mathematicians have done. With this in mind, new theorems that we develop today relate to the work mathematicians have done across time, back to the earliest mathematician, Euclid, who documented his calculations. If humans had not collaborated, … Continue reading Let’s Start a Collabor-nation!

Critical Pedagogy in the 21st Century: An Introduction

Every educator will agree that teaching is a transformative act. It is not something we sit back and watch happen; it requires us to be highly conscious of our teaching practices. Both physical and digital learning spaces require us to participate in a certain politics of teaching – whether we are aware of it or … Continue reading Critical Pedagogy in the 21st Century: An Introduction

Rubrics Part 7: Points-Based Rubrics

Rubrics fall into two broad evaluation categories: holistic and points-based. Holistic rubrics assign levels to student performance on various criteria. This approach is more subjective, produces fewer accurate results and does not integrate well with percentage-based reporting systems. Points-based rubric systems also use a leveling approach to assessment. However, in these rubrics points are assigned … Continue reading Rubrics Part 7: Points-Based Rubrics

This One’s For the Kids: 5 Ways Sports Make Us Better Learners

You’ve probably heard this before: “if you put half the time into practicing [insert a subject you don’t like] that you do in playing [insert a sport or extracurricular you like], you’d be in good shape.  It’s true– if you approached your studies in the same way you do your training, you’d improve. Think about … Continue reading This One’s For the Kids: 5 Ways Sports Make Us Better Learners

Motivation Matters

The question of how we can motivate students to learn and stay in school is as old as formal education itself. Motivation isn’t just a necessary skill for education, it’s also a character trait that leads to success in later life–professionally in our careers, personally in our relationships with those around us, and generally speaking, … Continue reading Motivation Matters

Rubrics Part 6: Developing Rubric Criteria

Recall from Rubrics Part 1: Parts and Pieces, that the rows of a rubric contain the concepts on which students are assessed. Including relevant criteria will ensure that your rubric is meaningful to students and well-aligned to your curriculum. A mix of curriculum items and additional requirements often produces the best results. Curriculum Items Curriculum items … Continue reading Rubrics Part 6: Developing Rubric Criteria

One Size Fits All? Hardly.

If “one size fits all” doesn’t work for clothes, why do we expect it to work for teaching?  If students learn by building knowledge from previously acquired concepts and experiences, we can expect that we will need to be prepared to teach by introducing multiple analogies and ways of explaining new concepts.  As teachers, we … Continue reading One Size Fits All? Hardly.

Rubrics Part 5: Setting up the Levels

In this post, I’ll talk about a couple of ways that you can make your rubrics more student friendly and a little more consistent. First, let’s discuss the order in which the levels appear.  Some districts and organizations lay out their rubrics with lower levels on the left and higher levels on the right.  The … Continue reading Rubrics Part 5: Setting up the Levels

Competency Education and the Equity Agenda

Equity and social justice are central to my teaching philosophy and have been since my early experiences as a teacher in a low-income school in Ottawa. I had, perhaps naively, believed that I could change the world through teaching, but instead, I was left with lingering doubts about the my school’s ability to address wider … Continue reading Competency Education and the Equity Agenda

The Benefits of Mindfulness for Students, Part Two

In last week’s post, I talked about the many stresses high school students face and the growing body of research that is showing the benefits of mindfulness practices for youth. I also discussed exactly what is meant by the term “mindfulness.” See “The Benefits of Mindfulness for Students, Part One” for more. Here, in Part … Continue reading The Benefits of Mindfulness for Students, Part Two

The Benefits of Mindfulness for Students, Part One

Today’s students are under great stress as a result of academic pressures, busy schedules, constant input from multiple sources of media, worries about the future, as well as all the interpersonal drama and negotiation that takes place with family and peers.  These stressors, combined with a lack of knowledge about healthy stress-reducing practices, has led … Continue reading The Benefits of Mindfulness for Students, Part One

Why are the people of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky blue?

When this question is posed in a science class, you can immediately see postures improve as students sit up a bit straighter, disengage from their iPods (or whatever electronic device had their attention), and gaze attentively as they await the answer. This is where the magic of case studies in science begins. Instead of providing … Continue reading Why are the people of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky blue?

Environmental Literacy: Are we teaching students the skills they need to face the realities of climate change?

In early October 2014 the Pentagon announced that climate change is an immediate threat to national security as it will cause an increased likelihood of displaced people due to widespread famine, rising sea levels, the spread of infectious disease, and increased poverty. The Pentagon has spoken. There is no more denying it. Climate change is … Continue reading Environmental Literacy: Are we teaching students the skills they need to face the realities of climate change?

The Purpose of Education: A Critical Creativity

In a previous blog, Nicki posed the question: what is school for?  In a famous TED talk titled, How schools kill creativity, Sir Ken Robinson suggested that the purpose of schooling should be to foster creativity. Since 2006, Robinson’s lecture has become the most-viewed on TED, generating over 28 million views in over 150 countries … Continue reading The Purpose of Education: A Critical Creativity

Asking Questions: Daniel Russell at TEDx

I recently viewed a TEDx presentation by Google UX researcher, Daniel Russell, titled The Revolution in Asking & Answering Questions.  Dan’s talk explores how technology has changed the kinds of questions that we ask, how we ask them, how we can find answers, and the different skills that we need to do so.  Modern search … Continue reading Asking Questions: Daniel Russell at TEDx

What is School for?

In Seth Godin’s 2012 TED talk, Stop Stealing Dreams, he asks the question, “what is school for?” and suggests that we can’t make real improvements in education until we have thought about, answered, and agreed upon this question.[1] He points out that the current brick-and-mortar classrooms are relics from the industrial revolution in which students … Continue reading What is School for?

Make Time for Your Most Important Work

Regardless of what we do in life, our time is valuable– we only get so much.  I often hear people say that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get their work done, or to pursue their passion project that keeps getting pushed to the back burner. I’d like to share a tool that … Continue reading Make Time for Your Most Important Work

Rubrics Part 2: Aligning Rubrics to a Percentage-Based Grading Scheme

Teachers have to cope with a mountain of marking.  Incorporating rubrics into the marking workflow can be challenging.  The levels of traditional rubrics are often overly-broad, poorly aligned to percentage-based grading systems, and vague in the 100% to 80% range.  Aligning rubric levels with existing percentage-based grading schemes is a great way to improve the … Continue reading Rubrics Part 2: Aligning Rubrics to a Percentage-Based Grading Scheme

Rubrics Part 1: Parts and Pieces

Rubrics are the nexus of curriculum objectives, assessment, and instruction.  Any discrepancies in the planning of these 3 major fields will become apparent in the rubric when it is time to evaluate the student. Consequently, creating a meaningful rubric is a challenging task for even the most skilled educator. Hekademia and Virtual High School put a great deal … Continue reading Rubrics Part 1: Parts and Pieces