Monday, October 27, 2014


This panoramic image showcases individual masks created by the Grade 8s at OLPH
For her first placement, University of Windsor Teacher Candidate Felicia DeMarco taught Grade 8 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Elementary School. Her associate was Ross Sisco, who uses MyTools2Go* and the Provincial Learning Management System (LMS) extensively with his class. At the school, Ross and his students have regular access to Chromebooks and a computer lab. Felicia was added as a teacher in the LMS and was issued a MyTools2Go account. She quickly embraced this access by posting class announcements, adding content, and creating electronic dropboxes. Felicia even assessed student work on line using the Rubric tool in the LMS. Felicia encouraged and modelled the use of MyTools2Go with the students, using Google Forms to create a formative assessment and using an extension to automatically grade the assignment.

The learning environment in Mr. Sisco's classroom is a wonderful blend of face-to-face learning and seemingly unlimited access to current information and multimedia. The teachers, both Felicia and Ross, along with an Educational Assistant, are co-learners in the digital learning space provided with MyTools2Go and the LMS.  Felicia gained some valuable experience in her first placement, but most importantly, the Grade 8s at OLPH had a wonderful opportunity to refine their skills as 21st Century Learners. 

* MyTools2Go is the WECDSB's version of Google Apps for Education

This panoramic image showcases individual masks created by the Grade 8s at OLPH

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Let Your Phone do Your Math Homework

So I have waited for the dust to settle on this one a bit before I make a formal comment but the current buzz is about this new math app called Photomath. Take a look

Yup, this app will look at your math problem, interpret it, solve it, then show you the steps. The concept is pretty impressive. In practice though it still needs work. It doesn't work on all types of problems (I tried trig and solving a quadratic but neither worked) and you have to be able to isolate the problem you want to solve in the window but for the most part it does ok once it recognizes the problem you want the answer for.
That being said, I tried it out with these four problems. You can see in the video below that some work great and others not so well. Usually though, if the answer is wrong, that means it has misinterpreted the question (ie the character recognition did not properly see the question). And character recognition is tough and doubly tough when it is dealing with math formatting. So I can cut them some slack there. That being said, I do have an issue when the question is interpreted correctly and then the math to solve it is done wrong. That is what happens with the last question. Now granted it is a complex question but with the right algorithm, a computer should be able to solve this without a problem. But watch what the app does in this case:

So the app is not quite ready for prime time yet but apparently since it's release a couple of weeks ago has amassed over 2 million downloads. So clearly there is perceived a need here but there are a couple of things to mention.
  1. if indeed this thing gets cleaned up and works then that means that math teachers will really have to rethink what it means to give homework. I am not saying that they should stop giving it or kids shouldn't practice but clearly if you give a kid a bunch of fraction problems to do at home and all they do is use the app then that could be problematic. 
  2. it is actually possible for kids to learn by seeing the patterns of many solutions done in front of them. So theoretically a student could use the app to "teach" the solution process and then move out on their own only using the app for checking. 
Now there has been a lot of discussion on the implications on the net and I think for the most part there is a large faction of teachers that are good with this since it now makes the math we give to students have to be more challenging and interesting (not that we need the app for that). There was a good discussion on Dan Meyer's blog that brought out a lot of ideas. Dan even tweeted out some of my screenshots and these even got featured in a NY Daily News article that he was interviewed for.
The general gist here is that the sky is not falling. Technology will continue to change the way we do things in class. And there are even many ways that this app can actually be used by teachers right now. For example, have students check if the app gets the correct answer. But consider this "shots fired" over the bow of those teachers who think that giving worksheet after worksheet is a great way to for kids to learn math and that just showing example after example of sample solutions is a great way to teach it. For those teachers, clearly they could be replaced by an app. That's not good. It should be a wake up call that we have to be giving something more value added than that in the classroom or we will be replaced by an app.

Now of course the real controversy is that the app was ripped off from the Big Bang Theory :-)
UPDATE (Nov. 13, 2014) - There has been an update to the app and it seems that the math is better. I ran it through the same problem that it stumbled upon above and it was able to solve it (and the mathematical form was better). So I hope they keep up and continue to refine it. You can see at the right that on the step that it stumbled prior (see above video), it now does fine (and then eventually, 7 steps later, gets the correct answer of -45)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Google will soon offer UNLIMITED Space on Google Drive

Google is living up to it's slogan "Keep everything" reports that soon GAFE users will have unlimited file space in Google Drive and allow storage of files up to 5TB in size.  The WECDSB offers all staff and students a GAFE account in the form of MyTools2Go.

We will let you know when it happens.  Special thanks to Dr. Brode for submitting this information to us!

Remind - Stay Connected with Parents with Ease

Remind - Stay Connected with Parents and Students with Ease

Remind (formerly Remind 101) is not new but is taking American Teachers by storm!  Remind has become the number one choice by teachers in the US to communicate with parents.

Teachers can send messages such as homework and test prep reminders, notes of encouragement or congratulations, photographs depicting an activity that the class engaged in that day, quick surveys about a recent school activity or assignment, and weather or venue updates. Remind even has an easy to use app for both iOS and Android.

Setup is very easy and available in TEXT and EMAIL formats.  ONE WAY COMMUNICATION.  Remind also falls in line with the Canadian Legislation on Anti-Spam as REMIND works on a Opt In model which requires Students and Parents to choose to accept the messages AND gives them a vehicle to STOP the messages.

Below is an example of a handout generated for you that could go home with your students.  I received one these on the 1st day of school and as you might have guessed I loved it. Way to go Mr. Hooper.  You can opt in using a Number through texting, the QR code, and email.

Texting is the New Email:

Texts are what people read.  Spam and access have caused Email to become less efficient.

6 Billion Phones VS 3.6 Billion Email Accounts

This infographic displaying U.K. texting habits says it all:

  • Texts are read emails .... not so much
  • Most Parents will have a cell within arms reach.

  • updates on homework
  • class / school events
  • reminders - Picture Day
  • Practice Times
  • Game changes such as time and location
  • reminders about uniforms or other items needed
  • Uniform collection
  • Tournaments
  • efficient way to communicate with staff if they were interested
  • parent communication of school calendar and major dates
  • reminders of PD days / Picture Day / Fund Raisers

Remind is free to teachers.  Remind has a very easy to use interface and will allow for different class setups and groups.

Try it out!  If you are using REMIND we would love to hear from you.  Please comment on our blog.

WEC's Tool Shed is waiting for you!

The wheel has been invented!  The Proof is HERE:

The WECDSB is thriving on MyTools2Go! More and more innovative ideas to engage learners, streamline processes, and facilitate student collaboration are happening all over the board. These ideas are being generated by Teachers, EA's, and Support Staff!  WEC's Tool Shed is a PUBLIC Google+ Community you are welcome to Join or just take a look at.  Feel free to POST questions, comments or even better YOUR ideas or use of technology.  This is for any use of technology and not exclusive to Google or MyTools2Go.

How can I get involved?

Login to your MyTools2Go account and then access WEC'S TOOL SHED (Click Link) . You can then JOIN the community from there.

Hope to see you there soon!

Education Technology Self Directed PD Opportunity!

 edcampswo will host  planned “workshops” as well as our edcampSWO style participant driven learning sessions.  edcampswo will continue to provide this event FREE to all participants. 

Top 10 reasons to attend (by Aaron Akune):

1. You are a student, parent, educator or someone who is passionate about education.

2. Hierarchies do not exist at an Edcamp. Regardless of his or her perspective, each participant’s ideas and contributions are equally respected.

3. You are interested in learning about and sharing innovative ideas and practices in education.

4. You’d like to ask a question, share your learning or initiate discussion about a particular topic related to education.

5. You enjoy professional learning and want to broaden/deepen your perspectives about education.

6. You propose, vote for and attend session topics that you are most interested in.

7. You enjoy talking with others who are passionate about education, most of whom you don’t regularly interact with or may have never met before.

8. You enjoy connecting with other participants through the use of social media.

9. You enjoy participating in pro-d experiences. There are no stand and deliver lecture presentations.

10. Edcamps strive to be free for all participants.

Since 2012 edecampswo has brought together hundreds of people from multiple school boards in southern Ontario. Participants range from students to educators to administrators to parents. All are welcome.

This information as been clipped from the edcampswo website.