121 – UbD with Jay McTighe

Professional Development – I was fortunate to be able to attend a two-day workshop with Jay McTighe, via the Coast Metro Consortium.  Jay’s working partner for many years was Grant Wiggins, who unexpectedly passed away in 2015.  McTighe and Wiggins’ books have been very formative for me, particularly Wiggins because of his blog.

I have a couple of McTighe and Wiggins’ books, Understanding by Design and Essential Questions: Opening doors to student understanding, so the content of the workshop wasn’t all that new to me.  However, it was a fantastic opportunity to hear about the more subtle aspects of UbD, the kind of thing you can only learn in person.  It was also a great chance to collaborate with like-minded people, I feel lucky to have attended.  Thanks go out to my Principal, Ranjit Bains, for getting me into the workshop!  With respect to my previous post on this blog, Jay really emphasized that “covering content” is not in the best interest of students and that he and Grant explicitly decided to focus on quality rather than quantity.  Sacrifices may need to be made in order to achieve the most important things in education.  I think that in terms of UbD this means that

To top things off, I was lucky enough to have Jay sit at our table for lunch the second day!  Four of us got the chance just to chat about education and share our interesting experiences.

The pictures above come from some collaborative work we did at our table, working on a financial literacy unit for Math 9.

Day 71.5 – 3D Printers are Ready

Engineering – I came in over the holidays to finish fixing and setting up my room’s 2 Printrbot Simple 3D printers.

They say it’s important to step away from teaching while on holidays in order to not burn out. I’ve been looking forward to this though, I’m interested in the technology and wanted the time to focus on getting them going.

I haven’t printed much yet. I had to swap out a z-axis, replace and cooling fan and then calibrate the z-axis sensor. I then printed a spacer part that the spools of PLA will sit on. So far things are going ok. Perhaps I will come in again to test print a model of a Greenland paddle, as part of a project I’m designing for Math 8.

Day 71 – Last Day Before Break

Hockey – Not a lot happened today. I had to say goodbye to a couple of students that were returning to their home countries of Brazil and Italy.  Most of my math 8 students wrote a quiz on rates.  And most importantly, the teachers once again beat the students in hockey. I played center and generally kind of sucked, but it was a lot of fun. I had problems with shooting and passing with my right elbow. This is left over from my bike accident years ago and the titanium plate in my forearm. I can’t put too much stress on this arm or the bones/plate/tissue/stuff really begins to hurt. I’ve been strengthening the arm but it’s still a weak point for me.

Day 62 – Pro D Pasi Sahlberg

Pro D – Today we had a professional development day, and a lot of snow! I grew up in the interior of BC, sliding around on snow and ice and frozen lakes. My drive to work in the morning was a bit crazy though. Twice while going up a hill my car lost traction, sliding sideways and backwards. I used all of my ninja-things-you-should-do to keep the car moving forward but lost out. In the end the solution was to gun it. Pedal to the metal. I parked at the bottom of Dunbar at Broadway and enjoyed a nice walk up to Lord Byng on 16th Avenue in the snow.

The morning was spent attended a talk by Pasi Sahlberg. His talks are probably often geared towards American audiences, because as he clearly laid out, other countries should be more like Canada when it comes to education.

Here is a mind dump of what I took away from the talk and other thoughts of mine recently.

  1. I’ve always hypothesized that BC’s success in education is due to great autonomy in teaching, and Pasi also believe this to be a factor
  2. PISA scores give us some information which can be useful but shouldn’t necessarily be a driving force. Pasi says PISA is now succumbing to the equivalent of doping in sports.
  3. Canada’s PISA score is increased because of our immigration policies.
  4. The highest PISA scores are likely greatly a result of authoritarian values, both in education and family life. I don’t understand why this isn’t talked about more. Is it direct instruction vs inquiry, or authoritarian vs self-deterministic?
  5. I shake my head at the hand-wringing of the WISE folk and their BC followers. I truly believe that they are mostly wrong in their analysis of math education in BC. We’re going to the toilet, they said. We’re about to see the results of 10 years of bad pedagogy, they said. It hasn’t appeared though. Well, some of their arguments are still valid and PISA is not the final chapter of math ed analysis.
  6. Bloggers like Greg Ashman analyze education policies based on research results, which I certainly appreciate and agree with. This was one of the biggest eyebrow raising things for me when I entered education from my engineering career. I would read or hear about something and ask, “how do you know that though?” In some ways I’ve changed some of my attitude after working with kids.  There is a lot of evidence that shows that inquiry doesn’t lead to better learning. I get it. However, it’s my philosophy of education that changes how I look at this. What I noticed when talking to kids is that they have had their curiosity beaten the hell out of them. Many kids are so unused to asking a question, wondering, and generally not curious about things around them. Students of mine, especially older students in physics, that are used to a lot of teacher centered direct instruction are seemingly incapable of expressing a thought without first being told what that thought should be.  I spent considerable time with my science 8 class last year having them develop questions, discuss questions, develop opinions and develop scientific experiments (ie inquiry). I saw amazing growth in these kids as people, citizens, and students, even if they may not have learned as much “content,” (and I don’t think they did learn less content).   Worked examples be damned, my students stopped saying “I don’t know” when asked “what do you think?”   That is worth more than a test will ever measure, imo.