Sunday, 3 January 2016

Educational Technology

Las year, my school saw its first use of Google Classroom. This year, a larger adoption of google classroom, or at least some form of technology was expected.

Resistance by some was clearly present. I'll admit that my technology is limited to a Smart Board, Document Camera, class website, and odds and ends of applications like GAFE, kahoot, polleverywhere, etc.

I teach high school math and understand other's uncertainty to commit to radically changing their teaching practice. One teacher, who had begun preparing all of their lessons as SmartBoard slides about 5 years ago is now re-thinking whether that was a good decision.

Within the last 5-8 years, I remember the pressure to flip your class, use Edmodo, create moodles, use inquiry and open-ended questioning, etc. While these ideas are still options (some of them actually important), there continues to be new expectations of adoption. For example, Google Classroom is supposed to change education (but it won't).

Simply put, the technology that will revolutionize education doesn't exist yet. There will always be great ideas, but concepts like Virtual Reality Tours and interactive online assessments (what Quest A+ could become) aren't perfected, created, or cost-effective.

When my colleagues are asked to commit to changing their classroom from what has been working to something that is clearly a beta test, I understand why it's hard to commit to change for change's sake.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Grade 10 Teachers - the buzz-kill

To the grade 10 math teacher. You are the buzz-kill. You are the transition from junior high to high school and are often “the bad guy/girl”. You set the tone for high school onward into university...and sometimes you’re not fun.

We’ve heard the stories - of parents asking to meet with their child’s university professor or asking the school to move the date of the diploma exam for holidays. Occasionally students lack the independent voice and diligence required for academic preparedness.

Many of us have heard the grade 10 comments that drive their teacher to frustration:
“I don’t know how to do this. I missed that day”.
“Can you give me a crash-course in this unit?”
“I don’t do practice questions.”
“Can I borrow a pencil and calculator…and paper?”
“I’m not ready. Can I write another day?”

Simply put, there is a certain level of maturity that needs to arrive in high school and it is the grade 10 teacher’s responsibility to be tough - to expect more of their say “no” sometimes and ask them to put in their share of effort.

I’ve stayed hours after school for the diligent student that needs help. I’ve also said “no” to the student who just wasted 45 minutes of practice time in class and asked for me to re-teach the lesson to them 1 on 1.

It’s not always easy, but your task is larger than the outcomes in grade 10. We are building independent learners who are ready for the rigors of high-level academics in their future.

If anything else, their grade 11 and 12 teachers will thank you, the buzz-kill.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Grade 10 Math. Why so tough?

High School Math continues to be a growing struggle for all partiesFor some students, it is a maturity piece where they simply need to be an active member of their learning. For others, it becomes a focus on skills. Below are the key reasons for lack of success in Grade 10 math at the present.


Students can fail a course and still “succeed” in continuing on to the next level of difficulty (grade). Any gaps in their learning are now compounded with more complex concepts and tricks (like cross-multiplying) which create a dangerous footing to walk. If a student hasn’t mastered a concept in grade 7, how do we expect them to succeed in grade 8 or 9, let alone during high school?

To see students getting 30-40% throughout junior high and then attempt Math 10C, a course hosting the grade’s future valedictorian, seems reaching. They are optimistic, though, because things always worked out before in “succeeding” at that grade and moving on.

There is value is failure.


Add ½ + ½ and of course, students will confidently answer with 2/4….CONFIDENTLY!

Ask a student to evaluate (-4)2 is of course, -16. Students know that (-#)(-#)= +#, so why are they so confident in the incorrect?

Processes are more straight-forward in junior high and it is “safer” to type basic operations into a calculator, like "8 3". The lack of thought going into some processes becomes a risk as concepts/operations become more complex. Even more dangerous is the transition into variable math:
Ask a student to add 2/x + x/3 and they shut down. 
“Where is the ‘x’ button?”, they might say.
If a student cannot tell me all the factors of 24 within 10 seconds, they are likely to struggle at factoring in grade 10. It is convenient that Alberta Education added “recall” back into the K-9 program because, otherwise, a 1 step problem becomes 2.


I am told by my grade 10 students that they can miss a week of grade 9 math and still catch up without much stress. My students miss a day, and they are behind.  “I wasn't there that day” is a common statement when they don’t know how to complete a task. Students continue to be coached throughout high school that learning takes place, even when they are on a 2-week vacation in early December.

Eventually they learn to take learning into their hands, but it takes time. The sooner they become an active participant in the classroom, the more ready they are to succeed.

I look at my grade twelves, who if I ask to spend 10 hours over their Christmas break on a specific task, would. They trust me and know what is required for success. In grade 10, though, some are simply sitting back and waiting for grade 11 to get here.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Is there room for a Fundamentals of Math Course in High School?

While my Math 10C class has some very less-than-motivated students, I have a number of students truly wanting to improve, but lack many of the core skills that are required for success in high school. If a "Fundamentals of Math" course were created, what would it look like? How long would it be? Who would it be for? Hmmmm..I guess some background first.

In 2010, Alberta Education remodeled its high school math curriculum from a pure & applied set of streams, shown below:

While the intentions where very great, post-secondary didn’t accept Math 30 Applied as Alberta Education had hoped. It became the “non-academic” class from the students’ perspective. Students felt the pressure to take Math 30 Pure to "keep doors open" and stay "academic".

Around 2008, many schools began to feel the competitive edge and from parental pressure, felt they could no longer advertise recommended grades of ~65% to properly stream students, and so student began selected courses above or below their ability. Choice became dangerous! My school, in particular, saw the brightest of 30Applied flounder in 30Pure. Our diploma averages reflected this almost instantly. The Math 30 Pure school average dropped. The percentage of standard of excellence students in Math 30 Applied dropped. 50% became enough for parents and students to validate the next level of math.

Enter 2010. Math 10C and Math 10-3 sets the foundations for most of high-school math. 

Math 10C hosts the grade’s future valedictorian as well as the student who achieved 50% in grade 9. While a similar effect can be seen in science, grade 11 sets a very different stage.

Science offers: Physics 20, Chemistry 20, Biology 20, and Science 20. Students get to choose a discipline of interest or simply take a more general Science 20 class. Below are graphs of every Student that has taken Science 10 and Chemistry 20 at my school. Notice the correlation that suggests many students improve or stay the same from grade 10 to 11. While a number fall below, at least there are "few" that fail:

Considering Math 10C to Math 20-1, though, sees many students with a dangerous drop in grade. According to the graph below, students achieving less than 70% in Math 10C are not doing well. Part of the issue is the large number of students struggling through Math 10C and then “attempting” the most challenging Math course in their K-12 formative years. See below:

Even in Grade 10, students need to understand that missed skills in grade 9 (and earlier) result gaps in learning that WILL catch up with them. Perhaps the most haunting piece of data I have:

(Pulling data from 2 different teachers)
Of all the Math 10C students who got below 65% in grade 9, exactly 5 out of 25 are currently passing Math 10C. That is a scary number.

First, I hear this in other schools, districts, provinces:
“Students are weak”. “They don’t’ practice anymore”. “They don’t want to learn”. While the majority of students are needing much more encouragement than ever before, their lack of fundamentals is causing the root of my concern. There are 3 areas of focus:

  1. Number/variable operations: What is the difference between:  (x)(x)  versus “x + x” versus (x2)3 ?
  2. Balancing equations:  The heart of “Solving for x” begins in grade 7 and my grade 10s still make fundamental mistakes.
  3.  Mental Math: If I ask my class for two numbers that multiply to 24 and add to 11, I would get blank stares from about 30%. If I ask to add fractions without a calculator, I’m not confident that they could.
Regardless, "success" in grade 9 doesn't necessarily indicate success in high school. Motivation and implicit skills can only detail a likelihood for success. We are running out of time in math 10C, and I want to reteach these skills, but there just isn't time to reteach elementary and junior high skills.  Is it time to create “fundamentals of math” course which walks students through their grades and build the skills needed for success in high school?

The motivated students that I have who struggle in Math 10C would do better simply getting a solid base before “half-learning” Grade 10. Whether this is for Math 10-3 or Grade 9 students, give me a class of 20-25 students who were motivated to do better, “High School Math Fundamentals” would be a dream to teach. Confidence builds. Understanding grows. The appreciation for math returns.

Life would be good again.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Be less helpful: Effective Questioning in Math Class

You finish your lesson and your class of 35 students busily gets to work (or so is the dream). Regardless, students are practicing, and Emily's hand goes up. You walk over to her desk and she utters the infamous words you love to here:
"I don't get it."
Whether Emily's "question" is the exact phrase above or some similar form of an ambiguous misunderstanding, it leaves math educators in very dangerous territory. We can take one of two routes:
1. Answer this question only.
2. Help answer this question and potentially many after it.
The second option is really the point of practicing math, right? ...To problem solve and effectively reason through a question so that learning takes place. I think this is where we would all like to be be when we walk over to answer Emily's "question". Due to large class sizes and impatience, though, often the first routes is taken. Observe:

Imagine Emily's Math 10 question was determining a leg of a right triangle using the Pythagorean theorem and you decide the best way to answer her question was the following way:
Emily: "I don't get it."
Teacher: "This is a tricky question. You have to use this..."
(*and you finish the question for her, effectively modelling how to answer it*)
Despite the proud moment of demonstrating that YOU know how to determine the leg of a right triangle, you have actually just stolen a great deal of learning from Emily. How could you have used the opportunity to help build her problem solving skills to answer a similar question in the future. (We don't want to keep coming back, right?)

"I don't get it!" implies what? Does she have everything correct but hasn't square-rooted the result? Is she using cosine? Is she incorrectly squaring the legs? Does she even understand the question? This is your opportunity to be less helpful...Start by being unbelievably (painfully) vague. Try something like:
"What don't you get?"
"Do you understand the question?"
"Tell me what you DO know"
"Have you seen a question like this before?"
"Tell me more..."
Only after we have discovered where Emily is struggling can we begin to even start helping. Again, don't give her the answer. Lead her on the journey with ever-more-specific questions. A conversation could look like this:
Emily:    "I don't get it."
(immediately you see that she plugged a leg into the hypotenuse location)
Teacher: "What don't you get?"
Emily:    "I am not getting the right answer."
Teacher: "Can you explain what you've tried?"
Emily:    "I drew a triangle and subbed the sides into Pythagoras. The answer isn't the same as the back of the textbook."
Teacher:  "I'm glad you checked. What do you know about using Pythagorean Theorem?"
Emily:     "You plug the sides into c^2 =a^2 + b^2 for any right triangle."
Teacher:  "Great. What does the a, b, & c represent?"
Emily:     "Sides."
Teacher:  "yes..." (wait...forever if need be)
Emily:     "well, c has to be the hypotenuse and a & b have to be the legs."
Teacher:  "Are you sure?"
Emily (eyes go wide): "I know what I did!"
Emily is less likely to make that mistake again if she is the one that walked through the problem.

If students are continually subjected to a lack of help (careful with that implication), they are going to be better able to reason through what they know and what the might not. As educators, our goal is NOT to answer individual questions, but rather to give students the skills to make them capable of reasoning through their problems and if anything else, at least they won't start their questioning with "I don't get it."

Be less helpful. Determine what they DO know. Answer questions with questions. Ask for more. Get it?

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Why math matters

In our current academic climate, it is understandable to question the role of mathematics education in school and what it should resemble. We are growing into an ever-changing age where the ability to memorize does not necessarily guarantee an equivalence with intelligence. The age of “information deprivation” and encyclopaedias as the “all-knowing” entity is over. The age of “information surplus” has shattered our notion of what it means to be intelligent. Not only does this uneasy footing bring into question what formal education should entail, but it begs for a close examination of the role of subjects like math, which for many years, has been questioned for its relevance. If we truly aim to understand the value of mathematics education, we need to clearly define what mathematics is and what the intent of learning math in school is; only then will we be able to understand math’s purpose and begin to build a framework to create a meaningful vision for universal instruction.
A single definition of mathematics tends to be highly debated, and therefore uncertain. While a complete definition may never be hardened, it seems fair to say that, at its core, mathematics is the interpretation and understanding of quantity. This “quantity” may be variable or concrete, but the logic, rules, and axiomatic laws that govern these quantities are to be without debate. Although subjective-based fields have merit, they are susceptible to continued change based on the lens they are viewed through because they typically require interpretation.  The structure that underlines mathematics is its greatest strength as many other disciplines can only offer “exceptions” when things cannot be explained. The language of math continues to be applied in an effort to decode and interpret concepts which beg for understanding. Even subjects like Chemistry and Physics require assumptions that are not yet understood which leaves math, in its purest form, as the only footing of guaranteed confidence. In a head-address speech at the University of Chicago, Physicist Albert Michelson (1894) discussed the end of learning about Physics when he said:
"The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote..."  
Nine years later, Alberta Einstein would publish his Special Theory of Relativity, essentially claiming all that was understood in Newtonian Physics must be rethought. How can an entire field go from knowing everything, to questioning almost everything? This is the result of fields which offer explanations through a process of inductive logic and speculation. By learning math, it offers people a chance to explain, through logic and deductive reasoning, undeniable answers. Whether it is a mechanic needing a wrench that is an eighth of an inch larger, a server calculating a bill total, a physicist determining the work done through integration, or an engineer quantifying a relativistic time-adjustment, confident answers only result because math offers that possibility. It is a language with varying complexity that offers solutions to our quantitative questioning. This basic yet broad form of definition makes room for the simplest rules like addition to be considered mathematics, but also allows for complex and abstract reasoning to fit. Even Gates (2003) recognizes that math has a broad definition but it is used by everyone:
First, (math) trains the mind to be analytical and critical, with skills needed to solve problems and to sustain life-long learning efforts….Second, it provides ordinary citizens with quantitative tools needed to function competently in today’s complicated economies, essentially helping each citizen to make sound decisions. (pg. 46)
If math offers a foundation for our world to communicate through, then the ultimate goal should be to impart this language in everyone so that they may utilize it in whatever path they take in life. Being math literate not only implies confidence in the laws of managing numbers, but is a precursor to skills like critical-thinking and problem-solving. If classrooms, which used to rely on a teacher and a set of encyclopaedias for information are now flooded with “facts”, then the ability to reason and think critically is growing ever more important.
There is a constant struggle with a growing number of students who fail to see an implicit value is attending school and learning math. Many students have simply accepted the “fact” that math is not for them and a dawning culture of failure becomes acceptable; these students refer to their inability of math with certain pride. How do we convince students there is value in outcomes like “completing the square” if we cannot articulate it ourselves? It is fair to assume that most people agree there is a need for education but the focus of this learning and what results has often been challenging to verbalize. Is the purpose of attending school entirely social - to create well-rounded individuals with enough of a foundation that they are ready to become functioning members of society? Or is it simply an academic pass/fail test to see whether students are capable of higher education?

The reason for attending school most likely lies on a spectrum between the two sides. As the philosophy behind in loco parentis in schools becomes more necessary, teachers need to continually balance instilling moral values and citizenship while developing strong academic students. Curriculum experts need to find this balance, especially considering the more defined opposing skills that are being expected of students. At a time when industry and technical schools are short of skilled labour and pertinent (practical) knowledge, universities and grad schools are searching for students who are capable of deep thought, complex reasoning, and critical thinking of abstract concepts. Considering the polarising needs that society requires filled, students need to be prepared for life after school. This becomes the goal of education - preparing students for whatever path they may take. It becomes a challenging task to select the academic and social goals for a complex group of individuals; but we must find a way to impart practical outcomes into one student body while exposing a different body to a world of analytical thinking, capable of becoming expert learners? If we don’t stratify our learners, we simply have a group of learners incapable of meeting the diverse needs that society expects. To spend 12 years of a student’s life directing them towards a path that they will never take is simply bad planning.
A qualification in mathematics seems to be considered as vital for many careers as it is for entry to university, even when the subject to be studied bears little connection to mathematics”. It is generally understood that there is value in mathematics, but perhaps over many different curricula and philosophies, this significance has become lost to the learner. If a clear pedagogy in a meaningful curriculum were established, people should be less hesitant to question why they are learning math. There are curricular factors that need to be in place before the mathematics education is accepted without question. For it to be relevant to the student, though, it needs to be meaningful. First curriculum experts need to understand there is a common domain in which all students exist and need to work in. This “world” needs a common set of skills (not outcomes) based on number sense, estimation, and problem solving involved in quantitative analysis. Every student should finish their formal education confident in solving life’s essential numerical challenges.  Whether a student attends university or enters directly into traditional employment, they both encounter similar challenges that involve quantities. No person should lack confidence when doing taxes, dealing with percentages, measuring, or dealing with money; yet, there is a general disconnect that “math is foreign” to many people. Beyond this common foundation of skills, the future paths that students take should determine specific outcomes, skills, and to what depth. Despite clearly omitting common skills that all students should have upon completion of high school, the Alberta government has created a fairly smart interpretation of how to properly stream students in math. The university-bound students in 30-1 and 30-2 are clearly distinct visions from math 30-3, which is suited for entry into the work-force and trades.

The significant divergence of streams by the end of high school is essential because the expectations beyond core programming are opposing.  The minority of students that attend post-secondary require a great ability to reason and problem-solve in any material that they are presented with. The curriculum that these students must take needs to be concentrated and focus on creating critical thinkers. More important than the outcomes will be their ability to face anything presented to them. Students should be confident in their problem-solving skills and knowledge of the axiomatic laws that govern quantitative analysis. If they know how to learn and what conditions govern that learning, then they are prepared for whatever future they may encounter. This ambiguity of expectation is very different than the more confident understanding of what will be required in the workforce. By giving trades and work-bound students the required outcomes that are more understood, we can validate industry’s expectations. A curriculum designed for a specific group of students not only prepares them for their future, but also aligns nicely with the type of learner that each path often attracts. 

The only challenge with extremely divergent streams is focused on students who do not know their futures. Often, students will “keep doors” open and attempt the most challenging and academic route. This not only results in students who may not fully feel invested in a course, but it can result in a student inadequately prepared for their future career because they took the “wrong path”. Many curriculum designers try to balance the divergent streams with student indecision by offering parallels like Alberta did with 30-1 and 30-2.  This balance waters-down an effective model of stratified streams, but is required due to the great amount of indecisions that exists in high school students’ futures.
Gates (2003) argues that “mathematics is often still associated with ‘giftedness’ by parents and pupils, by teachers and politicians, making it an exclusive long as a social focus on the ‘gifted’ persists, the majority will not be educated appropriately” (pg 34) Our schools need to build an understanding that leads as far from this ideology as possible. Math exists in every person’s life. Gates (2003) continues:
“many mathematicians and mathematics teachers would see their discipline as an important means through which individuals can make sense of the world; that mathematics is an empowering force in solving life’s problems” (pg 31)
Once we understand how clean the definition of math can be and that those essential foundations need to be imparted with great confidence in all students, the curriculum can start to take shape. If a well-defined curriculum pertinent to what post-secondary requires is outlined, yet still offers meaning to each individual, there will be more student-investment and less questioning of why math is taught. The streams that stratify the extremely diverse needs of society create the paths that students must become experts in. The foundations that root these streams become the language of confidence which define the world we live in. When students fluently articulate that language, they are more likely to be life-long learners in it.


1.      Gates, P. (2003) Is Mathematics For All? Second International Handbook of Mathematics Education, 15(3), 3-73.

2.      Stantic, G. (1992) Mathematics curriculum reform in the United States: A Historical Perspective. International Journal of Educational Research. 17(5), 407-417.

Monday, 17 March 2014

13 - Assessment

I grew up without the internet. An encyclopedia rivaled the teacher because of the information it held. At this point in my life, whoever could remember the most facts was generally the most intelligent person in the class. 

There is a big push go back to the "traditional" methods. While I know there is so many sides to every discussion right now and my previous comments might be debatable because they are exaggerated, I'll use a very simplified example to explain why 20-year-old approaches might be dangerous. Click on the two "simplified tests" below to see my point.

Success on which exam might indicated a greater amount of "relevant" intelligence?

Clearly, the assessment on the right is a "who can memorize more" test. The shift in thinking is to get away from memorization being more important. THAT, to me, makes sense.


I teach Math. Our gradebooks are set up by KLOs (Key Learning Outcomes). Because our units are very similar to the general outcomes prescribed by the province, this is very clean and easy to do. It allows us to focus on assessing towards a mastery of outcomes.

The shift towards competencies brings up two concerns for me:
  1. Will we lose an element of mastery when we shift away from that focus towards competencies?
  2. How will assessment change in the maths/sciences? (outcome-based courses)
#2 is my biggest question-mark which is worth exploring in more detailing. I still have a document from 2012 from my district's assessment consultant which states our categories need to be:
  • Problem Solve
  • Reason & Connect
  • Communication
If you just take the time to think about what assessments would look like with the above format, I hope you would see the challenges. With every assessment, do I give them a grade on communication?Or do I have assessments that only test problem solving? 

Regardless, I would welcome any knowledge about those logistics as no one has been able to explain what that would look like to - not even the assessment consultant.

I know that the Alberta Assessment Consortium has a new web site and is working hard to address these concerns, so that will be a place to follow. Regardless, when Alberta Education finally arrives at their curriculum, I just hope that current outcome vs. skill based courses are addressed differently, because they are.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

12 - Trust


If you have it, you are willing to put your life on the line. Most of us have flown on a plane, driven down the QEII in winter, or maybe even zip-lined for a team-building exercise. Without trust, I wouldn't have fallen backwards off a picnic-table into my coworkers arms, but I did. It is a simple exercise, but a mutual understanding results. 

Alberta Education and its teachers - Trust issues?

As I've explained in previous posts, I understand the reasoning behind inspiring education. A character education makes more sense than: 

Does my profession trust that Alberta Education will support us with time and training? Will the curriculum be implemented with the understanding that all learners are not innately driven? Will the frustrations with assessing competencies in an outcome-based course be discussed properly? Will teachers, as a professional organisation, still be treated as professionals?

We are at the point where people think lack of information is better than insight from industry. This is embarrassing for society. Tens of thousands of people are employed by companies like Stantec, Suncor, etc., and we don't want their input. Of course, we want ALL stakeholders' to have educational inputs, being careful that it is not for financial gains, but high profile people have said we want no input. If our brightest and most vocal people are saying no information is better that information, we have a problem.

Considering we just got legislated into a four-year 0-0-0-2 deal because of a lack of money (bitumen bubble) for the C2 work-study,  Alberta Education has only a few years to figure out its issues. Based on rumors of the delayed Task Force on Teacher Excellence's implementation of merit pay, the loss of job security, etc., they are not off to a good start. 

I admire the idea of competencies for the 21st century learner, but I'm not ready to fall into the government's arms off a picnic table.

ATA's position on curriculum reform

What Alberta’s teachers believe about curriculum and curriculum reform 
(a document from the Alberta Teacher's Association)

I highlighted my favorite points:

We believe that curriculum is about what should be learned 
Currently, Alberta is engaged in a process that will identify what knowledge, skills and attitudes students will need to master to lead successful lives after they leave school. This is a complex process that ultimately will lead to the development of new programs of study setting out requirements in each 
subject area and grade level. 

We believe that curriculum is not about how a particular curriculum outcome should be taught 
Instruction is different from curriculum. Much of the current controversy dominating the headlines 
relates not to curriculum but instruction. Instruction, or how a curriculum outcome should be taught, is best left to the professional judgement of individual teachers who are best positioned to determine what strategies and approaches will work best for the students they will teach. This will not be the same for every child or in every classroom or in every school or community. 

We believe that curriculum belongs to and must be understood and supported by Albertans 
Schools are at the heart of Alberta communities and we must strive to develop a consensus about what 
the broad outcomes of education should be. It is important that curriculum reform has social licence and that diverse views are heard, respected and, where appropriate, reflected. The best way of building support among Albertans is to engage them in a real, meaningful and ongoing dialogue about what they want their children to learn. 

We believe that on matters of designing programs of study, teachers must take the leading role 
As curriculum reform moves toward the design of programs of study, practical questions will emerge 
about sequencing, cross-subject integration, and the definition of specific learning objectives. Teachers 
possess relevant professional preparation and practical expertise to do this work and, ultimately, will have to implement the programs. It follows that they should play the leading role in this latter part of the process. 

We believe that business has a legitimate contribution to make, but that curriculum must address much more than short-term economic objectives 
Some efforts are being made to involve businesses in curriculum prototyping. This is appropriate as 
clearly one of the objectives of education is to prepare students for the world of work. But this is not the sole objective—education is also about preparing students to live meaningful, healthy, active and 
engaged lives in a democratic society. Therefore, consultation should also involve a broad cross section of civil society including labour, arts, cultural, academic, ethnic and First Nations groups. Furthermore, corporations should not be allowed to influence curriculum reform in ways that would inappropriately 
advance their immediate commercial interests. 

We believe that curriculum should allow room for inclusion, local innovation and adaptation 
To provide teachers with opportunities to personalize instruction and further develop students’ creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking, it is necessary for the curriculum to focus more deeply on a smaller number of curriculum objectives. Curriculum needs to emphasize problem-solving, rather than just content, and provide room to introduce locally relevant learning outcomes. Facilitating the inclusion of students with special learning needs should also be an objective of curriculum design. 

We believe that curriculum should reflect the outcomes of Inspiring Education 
From the outset, the Association was deeply involved in Minister Hancock’s Inspiring Education initiative and supports the broad recommendations that emerged from that process. Building curriculum around the student as an engaged thinker, as an ethical citizen and as possessing an entrepreneurial spirit is a vision with great promise. 

We believe that technology is a tool that can be used to support instruction 
Digital technology can be used by teachers and students to enhance learning, but the use of technology is ultimately a means to learning and should not be regarded and an end in itself. Technology is not a 
panacea, nor should technology be regarded as a substitute for real-life experiences. As curriculum design evolves toward the development of programs of study, we must ensure that students and teachers have equitable access to appropriate technology but also guard against firms with a vested interest in selling technology exercising undue influence. 

We believe that assessment and evaluation must be consistent with the curriculum 
Evaluation and assessment, is first and foremost, the responsibility of the classroom teacher. 
It is an integral part of teaching and must directly reflect and reinforce student learning. It is important 
that assessment and evaluation engage a broad range of learning processes and skills as well as testing 
content. Standardized testing in particular should be limited and focused on providing information that 
can inform teaching practice. 

We believe that curriculum implementation must be properly supported 
Having a high quality curriculum is necessary but not sufficient to create a high performing education 
system that can help every child to achieve his or her full potential. It is as important to ensure that the 
learning and teaching are appropriately supported and resourced. New programs of study must be 
implemented in a structured process to insure that teachers have access to suitable learning resources, 
adequate preparation time and targeted professional development to support new approaches. 
Furthermore, rolling out changes in the programs of study must take place at a measured pace and only as the necessary supports are put into place. 

We believe that it is the responsibility of teachers to lead students to mastery of the curriculum and it is the responsibility of government and school boards to support teachers in their efforts to do so.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

11 - Industry Partners

First, the partners involved in the curriculum prototyping don't actually write the final curriculum. 

Okay, Should oil and gas have a say in what our students need to know? Considering the scope of the industry and how many of Alberta's students go into the trades...probably. Is an office executive the best person to say what skills are needed in the oil patch?

Of course I say this with a balanced perspective. They should not be the only voice. There needs to be balanced perspectives  from: FNMI, environmental bodies, post-secondary, language experts, etc. What worries me is that people are making very public comments that may portray things as skewed like in the Edmonton Journal article
“I think it’s the job of the government and teachers to present well-balanced views on different issues and subjects within Alberta and having Syncrude and Suncor as explicit partners in the redesign at least gives the impression that the table is not balanced."
I am a strong proponent for environmental education and ran a "green team" group at my school for a number of years; we implemented a recycling program in my school that eventually became a district-wide program. I understand the distaste for oil & gas, but they are still a key player in our students' futures. If people look a little bit closer we might find that things might be more balanced than previously thought. We need to look at ALL the partners who can have a voice (list at the bottom) for what our students need. If Stantec can tell our CTS teachers that they need to know AUTOCAD, why shouldn't we get that information? Is lack of information any better?

A few days ago, I received the following email:
What do you think Alberta students should learn?
We’d like to offer you a chance to answer that question – AND help inform the the new Alberta curriculum at the same time.
Here at the Alberta Council for Environmental Education (ACEE) we are fans of Alberta Education's Curriculum Redesign program, and we are pleased to be working in partnership with all the lead school divisions that are currently busy with curriculum prototyping.  What’s more, we’d like to hear from you… 
If you attend our upcoming Earth Matters conference, we’ll invite you to meet with others who share your passion for a particular area of environmental education – be it outdoor education, energy education, gardening education or whatever! – and generate a list of the relevant knowledge, skills, and attitudes you think students should have by Grade 12.  We’ll help you capture the discussion, and then we’ll work with you and the architects of the new curriculum to enrich the important curriculum conversation about what students should learn… 
-Gareth Thomson Executive Director, Alberta Council for Environmental Education
Learn more and register at:

Is oil and gas the only voice that Alberta Education is gathering? No. There are LOTS of partners that should shape our students and anyone that will have an impact on them SHOULD have input. 

These are SOME of the external partners involved/invited to the table:

College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS), 
Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA), 
Alberta Teachers Association (ATA), 
Alberta School Councils’ Association (ASCA), 
Association of Alberta Public and Charter Schools (AAPCS), 
French Canadian Association of Alberta (ACFA), 
Association of Independent Schools and Colleges in Alberta (AISCA), 
Association of School Business Officials of Alberta (ASBOA), 
Public School Boards Association of Alberta (PSBAA), 
Alberta Chambers of Commerce, 
Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, 
Suncor Energy Inc., 
Syncrude Canada Ltd., 
Alberta Construction Association, 
The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, 
Stantec Inc. 
PCL Industrial Contractors Inc.
Community, corporate and post-secondary experts 
FNMI partners Treaty 6, Treaty 7 and Treaty 8, and Métis Nation 
Business and industry; 
SMART Technologies, 
Careers Next Generation, 
Weigl Publishing, 
Cenovus Energy, 
Building Trades of Alberta, 
Microsoft Canada, 
Byye Labs, 
Alberta Health Services,
LEARN Québec (offering bilingual expertise) 
Discovery Education Canada, 
Pearson Canada 
Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (collaborative