Subject Centered Teaching vs. Student Centered Teaching

When I took my education degree, there was a lot of talk about Student-Centered teaching versus Subject-Centered teaching versus Teacher-Centered teaching. I was very young and fresh out of my physics / math degree (where the “real learning” took place); I felt that all this talk on “Teaching” was mumbo-jumbo. I really didn’t care about whether I taught the subject, or whether I taught the students. I just wanted to get my certificate so that I could teach math and science in high school. The education degree itself was, for me (the young me) a huge waste of time.

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Hexa-Trex App (on Android)

Finally, our Hexa-Trex app is up on Play Store on Android. We are actively working to have an iOS version up and running soon. Please enjoy, and send me feedback if you have any questions or comments.

Bombardment of Information: are we overstimulating our children?

The other day we went to the Zoo with my boys (a five year old and a three year old). In the car, we were talking about which animals the kids would really like to see, and what animals would be there, etc. I was pumped because the kids love animals and showing them an elephant in a book and in real life doesn’t compare. In a book, there’s no movement, no comparison in size with the surroundings, no texture. My five year old son was especially excited, and he had a million questions for me about the zoo and the animals: “How do the giraffes drink water when they’re so tall? Do giraffes have a red tongue or a black one, like daddy says?” etc.

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Competition – Is it a good tool to motivate kids?

I always thought that competition is an excellent way to motivate kids. Many times, I made contests in the class, competitions, etc. I always found it that extra bit more fun when I was a student, if I had to compete against some other students. That’s probably why I really like games. My friends always tell me that I am very competitive and some friends even tell me that I’m overly competitive. It’s true. I make a game out of everything. Even with myself. With anything I do, I try to improve myself, get faster, get more efficient… win.

Just like my life, I run my classes as a place to improve, a place to get faster, to understand best, to get more efficient – and what better way than a friendly competition?!

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Understanding Projectile Motion Misconceptions

I am reading an awesome book on Cognitive Sciences and how it applies to teaching students in the classroom: Schools for Thought – a Science of Learning in the Classroom by John Bruer. I will write more on this book later, but I wanted to focus on an idea I got from it to teach in the classroom. One chapter of the book relates to teaching science, and specifically, teaching Newtonian Physics… exactly what I’m teaching right now to my grade 11 physics class.

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Time Management: Putting in the Big Rocks First

A long time ago, I heard this awesome story/analogy for time management. Here it is:

One day teacher was speaking to a group of students about time management. He pulled out an empty aquarium and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen large rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the container.  When it was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this container full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

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Why bother learning more than arithmetic?

As babies, if we never learned to walk, could we still survive in this world?  I think so.  In fact, it is much easier to keep your balance on four legs rather than two.  It is hard to learn to walk, with all the falling down, the trial and error, and mostly error at the beginning, all the bumps and bruises, the tears.  Why do we even bother to teach our children to walk?  Well, walking does make life a lot easier, and maybe in the long run it’s worth it.  For instance, it is much faster to get around on two feet, rather than crawling.  When getting around in the street, all of our clothes and hands don’t get dirty, only the soles of our shoes do (again a convenience created for “walking people”).  Also, it is much easier to carry something while walking rather than crawling (multi-tasking).

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Teacher salaries and house prices in Canadian cities – 2012

Recently a reader posted a comment on one of my blog entries about Teacher Pay Scale Across Canada where I compared salaries of teachers across various cities.

She writes: “Sure, we are paid fairly well but our working conditions are difficult. I know for a fact from several teachers from Quebec that we, in Alberta are expected to put in all sorts of after school time. I don’t get to walk away when my school day ends. And let’s not even talk about the fact that I could by 3 houses in Quebec for the cost of my ordinary bungalow in Calgary! GRRR.”

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Structures out of spaghettis and marshmallows

The key to success is never to give up!

Yesterday I gave a science workshop to my younger group of kids: 6 – 9 year olds. I am typically a high school teacher, but this school year I am trying a different thing: workshops for homeschooled kids. And yesterday was one of those workshops.

I have a really great group of 6 to 9 year olds. At first it was challenging to understand really how small these kids are, how little they know about the world, how easy it is to surprise them with the simplest science experiment. I taught kids, but never this young before. I had to revamp my whole way of thinking about the class, about the kids, about science!

Yesterday was no exception.

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Conceptual Change of Force and Motion

Growing up, children have a plethora of experiences that have to do with the concept of force. Even before they start talking and knowing the word “force” they have an intuitive understanding of the concept of push and pull. It doesn’t take long for a child to figure out that pushing their brother will result in him moving in the same direction. Babies realize from very early on that things fall down. (A common game among babies and parents is the “baby drops toy – parent picks up toy – repeat many times until parent loses patience”.) This environmental input of the force of gravity acting on an object, thus accelerating it towards the earth gets absorbed by the child’s awareness, and becomes second nature to the child. Most children will ask a parent about these phenomena. The parent then tries to explain these phenomena in terms of sophisticated words such as force, gravity, energy, power, and push / pull. The adult might go in depth or just quickly dismiss the inquiry, depending on the adult’s actual knowledge of the phenomenon, the parent’s interest in scientific principles, or even the time and place of the question. Based on these explanations, and the instances of hearing the words of force or gravity in context, children start to associate what force actually means in terms of their world around them. Their understanding however might not be in alignment with the physicist’s definition.

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