Monday, 30 June 2014

Anime North 2014

Like last year, this Anime North recap is mostly for my own memory and musings, but maybe you'll find something of use in it too. Also, you'll see random commissions of my time travel characters!

FRIDAY

Never works these days. See last year for why.

SATURDAY

Didn't get to the registration line until after 8:30am. Marked papers. Had passes by 9:30am. Wasn't about to line up at TCC again and there didn't seem to be an AMV room this year, so wandered over to International Plaza hotel to look in the video rooms.


CARRIE WATERSON
Commission by: Sabrina Salamon
I really like this one!!
The "Sat Morning Cartoon bonanza" was playing 'Medabots' so I watched an episode of that. Then there were a few shorts... including Personified Internet Explorer (Inori Aizawa), which is pretty awesome, check that link. (Seriously, THAT clip is how I see my Math Serial. If you like it, you may like mathtans, and vice versa.) More wandering. 'Happiness Charge Precure' in one room and wow, 'Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water' in another. (The former is everywhere, the latter is classic.) At about 10:40 I went to line up for one of three panels that I made it to this year.


1) GAME CHANGERS/ESSENTIAL TITLES


This was a first time panel; the four panelists (of uncertain spelling: Richard, Steven, Matt, Emily) had exchanged emails previously, as obviously this sort of thing can be quite contentious. About the only overall agreement was on Studio Ghibli. To start, "Game Changer" was defined as "so influential that the fandom itself changed as a result" and "Essential" as "people should be aware of it" (even outside anime circles).

Changers: Dragonball Z & Sailor Moon for pushing things mainstream. Gundam Wing and Macross (Plus) as portals to gundam genre (with a shoutout to Robotek). YuYu Hakusho as a genesis for "tournament style" anime and shounen (with a shoutout to Fist of the Northstar). .hack//sign as the original "trapped in an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game", a plot that seems to be getting popular these days. And on the technical side, Akira was mentioned.

FRANK DIJORA
Commission by: krakenface
Evangelion. Seen by one panelist as starting the "Inversion" genre, the idea of turning a trope on it's head. "Mentally unbalanced people must save the world... and they're not succeeding??" More recently, Madoka Magica has played with similar ideas using magical girls. But is a new spin necessarily a game changer? Utena twisted the magical girl trope, but wasn't necessarily groundbreaking... yet it did popularize things while adding new depth.

"Nothing exists in a cultural vacuum." We also need to consider that some anime are the product of their times. For instance, these days we have fewer and fewer farmers - and Silver Spoon is a recent anime taking place at an Agricultural High School. Also, anime has tended to be a "whitewash" of characters racially, making Avatar an interesting multicultural gateway (even though it's not strictly anime). And twenty years ago, companies saw it as necessary to remove Japanese content - less so, now that North Americans can accept something as "good" even if it's foreign, and evident in the way they're treating the revised Sailor Moon Crystal.

An audience member pointed out that a critique of the previous generation becomes it's own genre... which I'm certainly seeing even outside of anime as people review old movies/comics/etc. Merchandising is also seen as hugely important in North America - Pokemon initially struggled in Japan (particularly with the scene that caused seizures), but got media attention here and they had all this swag that helped it take off.

Popular Long Runners: One Piece, Detective Conan, even Ranma 1/2. Less so Inu Yasha, because it never really ended an arc, just kept telling the same story over and over. Near the end, I asked the panel what might be the next big things to happen; "Kill la Kill" (from same studio as Strike Witches) and "Log Horizon" were two I jotted down, and one panelist mentioned "Short Peace" as 4 shorts compiled into one movie.


2) WANDERINGS


It now being noon, I wandered back to the TCC (my wife went to "Fresh from Japan") in order to commission some art. Not of my math characters this year, but of my time travel characters, as well as a commission of Numbers for a friend. (He's currently publishing his Shadowrun story at Chaos Beast.) I felt like Artists Alley was larger than a typical Dealer's Room. Deciding on who to choose took well over an hour. One guy was doing button commissions, I thought that was clever.

LUCI PRIMROSE
Commission by: Linda Ng
Note: In future, probably good to have an actual pose or something in mind (as Scott did). Artists are very obliging, and "um, something athletic" is not giving them a lot to go on. In retrospect, I was mostly getting the images to have something to distract me from my web serial. The tiny pictures I had as references were also only waist up (you can see them here), so I gave carte blanche as far as doing anything more with them, like the leggings on Carrie, above.

Went back to Plaza hotel for 1:45, only to find that the line for the 2pm "Creating Characters" panel was already so long that there was no guaranteed entry. So, nevermind. Ran into Karl then, so that was cool. I proceeded back to check out the Dealer's... Hall. City. Insanity. Usually I systematically scan through the whole place, I didn't even try this time. Spotted a Nanoha tapestry but it was of young Nanoha, so no. Then an adult Nanoha mousepad - with boobs, so NO. Then a shirt saying "Trust me I'm a doctor" with a pic of 'My Little Pony' Dr. Whooves, so, wait, what? Bought a couple "Scientific Railgun" manga on the way out, resolving not to return.

Went back to Plaza just after 3pm, a bit late to meet my wife, so I hung around "Fresh From Japan". They were showing 'Black Bullet', which looks like an interesting take on dystopias and racism (against young girls with red eyes because aliens - it's complicated). Also, opening music by Fripside (of 'Railgun' fame). It's one to consider. Left at 3:35 to line up for... no, the line for the 4pm "Anime Vs Reality" panel was already cut off. Really?

So I went over to the Sheraton Hotel to check out the Manga Library. Randomly spun through the sheets and settled on "Mai, the Psychic Girl". It was an interesting read - old school, with rotary telephones, but plot of girl dealing with indirect trauma on account of her powers. I then took a quick wander through the gaming area, and one guy wanted to take a picture of all my badges. This was his first AN and he saw me as some "ambassador", I fear he may have me confused with someone else.

Back over to Plaza hotel for 5pm, figuring that I can pop into the back of the "Music Video Contest Finals" that started a half hour ago... and there's a guy at the door saying the room is full. SERIOUSLY? This is the huge BALLROOM for crying out loud! Fine. I head back to "Fresh From Japan" in time to catch the end of "Haikyu!!", an anime about two volleyball teammates with conflicted personalities. Then it's "Is The Order a Rabbit?" which... um. It's... cute? The protagonist is Cocoa. Another of the cafe girls carries a gun. The rabbit is possessed and doubles as a hat. Here's the opening. MasakoX has reviewed it.

That wrapped up just before 6pm, from there I looked at "Blood Lad", a supernatural anime. Fuyumi, a human girl, stumbles into the supernatural world and becomes a demon, meeting Staz, a vampire obsessed with the human world who has a big manga collection. Neat concept and decent execution but with too much focus on Fuyumi's breasts. I prefer either subtle fanservice, or all up in your face (like "Highschool of the Dead"), this seemed to be trying to find a balance (which I don't think is possible). Also took a look at "Love, Election & Chocolate" but it didn't make an impact.

When the Music Videos let out at 6:30pm I met up with my wife (she said there were some seats near her, I don't know, maybe they freed up later) to get dinner. Of note, the other "Fresh" series' were "Log Horizon" (but there was a subtitle problem), "One Week Friends" (about a girl with memory loss), "Kuroko's Basketball", "Golden Time" and "Nisekoi".


3) FILK & CREATIVITY


After dinner, went back to line up for the "Debs & Errol Filk Concert" a half hour early, because I'm NOT going to be told they're out of room for THIS event. (You may recall I met them at Anime North last year.) Good times were had, Debs & Errol did the first half hour (Errol ate... things) and Kari Maaren the second half. Admittedly, as I have their CDs and follow on Twitter there were only a couple songs I didn't recognize. Also, chatting in the audience, I learned that I got a mention at Ottawa ComicCon as the singing math teacher, so there you go.


Errol as an undead crawler?

Then was the Creativity panel, with the same three of them as well as Sally. A lot of what was talked about I already have a sense of (and I recommend checking out my recap of the Creativity panel from CanCon 2013, also featuring D&E) but here's a few of the main takeaways:
-Get over the fear that it won't be any good. Fail faster (to get to the good stuff).
-Start with the basics, then build. Kari: "Know where the lines are so that you know when you're stepping over them. Or setting them on fire."
-Deadlines help. If you fail to make a deadline, ask yourself WHY. (Have smaller goals?) Tell others about your deadlines for accountability.
-Collaboration is great for creativity, both because of things others come up with, and for more accountability.
-Practice. Including practicing the skill of working under pressure, if you're concerned about "choking". Also unexpected things do happen. We have to accept this.
-The "Imposter Syndrome", when you see external things by others and internalize to yourself, is counterproductive.
-ANYONE CAN BE CREATIVE.

CARRIE (alternate version)
Commission by: Kai-Shii
That wrapped up at 11pm, at which point I went to "The Abridged Collection", and got into some standing room only at the back. They were doing "Attack on Titan" abridged followed by "Mobile Student Haruhi", an odd mashup of two genres. Left a bit after 11:30pm to head back for "The Music of Fandom". (Caught the end of 'Ukulele Jam', apparently "crunching" is when you strum without making any noise, which can be incorporated in playing. Versatile instrument!)

The "Fandom" panel was pretty much the core filk folk, me, and one other girl with her parent, so it was more a discussion. Maybe we can blame the "Doctor Who" panel that was running concurrently. We convinced Kari to play "Being Watson" as an intro (love that song), then talked about the difference between Filk (a community) versus Geek Music (often independents). There's also "Dementia artists" like "Weird Al" who are mainstream, and not really part of either set. I likened things to Venn diagrams.

Afterwards, at 1am, I made quick rounds of the video rooms to see what was amusing in ecchi (one room was playing a Lupin movie) and headed back to my hotel for somewhat before 2am.

SUNDAY

Sunday started with me NOT posting to my webserial for the first time in 70 straight weeks. I've blogged, go read if you want. Met up with my parents for breakfast again, got back to the con for about 10:30am. Went to "Create That Anime" because I'd missed it last year, and to see how they were doing it given Steve Savage wasn't attending this time.

Wasn't a huge audience, but it was somewhat amusing. I think I'd watch "Genetic Task Force Diamond Man", about a high school biology club that ends up making diamond men and live-in women. I did notice the host was generating both sets of random anime tropes at the same time, which seemed (to me) to give more prep time to the person going second, but that didn't always help.


4) ANIME RECOMMENDATIONS


Went to the "Magical Sugar Buzz Theatre" at 11am, in time to see a bit of "Lady Jewelpet". It seemed generic, but looking it up now, it's apparently the sixth installment of an entire franchise. Okay then. Next, "Love Live!" about a group of 9 girls who (according to the website) become a school idol group to save their school... but in the episode I saw they all apparently had the ability to lucid dream together? Um. It was okay though. Then, "Time Paladin Sakura".

Okay, T.P. SAKURA is AWESOME in much the same way that Nanoha was awesome when I first saw it at Anime North... uh... ten years ago? Oy. It's also apparently a spinoff (of "Da Capo") the same way Nanoha was a spinoff (of "Triangle Heart"). Learned later it's just an OVA though, only two episodes, which is a bit of a downer. Basic premise, Sakura can travel in time, she's trying to stop Suginami from interfering with the past - but Suginami sees himself as trying to recover lost historical artifacts. So who's really the protagonist? Plus they have secret school identities, there's magical circles, usual tropes. Anyway, here's the opening.

When that ended, I went next door to check out a bit of "Girls und Panzer". Five minutes there mostly just confirmed what I'd heard about the series. Then, just after noon, I went to "Fractale". Because, duh, math teacher. The opening sequence does have fractals.

This one's interesting - they develop the world as you watch, so I don't know the whole of it yet but... many years in the future, cities are abandoned and people are nomadic. Because when you have the technology to project yourself anywhere, why stay in one place? So there's a world of actual humans (connected to the 'Fractale' network) and one of their virtual "avatars" (doppels), and one can't physically interact with the other. Until the appearance of a peculiar character. A summary really doesn't do it justice. I'd check it out.

CHARTREUSE VERMILION
Commission by: Neil Buday
OMG how 'SD' works for her!
I watched that into the third episode, but after 1pm decided I'd better go back to pick up my art commissions from yesterday. I actually forgot which table I'd requested a commission from - normally I'm more spatially aware, but the size of the place, oy. Got everything but one, the artist wasn't finished yet. While at the TCC, I ended up wondering if maybe 'TP Sakura' had been licensed in some way. Not having internet powers, and wanting to avoid regret, I decided to brave the Dealers' Insanity again for a quick look. Nope, okay, done.

They'd been doing AMV Replay since noon, so I ended up back in that room verging on 2:30pm. Then, I thought, there's a panel on 'Self-publishing & Marketing' at 3pm - do I want to line up for that? Do I want to trade immediate enjoyment for possible longer term enjoyment? ... Yeah, alright. I show up at 2:35. There's a line (unauthorized) queuing for RWBY at 4pm because PEOPLE ARE NUTS. The 3pm panel (authorized) line only has a couple dozen in it though, so I queue.

I ended up blogging separately about that panel.  So I think that was worth it.


5) FINISHING TOUCHES


At 4pm I went back to the AMV room for another 20 minutes or so - enough time for the crowds to clear for the 404s final performance. (My wife said the line was already long at 3pm.) It was also JJ's last improv show with them, as he's taking more personal time. We showed up there a little before 4:30pm. Got to see JJ and some of the others try to re-enact "Sailor Moon" in one minute... I'm impressed they got as far as Chibi-Usa. (Then they did it in 30 seconds, 15, 5... what with changing identities it looked like Moon ended up with a Monster, not Tuxedo Mask.)


Also some tributes to JJ occurred.

Had to dash off just after 4:45pm to pick up my last commission before 5. Returned, watched the "Catgirls Irish Drinking Song", then dropped by the "Milestone Con-goers" panel about 5:10pm, shortly after it started (it was for those who had been to at least five Anime North). THAT was a bit interesting, as you have people reflecting on the "next generation" - there being a place for young kids at the TCC, for instance. One person recalled "lockdown" years, when a missing kid would cause all rooms to be locked down until they were found. (Me, I remember the year there was a power failure and I walked up flights of stairs to help bring some stuff to the Con Suite.)

There were also comments about issues these days that either didn't exist before, or weren't seen as being issues. For instance, the need to ban 'Yaoi paddles' and the 'Conventioneers' from the con. There was also talk of cosplay picture etiquette, and how things change away from a convention. I had to head out about 5:30pm, because it's five hours back to Ottawa, and me and Anne-Lise still had to walk back to the hotel where I'd kept the car this year.

On the trip back home, my car odometer topped 100,000 km.


Pulled onto an exit ramp for the picture


FINAL THOUGHTS


QUARTIC FUNCTION
Drawn by me.
If you couldn't tell.
Last year AN had over 23,000 people; this year Saturday admissions were sold out in advance. As I said last year, Anime North has become more of a tradition than anything else. Possibly an ending tradition... nothing hugely resonated with me this year. I did get some interesting information and anime leads, but was it worth driving for 10 hours? I also sacrificed my long weekend (to schoolwork) in order to be able to do this... which brings everything back to the job. So I'll need to keep thinking about that.

Either way, hope you enjoyed reading and maybe found something of use! Feel free to let me know below.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

OAME 2014: Days 2-3

This is a continuation of the Day 1-2 post from yesterday. I'm still talking about the OAME math conference from May 2014.


FRIDAY


2B) Keynote - The Mindset Revolution

Jo Boaler presented the "growth mindset". MYTH: Being good at math is a "gift" or natural ability. This seems a very Western idea, and video clips (Disney/Hollywood) were shown to demonstrate how this "fixed" mindset towards math gets reinforced. The REALITY is every child can excel, with a "growth" mindset. The brain can change, and do so permanently within 3 weeks, but "use it or lose it". (London taxi drivers have some brain shrink after retirement.)

Growth mindset behaviours: Persistence, determination, and a desire to learn from mistakes. To promote this, be careful how you give praise: "You're really smart" encourages FIXED mindset (If I'm smart, when I don't get something, it's not important), while "It's great you've learned this" encourages GROWTH (If I learned that, I can learn more things). Those with the latter mindset outperform the former in math. There are also societal differences here.

A study was done. Among females, the higher they scored on an IQ test, the more difficulty they had with a challenge. This effect was REVERSED for males. Grouping students by ability (higher achievers together, same for lower) was also found to be damaging - because it promoted a FIXED mindset among the higher achievers. Big Question: "How do you maintain a growth mindset when math class is a set of closed questions that you get right or wrong?"


Up? Out? Wibbly wobbly?
Tasks need to give students the space to learn, or they will see it as a performance subject - "I'm just going to get as much right as I can". We need to move from a PERFORMANCE culture to a LEARNING culture. Jo gave us a visual at this point and asked "How do you see the shape growing?" Importantly, she said DON'T discuss it until you have your own idea first. People see things in different ways. She showed a video of students discussing differences in their visualization.

"If you change a question, it really changes what people do with it." Ideally, find "low floor/high ceiling" tasks. Also math should never be associated with speed (timed tests cause math anxiety, and anxiety blocks working memory). And math evaluations shouldn't include a grade/mark. As soon as students get a grade, they ignore diagnostic feedback - in another study, tests were given with 'feedback only', with 'grade only' and with 'grade and feedback'. The 'feedback only' comprehension scored significantly higher than BOTH the others. (ASDIE: Ashli Black has also recently reflected about "putting grades on papers".)

Every (known) mistake grows a brain synapse. (Carol Dweck) You don't even need to correct the error, just being aware of it promotes growth, whereas when work is (perceived) correct, no brain growth occurs. So mistakes are good - and incompatible with a PERFORMANCE culture! Messages may also be more important than the knowledge obtained; a group of researchers under Geoff Cohen saw significant achievement gains due to the addition of one sentence: "I am giving you this feedback because I believe in you."

Jo concluded with some references to "Stereotypes That Distort How Americans Teach and Learn Math", her "How to Learn Math" course last summer, an upcoming documentary from the makers of "Race to Nowhere", and the website www.youcubed.org

3B) Fake World Math

Dan Meyer's address spoke to the top 4 questions that have come up over the last ten years: 1) What is [math] modeling? 2) What isn't modeling? 3) How do we get students good at modeling? 4) How do we get students to like modeling?

He had two stories to share, a 'Happy' one and a 'Horrible' one, and asked which we wanted to see. Most people shouted 'Horrible' which prompted the following (perhaps inadvertent) teaching moment: "That was not a good question to ask." The order of the slides is baked in... we're doing happy first.

The happy story is UPS. There are 130 stops for a driver to make in a day on average - their "Orion" computer plots an optimal route. (Dan built this topic up by asking the number of routes with 3 stops, etc.) How does the computer do this? What are the factors involved in getting 9 seconds per stop? The audience discussed, and many of the answers were environmental (traffic) or on the driver (reaction time). Dan pointed out the vehicle as well: Fuel, tune-ups and the like.

The unhappy story is Dan Feinberg. Known as "Death's Accountant", after a horrible tragedy (mass hospitalization, loss of life), it's his job to decide 'Who Gets What' of the aid money that pours in. How does he decide THAT? Again discussion, which considered factors like the deceased's family; after, Dan then revealed the decision that loss of two limbs was equivalent in money to death.


Which job would you rather have?
He then broke down the idea of modeling into five steps.
 1) Identifying;
 2) Formulating;
 3) Performing operations/analysis;
 4) Interpreting results;
 5) Validating.
Dan mentioned a quote by the statistician George Box: "Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful." By contrast, school textbooks assert, 'All models are correct, but you may have miscalculated.' They focus on step #3, whereas "We are drawn to 'Information Gaps' between what we know and what we want to know." 

Step 1 is interesting. Step 2 is lucrative. Step 3 is trivial these days, because of technology. Yet in an analysis of 83 problems in a text, most involved Step 3. (Identify: 7; Formulate: 20; Perform: 71; Interpret: 67; Validate: 4... those last involving probabilities.)

Students dislike modeling. What ISN'T the answer? More textbook models. "We have so many commercials for math's power. We need students to experience math's power." Perhaps through actual modeling. Perhaps with the use of scaffolding questions (eg, if you don't know the answer, "Tell me a number that you think is too high"). Also, ask "What do you need to know?" more often.

Dan showed his "Super Stairs" video, where he goes up a flight of stairs, then down... then starts going up 1, down 1, up 2, down 2, up 3... and how long will that take? It's a nice example for a few reasons, including being a place where proportions break down. Also, the real answer may be a bit more (less?) than any mathematical model. Dan Meyer's cardio was questioned - not for the first time? (Tough audience!) He did resolve this question with an actual answer.

In conclusion, try to do more of the entire modeling cycle. From Actual Modeling (in the world) through Text Modeling (in class) and BACK. Pseudo-context necessitates shutting down parts of the brain. A shoutout was given to the Estimation180 website. OUR HOMEWORK: Exploit other people's curiosity. Capture your own curiosity.

4B) Lunch


A picture I took on day 1. Curious?
They were out of chicken (again) but the tuna was okay. Ended up chatting a bit with Robin McAteer and others about the idea of changing our practice (such as marking on levels), and the notion that some people, despite having seen the benefits, may stay traditional. Why? Because doing something new in a broken/unsure manner is seen as potentially worse than doing a broken method in a brilliant way, with known returns. I'm one of those people who sees both sides of this, which ultimately led to my post "Teaching Paralysis". Anyway. I also dropped by the Presenters green room here, which I'd meant to do yesterday - there were cookies!

5/6B) OAME Ignite!

This was a double session. Ten speakers were each given five minutes. I blogged about this separately. You can go to that post for "speedy enlightenment", along with my thoughts on the experience.

7B) "AfterMath" II

I went to the OAME Annual General Meeting at 4:30pm, because I figure if you're going to be part of an organization, you can afford 30 minutes to see how it's being run. There were a couple dozen people there. Projected attendance for the conference was 1,560 people. A 2013 deficit had been anticipated, but was not the case. There was talk of restructuring the AGM, perhaps holding it electronically, and doing it after August, to align the budget more sensibly (currently closed off Aug 31, 2013).


Guess the table number
That evening, I went to the OAME Banquet. For me, I fear it wasn't as good as last year's. Last year there were appetizers and some entertainment in a room with big windows; this year there was a cash bar in a basement room. Last year was buffet; this year was plated. Last year had math placemats - okay, to be fair, the centerpieces this year were pretty neat. The desserts were also on a central tray per table, making me feel like if I took one particular type, another person wouldn't get their preference.

All that said, the guitar player they had after the awards was great. With zingers like "If you believe in telekinesis, raise my hand" and a song about using a "guitar capo" he helped to redeem things. I chatted mostly with COMA folk though briefly with someone from up north who had also attended CMEF the previous week.

After getting back to the residence, I did my AMVFriday thing, ending up with what I feel was one of my best selections for May (HoTD). Then sleep and stuff.


SATURDAY


There were two really good questions asked of me today. The first was by Bruce McLaurin over breakfast, when he asked me about a comparison of the OAME conference to the CMEF conference the previous week. I'll come back to that one.

1C) How Educators Inspire Students

The second good question was asked of me by Mawi Asgedom after his keynote. I have also blogged about that whole experience separately.

Notable, which I didn't mention in that post, is that money was donated to "Champions for Change" in place of getting gifts for presenters ($10,000 to be used to build a school). Mike "Pinball" Clemons also came out to say a few words, in particular: "When we give help, assistance is still needed later. When we give hope, people can help themselves."

2C) Using the Student Achievement Chart

I got to this session a bit late. Melissa Shields & Shahana Arain (two Grade 8 teachers) were presenting a method for evaluating strands. A strong link was made with the "Desire2Learn" provincial resource. At one point, one of the presenters mentioned how high school teachers were starting to use the site more, so they need to catch up - though they're ahead of me.

Their basic "strand breakdown" went this way:
1- 25% was Knowledge/Understanding. Evaluated 1/4 of the way in, form of a 10 question multiple choice quiz.
2- 25% was Thinking/Inquiry. Evaluated 1/2 of the way in, form of a math folder with a group work component.
3- 25% was Communication. Evaluated 3/4 of the way in, form of tech journals and Desire2Learn discussion forums.
4- 25% was Application. Evaluated at end of strand with a group hands-on experimentation activity.

There is also a 'Survival Guide' notebook given to students at the beginning of the year; it's up to them to decide what goes in it. Ideally filling it will encourage love for math and provide a place to go to for answers. There was no unit testing.

A few specifics: The groups for the T/I component were formed by first getting volunteers who are willing to share their expertise about some strand aspect. With those core groups formed, other students joined where they liked, to participate in information finding. (For instance, one group looked into the weight of backpack handles for the Patterning & Algebra strand.) Each person records their learning in an independent math folder, with a focus on how to attack problems. Noted how a goal of "have neater writing" may not help MATH skills, so focus their efforts while allowing for a chance to improve. The result is students taking ownership, and more differentiated instruction.

The Desire2Learn aspect within the Communication component can be a one-stop-shop replacing the need for a course website. (Noted that students actually requested to do journaling with technology, not pen and paper. Also D2L has a 24 hr helpline.) D2L includes online manipulatives, it's updatable with the curriculum, and discussion can even take place between schools. Forum questions can be embedded for response in the form of: text, images, or audio clips. (Sample question: "If you know one angle in a triangle is 53 degrees, what else do you know about the triangle?") Date stamps let you see when students post, and they all have the same rubric here, which includes a spot for responding to peers.

The final strand conclusion can be the form of a video, a scrapbook - whatever the students deem gets the point across. (We were shown a video of students attempting to put someone inside a soap bubble.) It was noted that it took 3-5 years to establish the math culture at their school for these evaluation methods (regarding colleague/parent/student acceptance). Presently, the reception from students is positive.

3C) How Technology is Changing the Classroom


Electricity, free of charge.
(I was a bit late for this one too.) The focus here was some experiences with a "Flipped Classroom". For those who don't know, this means having students watch videos as homework, then work on problems (in groups and/or with support) in the class.

The presenters (Christina Anjos aka @MissCasucch, and Ryan Perera) began with how they had "flipped", looking a bit at the pros and cons (including student feedback). For instance, you can use videos for review the following year. Then they moved into HOW to flip the classroom. In particular, you need a YouTube account, time, support, and video capturing software. For the latter, look at durations before deciding. (Jing is one that's free.)

There is a benefit to making videos, rather than assigning ones already online - it's YOUR voice, and you can be consistent with how you use terms in class. (Though you can supplement with other materials when time doesn't permit video creation.) One useful tool is having a quick assessment to start the class, to see what students already understood... allowing for a focus elsewhere.

Ryan demoed "responsive software" for doing such an assessment. Everyone got a "smart clicker" and a paper quiz to complete. Noted that numerical entry has some quirks (eg. negatives), but it compiles everything into visual charts. Students can (hopefully) see that they're not alone. (Recommend not to always show the pie chart to everyone.) There is an anonymous mode, so you don't know who sent what answer. Obvious Con: Class set is $400.

Christina presented an alternative: Google Forms with a Flubaroo script. This flips the pros and cons in that it's free, easy, and images can have fancy math symbols... but requires students to provide the hardware. (We were advised to bring laptops or other devices.) It's possible that the quiz input could be done at home, after viewing the video. Responses get sent to Christina through email, and "Flubaroo" is what does the grading. She can then auto respond through email with results.

A few other technologies: A Q&A Forum (kind of like Desire2Learn forums last session) or Learning Management System (LMS) where teacher is moderator and students post. Dropbox, for sharing files. A "Bamboo tablet", which is a cheaper alternative to iPads, and displays your writing onto any screen. Some hand-eye coordination is helpful here, but you can then teach (have writing appear) while you're at the back of the room. Perhaps while checking on a student. Also, QT codes - "beqrious.com" allows you to create them, and there are free QR reader apps.

4C) "AfterMath" III

That last session wrapped up at 12:45pm; I headed out (driving with Mike Lieff) a little after 1pm. But let's go back to Bruce's question, comparing this OAME conference to CMEF. At the time, I mused that OAME felt more "personal" and CMEF more "broad", alluding to the scope... provincial versus national. For instance, with OAME I went to a session specifically for the MDM 4U course. But there's a little more to it.

My views may not be your views

The sessions I attended at CMEF felt like they were "bigger" topics, questions along the lines of why we do things in certain ways. There were topics and ideas that I felt I couldn't incorporate right away, but took away with me to think about. At OAME, there was some why, but more how we do certain things. More specific, if you will, like there was some baseline understanding already. This might be because the CMEF was first (providing the baseline), or because OAME sessions were longer, creating more coverage. Or something else entirely. I'm not sure. Then again, I know teachers who implemented the "randomized groups/vertical surfaces" from CMEF right away, so your mileage may vary!

Either way, don't let the fact I have four posts for OAME versus one for CMEF sway you - quantity is not quality, and Dan Meyer certainly saw something in the CMEF recap (he tweeted out my summary). As usual, I would be interested in hearing any thoughts you have about the matter.

If you went to OAME, here's a link to the online OAME Evaluation.
If didn't go to CMEF, here's a link to all their vignettes.

Friday, 27 June 2014

OAME 2014: Days 1-2


Every year, the Ontario Association for Mathematics Education (OAME) holds a conference somewhere in the province. I "live blogged" about it last year. This year, not so much... but after an extended wait, here's a summary of what I saw!


THURSDAY


1A) Musical Intervals & Mathematical Means

Mike Reiners is co-author of a new book "Fostering Mathematical Thinking through Music", which is sponsored by Casio. (There was a rep there from the company.) The book acts as a series of musical investigations, and we looked at some of these as they pertained to means, or "averages".

To start, numbers can be attached to note values, like how a MIDI datafile uses values from 0-127 assigned to "pitch", "key velocity" and "duration" to produce what sounds like a musical note. Noted that as long as you are consistent within the system you choose, you can get interesting results (and what system might result if "dividing by 1" was undefined?). The arithmetic mean (add values, divide by total) for the 12 tone chromatic scale lands on... the note that makes equal musical spacing. An augmented 4th and diminished 5th between octave notes. Sometimes the 4th is first, sometimes the 5th, depending on the initial note.

That having been explored, we moved to frequencies, with A=440 Hz (a "pure pitch" tuning fork note). It was found that the arithmetic mean between notes creates a PERFECT 5th (diminished 6th), which is more pleasing to the ear. The geometric mean (multiply values and take the root)... well, first, this IS a mean, producing a "middle value". Picture a rectangle of some length and width. Now what is the side length of a square having an equal area? Square root of length*width: The geometric mean. The side has a value between the length and width. Also relates to proportions in the altitude of a right triangle, creating 3 similar triangles. News to me, at least.

Now, the geometric mean, when applied to those frequencies, produces the Augmented 4th (diminished 5th) pattern mentioned earlier. Not only is this interesting, it indicates that the arithmetic mean applied to 'note values' was a 'false positive'... there is a geometric relationship. (Makes sense, and consider that in the equal tempered music system we use, note frequencies progress via the twelfth root of 2.)


Is this a classroom or a circus?
The harmonic mean... wow, okay, this exists too. It involves rates; for example, if a trip to school is on average 20 mph but the trip home is on average 30 mph, what was the average time spent traveling? Reciprocals are involved. But there's also a length application Mike showed us, in how they rig up a circus tent, so that it will only collapse if ALL the poles go - the middle pole is half the harmonic mean of the other two.

We didn't have time to explore that mean in the session, but it was pointed out that an entire keyboard can be mathematically created from only a single pitch. Also, this sort of music activity can help someone more artistically inclined get involved in a mathematics classroom... they can refer to "note E" while others use "note 8". (ASIDE: I learned later there's also a logarithmic mean. Also here is a post talking about uses for the various means.)

2A) Keynote - Championing Educational Change

Sugana Mitra started the "Hole in the Wall" computer system in India back in 1999. Basically, he put a computer behind a wall, with the monitor and keyboard visible. The kids asked "What is it?", he said "I don't know" and walked away. Notably he found he HAD to leave for kids to explore - they wouldn't while he was there. THE OBSERVER AFFECTS THE OBSERVED, leading to unsupervised learning. Also leading to a problem in that there was no way for researchers to know HOW kids were learning, only WHAT they were learning.

Over 9 months, there was a high correlation between time and literacy. (Of note, "You gave us a computer that only understands English, so we had to teach ourselves English.") Of course, the internet doesn't know what's monitoring the child, and plagiarism did result, but here's an interesting question: How did they know WHAT to copy? Are they learning how to learn? There's also the question of framing assignments to motivate learning. Instead of saying "This program can teach you algebra", offer it as "This program is supposed to teach algebra, let me know if it's any good".

His next experiment: Can children teach themselves anything? Even advanced genetics? Sugana gave kids a test (0%) then came back later (30%). The response a kid gave was "Apart from <complex genetic phrase> we understood nothing". He decided that to go further, they needed encouragement - the 'Grandmother Method'. That is, someone to stand behind them and say "Wow, that's fantastic, I never did anything like that at your age". Such encouragement brought scores up to 50%.


UK advantage: Already know English.
Next: The Kallkuppam Experiment (2008) with SOLE - Self Organized Learning Environments. Now not just in India, but the UK. Idea: Put kids in a classroom into groups of 4. Give each group a (big screen) computer. Trigger exploration using a question (eg. "where does language come from?"). Sit back and watch... and have volunteers from the 'Granny cloud' offer encouragement. (It was noted that you can pick up on accents and mannerisms through conversations too!) Teaching: YOU DON'T DELIVER. YOU RECEIVE.

With respect to "the importance of writing" (like taking notes), Sugana questioned whether writing itself wasn't merely an inefficient tape recorder. To engage with any creative writing, there needs to be some understanding between the reader and the writer. The whole thing rests on "The Edge of Chaos". (An example: taking something we may understand, like a pendulum, and banding it to another pendulum of different length, resulting in a more unpredictable swing system - something chaotic.) Pointed out how some "gaming" (off topic work) on computers may result, but it's "occasional chaos" and will go away. The main thing is, you can't timetable things.

Sugana got a standing ovation, then took a few questions. One person asked about going beyond the 50% score mentioned earlier. Another person asked about how such methods would apply to adolescents (experiments weren't done on students over ~13). Sugana responded that part of the issue is breaking the mentality of "I'm worried people will think I'm a fool". He pointed out that more context may be helpful for older people, and methods must always be adapted - keep experimenting.

3A) Reading & Writing in Math

David Pugalee discussed how learning math is tied into other skills. For instance, how are we using our textbook? There are whole passages of explanations there, and usually we just assign practice problems - do students know how to read a text? Or are we in an age where they would prefer to watch an online video anyway? It's not just about course CONTENT it's about process SKILLS for finding things out on their own. "Reading is more than reading what's there. It's an opportunity to activate what they already know about the topic."

There can be other language issues too (particularly for ELLs - English Language Learners) in that some words have multiple meanings. A math "solution" isn't the same as a chemical "solution", and even within math itself, when you "round" something, are you making it circular, or approximating pi? When you have a "function", do you have a purpose, or do you have an expression with a clearly defined output? (Or is that the same - opportunity for some wordplay there.) The importance of schemata, activating what students already know (even in other contexts?) was mentioned.

At this point, the session became a list of possible strategies (with examples shown) for incorporating reading and writing. Examples ranged from Anticipation Guides to Cloze Exercises, Frayer Models to Word Walls based on a student centred problem. Everything was subsequently provided to participants electronically in a pdf. David closed with a story written by a student: "An Equals Sign in Function Land". People had already started filtering out; chatting briefly with the presenter afterwards, he said he probably should have had more interactive examples.

4A) Lunch


z-score excitement is Normal
At this point I had my lunch session, which let me eat, catch up a bit with social media (responded to a Tweet-Up) and check out the publishers. The guy from the University of Guelph had posters of the z-scores for the normal distribution. *LOVE* Since OAME, I've had them laminated at my own expense (our school laminator is broken) and posted them up in the classroom (students never remember their textbook to look up the values). It's caused a bit more walking in my room, which is probably good for circulation, and I've had a student just snap a picture of them to use. Yes.

Also stopped by the McGraw-Hill booth because they have a new Data Management book coming out. We have no money for a class set at this point, but you never know. Besides, the current text we're using is over 10 years old, so the example about a histogram from "CD playlists" catches some students off guard. I had a look at the other booths, but didn't really linger.

5A) Assessment & Evaluation in Data Management

Data Management is a course in Ontario (MDM 4U). This session was by Wayne Erdman - he won lifetime membership this year too - and it was sponsored by McGraw-Hill's new textbook. But as in the first session by Casio, this didn't feel like a product advertisement.

After some partner discussion, Wayne began by pointing out how the MDM course curriculum states students will "make connections, through investigation USING DYNAMIC STATISTICAL SOFTWARE"... not with/without technology, like in many other Ontario math courses. Here it should be integrated. Question: "Can you describe your assessment practices?" Instruction has tended to have a focus on theory first, then word problems, but right now we're trending towards a more integrated model.

The new text has "Minds On" questions to engage thinking, as well as an "Achievement Check Problem" - which is NOT a "Chapter Problem" as before, but a scaffolded question where hopefully everyone can get part (a) and progress to (d) as their mastery allows. Wayne also encouraged looking at such problems in small groups, as the pendulum in instruction swings in that direction. Assessment For/While/Of Learning was highlighted. More questions will target concept, versus calculation.

The biggest thing in the MDM course is Strand 5: The Summative Project. The probability project story was mentioned (and is in the McGraw-Hill text), apparently having it's origins in the Japanese version of the "3 Bears". What are good topics and bad topics? One universally "bad" topic in feedback from teachers was "Global Warming". It's too big, and a point of dispute depending on where you obtain your data. Also, if a student finds mistakes and reflects, this should be full marks; ignoring errors is what costs marks.

Other tidbits: Do the probability first, not because it's "more difficult", but in order to better understand the VARIABILITY when you reach statistics. Standard deviation was said to be a variation on the "distance" formula, and all Grade 9 activities can be repeated in this course - with the added component of regression. StatsCan's "The Daily" can provide articles, to which one can ask: What can you ADD to their study? Parallel questioning is a possibility (answer this on hockey or this on figure skating). Finally, giving space to answer gives an indication to the student of "how long an answer should be" - is that GOOD or BAD?

6A) Musical Mathematics


One sing-ular sensation
This was my session with Michael Lieff (@virgonomic). As always seems to be the case, not a huge number sign up, but those who do, come out - we had all 9. I focussed more on the composition aspects, with my three main classifications: Rap, Parody and Original. Mike dealt with more of the technical aspects, though there was crossover.

One of the first things we did was to get participants to try and come up with a rhyming couplet about a hard to recall topic, in groups of 2 or 3. This seemed to go well (one group had an entire verse!). After sharing, I played a few clips. Mike spoke about inspiration ("a times a is a-squared", which was put to a beat), and how there is online software that can allow you to pitch shift an mp3 into a better key (transposr.com). There's also a site that lets you create karaoke versions of songs.

Towards the end, I performed "Mean", Mike (and Kermit) performed "Forms of Quadratics", things were well received and we called it a day. I also got a lead on a new YouTube channel.

7A) "AfterMath"

Following the sessions there was a "Wine and Cheese" social back with the publishers (apparently it was in BOTH sections where there were publishers - I didn't realize) and I got a chance to catch up with some other teachers. Including Steve Pritchard who had been in Dan Meyer's workshop, and Kate Mackrell who was an instructor at Queen's when I was in Teacher's College.

After that I went out to a "Tweet Up" at the Lone Star down the road, which included Mary Bourassa, a couple guys marketing the "netmaths" application out of Quebec, Dan Meyer asking our server how many US states had borders that touched Canada (and mentioning the time he was given a Calgary Flames hat to wear in Edmonton), a couple guys from Windsor talking about needing to get more people out from their district... and more. Sorry to those I missed, and that my ability to remember names is lousy. I headed off before 9pm.


I am in this picture. Look close.


FRIDAY


1B) Mathematical Paradoxes

Session by Douglas Henrich; I realized I recognized this presenter from "Social Justice" last year. As then, he asked us to sit near a quote that spoke to us. I selected: <<Beethoven could easily write an advertising jingle, but his motivation for learning music was to create something beautiful. Why does math have to be useful?>> We started with introductions around the room.

The first paradoxes he presented were "standard" - Escher's Hands (notice has a left and right hand), Ames Room (it's a trap...ezoid) and Russell's Paradox (sets that contain themselves lead to contradictions). "Change our perspective, change what you think is true." He also showed the video of Numberphile's infinity paradoxes. Someone said that 'paradox' comes from 'para' (Beyond) and 'doxa' (Belief). To solve a paradox, we must show the contradiction was only in appearances, or that it rests on unreasonable grounds in the first place.

Douglas said that we SHOULD resolve such paradoxes for students, or it can cause anxiety. (30% don't learn from paradoxes.) This in part because the conflict affects our "schemata", our system of beliefs. A few other numerical paradoxes were also shown which come from a "lack of math sophistication". For instance:
Is a puzzling quadratic a Para Paradox?
1. (-1)^3 = [(-1)^6]^1/2 = (1)^1/2 = 1. Invokes a law that won't hold for negative bases.
2. log(X^2) = 2log(X), yet the domain of the left side graphs for all real numbers, while the right side is restricted to x > 0. Really it should be log(X^2) = 2log|X|. (absolute value X)
3. Derivative Paradox: x^2 = x+x+x+x+...+x ; now take the derivative of both sides. You get 2x on the left and 1 "x" times on the right, so 2x=x? In fact, on the right you must invoke the product rule, you have f(x) "x" times leading to "1x + x1" = 2x. Paradox resolved.

The session concluded by pointing out that there are still a number of paradoxes out there which are still points of contention, like 0^0. (And the idea that adding 1+2+3+4+... can result in -1/12.)

At this point, I went to the keynote by Jo Boaler... but as this recap is getting FAR too long, I'm going to cut off here and pick up the rest in my subsequent post. Sorry to be such a tease. Feel free to complain or otherwise comment below.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

OAME 2014: How Educators Inspire


So I've been pecking away at my recap of May's OAME 2014 conference - in my non-abundant spare time. Upon reaching Saturday morning, I realized this session had to be a separate post. Partly because it has both teaching and writing applications. Partly because it made the biggest impact on me. But also in light of the teaching situation in the province of British Columbia right now - inspiration is key.


I don't claim to be a photographer.
Selamawi (Mawi) Asgedom. From his website: "Mawi now only speaks twenty times a year to make time for his writing and online leadership programs." So kudos to the OAME organizers for getting him. He's an Ethiopian refugee who graduated from Harvard. He started his talk by putting on a fake accent, playing with audience expectations. Thinking I kind of like this guy.


EVERYONE LOVES STORIES


Mawi's first slides looked at doodling as having a positive side. You begin with a blank page: No powers. A dot signifies you are ready to take action: I can do it. Goals and dreams around this beginning help to form a line. But you can only get so far with your own line - others can help it to evolve into a square. Expanding that square comes from meeting challenges, forming a cube. If we stick with it... we get the power of a hypercube.

"We all have our own story. The only reason my story has meaning is if it connects to your story." Mawi followed this remark with his 'sandwich rule': If you run into him in an airport, he will buy you a sandwich if you tell him how his talk 'made a difference' rather than just 'it was good'.

He then acknowledged that there's so much research out there, it gets overwhelming. You can't read 200 page reports when you're already busy. "Navigating the research and lexicon can be a daunting task. ... I'm going to boil it down for you so it becomes useable." With a simple model to inspire students. It connects to a story.

"Everyone loves stories." (ASIDE: I feel like this comment links directly to his earlier remark about stories needing to have meaning. Hence why non-fiction stories may resonate more with an audience, particularly if you know the participant(s)... I'm thinking of Andrea's remark on my earlier blog post. So fiction stories may need an extra genre hook beyond the author themselves - I'm speaking from experience there.)



Mawi told us a story about "negative english", aka when someone speaks just enough of the language to get them in trouble, but not enough to get them out of it. His father, not knowing that much about Western culture, had this experience when he "asked" for some help at a store. (Mawi tells it better.) Mawi said one of his biggest regrets was he "didn't have the confidence to go into the store and say 'that's my parents, but there's nothing anyone can do to make me feel ashamed of who I am'."

How a child processes: Takes the "different" things and puts them in an "enemy" bucket. That is, those things are a personal enemy. The "friend" bucket contains only those things perceived by others as "typical" or "normal". (ASIDE: "Wait But Why" has an interesting writeup on historical reasons for why we tend to behave this way.)

Back now to that simple model to inspire students. Let's return to a time when ancestors relied on stories to pass information on (because people couldn't read). There's one story told again and again, it's Joseph Campbell's monomyth or the "hero's journey". The plot goes like this:
1) There's a situation in the land (or with people) where something has gone wrong. A challenge presents itself.
2) A young person ventures forth to solve the problem, going on a quest (into the unknown) in the process.
3) The youth returns with new insight - IF there's a MENTOR character along the way who can guide them. Yoda was referenced as being that character in the "Star Wars" version.

This acts as a metaphor for the way our world works. Often challenges are so big that youth can get crushed unless adults stand up and say "I believe you can do this ... you need my help." That help can be as simple as that BELIEF, but likely extends to the wisdom that comes with experience. The point is how YOU DO play a role in that journey. As the adult. As an educator. It can be easy to forget the larger story of why you became an educator, of whatever passion it was that brought you to the occupation.

"You can never forget that larger story, or you've lost a lot of your power." Most recently, this made me think of why teachers in BC are on strike without pay, against a government that is actually breaking the law. For more on that larger story, go on twitter to see the hashtag #ThisIsMyStrikePay (a lot of the good ones were the weekend of June 14th).


WHAT POWER LOOKS LIKE


At this point in his keynote, Mawi went into "The 5 Powers of an Educator", which is also the title of his latest book. The first two boil down to having belief in yourself, and building a relationship with students. The other three levers are: Mindset ("I can do it"), Skill ("I know how to do it") and Voice ("I want to do it"). Each of these was covered in more depth.


Nothing to sphere, but sphere itself.
MINDSET: "We take for granted a lot of the things we've mastered already." For instance, the ability to sit in a chair. Everyone has a "circle of mastery", a core set of things they can do. Beyond that is the "circle of growth", the things we cannot do. When you TRY, the circle of growth expands. "Failure is when you do nothing to expand your circle of mastery."

When you try something new, there will be frustration. Do NOT back off from that moment - to become successful, you must plow ahead. Because success is any time you try to grow. The only failure is in doing nothing. But kids (and adults, and writers...) will put barriers in their own heads that aren't there. You may have to repeat your belief in someone else MANY times for them to get through those barriers. After all, people develop on their OWN timeline, not yours (and not those of a curriculum).

Be patient. Conversely, if you're on the receiving end, remember, you can never WAIT for the right mindset. Doing does drive thinking, and confidence comes from gaining mastery.

SKILL: "It's good to pray, but sometimes, you need some skill." The self-esteem movement (of the late 1990s) is now seen as damaging, because it can make people think they are "not as smart as other kids". (ASIDE: Or are "smarter", and must maintain that at all costs.) The reality is you should NOT accept that you cannot learn. It may take you a few more training sessions than it does for someone else, but you CAN do it. Moreover, additional confidence and resilience comes from acquiring skill.

Mawi told a story of his grade school english teacher, Mrs. Countryman, who had this advice: "If you want to do well on tests, study what you do not know." Sure, review a couple problems on things you've done, to keep it fresh, but put your effort towards what builds new skills. If it helps, focus on small actions. For instance: "When X comes up, I usually do Y... this week I'll do A."

VOICE: "There is some power in human beings that can only be tapped when we're feeling passion." The lack of voice is what drives parents crazy: The student can do it, and knows how to do it, but simply won't. How do we motivate and excite this person, to tap into their abilities?

Consider giving students choice and power. (Possibly with a lesson formed like a 3-act problem.) You can also appeal to someone through their desire to make a difference. Show the context of a larger vision. (For instance, a teacher at my school has high school students create computer programs for students at one of our feeder schools.) Showing your own passion can also help to spark it in others.

Mindset, Skill and Voice - three key items that teachers (and mentors) have the power to activate in others.


Or click here if you're a fan of the remake.


WHERE THIS TOOK ME


To this point, you've read a nice recap, maybe clicked on a few links. Time for me to tell you a bit of my story.

If you know me at all, you know I'm good with organization and routine. I'm not prone to deviating from a plan once I've made it, and I need time to process changes. On this day though, I was late for my next session because I decided to buy (an advance copy) of Mawi's "The 5 Powers of an Educator" book. Then I lined up to get him to sign it. I don't remember what I said exactly as he did, somehow thanked him and said his talk resonated with me. He came back with a very good question: "What part?"

At the time, I just got choked up and said I wasn't sure. And I cried a bit. Which is also very out of character for me. I've had a bit of time to think since then, and I'll go into a better response below. (ASIDE: What I haven't had time for is reading the entire book -- I flipped through it at OAME. There are stories in it too. I started it earlier this month. But, school. It's on the reading list for July.)

At any rate, within my first week back in the classroom, I took a few minutes to show the "mastery" circles model to all of my students. I said it applied in general, but I pulled it specifically into a math context, with the mastery circle being the things they knew coming into the course, and the growth circle being what the curriculum said they should know going out.


Pictured: Parabola!
I emphasized that even if they don't reach what the course "says" they need to know, as long as they've grown, that's success. If the growth is a personal goal of 80, but you only get to a 70, that's not a failure - we can't all learn on the same timelines. Moreover, the growth gets harder as the mastery expands, because area of a circle is a quadratic relationship! (Parabola shoutout, heyo!)

I threw in a bit of Jo Boaler's OAME talk at the time too, to the effect that you grow synapses by failing, rather than by using the links that already exist. (That talk will be in my final OAME post, coming this weekend.) And I repeated the whole argument a few days later for a student who had been away, and was feeling down about not achieving at the same level she had been in previous years. My hope was that it would be in some way inspirational.

Back to "Which Part?" At first, Mawi's earlier quote, "The only reason my story has meaning is if it connects to your story" had resonated most strongly, as I connect it to reading blogs and fiction stories as well. But I think it had more significance at the time because I was in the process of halting my web serial. Going deeper, here's what I've come up with.

Last summer, in the post "Why I Teach", I concluded the following way: Because I want to push people forwards, into places that are beyond my reach. This talk gave an added layer of meaning to that desire, linking it to the mentor story. It also gave me a tool to use, in describing the mindsets. And in doing so, it helped me realize that I may already be achieving my goal of pushing people forwards, even though it's not possible for me to really know. (After all, how can I know where my students will ultimately end up when they're my age?) And from that realization, I draw some comfort.


IN THE END


We're all different, with different backgrounds. While this post leaned educational, I hope that by reading this far, you've taken away something worthwhile. If not, but you know of someone else who might benefit - pass it along. It just feels SO important right now to remind people of the good that they do, even when (as in BC) it seems like there are no immediately tangible results from our daily struggles.

Finally, I suppose I can reverse apply this entire "growth" philosophy back onto myself. I'm still not good with groups, or remembering names, and I'm lousy beyond belief as far as marking/grading goes (another post that's forthcoming). But as I make progress... I suppose I need to acknowledge it. I'll try. You try too.

Check? Check.