Modelling Civilization at St Andrews PS, TDSB: Coding, Making, Math

View this report in PDF here.

Report by Iain Brodie, December 2018

Over the years we have found out a lot of things about how children learn mathematics and more, but the one thing we have not consistently found is just what a child cannot learn in some way. Whether it is playing with and learning about infinity and limit, abstracting number patterns to find the nth term, or in our current case, modelling civilization mathematically with code, even our youngest students are capable of incredible feats of thinking and learning.

Ms. Silver’s grade 3 class at St. Andrews Public School are about to set out on a learning journey to understand how civilization works. They will be starting out by reading and exploring two wonderful books, Anno’s Magic Seeds and Weslandia. Ms. Silver states, “I am eager to participate in this learning path because exploring new and innovative methods or concepts to further inspire the teaching and learning in both my students and myself is a passion of mine. I thrive on seeing how creative, imaginative and intelligent the students are and enjoy the student led learning path.“

Some of the math and modelling activities that they are going to choose from are available at http://eduapps.ca/civilization/). These activities are linked to both of the books they will have read. Importantly for the students, they will use the Use-Edit-Create cycle of learning to code to explore how to make mathematical models which will allow them to experiment with the parameters which affect a civilization’s growth and change.

Grade 3s are a curious and creative bunch, so giving them the opportunity to learn while innovating and creating in a maker space harnesses the best of what the students are able to do to learning how the iterative creative process works. Here they are going to be adapting some of the activities linked to Weslandia that are available at http://janettehughes.ca/lab/make-me/. One of the activities that Ms. Silver is really excited about is a making activity where her students will adapt robots like Sphero to powering a vehicle or add-on that could help Wesley with his harvest.

As a final activity, the grade 3 students are going to be modelling their own civilization in a game-like setting using an idea from St. Andrews’ amazing librarian, Mr. Withrow. This role play simulation will allow the students to use all of the knowledge they have learned in order to make their civilization successful.

Asked why she would want to have her students learn this way, Ms. Silver says that part of the attraction to learning and teaching in this way is that she, loves “the unpredictability of teachable moments that arise and how we may anticipate a certain path but the students may take us to knowledge we didn’t even expect. I also enjoy integrating the curriculum to teach more productively and fluidly rather than teaching one subject isolated from another.”

This is shaping up to be an exciting, integrated unit of learning that will delight not only the students, but their teachers and parents, too.

Cast a Wide Net at St Andrews PS, TDSB: AI, robotics, coding, math, social studies

View this report in PDF here.

Report by Iain Brodie, December 2018

Sometimes, in order to learn about specific things, you have to approach it from many angles. This is what the grade sevens at St. Andrews Public School are about to do with artificial intelligence. Rather than approach it as a singular scientific subject, they are about to embark on a journey that will take in literature, communication, mathematics, coding, engineering, making, and most importantly – thinking.

Thinking as a skill is not specifically outlined in any of our curricula except as a category on an achievement chart or a process expectations, and even there it does not give nearly enough credit to the abilities of our children to think, to think critically. The grade sevens in Ms. Awara’s classroom are going to learn not only how to think critically, but in order to understand what artificial intelligence might be, they are going to have to think about thinking, as well as about some serious issues in our interconnected world.

During planning, Ms. Awara stressed that it was really important for her and her students to cast a wide net during learning engagements. “Doing so exposes the students to a widening horizon so that they can learn to make informed choices in and about their futures. It also gives them many chances to learn and practice collaborating, thinking critically, and problem solving through conducting an open inquiry with many “big, juicy questions” for the students to dive into.

Some of the materials they are going to be using include a graphic novel which will set the stage for the inquiry, online apps which will help the students to understand how programming works with Boolean algebra, logic gates and more (see http://eduapps.ca/ai/). They are also planning on exploring Vector, an AI robot so that they can experience the user side of working with an AI.

Our future is wide open, and there are so many things that we can learn. Ms. Awara and her grade seven students are not only going to learn about what AI is, they are going to learn how it learns and in the process learn how they learn, too.

MKN November 2017 Updates

Want to know what we’ve been up to? Read the updates below to learn about network growth, resources, upcoming sharing, and our Communities of Practice in Year 2!

Network Growth

We have grown to include over 14 school districts, 15 universities, and 16 organizations!

MKN Website & TeachOntario

  • Explore our website, sign up for our mailing list, and follow us on Twitter @mknrcm to stay up-to-date on network activities and resources.
  • The MKN Hub is now live at TeachOntario.ca! Share & engage with Ontario teachers (and beyond!) through our online discussion groups.

Upcoming Sharing

  • KNAER Cross-Network Meeting (Nov 30): MKN will attend & learn/share with other KNAER networks.
  • MKN CoP Lead Meeting (Jan 26): CoPs will meet to discuss Year 2 progress, share artifacts, and discuss next steps.
  • Ontario Education Research Symposium (Feb/Mar TBD): potential joint-presentation with all KNAER networks, including the MKN.
  • MKN Advisory Panel Meeting (Apr 17): Opportunity for MKN partners to come together to discuss network updates and future plans.
  • OAME Math Conference (May 3-4): CoP members will present their work.

Find more details on our events page.

Communities of Practice

Our four CoPs completed their Year 1 activities and have created and shared various resources such as research minis, documentaries, lesson plans, literature reviews, and more.

CoP leads met on October 24, 2017 to share their work from Year 1, discuss future plans, and find cross-CoP connections. Attendees represented all 4 CoPs, the MKN Executive, TVO, KNAER, and the Ministry of Education. CoP leads will meet again in January 2018 to report on progress, share artifacts, and discuss next steps.

CoPs in Year 2 (Sept 2017 – Aug 2018)

Computational Thinking in Mathematics Education

  • Wellington CDSB:
    • Elementary: Leadership Projects.
    • Secondary: Gr 10 Math + Comp. Sci. Cohorts.
  • Andrews PS + Rainy River DSB collaboration.
  • Western Education: Refined Math + CT integration.
  • Brock/Niagara CDSB collaboration on CT in HS math.
  • Offer mathematics based activities for hour of code.

See mathnetwork.ca/ct for more information. You can find a more detailed Year 1 overview and plans for Year 2 here.

Critical Transitions in Student Mathematical Development

  • Early Years:
    • GECDSB Professional Development Day September 2017.
    • Scale-up Year 1 survey (~5000 educators).
    • Balanced Numeracy website development.
  • Gr 8-9 Transition workshops.
  • HS Math Enrichment Modules (Math9-12) – workshops, field testing with 9 teachers, 270 students, as well as a student survey.
  • Various OAME workshops. Stay tuned!

See mathnetwork.ca/transitions for more information. See their detailed Year 1 overview here.

Indigenous Knowledge & Mathematics Education

  • CoP meetings and sharing (e.g. FNMIEAO Educator Conference, IKME Conference in Fort Frances, OAME, OERS, etc.).
  • Developing protocols for working with Indigenous communities, and developing a video resource.
  • Visiting school boards for co-learning sessions.

See mathnetwork.ca/indigenousknowledge for more information.

Mathematics Leadership

  • Ongoing meetings & events with CoP partners (e.g. Leadership Institute in North Bay with Cathy Fosnot, GECDSB Mathematics Symposium, and many other MLN, ML2N, and NWML2N events).
  • Blogging, podcasts, and Twitter chats via @TheMathPod – a collaborative learning space for educators who want to learn more about mathematics.
  • GECDSB: Mobilizing lead-learners to build depth and spread by developing the expertise of all educators.

See mathnetwork.ca/math-leadership for more information.

View this post as a 2-page summary!

NEW: Repeating Patterns + Coding Lesson Study Documentaries

Check out our Computational Thinking CoP’s NEW Repeating Patterns Lesson Study Documentaries with teachers and students from St. Andrews PS, TDSB!

  • Lesson study on Repeating Patterns in Grades 1/2
  • Lesson study on Repeating Patterns in Grades 2/3
  • Repeating patterns Side-By-Side (lesson sequence on Repeating Patterns using 2 different pedagogical approaches, shown side-by-side)

See it all here!

For more resources and information about our Computational Thinking Community of Practice, check out their page.