fractions rv

Create an image of fractions with a blend of colourful geometric and pointilism styles. Image via DALLE - 2

Did you ever get the feeling that a lesson was going to explode before you were able to teach it? Did some sense of existential edu-dread occur at the realization you may be over your head with a certain subject, and now as a result it’s bringing back a past traumatic experience from when you were a student in the classroom?

When I first started my teaching career, I used to feel this way about certain strands of the Math block. For the first 13 years of my school life, Math and I were like “peas and carrots”. I loved it and it loved me. We went well together. Maybe I should have quit while I was ahead because in my 14th year, my OAC year, a love of Math was ripped out of my life by a soul-sucking approach to pedagogy that did not serve a single student. Sound familiar? From what I hear, I am not alone when it comes to Math and its complexity layers between love and loathe in educators. 

It is odd to think how 13 of 14 years of Math learning went so well in elementary and secondary, only to have things fall to pieces at the end. Statistically that’s nearly a 93% success rate. However, much like poison, it only takes a few drops to alter someone’s life force. I wonder how many educators who, like me, were impacted through a negative experience or multiple negative experiences. 

Of all the subjects in the curriculum that cause concern, Math seems to be at the top of the pile when it comes to traumatizing educators and students equally. I never paid attention to Math for most of my schooling because everything about it came easy for me. That was not a humble brag, but moreover an admission that I may have unwittingly contributed to my own struggle by not applying myself appropriately because the Math concepts, up until that final year, required little bandwidth to understand or apply. 

Looking back, I wish there would have been more instruction dedicated to productive struggle, growth mindset thinking, and fearless failing forward with what was being taught. On the sunny side of this memory, it is good to accept that if everything in the sentence above happened, then I might not be here writing about it in the hopes of helping others. After grade 13, I vowed never to take Math again, choosing to pursue a degree in French Studies instead while shoving the whole experience to the back of my memory bank to fade away forever.

Or so I thought

The human brain has an uncanny sense of irony. At the flash of synapse what was once a firmly repressed memory can appear again even after 25+ years. This mind jolted back into my thoughts when I was in teacher’s college. Here’s the set-up, the prof(an incredibly passionate mathematician) was known for the habit of calling on under-prepared colleagues asking them to share their thoughts. In those moments, I could almost hear their hearts breaking along with silent cries of, “Why me? I didn’t even raise my hand?”. Each time this happened the room seemed to get progressively uncomfortable. There was a lesson to be had here in what not to do when we were the ones leading the classroom. Perhaps this was the trigger for me? 

Here we were, teacher candidates, high achievers*, hard workers, and deserving of the opportunity to shape minds for decades to comes. Yet, at that place in time, we witnessed why Math can be triggering to educators as much as it can be for learners, again. It became very clear that there was a cycle to break here. 

For many of the elementary teachers with whom I have discussed this, Math seems to consistently be at the top of subjects causing them to be uncomfortable while teaching. With a new curriculum to deliver and a realization that the textbooks that used to weight the desks down in many classrooms have lost much of their relevance. Sprinkle in a large amount of students who have come out of 3 years of disjointed and disrupted learning it is easy to understand that it might be a recipe for troubles. What couldn’t happen though was a reversion to my own negative past experiences that left me with doubt and anxiety about Math.

Time to create a new cycle

So there I was in front of the class talking about fractions. Cue the groans and self-destruct sequences being activated. How can something trigger such a visceral reaction in such young learners? It was like students had been experienced these feelings before and they had all come flooding back at the mere mention of fractions. 

Fractions, the steps to big understandings of division, decimals, percents, and ratios. Fractions, the gateway to abstract concepts of Algebra. Fractions, one of the most important concepts in Math, when taught out of isolation. Fractions, the trigger of elementary nightmares. Those fractions.

It was time to step towards the future without teaching from the past. So I spend a quarter of our time recalling previously taught concepts and another third on using manipulatives all in the hopes that we can all get better by a hundredth every day. The rest of the time was spent connecting between the important relationships and patterns of number facts rather than handcuffing students to an antiquated and antithetical approach to teaching about fractions. 

What I made sure to do through all of this was to emphasize the value of their hard work and persistence even when they struggled with through learning about fractions. We had mini-lessons, we extended the concept into other aspects of the world around us, we practised, and then went on a quest of what was learned. I am happy to say that what used to be a series of lessons evoking fear and trepidation for both teacher and student yielded very strong outcomes that can be built upon much more in the future. We are by no means done with this, but I am confident because of they are confident. 

Finally, it felt good to let go of what hurt from all those years ago. I realized that the problem did not fall solely on my shoulders and that a more consistent, caring, and positive approach would have been a far more effective choice when it came to that final year of high school. Having seen the product of negative instruction and how it has harmed generations of students, makes me even more determined to finish what was started. I am half way there. 

* Not me. I’m nervous of heights.


some chat about ChatGPT

Hold on to you beverages #onted. Right now the socials and other mediums are buzzing about ChatGpt. There’s a lot out there and more being generated everyday.

The interesting thing about all of the content is that all of it is still being generated by humans however as each day passes, much more of that content is being organized and reorganized as new content by artificially intelligent algorithms parsing through the metaverse to organize/curate it all into passable packets of information when the proper prompts are provided.

In some ways ChatGpt is doing for writing what Adobe did for art. It is creating a middle space between cans and can’t yets that was not possible without raw talent and years of relentless practice before. Now this might seriously upset some higher educational apple carts that have relied on an essay to winnow the wheat from the chaff in evaluating ideas organized by keystrokes, but the days of a long winded, tedious essay are nigh. Plus, this post is targeted to elementary educators. I am really positive that we aren’t still piling all of our assessment eggs into an antiquated basket are we?

Oh the Drama!

Resignedly or not, AI generated work is here to stay in our classrooms, as such you might as well get started using it too. So, this past week, that is exactly what I did. At first I asked it questions related to a text I am sharing with the class to see how the program would generate a response. This also gave me some insight on how vaguery and precision can be used as tools that dictate a desired output. I started to notice that the less information I provided in the prompts, the responses were very much surface level covering a vast scope of possibilities, but each time I refined the search in terms of precise parameters, the responses became, for lack of a better word in this moment, clinical. I began thinking and asking about how AI could be used to help rather than hinder my students. So what better class than Drama to begin. My goal was to have ChatGpt generate some drama skits. My students love drama and improv, but since we are learning about electricity in science class, it seemed like a good idea to include it into the mix by having them perform from scripts. First prompt: “write a comedy for 4 performers that is based on electricity, physics, time travel, and renewable energy.” Within seconds of the prompt, a cast of characters is generated followed by a 2 page skit. I went on to generate 8 scripts in total during my prep time. As I read through them, it became clear that neither Neil Simon, David Mammet, nor Shakespeare were consulted here, but it also gave rise to a cool activity. Here’s what we did next: In groups, read the scripts, identify the weaknesses in the plotlines and character dialogue, and fix them up. Students took to this right away and ultimately turned a basic and perfunctory script into something they could be proud to present to their peers. I also like the conversations that got started as students noticed the gender bias generated by the AI as most of the scientists, CEOs, political types, and doctors were males across the eight scripts. Does this mean the internet is sexist? Yes. Whoa! Math too? With my creative juices flowing I wanted to see if ChatGpt could help me out in another subject area. Since I rarely use text books or teacher’s guides in class, it seemed like a good idea to seek out a little AI support in writing a Math quiz. First prompt: “Write a 10 question math quiz with some word problems for grade 6 students who are beginning to learn patterning and algebra.” Once again, within seconds 10 at level questions that mirrored the lessons I have been sharing over the past week. Imagine the possibilities if we can curate our content specific to each of learners without the burden of paying a text book company for materials that are tantamount to being stored in knowledge coffins? In some ways ChatGPT is serving several purposes, it definitely forces educators to rethink our forms of assement and the questions we ask students to respond to with respect to content. It also is going to reveal who truly understands the words they are putting their names on. Regurgitation has never equated to competancy or mastery of a subject area. So a bot generated essay will always lack the unique worldview and experience of the individual no matter how may parameters are given. Educators know that application and synthesis of concepts are still the mountains all learners must be able to climb and conquer. Have fun exploring. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below to keep the conversation going. Here’s what ChatGPT generated when prompted to explain the positives and pitfalls of the platform. Prompt: Write a summary paragraph explaining the educational value of ChatGPT . ChatGPT has educational value as a tool for enhancing language skills and increasing knowledge in a wide range of subjects. It allows users to ask questions and receive quick and accurate answers, helping them to clarify concepts, learn new information and improve their understanding of a subject. Additionally, the conversational nature of the interaction can provide a more engaging and interactive learning experience compared to traditional forms of education. This technology can also be used as a supplement to traditional education, providing students with additional resources and support outside of the classroom. Prompt: Write a summary paragraph explaining the educational pitfalls of ChatGPT . As an AI language model, ChatGPT has some limitations when it comes to education. Firstly, it lacks the ability to understand context and meaning, as it relies solely on statistical correlations in its training data. Secondly, it lacks the ability to provide a thorough explanation of complex concepts and ideas. Thirdly, it can provide incorrect or biased information, as it is trained on a large corpus of text data that may contain inaccuracies or biases. Therefore, ChatGPT should be used as a supplementary resource in education, rather than as the sole source of information.

An Interview with Will Gourley

Honoured to be interviewed by the inimatable Doug Peterson.

doug --- off the record

It seems that I’ve known of Will Gourley for quite some time now. His blog posts have been regularly featured in my Friday This Week in Ontario Edublogs post. He offers an interesting take on educational issues and is always good for some original ideas to make me think.

He was good enough to take the time to be interviewed so that we can learn more about Will.

Doug: Thanks for doing this Will. I seem to have always had you on my radar. Do you know when our paths first crossed?

Will: Thank you for the opportunity Doug. I would have to say we have known each other for almost 10 years since I joined Twitter and then from ECOO and other conferences around the province. It seems like you have been there almost since the start of my teaching career.

Doug: And the last time we actually met…

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This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Will Gourley was kind enough to join Stephen and me for Wednesday’s show. I think we could have talked all morning about various things inspired by the writing in these great blog posts. track and field Will Gourley – @WillGourley As we try to do when we have a guest host, we pulled in […]

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

doug --- off the record

Hello and welcome back to a stroll around the province to read some blog posts from Ontario Educators. If you have a blog of your own and it’s not on my list, please let me know.

sometimes nothing is all you have and all you need

If you’re like me, you got into university because of high marks from secondary school. Then, you got admitted to a Faculty of Education because of high marks from your university. It’s how the education game is played.

But, what happens if you have a “lack lustre transcript”? Will’s words, not mine.

He went shopping for a Faculty that would admit him and use other metrics than marks for entrance. Will doesn’t tell you the university but you can ask him …

“Experience is a terrible teacher, because it forces you to take the test before the lesson.”

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Once you’re a dad…

You will never not be a dad again. This states the obvious however what I am trying to say is that once you have been gifted with parenthood, your life becomes an epic journey in all directions away from yourself. While you are on that epic odyssey, you get the opportunity to witness the past, present, and future at the same time.

I have been a dad for 25+ years, and the experience has been nothing short of life altering. Perhaps transformative, transformational, eye opening and educational are more apt descriptors than life altering? Each and all simulataneously happening. Another life has come into existence as a result of what I can only describe as brilliant life choices. I can still remember the excitement at the news we were going to have a child. The joy, the tears, and excitement seemed to make the following 9 months fly past. And then we are in the hospital, it was not a drill.

I can still remember the exact time where the chaos, anticipation, and tension of the delivery room were broken by that first breath and cry. At that moment time stood still as I held a new universe in my hands for the first time. I wondered if all of the dad’s in the world felt the same way. Did life and circumstances afford them this privilege? I know the answer to that question is no, and that it can be complicated, but I would surely wish that happiness and peace on everyone. After the tears of joy, I could not wait to hold the future in my shaking hands.

For some reason the merger of these thoughts has me appreciating the moments even more, and looking forward to what comes next. Perhaps it is because of the lockdowns and travel restrictions in place due to the pandemic. Although I have not been able to see my dad in person for nearly 2 years, we remain close in daily conversations. The same goes for our son who has set off to a new city to write some new life chapters of his own. As The Band sang, “every distance is not near.” It has been crucial to continue strings of conversations and life catch-ups during this time. They have helped bridge the distance gap, but have been devoid of the joy of being in each others’ presence as in the past.

I reflect on this in 2021 because the role of father has definitely evolved since my own dad first celebrated father’s day. Dad’s fifty years ago were examples of hard work, discipline, and no nonsense. Dad’s were protectors and providers. They were the purveyors of wisdom and cheesy jokes too. 50 years later there are still many things in common with the way that fatherhood is done, but it has also come with the added layers of a connected world ready to offer an opinion or approach about everything. It’s as if the mystery of being a dad has been solved by a quick search and click on a blog post, magazine article or YouTube video.

Dads of the past never had the resources to add to their toolboxes as exist today. They had to create and cobble from past experiences, from making mistakes, and from a supportive and patient spouse who was trying to do the same as a parent. Dadding, fatherhood, parenthood, and adulting are iterative in so many ways. I fear that if mistakes are not made that something is really going to go wrong down the road of the future.

Perhaps it can be reduced to this: Being a dad is about showing the commitment to try, the courage to fail, and the character to get up and try again. My son has seen that in his dad, and I have witnessed it in my ‘pops’ too. This is why I cannot wait until the next time our 3 generation celebration can take place so we can consolidate our collective care and wisdom and honour our past, present, and future.

Happy Father’s Day. Happy S.M.I.L.E Day.
Males making
Impacts in


For those who are hanging…


…a thread

…nothing but will

…waiting to be seen

…digital friends

…to watch what happens next

…others you distrust

…a brittle limb

…in sadness

…waiting for things to change

…setting plans to make things better

Keep your grip.
You are not at the end of your hope.

(Y)our racism is showing…again

Due to the traumatic nature of this post some readers might be triggered by the content shared below.

This post was started a while back and is being shared with a heavy heart as the remains of 215 First Nation children have been discovered in an umarked mass grave at a residential school in Kamloops, BC Canada. The map above indicates that this revelation is not only a travesty and a tragedy, but it may be only the start of even darker revelations relating to residential schools and their systemic racist treatment of First Nations Métis and Inuit communities.

Listening to the grief and relived trauma of the families and survivors is heart breaking.
This post is a call to listen, reflection, understanding, and then action. Thoughts and prayers are not enough.

Canada (y)our racism is showing again.

Hey Canada, (y)our racism is showing and there seems to be more and more cracks in the dam of dignity that has held the waters of truth, equity, and justice from flowing to First Nations, Inuit and Metis for far too long.

Your ability to dismiss and demean those whom you decreed as despicable through distorted doctrines definitely deserves it’s due damnation. This nation is now wakened again by the spirits of those buried and forgotten because of the cruelest of best intentions to remove the “Indian from the child”. Ever since that regrettable day of discovery by early Europeans we have been doing our darnedest to destroy everything about those who were here first with our dated and greedy settler dogmas.

How is it possible that we brag of our foundations on the rules of law, God’s law, and civility yet are incapable of honouring the contracts that we so craftily crafted? How have so many in “settler-nation” managed to grow so generationally ignorant yet prosper so greatly at the peril and misfortune of others?

How dare we dismiss those who looked after their nations long before we ever called this land and its waters our nation? Yet, you, me, us, we continue to benefit from the systems that stole and violated, cheated and created laws that decreed the land that was shared and settled upon was now ours and not theirs.
When land and resources were not enough, we came for the children.

Don’t tell me it is not our problem when our ancestors kidnapped and forced the children of countless First Nations to go to residential schools far from home, to be abused, to give up their language, be malnourished, to be abused, killed and never seen again. Don’t tell me the past is in the past because the present doesn’t want to acknowledge it.
Don’t tell me everything is alright after the Truth and Reconciliation Report and Recommendations.
Don’t offer your thoughts & prayers unless they come with lasting change and reparations.
Don’t tell me that your ancestors paid already when you benefit from privilege everyday.
Don’t tell me that this is about equality and opportunity for all when the system is rigged.
Don’t tell me that it is not a provincial matter when leadership is your only job.
Don’t promise that change is coming and wait for someone else to do it.
Don’t make excuses.

Listen to those who are grieving. Hear their stories without interrupting or tone shushing.
Mourn for and with those who have lost so much already and must now endure being retraumatized.
Accept that there is much more truth to reckon with here before true reconciliation can begin after so much harm.

PR Moves

Instant addiction print by @recycledpropaganda

Before blasting us with another photo bomb, publicly repulsive stunt, or staged photo op. The people you forsake, by each posted misfake, want you to open your mind not your mouth. If not your mind, then how about your heart?

You make mistakes that bind us because of your blindness. Because you see only the few whose money you’ve desired, And not the public caste into your classist mire.

Your calculated and calous willingness to forsake those who you swore to serve in this space comes with a cost. You have milked the public of their patience, their safety, and their lives.

The oaths from your office opine outrageous orders so often. Your words have become nothing more than malicious and misleading statistics. Attached to deflection, blame, and party li(n)es. We have had enough of your politricks.

Pictures of your “work” show nothing but a reckless climb up a gilded ladder of success, Your policy and lack thereof shows that you are willing to cut each corner at the expense of everyone’s health.

Your anti-public relativism has been reduced to desperately disparate posts to a selfie cult of personality. Seeking and leaching the likes like an addict on a bender. But you’re in control. You’re hubris assuredly saying you could quit at anytime.