Assembling the heterogeneous elements for (digital) learning

Month: September 2011

Social media in higher education – to read

One of these days I plan/hope to have the time to catch up on some reading that I have let slide over the last couple of years. To this end this post marks a new practice. I’m using a “to read” category on this blog to save some detail of things I need to come back to, read more carefully and follow up on some of the references.

First cab off the rank is this Neil Selwyn essay titled “Social Media in Higher Education”. As I’m skimming it now there seems to be more to come back to. Especially some of the more recent references to various suggestions about trends in e-learning. Including the expected, if slightly cringe worthy, “pedagogy 2.0”.

A hassle map for Year 10 mathematics? You can't focus on the negatives?

Came across the idea of a hassle map via the following tweet from @susangautsch retweeted by @michaelbtw. It’s generated two immediate responses

  1. Is it an option for the Year 10 mathematics class I’m going to be teaching?
  2. What do all the happy clappy, Appreciative Inquiry type folk think of this?!/susangautsch/status/116640470842613760

Year 10 Mathematics

In a week and a bit I start my teaching internship. 6 weeks of 5 days a week at school responsible for 3 classes/lines. Essentially a 50% teacher’s load. One of the classes I’ll be teaching is Year 10 Core Mathematics. A description of cohort in this class is offered in an earlier post. It’s by no means the worst example of high school mathematics I’ve seen, but there’ always room for improvement.

One of the improvements I wanted to try was to give the students a bit more of a say in how the class runs. At least as much as I can within the constraints of the context. In part because I want to build the relationships a bit more, in part because I’d like the students to recognise some of the constraints and to take some ownership of either developing some solutions or figuring out how to live within those constraints.

Another reason is that I’m trying not to play it safe. My mentor teacher has an approach that – from a fairly limited, but pragmatic perspective – works and is easy. I could adopt that approach – which is familiar, though probably not widely liked, to the students – with a minimum of effort. But it’s not an approach that fits with my approach and within some constraints, I should probably be using the internship as a place to stretch myself, just a bit.

The first topic we’re covering is longitude and latitude followed by navigation, so the map metaphor fits. So, how to create a class hassle map? A first stab at a process

  • Go in with a large collection of post-its, large bits of paper (for grouping the post-its), and some bluetac.
  • Get the class into groups of 3/4.
  • Explain the idea of a hassle map and the purpose of this activity.
    Mention the idea of NetFlix and the origins of the idea. Talk about the purpose for this class, i.e. for us to figure out what we can do in class to make it work better. Two step process: identify hassles and then talk about possible solutions.
  • Have the groups come up with their hassles and write them on post-its (1 per post-it).
  • Identify the commonalities
    Lead the class in merging the hassles into a common list, no categorisation at this stage.
  • Get the class to vote on the “biggest” hassles
    Interesting to compare the most prevalent with the biggest.
  • Maybe show a hassle map from me or perhaps a group of teachers.
    Idea of making students aware of the other perspective, not necessarily to agree with it.

In later lessons the next steps would be taken. Perhaps look for solutions, maybe start with underlying causes for the hassles as part of coming up with solutions.

Gotta be positive

I’m generally a glass half-empty type of guy. Most of my teaching and research has been based on the the approach of wanting to do something, seeing problems and trying to fix those problems. Consequently I often been accused of being negative. Which is just one reason why I like Selwyn’s (2011) article “In praise of pessimism” which includes the following

Thus, rather than ignoring or even blaming the apparent inefficiencies and failings of current education arrangements, educational technologists should be engaging actively with the negative aspects of education and technology and exploring how best to withstand them.

A suggestion which seems to fit quite well with the idea of a hassle map.

But it’s also an idea that gets up the nose of the Appreciative inquiry crowd and similar.

Can e-learning tools be more like Plants vs Zombies?

I’ve just had a visit from my 6 year-old son. He was jumping out of his skin with excitement and a sense of achievement. Apparently he’s just won a “chilli that blows up a whole row of zombies” in Plants vs Zombies. A game he’s been playing on and off for a couple of days without any instruction or reading any documentation. Plants vs Zombies, like most good games, is designed to help a new player learn about the game by playing the game.

Compare this with a couple of experiences/observations with Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) and Mahara over the last week.


First I saw this tweet from @sthcrft (and some followups) about folk writing on IWBs.

Then at a residential school this week at CQU I heard a story that goes a step further. Apparently one teacher thought the IWB was equivalent to a cork board and pinned up a few posters.

That story arose when I took the following photo of how someone at CQU has taken to prevent this sort of misunderstanding.

Alternative to tech identification field guide

I can like this approach, it’s a fairly simple modification of the environment to help novices understand the tool. It is an approach that is somewhat approximate to the approach taken by games designers. Don’t expect people to understand how to achieve something with the tool, provide hints/scaffolding into the tool that guides them.


One of the tasks during the residential school was for the group of 60 pre-service teachers I was apart of to learn how to use Mahara to create a professional portfolio. One of the requirements of our program.

One of the part-time students had already done this, so she was tasked to talk about her portfolio, what she put in it and how she did it. One of the techniques she used was to create tabs across the top of her portfolio site, one for each of the teacher standards we have to address. Most of us wanted to take that approach, so she was asked how she did it. After about 10/15 minutes it was obvious she couldn’t remember and no-one could find directions how. We moved on.

Now, being an IT person I wasn’t satisfied. I thought, “How hard can it be?”. Well it wasn’t straight forward. After about an hour of tinkering and experimentation I stumbled onto a solution. Now this wasn’t an uninterrupted hour of disciplined investigation, there were other things going on, but it just wasn’t obvious. And it wasn’t something that could be solved with a simple Google search, at least not without knowing the exact terminology Mahara uses. (A google search for “Mahara add tab navigation” or similar reveals user documentation about how to use the tab navigation in Mahara).

The metaphors/terminology used by Mahara aren’t straight forward. For example, there’s an object in Mahara called a view. To me that suggests a way for a reader to see my portfolio. Add to this the assumption that the automatic creation of a tabs for navigation is an interface/view type of operation, that’s where I looked. As it turns out, a Mahara view is probably more like a page within a view and the view is called a collection. i.e. a collection of pages/views, where the collection can be shown to people. It’s in the collections where the tab creation lives.

Once you know, it’s easy. But trying to determine the model/metaphor used by software designers can be difficult.

I’m sure the few folk that have used BIM – the Moodle module I wrote – have often thought the same thing. In fact, having observed my wife use BIM in a course she’s teaching, I know it’s difficult.

Learning from games, can it be done?

The obvious question is why can’t the designers of e-learning systems learn something from game designers and embed learning how to use the tool into the tool itself? It might be possible, but I wonder if there might be difficulties, including:

  • “Real” world tasks bring mental model baggage.
    I’m pretty sure that my son and I didn’t bring any existing understandings of “Plants vs Zombies” when we started the game. Well, I might have brought a bit of “zombie lore” from prior media consumption. But in terms of how to play a game called “Plants vs Zombies” I didn’t have any preset expectations.

    When I started using Mahara, however, I brought a range of existing mental models/assumptions about how this should work. I interpreted the labels used by Mahara using those mental models and that sent me down the wrong path. Some of the assumptions I built into BIM to make it more flexible worked fine at the original university, because it matched mental models there. But when folk at some other institutions have seen it, they’ve often been a bit confused.

    I think these existing mental models and the diversity of those models would make learning from game design a bit more difficult (not impossible).

  • Increasing flexibility increase entry paths.
    Plants vs Zombies has a fairly limited game play. There really is only one way to play it. This makes it easier to help people to learn it. Minecraft is a different type of game altogether. It is much more flexible, it’s also not totally developed. I found when getting into Minecraft I had to rely on external sources of information. Minecraft didn’t help as much (to some extent this is due to the somewhat incomplete status of the game, it’s being actively worked on). But the flexibility of Minecraft also makes it more difficult to induct players. What they want to get out of or do with the game will be vastly different. Suggesting that different induction paths for different purposes.

    A tool like BIM is much more limited than Mahara. It would be easier to induct folk into BIM, a bit more difficult for Mahara. A very interesting challenge if you move to the Moodle level.

  • Games don’t “teach” the difficult stuff.
    My son is currently hitting the wall of frustration with Plants vs Zombies. He’s getting up to the levels where you have to be smart about your strategy. Developing the winning strategy is part of the fun of the game, so the game doesn’t “teach” the strategy (though it does provide some pointers). A few suggestions and my son is moving on.

    With e-learning, learning which buttons to press on a tool is the easy stuff. Using the tool in a pedagogically appropriate way is somewhat equivalent to the strategy in a game, and its something you might want an e-learning to scaffold more directly. (this links to the next point).

  • End-oriented users limit learning as you go.
    When he started play Plants vs Zombies my son, like most game players, was looking for something he was going to spend hours having fun with. He was prepared and wanted to engage in a bit of learning as you go. I wonder if a time-poor academic working in an institution where research is valued more than teaching would bring the same outlook. I can almost hear the complaints, “Just do it for me now.”.

A course outline to increase relevance of IPT

A few weeks ago I posted about some apparent trends in the number of enrolments within the Queensland High School subject Information and Processing Technology (IPT). All things being equal, I’ll be qualified to teach that course in Queensland High Schools next year.

One of the assignments I had to complete was to design a work plan for a single year of an IPT course. The following is an edited extract of the design I came up with and its rationale. The design was expressed in the formal structure used in Queensland schools, the following just gives the main points.


The Queensland Authority subject Information Processing and Technology (IPT), and other school subjects in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), are boring. That is one of the findings made by Anderson et al (2008) from their survey of 1453 Queensland senior high school girls. This is but one contributing factor to worldwide trends that show a reduction in total enrolments in IPT courses and a very low rate of female participation in those courses (Anderson et al., 2008; Koppi, Sheard, Naghdy, Edwards, & Brookes, 2010; Lasen, 2010).

These trends are visible in IPT enrolments in Queensland schools. Figure 1 shows the percentage of all Queensland OP students enrolled in IPT (1992-2010) split by gender. Male enrolment has dropped from a peak of just over 35% in 2002 to under 20% in 2010. The female participation rate has never exceeded 10% and currently sits at under 3%.

Percentage of gender enrolments
Figure 1. The percentage of male and female OP students enrolled in IPT (1992-2010)

Figure 2 shows the same trends using the average number of students per school that is offering IPT. On average, an IPT class in 2010 has less than 10 students with less than 2 of those students being female. Addressing these trends is seen as a major aim of the changes being made to this work program.

# of IPT students per school
Figure 2. Average number of students enrolled in an IPT course.

The aim of IPT is to provide students with knowledge and skills to create, manipulate, store, retrieve and communicate information with a range of technological devices (QSA, 2010, p. 1). While intended to be useful to all students, IPT is known to be “closely associated contingently with transition to University computing degree programs” (Anderson et al., 2008, p. 1305). This tendency contradicts the IPT syllabus’ perspective that IPT touches many aspects of human life and is applied to diverse fields of study (QSA, 2010). In an extension of this argument, Rushkoff (2010, p. 130) suggests the ability to understand IPT people will be left to conform to the needs of the technology, rather than the other way around.

The IPT syllabus (QSA, 2010) specifies four dimensions of general objectives that must be taught. These include three assessable general objectives (Knowledge and Application, Analysis and Synthesis, and Evaluation and Communication) and a fourth group of objectives (Attitudes and values) that are not directly assessed but should be covered by learning experiences (QSA, 2010, p. 2). The syllabus outlines a total of eight topics from which material may be drawn. Two of these topics (Intelligent Systems and Computer Systems) are considered additional material. Another two (Human Computer Interface and Social and Ethical Issues) are core, but are not taught separately from other topics. The remaining four are core topics (Relational Information Systems, SQL, Software Programming, and Algorithms).

The Units

The idea is that during Year 11 these IPT students will complete the following four, term-long (10 weeks) units

  1. What is IPT and why is it important?
  2. Telling computers what to do.
  3. Manipulating and visualising big data.
  4. Using IPT to make a difference.

The following provides the unit description for each of these units. The assignment had to show the direct connections with the IPT syllabus requirements.

What is IPT and why is it important?

As IPT becomes increasingly ubiquitous and important to society, enrolment numbers in Queensland high-school IPT classes are dropping. In this unit students are charged with developing – as a group – a website that uses a variety of multi-media resources to demonstrate what IPT is and why it is an essential skill to the future of a diverse collection of professions. Students will use the information systems design cycle to design, develop and evaluate their website. Students will be exposed to a range of perspectives on and examples of the value, nature, and societal impact of IPT. They will be required to gather, query and manipulate data about IPT enrolments, student perceptions of IPT, and the perceptions of the broader community. They will be introduced to and expected to apply knowledge and understanding of web design, peer review processes, copyright and intellectual property, user-centered design, and accessibility to develop their website.

Telling computers what to do

Computers are protean, a meta-medium, they are infinitely malleable. This unit focuses on showing students how they can get computers to carry out tasks relevant to a range of professions and careers. Students will be guided in selecting a 3GL programming environment that matches the careers they examined in the previous unit. They will use their chosen 3GL to develop software that is relevant to a particular career. To do this they will be introduced to the basics of algorithms and their basic elements, algorithm design, and the basics of 3GL programming languages.

Manipulating and visualising big data

One of the biggest of the current IPT challenges is figuring out how to make sense of all of the available data. This unit focuses on providing students within an introduction to how they can query, analyse, manipulate, visualise and generate insight from “big data”. Students will be shown how to combine 3rd generational programming languages with Structured Query Language and other formal methods for manipulating information to generate insight relevant to a range of professions. To achieve this, students will also examine relevant social and ethical issues and interface design methods.

Using IPT to make a difference

The focus of this unit is on the production of a complete information system that brings together and extends previous work from this year. Students will identify and then implement and document a program that fulfils useful task relevant to a particular profession. The system will need to draw upon and extend knowledge of programming, data manipulation, human computer interface and social and ethical issues. Students will be expected to complete the entire software development life cycle.

Assessment overview

Semester Unit Conditions
1 What is IPT and why is it important? 5 week, group website developed with SDLC. Individual work, including reflective blog posts. Completed 50:50 student:class time
Telling people and computers what to do 60 minute, closed book, theory exam
Students maintain a blog folio of 3GL programs in response to required exercises.
2 Querying, manipulating and visualising big data Students maintain over 6 weeks a personal blog with both reflective journal posts and folio items of their work with big data.
Using IPT to make a difference Students design, implement, evaluate and document over the entire term a relevant computer application using the complete SDLC.

BIM and BIM2 – Who needs it? What do you need?

Earlier this year, as the assignments mounted with my Graduate Diploma of Learning and Teaching, I put the development of BIM on the back burner. As my study to become a teacher winds down (stops for good on November 11 at the end of a 6 week internship) I’m thinking of re-starting work on BIM. Before I do that, I’m have a couple of questions

  1. Who out there is in the market for BIM and BIM2?
    Is anyone actually using BIM or wanting to use BIM2? If usage of BIM has flatlined, then….
  2. What do you need?
    The majority of the e-learning tools I’ve developed have been done in close collaboration with people using the tools. This type of development was a key reason for the success of those tools. I think the quality of BIM suffers due to my non-existent interactions with people using BIM. (My limited skills with PHP and Moodle, not to mention my atrophied software development skills, ageing knowledge of modern HTML etc and my less than good interface design skills also contribute).

Answers to these questions from people using/planning to use BIM will have a big influence on whether or not I restart BIM development, and probably how soon I start development.

I’m starting a new job next year. At the moment, it looks like this job will provide an opportunity to continue doing BIM and BIM2 development. It should also provide the opportunity to do more research around BIM, its model and use.

What are BIM and BIM2?

BIM is a recursive acronym – BIM (BAM (Blog Aggregation Management) Into Moodle) – and a Moodle module that supports teaching staff in managing (and even marking) individual external blogs. BIM – for Moodle v1.9 – has been around for about 18 months or so. BIM2 – for Moodle 2.0 – was in the early throws of development before being placed on the back-burner.

The final plan: Khan Academy, gamification and the flipped classroom

Just over a month ago I started planning a Unit of Work (UoW) for Year 10 Core Mathematics. i.e. the rationale and design of about 8 or so weeks of lessons for such a class. The following gives a description of the final unit of work.

In the end, the UoW makes little use of gamification. There is a plan to use progress bar to track group progress, but not in the sense of badges etc. The UoW does rely heavily on the assumed use of Khan Academy videos and exercises and hence uses the notion of the flipped classroom. The UoW also attempts to use a Media Watch like assumption to move toward the approach of Gustein (2003, p. 66) that showed it is possible to help “students begin to read the world with mathematics, develop mathematical power, and change their dispositions toward mathematics through the process”.

To be clear, this is the plan for a unit of work that has not been implemented. It is not likely to be implemented by me.

The constraints of the school environment in which I currently find myself is such that it would take some time and effort to make the sorts of changes embedded in the UoW. As a student teacher I don’t have the time nor the trust of the school necessary to make this change.

I start my internship in a couple of weeks. During this 6 weeks the class I designed this for

The following includes

The Cohort

The unit of work (UoW) designed below is intended for delivery at a school at which 55% of the students are drawn from the bottom quarter of Australian students based on the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICESA). It also shows that of the students that reach Grade 12 at the school, only 10% go onto tertiary studies. Findings that seem to support the established strong relationship between educational advantage, in terms of the occupations and levels of education of a student’s parents, and the student’s educational achievement (ACARA, 2011, p. 2). This suggests that many of the school’s students do not come from home environments in which academic achievement has been experienced, nor perhaps valued, by the parents.

This UoW is for a Year 10 Core Mathematics (Y10CM) class, and not the more academically inclined Year 10 Advanced mathematics. This suggests that a majority of the student cohort will come from a home situation in which study in general, and mathematics in particular, is neither valued nor seen in a positive light. Many of the students will perceive mathematics as being difficult and fail to see the relevance of mathematics to their futures. It is also likely that many students will have perceptions of low mathematical self-efficacy and have what Dweck (2007) describes as fixed mindsets. Experience teaching this class seems to offer support for these observations.

Of the 27 students in the class, 13 are male and 14 are female. None of the students have an indigenous background. An ad hoc survey of interests conducted during the second week of classes revealed interests in: music, sport (football and netball), and computer games (primarily Call of Duty). Table 2 describes four categories of students in this class and is based on discussion with my mentor teacher and classroom observation. It’s a categorisation that matches experience at a previous school. The numbers in each group are a rough estimate with the role of camouflage making categorisation difficult.

None of the students are currently formally identified by the school, or informally identified by the teachers as being high needs. Some of the students do show characteristics that might fit within Marzano and Marzano’s (2003) passive, aggressive, and attention problem categories. The three/four students within the “Those who rebel” category do represent an on-going classroom management challenge.

Table 1. Categories of students in one school Year 10 Core Mathematics.
Category Members Description
Those who get it 7 Students who grasp mathematics concepts relatively easily
Those who struggle 3 Understanding concepts is somewhat of a challenge, but visibly trying, if somewhat ineffectively
Those who camouflage 14 Appear to engage with expectations, but on closer examination are struggling to a varying extent
Those who rebel 3 Actively disruptive and not trying

Diversity in terms of learning styles has not been considered here due to limitations in known tests and what are seen as more fundamental problems. The first is with diversity. Sullivan (2011, p. 40) suggests that

Mathematics teachers, arguably more than most teachers, find in every lesson that they must address the challenge that some students learn the current content quickly, while others require substantial support

Within this class there are students who have completed an exercise before the teacher has finished explaining it. At the other extreme are those students still struggling for understanding after 20 minutes of on-going explanation. The perspective adopted here is that identifying the source of this diversity, be it learning styles or a combination of other factors, is less important than designing learning experiences that provide students and the teacher with the ability to deal with this diversity.

Goos et al (2007, p. 16) suggest that helping students make sense of mathematics is the second of two significant challenges for mathematics teachers in the 21st Century. Few of these students enjoy or see the importance of mathematics. This is in spite of the majority of students aiming for careers that require a pass in this class. This has implications in terms of student motivation and also contributes to the behaviour issues. It appears that Dweck’s (2000) argument, cited by Sullivan (2011, p. 49), applies in this class. That is, that helping these students may be as much about addressing their orientation to learning (and mathematics) as it is addressing cognitive problems.

Based on this analysis of the student cohort, the design of this UoW has been influenced by the following inter-related aims:

  • Maximise the ability for students and teacher to respond to student diversity.
  • Increase the students’ sense of control and agency about learning mathematics.
  • Provide students the opportunity to see the sense of mathematics, to see its importance to their lives.
  • Encourage the development and practice of meta-cognitive and self-regulation skills amongst students.
  • Provide opportunities for students to collaborate and build a sense of community with the class where all students feel they are contributing.
  • Make each student’s progress transparent in appropriate ways to them, the teacher and other students to enable collaboration, task differentiation, increased levels of feedback and recognition, and limit opportunities for camouflage.

The Unit of Work

Year level: Year 10 Mathematics A.
Unit Title: Rates, ratios, proportion, percentage and interest: Finding the lies and misdirections in everyday life.

Key Question

Everyday mathematics is used by businesses, politicians, and in advertising to mislead, to hide the truth, and to show a situation in a more positive light. Sometimes this is a mistake, but more often it is done on purpose. This unit is going to answer the question

How can mathematical knowledge of rates, ratios, proportion, percentages and interest be used to identify, expose and explain these lies and misdirections?


As they progress through Year 10 students are increasingly seeing themselves as adults and balk at the limited level of control over their education traditional teaching, especially in mathematics, offers them. This unit takes place in Term 3. During this term students are scheduled to go on work experience and select their senior subjects. Events that further reinforce their perception of themselves as adults. The design of this unit seeks to provide students with a greater sense of control.

At the same time, it is widely recognised that current teaching approaches deal badly with the significant diversity in mathematical ability amongst students. The design of this unit also aims to make this diversity more visible and provide opportunities for both the individual students and the teacher to respond appropriately to that diversity. The design is driven more by student capabilities and experience than a set of pre-planned strategies.

Lastly, the unit seeks to respond to one of the major challenges facing mathematics in the 21st century, helping students see the purpose and relevance of mathematics. The key question of this unit and a major recurring activity seeks to have students actively using their mathematical knowledge to seek out, understand, and correct misapplications of mathematical knowledge used by actors to mislead.
As a significant departure from common practice there is significant groundwork to be laid prior to this unit of work. The assumption is that prior units for this class – focused on basic geometry, algebra and functions, fractions and decimals – will have introduced a range of routines and technologies that will be expanded upon in this unit. For example, the use of Khan Academy videos and exercises, co-operative learning, and the development of student skills in meta-cognition and self-regulation.

The aim of the unit is for the students to develop through a range of strategies (e.g. flipped classroom, Khan Academy resources, gamification, analytics, differentiated instruction etc.) an understanding of rates, ratios, proportion, percentage and interest. This development will be largely at a time and pace to suit them (within the constraints of having to complete this unit prior to a mid-semester test). That knowledge will be then applied to understand a range of real-life situations (e.g. pricing, media stories, loans and investments etc) and identify the half-truths and misdirections that are perpetrated using mathematics.

Syllabus links

This unit is designed to meet the requirements of the Year 10 Guidelines for Mathematics (QSA, 2009). It aims to support the rationale for the Mathematics Learning Area, in particular (QSA, 2009, p. 9)

Mathematics helps people make meaning of their life experiences through the use of universally true abstractions and, at the same time, to apply these abstract concepts to interpret new situations in the real world…a sound knowledge is essential for informed citizenship. Through enhanced understanding of mathematics, people can become better informed economically, socially and politically in an increasingly mathematically oriented society.

The Knowledge and Understanding focus of the unit arises from the Number organizer. With a specific focus on rates, ratios, direct and inverse proportions, percentage and financial applications such as interest (simple and compound) and taxation.

Ways of working will include:

  • interpret, clarify and analyse situations to identify the key mathematical features and conditions, strategies and procedures that may be relevant in the generation of a solution
  • communicate thinking, and justify and evaluate reasoning and generalisations, using mathematical language, representations and ICTs
  • select and apply mathematical definitions and rules, mental and written computations, estimations, representations, and information and information and communication technologies (ICTs) to generate solutions
  • reflect upon, identify and appreciate the power, value and elegance of mathematics, and the contribution of mathematics to their own and other people’s lives and progress

Unit timetable

It is assumed that the students are placed in groups of 3/4 that work together throughout the UoW.

The UoW is based on a regular weekly routine that consists of three lesson types:

  1. Progress, review and introduction (1st lesson each week).
    From the third week on this lesson will start with a review of the “Math Watch” activity completed during the last lesson of the previous week. It will also include some discussion of the results of the “IMPACT sheet” responses from students. Before moving onto a brief intro of the expectations for the coming week via the Weekly checklist.
  2. Student learning. (the 2nd and 3rd lessons for the week)
    During this process students are expected to work through the weekly checklist using the provided resources to learn and practice the new mathematical concepts and processes. Student progress is recorded using online exercises, Khan Academy logs, in-class tests, and uploads to the class site of complete textbook exercises. The teacher’s task is to respond to any student queries and use the recorded data to identify any potential problems and design appropriate interventions.
    Students who finish this stage early have the choice of moving onto the next week’s work, doing other school work, or helping others.
  3. Reality and revision. (The last lesson of the week, starting 2nd week).
    The last lesson in each week starts with students completing an IMPACT form and reflecting on their progress. It will also include the collaborative completion of a “Math Watch” task that requires application of concepts covered during the week.

All but the first two weekreview of the progress bar showing each group’s progress an

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
1 Ratios/Rates Lesson 1: Introduction and getting started Lesson 2: Rates Lesson 3: Rates and ratio Lesson 4: Rates and ratio catch-up
2 Direct proportion Lesson 5: Leader board and more ratio Lesson 6: Direct proportion Lesson 7: Direct proportion Lesson 8: Reality and revision
3 Inverse proportion Lesson 9: Leader board and inverse proportion Lesson 10: Inverse proportion Lesson 11: Inverse proportion and variation applications Lesson 12: Reality and revision
4 Percentage, Percentage up and down Lesson 13: Leader board and Percentage LEP #2
Lesson 14: Percentage
LEP #2
Lesson 15: Percentage up and down
Lesson 16: Reality and revision:
5 Business percentage Lesson 17: Leader board and business percentage Lesson 18: Business percentage Lesson 19: Simple interest LEP #3 option
Lesson 20: Reality and revision:
6 Interest Lesson 21: Leader board and compound interest Lesson 22: Compound interest Lesson 23: Credit cards and mortgages Lesson 24: Reality and revision
7 First week of work experience with half class away Lesson 25: revision and practice test Lesson 26: revision and practice test Lesson 27: Mid-semester test Lesson 28: Mid-semester test
8 Second week of work experience with other half away Lesson 29: revision and practice test Lesson 30: revision and practice test Lesson 31: Mid-semester test Lesson 32: Mid-semester test
9 Lesson 33: Final leader board

Sample resources

Math Watch sheet

Percentages and emergency department waiting lists

Last week saw the announcement of an agreement between all the State and Federal Governments on national health reforms. The following news article from the ABC News website ( reports on the Prime Minister’s attempts to promote the agreement.

"Math watch" resource

The Victorian Government maintains a website ( that provides a range of data and explanations about emergency department waiting times.
Focusing on the Prime Minister’s claim that are related to percentage, consider and investigate the following questions:

  • What is the Prime Minister claiming?
    What does this claim actually mean? By what percentage will people being seen within four hours increase?
  • What support exists for the Prime Minister’s claim?
    How many people does this represent? Are there other categories of patients waiting for the emergency department?
  • Generate questions you would like to ask the Prime Minister about her claim?
  • Reflection.
    Why has the Prime Minister made these claims? Why didn’t the news story identify the problems you did?

IMPACT Handout

A major aim of the design of this UoW is to maximise the ability for the teacher to respond to the unique needs of the students. Quantitative data from the automated self and formative assessment quizzes will be one source of information about the progress and potential needs of students. The IMPACT procedure (Clarke, 1987 cited in Goos et al., 2007, p. 411) is one method for discovering the concerns and opinions of students. It involves the regular completion of the following simple questionnaire during class (for this unit during the Friday “Reality and Reflection” lessons) and the retention of responses over the period of the class. Goos et al (2007, p. 411) suggest that the success of this process “depends on respecting the confidentiality of student responses and acting on these responses where appropriate to improve students’ experiences of learning mathematics.”

The example resource below is implemented as a paper handout. Depending on the available resources, available time and the reaction from students there is a possibility that this form might eventually be implemented as an online service that would enable easier integration with other data sources.

The sheet

Write down the two most important things you have learnt in maths this week.

Write down at least one sort of problem which you have continued to find difficult.

What would you most like more help with?

How do you feel in maths classes at the moment? (Circle the words that apply to you)
a) Interested	b) Relaxed	c) Worried
d) Successful	e) Confused	f) Clever
g) Happy	h) Bored	i) Rushed

j) Write down one word of your own     ________________________________
What is the biggest worry affecting your work in maths at the moment?

How could we improve maths classes?

Khan Academy Videos


A major aim of this design is to adopt a flipped classroom (Gerstein, 2011) which seeks to minimise the amount of in-class time the teacher spends delivering instruction. Instead, that instruction is done through online videos and a range of other resources. The teacher than uses the free time to focus more on observing individual students and responding to their unique needs. For this unit the aim is to rely primarily on the videos provided by the Khan Academy supplemented by other video sources if necessary.

An initial set of videos that cover the required topics would be identified prior to the start of term and catalogued on the course website and within the weekly student checklists. Offline copies of the videos will be available to students for use on both the school laptops and home computers (if available) to reduce bandwidth requirements. Students are expected to view these videos at times (and in an order) that they decide. Student progress is tracked using either the Khan Academy tracking data or completion of exercises. A long-term goal of this approach would be to engage the students with evaluating the online videos they are using, suggesting improvements, identifying alternate online videos, and eventually producing their own instructional videos.


The Khan Academy ( currently provides over 2400+ different videos on a range of topics, but primarily focused on mathematics. The following four tables summarise the Khan Academy videos related to the content of this unit. Specific advice about which are the recommended videos for students would be provided in each week’s student checklist.

Khan Academy videos on rate and ratio
Length URL
Khan Academy videos on proportion
Length URL
17m03s proportionality?
Khan Academy videos on percentage
Length URL
Khan Academy videos on interest
Length URL


Goos, M., Stillman, G., & Vale, C. (2007). Teaching secondary school mathematics: Research and practice for the 21st century. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.

Gutstein, E. (2003). Teaching and Learning Mathematics for Social Justice in an Urban , Latino School. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 34(1), 37-73. Retrieved from

A summary of one perspective on the Digital Education Revolution

Have to give a 5 minute summary of an earlier presentation on the Australian Government’s Digital Education Revolution (DER). The following is a first draft of the summary.

Technological change and schooling

When do you think the following quote was made around the likely impact of a particular form of technology on the formal schooling system?

Our school system will be completely changed within the next ten years.

The rise of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) – as evidenced by the Australian government spending some $2.4 billion on ICTs for schools – might suggest that it is a recent quote.

In fact, Saettler (1968, p. 98) cites this quote as being from Thomas Edison in 1913. The full quote from Saettler is

Books will soon be obsolete in the schools. It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture. Our school system will be completely changed within the next ten years.

Given what you know about schools, how did Edison’s prediction pan out?


The Digital Education Revolution is a Government program looking to invest some $2.4 billion into schools with the aim to (ANAO, 2010)

contribute sustainable and meaningful change to teaching and learning in Australian schools that will prepare students for further education, training and to live and work in a digital world.

Where a “digital world” is defined as (DEEWR, 2010)

a highly technological and information rich world that is rapidly changing

The problems

The problems with the DER are significant and plentiful, a small subset include:

  • The vast majority of the funding is going to the supply of laptops/computers/iPads to students.
  • These computers will be with students for four years and as time progresses will be increasingly underpowered for the tasks students will need them for.
  • There remain questions about funding for laptops for the next “generation” of students in 4 years time.
  • There remain significant infrastructure problems within schools around enabling these laptops to be effectively used.
  • Piddling little amounts are going to train teachers and teacher educators and set up infrastructure.
  • What little money is available for these tasks is being spent on approaches for which there is little evidence of large-scale, past success.
  • A range of other Government projects (e.g. standardised testing, performance pay etc) are argued to be the wrong drivers for whole system reform (Fullan, 2011) and appear to work directly against the aims of the DER.
  • The way schools are set up, the way they work was in response for a different type of world. The resulting “grammar of school” (Tyack and Tobin, 1994) does not appear to be appropriate for the nature of the “digital world” that the Government is trying to prepare students for with the DER.

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