Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

elementary math focus afternoon: January 18 2016

Posted on: January 26th, 2016 by jnovakowski

On the afternoon of January 18, we hosted staffs from eleven elementary schools at Byng Elementary for our second Elementary Math Focus Afternoon of the year. About 160 educators attended an opening presentation followed by a choice of several concurrent sessions, over two time slots.


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Schools were also asked to bring something to share by putting it out on display in the gym – something new we were trying and received positive feedback from schools staffs about.

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Sessions available to teachers included kindergarten programming, supporting all learners in mathematics, screencasting using iPad technology, high yield routines, mental mathematics, inquiry and geometric thinking.




During the second time slot, we also tried an “EdChat” format where teachers came together around an area of interest (primary, French Immersion, etc) with a facilitator and were asked to bring something to share that they have tried since our last focus afternoon or a question that they had. This collaborative type of participatory professional learning is new to some teachers in our district and we will continue to think of ways to nurture this structure in future events.


As always, we ended the afternoon with teachers discussing with each other what they were going to try in their classrooms, connected to the redesigned curriculum and of course, there were draw prizes!



the new Numbers game for Osmo

Posted on: October 15th, 2015 by jnovakowski

I am a huge advocate for the Osmo system for iPads. I first introduced Osmo on this blog post here.

The company just recently release a new game that I was very excited about – Numbers. I received it in the mail and opened my box and automatically thought it was so clever. It comes with digit and dot tiles but the dots only come in 1s, 2s and 5s creating great opportunities for thinking about numbers in parts.

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Two Fridays ago I visited the grade 1 class at Kidd Elementary and all the students got to give Numbers a try. Suffice it to say, it was a huge hit! The students were asking where they could get the game and I emailed our DRC right away for the classroom teacher to get the Osmo kits into her classroom!


The grade one students had some great comments on the game:

“We use our brains to make the numbers.” – A

“I like that there are numbers to choose from.” – W

“I like that you get to make the numbers and that you get the fishes.” – K

“There’s not enough 1s to make 11 so you have to think of a different way.” -W

“You can think really hard.” – K


One drawback I noticed on Friday for classroom use is that you have to acquire “points” to open up new levels. This is great when a child is using it at home but for classroom use, it would be preferable to allow for different entry points for different students. I might be missing this accessibility somehow so am going to look into this further.

At this point, until I gain access to the higher levels, I can’t really comment on the other tasks available but it looks like there’s great possibilities for thinking about decomposition and composition of numbers, counting and addition.


elementary math focus afternoon: September 28

Posted on: October 14th, 2015 by jnovakowski

On the afternoon of September 28, about 220 educators from 15 Richmond elementary schools converged upon Steves Elementary for our first of two elementary math focus afternoons.

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After an overview of current updates to the redesigned curriculum in mathematics and some thoughts to connect us as we work together, there were many sessions for teachers to choose from during two “break-out” times. Each sessions focused on at least one of the key aspects of the redesigned curriculum such as Big Ideas, a core competency or the First Peoples Principles of Learning. All of the sessions were facilitated by Richmond teachers – math mentor teachers, teacher consultants and some of the teachers from Steves.

Here is a link to the program for the afternoon and an overview of the sessions provided:

Elementary Math Focus Afternoon Sept 28 sessions

Please contact the presenters or myself through Richnet if you are interested in more information.

Three professional resources that were recommended throughout the afternoon are:

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We have a growing number of educators in Richmond becoming active on twitter. Any tweets tagged with the hashtag #sd38math for the day are archived HERE through Storify.

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Some of the resources shared during the afternoon:

introduction_math Aug 2015 – Introduction to BC Math Curriculum, K-12

whatsnew_math – What’s New in Math, K-9

BCAMT BasicNumberFacts1 – BCAMT pamphlet for parents on basic facts

The Sum What Dice Game Jan2013 – Sum What Dice Game

FH final Turtle Pond coding – Fred Harwood’s coding resources

Financial Literacy primary resources – Primary Financial Literacy Resources (QR codes)

High-Yield Routines September 2015 – High Yields Routines, SD38, K-8

We are hoping that this afternoon was a great launch for the school year, especially for the 17 Richmond elementary schools that have math as a school goal or professional learning focus. We all know that an afternoon like this can be inspiring and teachers take away ideas to use in their classrooms but professional learning takes time. At the end of the day, we asked teachers to turn to each other and commit to trying one or more new ideas that they heard about during the afternoon. We hope that teachers will continue the conversation we began by sharing what they are trying on twitter, through blog posts or conversations at their schools so that we can make our professional learning visible and learn from each other.

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Looking forward to the second event on January 18th!



Posted on: September 11th, 2015 by jnovakowski

Our second Summer Tech Institute for our district (with lots of guests from neighbouring districts) was held last week on Thursday at Westwind Elementary and was coordinated by teacher consultant Chris Loat. 193 educators spent a day of their summer holidays learning all about ways to integrate technology into their classrooms.

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Apple “geniuses”  and “creatives” joined us for the first time and this added a new dimension to the day!


A link to the program with links to some of the presenters’ handouts and presentations can be found HERE.

I presented two sessions.

iPads in Math for the Primary Classroom

The first one was one the use of iPads for math in the primary classroom. Now, there are many not so good math apps out there, so I wanted to recommend some ones that developed conceptual understanding, provided meaningful practice of skills and concepts with visual tools and allowed for differentiation and choice.

The list of apps can be found here along with some links to blog posts Summer Tech 2015 Primary Math Apps list.

The apps I recommended are all free and all happen to be developed on the west coast. Some that will be new to teachers are the TouchCounts app developed by SFU Education researchers. It has English, French and Italian capabilities. Also, any of the apps from The Math Learning Center in Oregon correlate well with our curriculum. Their apps are available for different devices, including web-based apps. On their website find the app information under the Resources tab.

Place-Based Digital Storytelling

I shared the project I did with four Anderson teachers this spring, connecting their focus on the First Peoples Principles of Learning with their school’s innovation grant focus on iPad technology. A detailed outline of this project can be found HERE. Apps that we used included Google Earth, DoodleBuddy and 30Hands.

Congrats to Chris on another great tech institute! It was such a positive day and the synergy in the building was amazing!



diversity of life inquiry at Lee

Posted on: June 11th, 2015 by jnovakowski

During third term, I have spent part of Thursday mornings at Lee Elementary, learning with Sandy Rasoda and her grades 6 & 7 students. Sandy has been teaching this grade level for many years and asked me if we could look at a science unit she has traditionally done by using the science text book and instead, look at the topic of  “diversity of life” through an inquiry-based approach.

I looked at the three prescribed learning outcomes for this life sciences topic for grade 6:

•demonstrate the appropriate use of tools to examine living things that cannot be seen with the naked eye

• analyse how different organisms adapt to their environments

• distinguish between life forms as single or multi-celled organisms and belonging to one of five kingdoms: Plantae, Animalia, Monera, Protista, Fungi

After looking at the learning outcomes, I tried to think about the big ideas we needed to get to and what experiences we might provide to the students to help them get there.

On my first visit to the class, we had a short discussion about what makes a living thing a living thing and then went for a walk in the neighbourhood looking for different examples of living things.The students were very curious about the names of many of the plants we found in gardens and along the ditches. We were lucky to hear a frog croaking and to see mushrooms, lichen and moss just outside the school. I took photographs along the way.

What makes a living thing a living thing?

What living things can we observe in our community?

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When we got back to the classroom the students recorded the living things they observed and added questions they were wondering about.

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The next week, I brought a ditch dipper so that we could collect some water samples along with other specimens to look at with magnifying glasses and microscopes. We had petri dishes and pipettes available and there is something about using real science equipment that elevates students’ engagement. We discussed the difference between viewing something with the “naked eye” and with a magnifier of some sort. The students were  hesitant with the microscopes and had difficulties adjusting the focus and had to move the illuminator around to get enough light. The students recorded their observations, comparing what they could see with and without a magnifier/microscope.

What tools can we use to examine living things?

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During another class, I gave each group of students a set of photographs of different living things we had observed outside. I read a simple picture book introducing the big idea of classification and the five kingdoms and then the groups worked together to sort their photographs into kingdoms. During this task, the idea of sub-categories within a kingdom emerged and students began to consider how to categorize different types of plants and animals by their features. We had given the students the three learning outcomes on a sheet of paper at the beginning of our study and they had this in their science notebooks and used it to record notes and new learning during our investigations.

How do we classify living things?


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In-between my visits Sandy provided opportunities to extend their learning about both microscopes and the kingdoms and were given choices as to how they might show what they had learned. Some students did powerpoint presentations, some did booklets or posters and some use movie apps on the iPad to create their presentations. The students had opportunities to teach another grades 6&7 class how to use the microscopes as well as one of the primary classes in the school. Sandy was clearly able to see that they “got it” and this just came from repeated experiences actually using the microscope.

We had such great weather this spring and during one of my visits, Sandy suggested we take the microscopes outside to the picnic benches. The students learned how to safely carry the microscopes and their confidence was growing. One student even commented how great it would be to have a fine adjustment on the microscopes – they were learning the different functions of the microscope and its potential. The students looked at previously collected specimens and also found some new ones to examine.

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We also looked at some amazing images taken through microscopes, including some amazing electron microscopes


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We then used a Zoomy digital microscope to take our own images of various specimens, including a fly the students found in a windowsill and a ladybug and spiderlings the students brought in from outside.

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Using some local examples and examples from recent news items, we discussed how living things have adaptations, focusing on structural and behavioural adaptations. Using the app HaikuDeck, the students created a slideshow of what they had learned about different adaptations.

How do living things adapt to their environment?


The following is one pair of students’ project.

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Animal Adaptations – E.K & N.S

I brought in glass slides and cover slips, tweezers and pipettes so that students could prepare their own slides to view under the microscope.




The students also has an opportunity to view prepared slides under the microscope, including microscopic organisms from the Protista and Monera kingdoms.

What do microscopic organisms look like? 

At the beginning of June, we asked the students to consider a mini-ecosystem or habitat in the neighbourhood and we went outside with the iPads to take some photographs. The students were asked to synthesize what they had learned about the classification of living things as well as adaptations.

What have you learned about living things in our community?

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The minimum criteria for this project was to include living things from two different kingdoms and highlight an adaptation. The students could choose from using the Skitch or Popplet apps.

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The following are some examples of the students’ projects:


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Throughout this experience I have heard comments from students such as “science is so fun!” and of course this makes my heart sing a little. Learning can be fun…complex concepts and big thinking can be fun. Meaningful engagement with any content begins with the students…where will they find connections? what will make this learning important and purposeful to them?

I think we got there with this class. High engagement and students able to fluently discuss concepts such as the classification of living things and structural and behaviour adaptations of animals and plants in their neighbourhood. The students were all able to confidently use a microscope and teach other students from other classes about how to use a microscope.

 “This unit traditionally for me would be a ‘textbook’ unit with possibly one or two experiments.  Instead, Janice took us on nature walks where we were out in our environment exploring and learning about Living Things.  The students eagerly found specimens they brought back to look at through the microscopes.  Every lesson was a hands on lesson where the students questions led them to finding answers and solutions through experimenting with materials from the real world.  It was great for me to see how much the kids “loved” being scientists.” ~Sandy


place-based digital storytelling

Posted on: June 7th, 2015 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

Four grades 3-5 teachers at Anderson Elementary came together for an Innovation Grant project, wanting to look at how they might integrate iPad technology into their First Nations curricular focus. I met with the teachers and we brainstormed ideas together, looking at the First Peoples Principles of Learning and focusing on the principles of self-identity, story and connectedness to place.

I met with each of the classes and we looked at an aerial map of Richmond and its surrounding waterways. We asked students to try and determine where Anderson Elementary would be on the map, trying to get a sense of their awareness of the place where they live and go to school. We talked about the formation of our island delta and the arms of the river surrounding it.


We also looked at the Musqueam place names map on the Musqueam website and discussed how the names of places were descriptive or purposeful – such as the “boiling point” – the place where people gathered to boil clams and crabs over a fire or the driftwood beach – the place where large logs and driftwood accumulated along the river. We then visited the neighbouring Garden City park and students thought of a special place there that they felt connected to or had a story to share about and considered what they would name that place. Using the camera app on the iPads, the students took photographs from different perspectives of their special places.

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To create the students’ digital stories, we did some “app smashing” using the camera app to take photos, taking screenshots of maps on Google Earth, using DoodleBuddy to create title slides and 30Hands to put the images and student narration together to create stories of their special places.

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The following are links to one digital storytelling project from each of the four classes:

Anderson 17-2

Anderson 6-1

Anderson 4-1

Anderson 5-1

Teachers Lotti Smith, Adrienne Ferguson, Sandy Dhari and Richelle Walliser shared their project at the Innovation Celebration at the end of May.



math sessions at the district convention 2015

Posted on: February 8th, 2015 by jnovakowski

This year’s district convention is on Friday, February 20 at Cambie Secondary. Three of our math mentor teachers are presenting sessions.

During the first session, Braunwyn Thompson is presenting a session for teachers of grades 3-7 about using technology to support student communication in math.

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During the second session, I am presenting a session about Number Talks, focused on teachers of grades K-5.

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During the third session, Michelle Hikida is presenting a session on mathematical inquiry for primary teachers.

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Weily Lin is collaborating with Asha Padmanabhan to present a session focussing on big mathematical ideas, intended for teachers of grades 4-9.

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We invite administrators, teachers and educational assistants to attend these sessions to support their professional learning in the area of mathematics teaching and learning.



science and tech – show and share

Posted on: December 8th, 2014 by jnovakowski

On Wednesday after school, we held a “show and share” to share some new science and tech learning materials available in our district. All of these materials promote creative thinking and links were made to the creative thinking competency in our redesigned curriculum.

Teachers had time to try out the different materials, sign up for borrowing kits from DRC and for some hot chocolate, tea and cookies.


The Osmo is a new device for the iPad that uses reflective artificial intelligence to use the camera within the iPad and a reflector to create a play area in front of the iPad. The kit comes with the device, a tangram set and a set of alphabet tiles and it now available at Apple stories as well as online. The three apps that work with the device are free through the iTunes store – Tangram, Words and Newton. The Osmo creates an interactive collaborative experience.

More information can be found at




littleBits are magnetic electronic components that can be connected to create circuits. The bits have different functions and allow students to make things that can do things just as make noise, light up, have a fan, etc. We piloted these materials in primary, intermediate and secondary classrooms last year with high engagement for students.

More information can be found at

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Squishy Circuits

Squishy Circuits are electrical circuits created with a battery pack, wires, LED lights and other components such as buzzers. Conductive and insulating playdoughs allow students to easily and safely create circuits.

More information can be found at



Three Osmos are available to borrow from DRC as are three littleBits  kits – the pilot project kit, the workshop kit and the space kit. Squishy Circuits are on order and will be available soon.


thinking about factoring in grades 5 & 6

Posted on: November 27th, 2014 by jnovakowski 3 Comments

The students in Gillian Ewart’s grades 5 & 6 class have been beginning to learn about factors and multiples through creating arrays. Last week we decided to play around with the concept of “halving and doubling” as a strategy and how it could help us think about factors. I asked the students to created an array for 8 x 6. This task brought up language around columns and rows and what 8 x 6 would look like.


We then took the students through modelling halving and doubling with their arrays. Halving the numbers of rows and then sliding one half of the rows up to double the amount in each new row.



The big idea here is that the product (48) stays the same and that there is a relationship between halving and doubling. The students began to anticipate what their arrays were going to look like, realizing they were going to need to be creative in order to create their arrays after halving and doubling their 2 x 24 arrays!


As the students built and photographed their arrays, we recorded the corresponding equations on the whiteboard.


We also looked at all the factors we found for 48, beginning to look at factorization and “factor trees”.


As students were halving and doubling, they documented each stage by taking a photograph with the iPad and then labelled their photos using the Skitch app. We asked the students to focus on communicating what they had learned about factors by using arrays. The students then either used PicCollage or ShowMe on the iPads to compile their photographs and share what they had learned.


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Here are some examples of the PicCollages the students created:

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As students completed their documentation as a way to share their learning, they were asked to choose a new multiplication equation and play around with the idea of halving and doubling their arrays. This is something that the class was going to continue investigating after I left. We could have begun our investigation this way, with students creating different arrays, halving and doubling and seeing if they could generalize what might happen. For this context, we decided that a guided approach to start would provide the students with the language and understanding they needed to be successful when they investigated their own arrays.

This was my last scheduled visit to McNeely and our goal was to introduce a variety of iPad apps to the students so that they would have different ways to communicate their mathematical thinking and learning. I’m looking forward to hearing from the classroom teacher and students as to how this journey continues for them.


thinking about equivalence in grades 5 & 6

Posted on: November 20th, 2014 by jnovakowski

Last week during my visit to Gillian Ewart’s grades 5 and 6 class, we played around with the big idea of equivalence. The focus of our time together was coming to an understanding that the = symbol is a sign of equivalence or balance.

I began by reading the first few pages of the picture book One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab, pausing a few times to check in with students to see if they were “getting it”.



I wrote the equation 9 = 2D + 1 on the whiteboard, intentionally choosing the order in which I presented the equation. I asked students to talk to a partner about what I had written. They shared their thinking and they realized the D was for dog (D is 4 legs) and that the +1 was the “constant” of the snail, as expressed in the book. I asked if there was another way I could have made 9 and they shared that a S + 1 would also work (S is the eight legs of a spider).

As a whole class we played around a bit with the idea of the balance scale and balancing both sides of the equation. So I added another dog to the right side and asked what I need to do to the left side to keep the equation balanced….D + 9 = 3D +1.

I asked the students to create an equation and add different animals or amounts to keep it balanced. A student asked, “Do we have to write the equations like that? (pointing to the whiteboard) Backwards?” which led to a great discussion about equations and trying to really get at what the = sign means. Some of the students continued to refer to “5” in the example below as “the answer” which as teachers, gives us great information about the myth-busting we can work on together.



The students engaged in the balancing equations work in a range of ways. Some students got very creative and complex with their equations on their whiteboards, others modelled their equations with materials, some students were able to think about the big idea using less complex equations and with the support of an adult and others used patterns in their equations to build and extend.

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As students created equations, they took photos with the iPads to document their experiences. I did a quick demonstration of the PicCollage app and asked students to combine some of their photographs with a statement of learning for our time together. This is a great assessment check-in as a teacher and helps students to focus on big ideas in mathematics and providing evidence of their learning.