Being generally less helpful as a teacher

Our class has been planning and starting to create videos about having a growth mindset. Students divided topics up and are each creating short clips. One group is creating music for the video clip and one student is learning how to edit video with Camtasia so he can stitch all our work together.

Today the group using the green screen got started. I stood back and watched them. They asked me which iPad app to use for green screen and another student piped up to answer. I didn’t even get to show off my super-duper teacher “I know how to do this” powers. What happened was way better.

I turned around to help another student and by the time I refocused on the green screen group, they had found an image of the brain, and recorded themselves in front of it using the green screen. A student from another group saw them struggling to hide their interview question page (paper) from the camera and jumped up and asked if he could run to the art room. He came back with a green piece of paper and taped their interview questions to that. This hid the page from the video. Genius. I would never have thought of that.I would have wasted 20 minutes plotting some high-tech teleprompt method.  Yikes.

Our school has a green screen in the library that is available for all classes to use. All set up with everything needed. Its great. Today we were using my own personal green screen set up in the back of our classroom. I hadn’t set up the lights, because we are starting to collect a rather large amount of “stuff” in our classroom (green screen, 3D printer, old macbook for video editing, iRig keyboard, 3Doodler, Wacom tablets, iPad stand, iPad tripod, iPad bin). The teacher I share a classroom with is AMAZING and ok with all this, but I was trying to reduce our impact by leaving the lights in a box until needed. After a few recordings, the students realized on their own that they needed more light to make the green screen disappear completely, so they found and set up the lights and got what they needed. All without me. I didn’t even know they knew that we had lights.

I’ve read a lot lately about being generally “less helpful” as a teacher to support deeper learning and problem solving. Today, I worked with some groups to help them focus their research on what they needed, troubleshoot technology that was acting funky and do some planning. This group, however, I decided to be generally “less helpful” for and instead made notes on the learning skills and strategies that they demonstrated. What a great learning opportunity for me. Standing back and watching instead of interfering let me get a much better understanding of what my students’ strengths and needs are.


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Student-Led Lessons – OneNote

The other day my student Caleb taught the class for me. What a great day. Caleb is a OneNote guru and he took his job seriously. He prepped and got ready for the lesson. He downloaded .exe files to USB sticks for students who didn’t have OneNote already (why didn’t I think of that?). Caleb demo’d using OneNote in iPads and PC’s. He investigated the differences in how it works on different platforms.

He taught us many tips and tricks for using OneNote like ninjas to organize our digital lives. One of the things I learned from Caleb was that the Windows version of OneNote has this great “touch screen” setting to make it function better with a touch screen. See the video for details. I’ve honestly never learned so much in one of my own classes.

Thanks Caleb!


Using a SMART Board or other Touch Screen with OneNote from Jac Calder on Vimeo.

Fun Looking at the Heart and Blood Flow (with Leap Motion)

Mrs. Lachapelle’s science class looking at the heart using Leap Motion today. I love the conversation in the background.

“can I try it?” 

– “yep”


– “yep”

“like, like, right now?”

The answer to the last question was yes as well. Students figured out how to have it show blood flow (which was todays lesson) and looked at it pumping through the heart.


Fun Looking at the Heart from Jac Calder on Vimeo.

Student Creativity in Math

Today, using ClassFlow my class did an interactive math lesson/diagnostic on combining like terms. We started by classifying terms so that I could get an idea how students thought about numbers with integer coefficients and exponents.

Students came up with some super awesome and TOTALLY unexpected ways of classifying these terms. One student put the terms on a number line, but also alphabetically. It was fascinating. One that I will definitely be coming back to for more discussion. Some students put the numbers in order based on absolute value of the coefficient and then some students grouped them based on variable (like terms).

I’ll be honest, my students were so creative, it totally caught me off guard a few times. I’m not sure I consolidated all their ideas very effectively. It opened up a whole new way to start future conversations. From todays student responses we could have consolidated and moved our thinking along in the concepts of ordering integers, patterning and sequences or combining like terms. I forced the conversation to combining like terms. This is what we consolidated today, but I can’t wait to use their responses from today to take us into those other conversations at a later date.

At the end of the lesson today students created an Educreation video using their laptops or iPads and made their own “combining like terms” question in partners and then solved it while recording their steps. This provided an entry point for all students. Students still grappling with the concept created a question such as 1x + 1x = 2x. Students moving along in their thinking created a question such as 2x – 4y + 3x +7 = 5x – 4y + 7 . Within Educreations we can watch each others questions and how they solved them.

Playing with LeapMotion

We’ve been having some fun with LeapMotion today. It lets us use our hands in the air to work my computer. There are a few apps already designed for it. I’m sure the number of apps will only grow over time.

Today when investigating the 3D heart, one of my students (not the one in the video) came up and showed us what was wrong with his heart and taught us about his heart surgery. Was it planned curriculum for that day? No. Did every single one of us learn something? Absolutely. 🙂


Leap Motion fun from Jac Calder on Vimeo.

Fun in Family Studies

Today I was lucky enough to have an “on-call” in a Grade 9 Family Studies class. Their assignment was to create “something” to help their classmates review a skill covered in the kitchen so far.

Some of the topics included:

  • how to cut a pineapple,
  • knife safety
  • making great pasta
  • sanitizing the kitchen
  • making great rice
  • Canada’s Food Guide
  • packing a healthy lunch
  • How to get the right number of servings of each food category
  • how to measure liquids
  • how to double a recipe
  • how to half a recipe
  • preventing food borne illness

Each group chose the media format they preferred. Their goal was to create anything that their classmates could use to review the concept or skill. Students used the following different digital tools and more.

  • iMovie
  • Animoto
  • GoAnimate!
  • PowerPoint
  • Voki
  • Tellagami
  • Audioboom
  • Google Slides

I must say that this was one of my favorite on-call’s ever! All sorts of creativity and excitement going on today. Before Mrs. Marion left for We Day (lucky duck!) she helped me join their online class in Google Classroom. This allowed me to see the assignment, assessment criteria and post information in class with the students. As students finish their media pieces, they are posting to Google Classroom. This allows Mrs. Marion to see what she missed in class today. Usually, I feel so disconnected to a class when going into an on-call. Certainly not this time.