Since a few days ago, the voice recognition tools used in Google Now are available via Google Search.

This is pretty epic – especially when considering the good old classroom staple, spelling.

So now if you’re in need of the correct spelling of a word, you can go to your Google Search page, hit the microphone button lurking to the far right of the search box, and say:

“How do you spell extremely”

A voice then proceeds to spell out the word for you. It’s also spelled out as the top card-like result, and includes a definition.

To make it even handier, here’s a link to a Chrome extension called NowVoiceSearch which puts a direct link button to voice search right next to your omnibox. I’ll be pushing this out as an auto-install for our Chromebook users on Monday.

This is pretty cool. It addresses the age-old problem of the dictionary: A) It takes ages and B) How the heck can you look-up a word if you don’t know how to spell it?

Can’t wait to introduce this to the kids tomorrow.


P.S: I pretty sure no technology alive can accurately recognise the Kiwi accent, so fellow NZers, expect delays when asking to spell pen. No, it’s not pin. No it’s not pan. Don’t even attempt the word six, you’ll probably get more than you bargained for.

I was browsing around my local supermarket the other day – shout out to New World Thorndon for it’s excellent craft beer selection – and realised that most of the math I’ve had to do outside of school has been in this place.

It’s a context ripe for real-world mathematical investigation – maths which will be helpful IRL (especially if you’re on tight budget).

I’ve jotted down a few rough ideas for a ‘Supermarket Maths’ unit for school. The prompts for these questions could be photos or videos you’ve taken.

How many “flosses” per pack? Price per floss? If you flossed the recommended amount, how soon would you run out?

There are a few here, but I’m sure there are more options… do you have any more ideas I can add? Leave a comment!

Supermarket Maths:

– servings per item (as per the serving size suggestions)

– calories per item and total calories per meal

– total price for a meal

– price per serving

– compare the price of items to other similar items

– price per ml or kg

– buying in bulk V buying single items

– buying little chippie packets V a big pack

– pre-cut items (ie, carrots, celery, apple slices) V normal

– working within a budget, making choices

– discounts and sales, coupons

– Fly Buys / loyalty programs – is it worth it?

– calculating GST

– cost of import items v local

– cost between different supermarket chains V cost of fuel (the cheapest, the most expensive)

– online shopping – is it cheaper?

– going to the local farmers market (+petrol) – is it cheaper?

– charting the cost of fruit / vegetables through the seasons

– Christmas Club, how much do you save?

– What % do farmers make / distributors etc.

– could you grow it for cheaper?

– the cost of plastic bags V buying reusable

– cheapest / healthiest meals you can make for a day / week

– fuel vouchers – how much can you save?

Supermarket Maths – Statistics:

– What’s the best checkout to choose?

– How much time do you save by going through the self-checkout?

– What is the busiest time for supermarkets?

– Price according to position on the shelf (more expensive at eye level?)

– Average distance to the bread / milk (why is the bread always at the back?)

– Time in supermarket V total purchase cost (ever noticed how there are very few windows and clocks in supermarkets?)

– Do you save money by using a shopping list?


Ummm…. 15 for $31.99, 12 for $35.99?

And a few more IRL math contexts to think about:

Sport Maths

Video Game Maths

So lets get started! How do you motivate/inspire kids to take control of their learning?#edchatNZ

This was the opening question in last nights #edchatnz twitter chat – a topic which I’m quite interested in and keen to hear how other people are “doing it” and grappling with the challenges. I tried to chirp in a few comments here and there, but the twitter character limit was beating me into submission, so I’ve resigned myself to the fact I’d better hit the keyboard and record some of our journey. Thankfully it’s a PRT day, so I’ve got the wiggle room! Until next year, then I become a fully registered teacher with no time – maybe I can be like PRT Pan and never grow up! PRT days every week! Bangarang!

This is a bit of what we do – it’s probably not the most epic way, or the best way, but it’s one way. Please leave a comment or get in touch if you’re doing anything similar or even unsimilar, it’s all good!

Taking control of your learning is about knowing where you’re at, where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and then knowing when you’re there.

Knowing Where You’re At

Every kid at our school has three matrices shared in with them via Google Docs – a reading, writing, and maths one. These are updated as much as possible (once a term, sometimes once every term-and-a-bit) with recent progress.

Having these shared in with children to view through their school Google account is key. They can, at the drop of a 5 cent coin, bring up a detailed view of their progress and next steps. The parents can be shared in as well, or can access them through their child’s account.

Mathematics Standards Matrix – identifying next learning steps

Knowing Where You’re Going

Our matrices are great for a wide, detailed, current picture on where a child is at. In order though to distill this wealth of information into workable, manageable next steps, we have another document called a Personal Learning Treaty (or a PLT). Together with a teacher, the matrices are used to determine three main learning goals over reading, writing and maths. These are then put into the PLT along with a co-constructed learning behaviour goal.

Last year we held mini-meetings with each child in order to discuss the creation of these PLT goals. This year, with the seniors in particular, we are moving to children formulating their own next steps and translating them into their PLT. I can then sit there on the weekend and check out their PLT docs and make comments / suggestions if necessary. It’s a bit more practical in a time-constrained busy school environment.

Knowing How You’re Going to Get There

So the kids have these goals, they are current, manageable, and co-constructed – but do they know how to actually go out and work to achieve them? When do they do this?

When: we block in self-directed learning time (we called it iTime last year, but call a spade a spade this year) each week. I just peeked around the corner to our planning timetable on the whiteboard (see below) and we have just under three hours scheduled in total this week at various times, and in various chunks of time. We rarely have all 74 children in our hub on self-directed learning time at once, as it would be a strain on the devices and the equipment – it’s usually a part of a rotation.
Timetabling self-directed learning blocks

How: I’m going use maths goals as an example, as it was raised as some kind of no-can-do area in the aforementioned #edchatnz discussion:

We agree that choice motivates. How can we engage students in subjects where less choice is available? Eg. maths?#edchatNZ

We made a series of how-to videos called Snappers which we recorded, played around with a little bit in iMovie, then put up in an area of our blog. Admittedly, we haven’t made many, but more are on the cards! Current Snappers cover topics such as “Using Maths Equipment”, “Using Texts” as well as various times tables and fractions Snappers outlining strategies to independently learn and understand the concepts involved. Some upcoming Snappers include a handwriting one, a series of tutorials on various web-based applications, maybe even a ‘cleaning up at the end of the day’ Snapper! We’ve also started putting up Snappers from other educators around the world – there’s no point reinventing the wheel!

Having videos students can watch and re-watch (directing them to appropriate activities or tasks) helps focus their self-directed learning time by having them do the things that matter, rather than faffing around with activities that don’t really help. This year we have planned learning workshops where we run through what you can do if you like to learn in a competitive way, or an independent way, or a creative way, and a plan to produce a larger variety of Snappers as mentioned above. At the end of the day, it’s about giving the children the direction they need to work on something independently and meaningfully.

Simply even having the PLT accessible and understandable helps focus their time too. If kids can do a quick check-in at the start of the day to refresh themselves about their goals, they are more likely to be conscious of their next learning steps throughout the day.

Knowing When You’re There

When a child feels they are independently, consistently and accurately performing a skill, strategy or built knowledge, they record somehow – they capture – evidence of their learning.

We’ve had children create docs where they upload three or four different samples of their work, whether it be photos, scanned writing, videos, webcam reflections, screenshots or links to online goings-ons and then submit it to us.

As teachers, we use our professional wizardry to judge whether the compiled evidence of learning meets the indicators – the matrices are updated, and another learning goal is created.

Why do it?

  • Children are engaged and motivated via ownership, choice and independence – they design their own learning pathways
  • Self-directed learning time necessitates knowing your own learning goals
  • Providing evidence of learning means understanding what success looks like
  • Students can learn how they learn best – the style and the preference
  • It offers deep personalisation of learning

Learning how to take the reins of your own learning is a powerful competency to build. In an era where an absolutely ridiculous amount of knowledge is available at your fingertips, self-directed learning endows agency and creates lifelong, confident and flexible learners.

I was thinking about the Kirpal Singh session yesterday on my run this morning, and hastily banged out a blog post as I was cooling down. Note: I’m coming from a primary school context. Also Note: I wrote this really quickly because I have to leave to today’s keynote, so I hope it makes sense!

You have taken the idea of the flipped classroom and thought about how this could develop in the future. You have extrapolated from current happenings in the world of education, particularly tertiary education.

You say that future education could well be based around clusters of homeschooling. You also say that the economics of living are overtaking the morality of living.

My take is that these two predictions don’t particularly mix.

Making the decision to educate your children yourself is a huge moral responsibility. You need to do it right, you need to do it thoroughly. As well, in order to make the time to homeschool, you need to forgo something else – spending time (or more time) on making money. If the morality of living is bowing to the economics of living, do you think people will make the decision to do less work and spend more time homeschooling, to the detriment of their paycheck?

You mentioned that this wouldn’t matter if more people in the future are working from home. I can see the amount of people able to do this increasing, sure, but the bulk of the population, I’m assuming will still need to physically go into work.

What I see happening is schools and teachers becoming altogether more cognisant of the two different types of learning that the flipped classroom calls upon, and a redistribution of our equality of time on each. Or as Guy Claxton was saying yesterday, and acknowledgment of the fact it need not be an OR situation (standards, knowledge acquisition, tests OR cool, creative, collaborative learning) it can be an AND. You can do both at once. They are not mutually exclusive.

Why flip when you can do both at once?

I see schools retaining an emphasis on skills based, knowledge based learning instead of it being passed off to parents and caregivers for homework. But, I also see schools spending a higher amount of time on the practical application of this knowledge in collaborative, holisitic, project-based, real-world, purposeful learning scenarios.