To Infinity And Beyond + 1

“Just quit”, “Change your career”, “Move to Australia!”, “Get a job”, “Let it go!” were just some of the comments that were thrown at me after failing in University, not for 1, not for 2, not for 3…you are thinking surely not for 4 but for 5 years. I joined University in 2000 and it wasn’t until 2005 that I had a successful semester where I passed everything. There are many reasons for my failure – living alone, didn’t know how to manage money, playing computer games at odd times, no family support, and failing to focus on my targets. There are so many more reasons but the real reason for my failure was me. I kept looking for something or someone to blame and things only changed when I took ownership of my actions.

I clawed my way through University and finally completed my studies only to join the queue in hunting for a job. It was November 2006 and I had no luck. I was one week away from going on a solo adventure to South America. A trip that I decided to go on following my journey at University. I sent away more than 50 applications and CV’s around Auckland and no one offered me an interview. Back in those days, things were still done over snail mail and phone. Going away for 6 weeks without a job lined up was nerve-wracking. On cue, the call came from one single HoD in South Auckland and within the next 18 hours, I had signed to join the Maths Department at Manurewa High School. Ironically it was the first school that gave my mum who is also a Math teacher a chance in 1995. Greg Thornton and Fay Weatherly, I can’t thank you enough for the opportunity. Through my time at Rewa, I am thankful for the advice I received from Ben Mason, Tony Carey & especially Claire Walls who did an incredible job in mentoring me for a short period.

As mentioned in my first blog entry – “I think back to that sunny morning in November 2006, when a young arrogant boy had a dream of being the best Math teacher and be presenting in international conferences about teaching and engaging students in Mathematics. 9 years later, I know now there is no such thing as the best Math teacher as I will always be a student and as for that other dream of presenting ideas, this is just the beginning…” Well, I was excited as I was about to reach one of these goals. That was to present at an international conference – ISTE2019 in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, I had to decline the invitation to ISTE after I received this news.

On the 22nd of February 2019, I was awarded two prestigious awards. I made the cut for the top 6 educators in the country and was awarded the National Excellence in Teaching Awards. I shared the stage with Yolande Franke, Principal of Howick Intermediate School in Auckland who won the NEiTA Founders’ Leadership Award; Ricky Chan from Freyberg High School, Palmerston North; Delwyn Kruyff from Albany Primary School in Auckland; Bruce Rodger from Avonhead School in Christchurch and Paulene Walsh from John Paul College in Rotorua. Further to this, I was awarded the ASG Space Camp Teacher Ambassador of the Year Award. This meant I was off to Space Camp late July which also meant I couldn’t go to Philadelphia in June for the ISTE conference.

There was a small ceremony at Parliament House. My school principal Diana Patience attended the ceremony along with my wife and 2-year-old son Ashoka. The education minister Chris Hipkins presented me with the award. Things didn’t really hit me until when one of the speakers said this “Subash could be paving the way for the first astronaut from New Zealand!” Earlier in the day, I had talked to stuff.co.nz where they wrote a small piece about my adventures. The article can be found here. Then the messages started to pour in. It was overwhelming.

After the number of messages I have received from my ex-students, I have decided to dedicate an entire blog post on some of their messages. Things didn’t stop there as when I returned home, I was to be interviewed on Monday morning with Duncan Garner in TheAMShow. It was a blur and I hope I said the right things. The interview can be found in the link below.

I returned to school on Monday morning after the interview, hoping to slip in quietly. However, there was another surprise. There was a special assembly held for my achievements and it was a humbling experience. I was presented with a gift from the school and it was a huge honour to be presented in front of the students.

Another article popped up on School News. https://www.schoolnews.co.nz/2019/02/inspirational-teachers-recognised-around-country/

My favourite moment of this whole experience was when I received a photo from my wife showing my son watching me on TV.

All of this is possible because of the support of the people that are around me. My maths team is amazing, both past and present (Mimi Moss, Ash Rambhai, Sue Rhodes, David Smithers, Wiaam Al-Salihi, Kathryn Albertson, Elizabeth Sneddon, Vimal Singh, Murray Hamilton & Prabhjit Johal). I cannot do half the things I have done without the support of you guys. Thank you so much. I have mentioned this before but can never be enough. The amount of respect and gratitude I have for Mimi Moss cannot be described. Also a big thank you to Mrs Diana Patience for allowing me to fall and learn from my experiences. Thank you to my sis who continues to challenge me and my mum who at 62 years old has started her own YouTube channel for Maths for her students. She is an inspiration. There are so many people to thank and the list is long and I am sorry if I have missed you.

Last but not least, I want to say thank you to my wife Luckshmy. She has seen me grow from an arrogant young teacher to who I am today. That is because of the support and love she has shown me that has pushed me through my challenges and given me the strength to pursue my goals. Folks, so all the congratulations and adulation is for her as she is the person that deserves it.

Next stop is Paris for the Microsoft E2 conference and then it is time to go to Space Camp. Buzz Lightyear was the nickname given to me by a teacher and to that, I replied “To infinity and beyond + 1

Advertisements
To Infinity And Beyond + 1

Ormiston Maths Day 2019

The first time in doing something new, I find it easy. It is the second time when fear kicks in, especially when you taste success in the first attempt. Last year my department hosted the Inaugural Ormiston Maths Day. We had just over 60 attend the day. This time around my fear was, will this be a successful day and a worthwhile day for folks attending? It didn’t help that my little boy was sick the night before the day. Nothing like running an entire professional learning day on a few hours sleep and a bit of coffee.

In every professional learning day that I have attended whether it is an AMA Saturday morning or an international conference, there is always a keynote speaker. Some speakers have left me buzzing while some simply have increased my data usage for browsing social media. This led me to the idea that I picked up from ISTE 2018 in Chicago. Those small conversations that I have with teachers while slamming a coffee down in between workshops are when I discovered some teachers have fantastic ideas but feel that a 60-minute workshop is too long. Initially, I named this the Spark sessions, unfortunately, “Spark” felt that our event wasn’t big enough. Thankfully a close friend of mine who works with Thinkladder came to the rescue. “Thinkladder” sessions were born. Instead of a keynote, the floor was opened to 6 speakers with 5 mins each to share an idea and in hopes to inspire the audience.

Sometimes all the best-laid plans can go absolutely not the way you imagined. Our spotlight speakers took longer than the expected 5 minutes each but this was something to learn from for next year. Our workshops ran smooth, bar the usual cable not working. Many thanks to Jonathan Megchelse from Ormiston Senior College for creating wooden plaques for our presenters. Also big thanks to the exhibitors who sponsored our morning tea. Our sponsors are one of the main reasons that this day is free for teachers. The day finished up at 1pm when we were supposed to finish at 12.30pm, but overall it was a great day. I wonder what next year brings…




Ormiston Maths Day 2019

The Mad December Dash

When students leave us at the start of November for their end of the year exams, most folks think that we put our feet up and rest at a senior college. On the contrary, this is when most of the madness happens as we all race to finish everything leading to the end of the year. This year was no different and to make matters interesting I was bedridden with a stomach bug that arrived at our household from my son’s daycare.

As a department, my team marched on to the end of November, where once again we offered workshops to other maths teachers during the Statistics and Calculus Days. I was fortunate enough to run a workshop on BlocksCAD3D. This is a program that I picked up from ISTE and spent a short time dabbling in it. It is a useful program for students to understand about 3d planes and create objects in a 3d plane which they then could print it using a 3D printer. I was impressed by one of the teachers who took it the next level by solving a problem I had due to my limited understanding of coding.


Sphero released their Teaching #BeyondCode video in which some of my students and myself featured.

And my Sphero Hero reflection was also due on the 6th of December. I had a ball getting this video out.

The end of November bought in some good news as I was selected as a 2018 NEiTA Regional Recipient. I was in the company of 15 educators from New Zealand and in all walks of education – primary, secondary and early childhood. Farida Master was kind enough to write this piece on the Times.

The “K” was left out

Six teachers out of the 15 had to write a 1200 word essay and submit a 10 min video on answering select questions. They gave creative freedom in the video which I was really excited about, but the essay was a little nerve-wracking. The top 6 teachers received a $5000 grant towards their professional learning. And the top teacher in New Zealand received a trip to Space Camp.

The school officially closed on December 13th. My work on the essay and this video started on the 14th of December. One of my passions is storytelling through a video format and I wanted to be creative. This meant learning a brand new software. I received some more good news that my workshop “High School Maths with Sphero Robots” has been accepted for ISTE2019 in Philadelphia. I didn’t have much time to celebrate as I needed to work on my essay and video. Over the next 7 days, I watched YouTube videos on Adobe Premiere Pro, learnt how to use Audition to remove that annoying fan noise which was recorded in all of my videos. I have to say thank you to Sphero and Microsoft NZ for providing me This was my end result and it was a fitting way to end the year.

The Mad December Dash

How Sphero Changed Me?

As a teacher, you always reflect on moments. There are times when you look back, and you know the exact moment when something happened, and its impact on how it changed your perspectives as a teacher. For me, one of those moments was when I attended a Maths workshop using Sphero robots in the classroom at the end of 2016. During that workshop, I didn’t get a chance to play with the robots because I was in a trance thinking of all the possibilities. The very next day I ordered four Spheros for our Maths department. I spent the summer looking for activities on Spheros, but the majority of the activities were actually for junior classes. Since I am teaching at a senior college, I had to develop activities and assessment tasks based on the senior Maths curriculum.

My first activity was a right angle triangles task. Students had to program the robots to travel between three points on the floor. This particular task took a couple of months to iron out the details, as this task was to be used for an assessment worth credits towards the national qualification. While I was developing the activity, I realised four robots was not going to be enough for a class of 30 students. It was around this time I had a student transfer from another class into mine. Antony confessed to me that Maths was not his favourite subject. At that very moment, an idea formed in my head. I asked Antony whether he would like to have a go at the right angle triangles task using the Sphero robot. He spent the entire session trying to get it perfectly right. At the end of the session, I asked him if he enjoyed the lesson? He enjoyed it.

That night an idea that I had earlier started to think about began to take shape. This lead to a conversation with Antony’s Learning Advisor, and we came up with a personalised plan for his Maths program. While every other student was working on the year plan, Antony was given his own. The plan was for Antony to organise a fundraiser to raise money to buy more Sphero robots for the Maths department. Along the way, I was going to collect evidence towards his Maths standards.  The fundraiser was called ‘Robot Racing’. Antony was to design two courses one where members of the public could race the robots and another one to see who could drive around the course the fastest. Once he had the initial course setup, he decided that the race wasn’t exciting enough and so he decided to build a modified bridge where the Sphero robots could be driven over and under the bridge. After another trial, he decided to design and include a second ramp, which attached a large plastic container with water for the finish line. He wanted to show that the robots were waterproof. This process took over a month. Every Maths class Antony worked on some aspect of this project.

We chose Oceania Day for our fundraiser event. On this day, the school celebrated Maori and Pacific cultures. The local community was invited for food, dance and a celebration of culture. A week before the event Antony was excited, and he had printed out custom-designed posters for around the school and the school’s social media pages.

The day arrived, and he spent 3 hours setting up the course and adding the finishing touches. Antony has always kept to himself during the time I have known him, but on that day he collaborated with another student in setting up the course. Since the inception of this idea, I had seen Antony grow slowly in confidence. I knew that he had grown as a learner, but his actions on that night showed me exactly how much he grew.

On the night, Antony ran the perfect fundraiser. He encouraged folks to race robots with their friends and family. He managed the cash flow for the event. He gave instructions to people who have never raced a Sphero robot. He pushed kids not to give up and keep trying, so they could land their robot in the pool of water. By the end of the night, Antony was not the shy kid that would hide in the corner of the classroom with his laptop open and headphones on full volume. He was bright with confidence, and he owned the show.

The following week we spent the time counting our profits and Antony decided on what was the best option for me regarding buying new Sphero robots. He researched local providers and online. He submitted a report on his calculations and earnt himself some credits on the Number standard. There were further credits for Antony as his calculations for the two ramps he created were enough for credits in the Right Angle Triangle standard. Following the success of the night, I set one more challenge for Antony – to speak in front of an audience about his fundraising experience.

Initially, he was a little reluctant to speak in front of an audience as any teenager would. To make the most of the opportunity, I talked to his English teacher, and if his speech was good, then she could give him some credits in English for a Speech standard. With that as motivation, he took on the challenge. A few days later, it was time for Antony to speak to a crowd filled with his peers and their parents. His English teacher was there with a video camera to record the speech as evidence. His speech needed to be flawless. He was extremely nervous before his speech. I was sitting a few rows behind him watching him practice his speech over and over again. When Antony’s name was called up to speak, there was a small gasp. He was the last person, folks expected to give a speech in front of a crowd. He was that shy boy but the experience at Oceania day had changed him. He spoke fluently but halfway through the speech he lost his train of thought, and he struggled to form words. The English teacher stopped recording, but the crowd cheered him on knowing his challenges. He composed himself and completed his speech. That day he didn’t gain credits for his English speech standard. Antony gained respect from his peers and his teachers.

First time speaking in public.

At the end of the night, I had a chance to talk to his mother. She was extremely proud of what her son had done. She told me how this one little robot had changed the way in which Antony saw the school and she thanked me for giving her son the opportunity. On the contrary, it was me who was thankful to Antony and his mum for giving me the opportunity to work with him. As this one experience had shifted my thinking about teaching and that every student matters. Every student has something to offer, and it was my responsibility as a teacher to find that SPRK and let the students run with their ideas. Who would have thought that all of this was possible with one little robot named Sphero?

How Sphero Changed Me?

VR + Maths = Mind blowing!


In early April, I was given the opportunity by Anne Taylor on providing user feedback for the Microsoft HoloLens. The first visit was where some of our students and I tried on the HoloLens and gave valuable user feedback. Thank you, Greg Adams, for this amazing article, it appeared in the Interface Magazine May 2018 edition and has been republished with the permission of the editors of Interface. Link to the original article.

Known for his digital innovation and creativity in teaching, the Microsoft HoloLens team knew Subash Chandar K was just the person to try out Virtual Reality with his maths class – and the results were amazing.

ormiston-4

“Virtual Reality is something that’s interested me for a long time – and not just VR but Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR), as well,” said Subash Chandar K, Curriculum Leader of Mathematics and Statistics at Ormiston Senior College in Auckland.

“I can see in 3D space. I’ve tried so many different ways to explain my perspective to students but with varying success – it’s quite challenging. Students struggle with concepts like volume and area. I tried creating 3D models with SketchUp, and turning them upside down and looking at them in different angles. They started to see but not as well as I wanted.”

Subash is a Microsoft Innovative Educator (as well as a ‘Sphero Hero’, one of only 18 in the world!). He describes being a MIE as “the biggest catalyst in transforming my perspective on teaching.”

“It’s opened me to what other educators in other countries are doing. I’m chipping in and contributing where I can. I think HoloLens was looking for maths teacher wanting to do something different and knew I was the guy willing to try tech.”


About HoloLens

ormiston-6

HoloLens is a pair of Mixed Reality smartglasses developed and manufactured by Microsoft. It has see-through holographic lenses that use an advanced optical projection system to generate multi-dimensional full-colour holograms

microsoft.com/en-nz/hololens


Excited and engaged

He was provided with four HoloLens kits and some newly-developed apps to try – and asked for feedback.

“There were practical things like how students cope with something on their head and the VR space. But, essentially, it was exploring what could be done with HoloLens and maths.”

Subash wore one headset, while students wore the other three. The system let them see where he was looking, so they could literally follow his eye.

“We looked at 3D shapes and measurements. I could open a box into a net and explore how different sizes and how surface area can be calculated. It was mind blowing, and really got them excited and engaged.

ormiston-5

Becoming the norm

What sort of future does Subash see for VR in education?

“I can see so many possibilities in maths and science, physics, biology, even drama – across all different subjects. I’d like to see VR developed from a makerspace angle – making it a stepping stone, where students can see how things pan out in virtual space before printing products, for example.

“The other day we were measuring things and I put 900 on the board. One student asked what the unit was – if I’d been able to show them the perspective in virtual space, they wouldn’t have needed to ask. Students often struggle to make planes in their heads – they can more easily see what it is from within the virtual environment.

“I see kids afraid to make mistakes on paper, but I feel they’re more confident working in a VR environment, happy to give it a go.

“VR is going to become the norm. But it’s one thing hearing about the technology, I encourage all teachers to experience it.” 

Interview by INTERFACE Editor Greg Adams.


Comment from one of Subash’s students:

“We are a generation that learns through examples and visualisation, not explanation and reading, and HoloLens is supportive of this. It helps us rediscover the touch of ingenuity we have lost through the boring, old methods and disconnected learning environments.

“HoloLens inspires critical thinking. It has tremendous potential because it gives us as students so much freedom to experiment, and the only limits are our creativity and imagination. This is not changing what we learn but simply how we learn it, and it may just be the solution to the problems of our education system.”

UPDATE: August 2018
Further to this opportunity, Microsoft made a short video spot and that was truly epic.

VR + Maths = Mind blowing!

Rise of the Sphero Heroes

Towards the end of 2017, in the mad race to finish the end of the year race, I also worked on a side project. This project was to apply to become a Sphero Hero. From their website “Sphero Heroes is a Sphero Edu ambassador program designed to recognize and celebrate the great work of pioneer teachers around the world. These teachers are using Sphero robots to transform teaching and learning in their classrooms and beyond.

After my adventures with this robotic ball and in the words of my good friend “Why not?” As part of the submission process, I had to submit the 3-minute video. Yours truly couldn’t stop talking and ended up making a 6-minute video as once I started talking about the ideas, I had massive problems in shortening it. Anyway, that was towards the end of December.

March arrived and with that, the news arrived…

capture20180815131433453

First, I was hugely surprised to be selected. Secondly, they had selected only 18 people around the world. It took me a few weeks to just comprehend what just happened and what it meant. Before you know it I was in a conference call with the 18 heroes and sharing what I had been working on for the past year.

For the first time in a year I was talking to folks that were speaking my language (fluent in Sphero) and I could see the massive benefits in being part of this community.

It made it a bit more special when in early April I received my costume (…a t-shirt).  All in all a positive experience and I was looking forward to growing with this community.

Rise of the Sphero Heroes

#OrmistonMathsDay2018

At the start of each year, Teachers go into a frenzy as they try to prepare for the upcoming year. Yours truly is no different. To make things interesting we also were hosting a professional learning event for Maths teachers across Auckland. It was the first time anyone was doing something of this magnitude. An event run for teachers by teachers. I was extremely proud of the department in their ability to put together an event of this magnitude in less than a couple of months. February 10 – The day arrived and we had around 70 teachers from 38 different Auckland schools attend the event. There were 4 workshops. Personalised learning, Learning with Sphero robots, Teacher Desmos & Teaching with Technology.

Elizabeth Sneddon ran a workshop on Personalised Learning in Level 1 Maths which was a huge success in 2017. She shared her success stories and challenges to a room overfilled with teachers. Wiaam Al-Salihi ran workshops on using Teacher Desmos. This is a must-have tool for every Maths teacher around the world. Her workshop centred around creating tasks on using graphs. Vimal Singh took on the mantle of teaching Math teachers on learning with Sphero robots. This was his first time presenting to his peers and his workshop was well received. Kathryn Albertson’s focus was on the unlimited technology that was available to math teachers. She ran a workshop on tools that worked and the challenges with some of the tools that the department faced.

Read more here

At the conclusion of the event, teachers raved at the opportunity to have a professional learning opportunity at the start of the year where minds were fresh and ideas could be implemented through the year. It was fantastic to see teachers make new connections and were given ample time to network.

 

Some highlights on Twitter

#OrmistonMathsDay2018