On the Blog…March 2022

“We don’t need school;
we just need learning.” 

For far too long, school and learning have been disconnected from each other, when exactly the opposite should be true. There are many many threads we could pull on to unravel the foundation and reset the system. The key thread? Assessment and Evaluation. Upon close inspection, the foundation of our system is closely linked to our beliefs about assessment and evaluation. This tightly woven thread holds learning captive as we try to shift our thoughts about learning without braving the necessary change in assessment and feedback practices. It can be hard to know where the starting line is.  This book is a primer for starting to unravel assessment and evaluation and starting a journey towards free and open learning within your classroom. Look for Melissa Dean’s Unravel School coming to our Code Breaker library this month.

March Guest Blogger: Melissa Dean 

The Problem with 100%

One day a past principal of mine asked me, mid-conversation, if I thought it was possible for a student to get 100% in my class. I said no. He asked me to explain myself. I was still relatively new in my teaching career and I had strong convictions about grades and 100% as a final grade in a class or, to be honest, on a test or an assignment. 100%, particularly as a final grade, seems to imply that there is no more learning to be done. Can we really say this about a student? Even in a discipline like math that, in the minds of many, is cut and dry, black and white? This was, in essence, my response to my principal. His response is something I’ve never forgotten — “Why are we holding kids to an impossible standard then?” Touché, Mr. Matt, touché.

But, really, are we holding kids to a standard that we also don’t think or want them to really meet? There are so many things to think about with this. I still hold pretty strongly to the conviction that 100% as a final grade in a class is not a thing that is really valid. To start with, there’s the issue with how grades are determined. There are a whole lot of grades that are determined by weights, and averages and calculations done by a computer program. If there is one thing I’d like to say louder for the people in the back it’s this: GRADES SHOULD NEVER BE DETERMINED BY AVERAGING A BUNCH OF SCORES TOGETHER. #shoutycapsforemphasis

So, how should grades be calculated then? This, friends, is one of the holy grails of education, in any discipline. I mean, to be honest, I want my answer to be, they shouldn’t be. Grades just shouldn’t be calculated period, because grades are a false construct. If we’re honest with ourselves, and I hope that we are, those numbers don’t really mean what we think they mean, and they certainly don’t mean what our students think they mean. Our reality, however, is that we must assign grades, so if we’re going to have to do something, we might as well do it well. If we’re going to do it well, we need to know what it is those numbers are supposed to represent.

Why do we assess in the first place?

To tackle this question, we need to come back to the purpose of assessment (of, as, and for learning). After any assessment, our learners should be able to answer three questions: What do I know right now? What do I need to know next? How am I going to get there? 56/60 on the top of a page doesn’t answer any of those questions. And 60/60 doesn’t either. It really doesn’t tell you as the lead learner in the room all that much either.

I’ve gone on a tangent, so let’s come back to that notion of 100% for a moment. What does it mean? If a student sees 100% on a test, what does that mean? Does it mean that they have mastered that content? That outcome? Maybe — it really depends on what kinds of questions they were being asked. If those questions are all basic expectations based on memorized procedural understanding, well, then that 100% means that they have memorized the steps, but they may have no actual concept of what was being learned. Conversely, a score of 45% might mean that student didn’t understand the concept, or it might mean that the student answered the questions in a way that didn’t match the predetermined answer key. How will we know for sure? Conversation. Observation. And a carefully curated body of evidence of that student’s learning journey.

If we tell a student that their grade is 100%, what are we telling them? Well, they see 100% and think, I’m done here. My learning has ended. Any number tells them that — learning doesn’t continue based on the number. And if they get 100% as a final evaluation, does that tell them that they have learned all there is to know? I would argue there is always more learning to be done. We can always refine and grow and develop as a communicator, collaborator, and a conjecturer. That is what mathematics is really about. It’s what all learning is about.

We want marking to be cut and dry. It’s not. Learning isn’t cut and dry. A student’s journey to learning isn’t straight. It’s not perfect. There are curves, and detours, and mistakes, and traumas that send averages off course. An average of a bunch of numbers, even all good numbers, isn’t the whole picture. There is more to know, and more to see. And we never want a student to end their learning. No number on a page should have that impact. We must carefully consider what messages our numbers are sending.

On the Blog…February 2022

In the Spring of 2020, we began an endeavour titled Code Breaker Presents. That summer, we held our first very Code Breaker Power Summit – a first for us, and a first in the pandemic-era professional learning space. The Power Summit was 3 full days of virtual learning across the globe, hosted over Zoom. 

In April 2021, We hosted our second annual Power Summit. Keynoted by Jennifer George, Legacy Director and granddaughter of Rube Goldberg. We hosted educational leaders across 5 continents for another 3 full days of incredible learning.

In the summer of 2021, we hosted our first hybrid event, Code Breaker Summer Camp. We hosted educators as far as Australia on various virtual platforms and in person at Whitman-Hanson High School in Whitman, Massachusetts. 

Our newest addition to the Code Breaker Presents series of events is DisruptED. DisruptED is our take on personal, professional learning. We are offering 3 different “courses” with monthly sessions beginning next week through to May, hosted by Charles Williams, Matthew X. Joseph, and Christine Ravesi-Weinstein. Visit www.codebreakeredu.com/DisruptED to find out more about each course.

Check out where #CodeBreaker will be this month!

New Partnership Announced…

This past month we excitedly announce our latest professional relationship with Wired Educator Consulting Inc.!

Wired Educator Consulting, Inc. is a publishing and educational learning network focused on transforming instruction and learning through inspiring and results-oriented professional learning and the publishing of podcasts, books, and other educational resources that help educators level-up and make a difference in the lives of students.

Like Code Breaker, Wired Educator is building a group of distinguished educators to make a global impact and celebrate and promote the work of the best in education.


On the Blog…January 2022

New Year, Same You

Take some time as you ring in 2022 to look in the mirror and make a list of everything great about you! The goal to self-improvement is not the latest self-help book, finding cheerleaders, or changing who you are for others. Self-improvement comes from reflection, embracing your uniqueness, and empowering yourself to make mistakes, and learn from them.

“It’s okay to be where you are. It’s not okay to stay there.”

Brian Aspinall

Our Kid Collection Grows by Eight!

December saw the re-release of one of our favourites from the Code Breaker Kid Collection. Brian Aspinall and Deanna McLennan released a second edition of Think Like a Coder.

Coding is everywhere! Follow along with a girl and her dog as they explore computational thinking in their everyday activities. CCoding is everywhere! Follow along with Code Barker and his human as they explore computational thinking in their everyday activities. Readers will discover that so much of what they do everyday – cooking, playing, and even being outdoors – provides opportunities to explore and problem solve and most importantly, think like a coder! Pick up your copy today at www.CodeBreakerEDU.com/books.

Work hard and proudly recognize progress.
Reflect, adapt, and self-assess.
Courageously overcome challenges by
maximizing the power of YET.
Creatively persevere with a growth mindset. 

Erik Youngman released The Magic of Growth Mindset last month. His book, targeted at fourth to eighth grade readers, inspires us to focus on thinking, actions, and feelings to empower learning and improvement when encountering a misunderstanding, challenge, or mistake. Examples and questions empower courageous and reflective perseverance to identify new opportunities as well as changes to make. Rhymes help prepare readers to creatively and empathetically adapt with a growth mindset, while resiliently embracing challenges, adversity, and disappointment. Identify sentences you can read again for daily motivation, thus guiding your attention, adaptation, communication, reflection, and appreciation. Pick up your copy today at www.CodeBreakerEDU.com/books.

Meet hilton…a little boy with big dreams!

Have you ever imagined what you will be when you grow up? Hilton has. Have you ever wondered about all of the things you’ll need to do? Hilton has. Every night Hilton imagines what he will be when he grows up. Follow along in Matthew Woods’ six book series as Hilton discovers a new world every night!

Our Code Breaker Leadership Team Continues to Grow

Last month we welcomed three new members, Libo Valencia and Chey and Pav of the Chey and Pav show, to our growing team of leaders. Libo is a mathematics educator from New York. He is known for his use of different technologies to engage his students and bring math concepts to life. Chey Cheney and Pav Wander are two middle school teachers from Toronto, Canada with a passion for elevating and amplifying student voice while honouring students lived experiences and identity. Learn more about them and all of our Leadership Team at www.CodeBreakerEDU.com

December saw the launch of our newest imprint, X-Factor Publishing, headed by Dr. Matthew X. Joseph. The company’s first book, Stronger Together, was released shortly thereafter. Learn more about X-Factor at xfactoredu.org.