Welcome to the Wild World of Webster Fox!

Hello there…I see you have found me. I don’t normally get visitors here, this is my little isolated corner of the internet…However, since you are already here, you might as well dive in deep and see everything that is hidden behind this domain!

I’m Webster Fox, a local Reginan who has found himself attending the local post-secondary institution. I am currently part of the Faculty of Education, majoring in the study of Mathematics, and minoring in Music. I originally came from a small town near Weyburn called Radville, and then spent a couple of years in the lovely city of Saskatoon. However, I have called Regina my home for more than a decade now, witnessing the incredible transformation and growth this city has seen since 2005.

I come from a family of 5, with my quirky sister Jenna, and my actor of a brother, Drew. I am however the oldest of the 3. We used to have a hamster….but it died. We also had a dog for a number of years….but it has also died. So we have spent recent years enjoying a home without pets, and modestly improved air quality for my pesky asthma! I enjoy cycling and hiking out at Wascana Trails, and absolutely love canoeing and camping in Northern Saskatchewan. Our family used to tent all over the province, from Moose Mountain, to Cypress Hills, and most recently: Waskesiu at P.A. National park (and this doesn’t even remotely touch how many parks we have camped at!). In recent years since I have been working in the summers, my parents and sister have been trying a new style of camping, using our 1974 VW Type 2 Westfalia camper van! Last year they took the risk, and camped with it all throughout the Rockies for a 2 week touring trip.

Aside from my outdoors interests, I also love a lot of indoors activities too. Growing up, my dad worked as an IT manager, and it brushed off on it. I have always been a bit of a technology geek, and have loved exploring new services and devices when I can. I also spent many years self-learning web programming (HTML & CSS), and in high school and CS 110 I ventured into developing computer applications (VB, Java, & C++). I also enjoy my fair share of video games, however I have been doing a lot less of that recently. This past year, the project that has been keeping my technology side busy has been a Raspberry Pi 3 computer. It is the size of a credit card, and in my current setup it emulates older video games from the NES, SNES, and N64 eras.

Part of my unplanned Qu’Appelle Valley trip. Photo Credit: Webster Fox © 2017

My main interest that keeps me busy nowadays outside of school is my love for Photography. It is this awesome hybrid of my technology interests with my outdoors interests, and has led me all over the place. My favourite types of photos are urban night photos, especially when it is foggy. This doesn’t stop my from enjoying day photography: in my latest shoot I literally just drove from highway 6 to Craven through the valley with no real plan, and it allowed me to discover some cool new places for hiking, and get some awesome shots. What led me to try DSLR photography wasn’t my purely my love for photography. It was influenced last fall by the upcoming Cuba trip which I went on this past May. It was a Choir Tour with the university groups, and we got to experience this awesome exchange of culture and music, while also enjoying the opportunities a warm country has to offer, and a chance to explore the incredible heritage and historical structures that Cuba has to offer.

The Havana, Cuba cityscape at night. Photo Credit: Webster Fox © 2017

I am excited to try out blogging on, and especially excited to explore the powerful WordPress platform. I think blogging is an excellent tool for reflection and growth, but it is also significant in networking and innovation too. When you blog, you reflect on your experiences and will have a visible, solid record of your growth as you learn lessons and experience new things. As you mature in your blogging, you will have the opportunities to network, and collaborate with other educators and professionals, bouncing ideas off of each other. There is no real negative to this, as you will benefit, they will benefit, and ultimately everyone’s ideas will simply improve and evolve overtime with the feedback. It can also be a powerful tool for the classroom, especially in regards to research projects, creative writing/forms of writing prompts, and even daily questions in any subject (Yes, that includes you my Math cohorts!). When combining that with the power of WordPress, or the simplicity of Google’s Blogger, you have quite endless possibilities, and your main limitation is your own hesitations and doubts.

I look forward to a good semester, and I hope you enjoy following my journey through my courses and projects this year!

“Guit up” and make some noise!

Welcome to the beginning of my journey! I am going to spend the next few months learning how to play the guitar, and possibly the ukulele too!

Photo Credit: Holland375 Flickr via Compfight cc

I am a very music oriented person, and have experience playing the Piano and Saxophone. I also participate in the University’s Concert Choir and semi-professional Chamber Singers. In terms of guitar, my only real experience with it is the generic mandatory Grade 9 guitar course from Regina high schools. In that course we learned a bit about notes, a couple of chords, and some basic one note songs. I haven’t played guitar since and have forgotten most of what I learned.

I am going to begin from scratch, as if I had no knowledge of guitar, to ensure my memory is refreshed on the basic elements. I will then proceed at a faster or slower pace, depending on how easily I begin picking up skills. Since I already have knowledge in music theory and reading music, most of my road blocks in this learning process will be related to the physical aspects. I am going to try a variety of online resources as well, to see if I can find one in particular that works really well.

While going through this process, I will primarily be using guitar, but at times I might also attempt ukulele. Once I have the physical aspect down, the difference between ukulele and guitar are the way the strings are tunes, and the patterns you use for the chords. I will also be posting my updates in a variety of ways, primarily a mixture of text/image blog posts, and video updates.

I have held an interest in properly learning guitar for a few years now, and I am excited to have the opportunity to share this journey with you!

An Exploration of the Tyler Rationale

Considering the many approaches to Education and Curriculum, the traditionalist approach has had great influence in the past and present. The idea that education should be based around a set of goals, and a way to determine if those goals have been met. Ralph Tyler’s rationale around curriculum is very much in this efficient idea, and it is the prominent foundation for many educational institutions around the world.

The Tyler Rationale is a process and cycle for the development of curriculum. The idea is that you start with set objectives/goals, then an educator will identify the content and experiences that will attain these goals, determine an organised way to transfer that knowledge, and finally assess/evaluate the progress towards the attainment of these goals.

Personally, I have experienced this from grade 1 through to grade 12. All of my classroom teachers followed some format of provincial curriculum, translated that into lessons, and taught the lessons to the students. After the transfer of knowledge, they would always evaluate us in some format. Most of my time in school, this involved some sort of paper examination, and the grade would determine the bulk of your progress in that portion of the subject. However, in my later years, and also in my home schooled years (grades 3 and 4), I had some teachers, and my mother, attempt to use different approaches to evaluation. My mother would use a conversation at a museum as a way to test on some recent history material we were covering. All throughout elementary, and the beginning of high school, we had Science Fairs, and that was a way to evaluate some portion of our learning. Finally, in grade 12, my social teacher still used a midterm and final (as a form of preparation for university). However, for the ends of units, instead of a paper examination she required some cooperative project as proof of our progress and understanding.

I think some people will see the Tyler rationale, and immediately determine that it must end with an exam. This is what I like about Tyler’s wording: he does not say a type of assessment, and instead just says to determine a way to know the goals have been attained. Considering this point, all of my grade school experience was almost exclusively based on this rationale, and simply used different interpretations of the steps.

One limitation of the Tyler rationale is in its very purpose. It dictates what should be taught, and while being somewhat broad, can still be an extreme limiter. I am not suggesting that I think we should have a free for all curriculum. Structure is important, and curriculum satisfies that need. However, when curriculum is implemented, sometimes it can be hard to explore different subject areas that might not be represented in the provincial curriculum, and many teachers decide to take the easy route, sticking to the curriculum, rather than trying to add in some extras along with the required content and goals.

Another way this process is limiting is for student-guided learning approaches. The idea that the student should have some say in what they learn, and should be able to explore and guide their own education. Sure, using Tyler Rationale they can choose elective courses, many of which are explicitly structured with required goals. This works until you reach a creative subject, at which point this rationale can be more of a inhibitor to the student learning progress if it is too strictly implemented.

So one might ask, with these limitations, why are we still seeing Tyler’s Rationale dominate education across nearly all subjects, both creative and logical? The main reason is the idea of uniformity and simplicity. With an implemented curriculum, the government can know what a teacher teaches, and can also ensure that particular course is similar across all school divisions. It also gives teachers direction, and ideas, making the creation of lessons and plans easier. The article spoke of this when Hewitt explored American schools, and how you could change entire states and have similar, or identical content. For simplicity, consider our provincial system. A Saskatchewan teacher can simply look up the curriculum and they already have the beginning and end of their lesson complete, making the content for the middle portion incredibly easy to put together.

Another potential, yet controversial, benefit is for uniformity in grading. Some areas take the evaluation part to the extreme, and implement standardized testing. This has its benefits, and its downsides, but the one thing for sure is that it assists businesses and post-secondary institutions during the process of selecting potential students or employees. You know that an 80 in this city should mean the same thing as an 80 in another city, and that makes life easier for the people in charge of selections.

Whether good or bad, the one point we can agree on is that Tyler’s Rationale has influenced education, and still has an extreme presence in modern education. I also believe it won’t be going anywhere too fast, as it is too ingrained in society and education. The good news is that it is flexible, and that the newer ideas (my assessment experiences) around education can be implemented alongside Tyler’s process, effectively allowing it to be modernized for future generations.

What is Common Sense?

In article, “The Problem of Common Sense,” Kumashiro speaks about his journey in Nepal, and how it allowed him to experience common sense first hand. Kumashiro was walking into what we often call a culture clash. His activities and routines in which he considered normal, or mandatory, were entirely different to the town in Nepal. Showers were actually just a faucet, and that faucet had multiple purposes throughout the day. The only meals were a brunch and supper. The schools were entirely based on teaching towards a standardised test.

When Kumashiro defines common sense, he describes it as a local practice, something a community might take for granted. Differences in common sense can even happen in two close communities like Regina and Moose Jaw. This includes the expectations that we apply to our day to day activities, some of which might be ingrained to the point of subconsciousness.

Common sense is also cultural, and this is one of the reasons it is so significant for education. In the article, Kunmashiro reflects on the purpose of his mission, and what the expectations were for him in Nepal. This leads him to realise that, in essence, he was suppose to imperialistically change the Nepali way of teaching. The mission was based on the foundation that Nepali teaching was outdated and bad, and American teaching was current, and the right way to do things. The task given to him was to make the people in those classrooms more like an American, primarily in the way they go about pedagogy and learning. However with that, there are some expectations related to culture and idealism that we naturally will attach to those changes, almost in a sense of hidden curriculum. This is why we have to be so careful of what we consider common sense.

As Kunmashiro said in the article, some comminsensical ideas can be traced back to very specific groups of people, and is essentially an extension of privilege. These ideas related to privilege have been ingrained into society as common sense, and because of this they are incredible hard to challenge. We can spot these ideas in our fellow teachers, in our curriculum, in school policies, and in our own classroom and lessons. Since these ideas can be related to privilege and aspects of culture, we have to be careful about the emphasis we place on them in our lessons. We want to be as bipartisan as possible when it comes to cultural, political, and world values in the classroom, because each student comes from different backgrounds, and it is not our place to determine which is right and wrong. Common sense will also play into classroom practices, and as the teacher we need to ensure each student is comfortable with processes that are currently in place, or new ones we implement. What might seem common to you could be entirely foreign to one of your fellow students. Maybe discussions are common in your school, but in a country such as Nepal where everything is based towards a test, classroom discussions might not even occur.

Common Sense is local and cultural, and that is why it is so important to be attentive of it. In day to day society, we might run into issues related to common sense routines, and differences between what you and someone else consider common. However in the educational sector, it almost leads into the idea that we could be teaching our personal beliefs and culture to the students. We as teachers need to ensure we are being as neutral in our teaching as possible, watching for common sense ideas in our lessons and routines. This can lead to us empowering our students with choices in what to believe and support, and it can also lead to a more efficient and innovative classroom, where learning is easy and always improving.