This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Hmmm.  I’ve got to schedule this for next month.  I hope I manage not to mess it up.  I’ve been wrestling with WordPress quite a bit lately.

There’s always good things flying off the keyboards of Ontario Edubloggers.  Here’s a bit of what I read recently.


Different Kids, Different Approach

If there’s one way to summarize why teachers should blog, Diana Maliszewski absolutely nails it in the last sentence “Before I forget, I wanted to reflect…” It’s a wonderful post about some of the things that she did during summer school.  I really liked the idea of “Student-Controlled Bulletin Boards”.  It was a technique that I always used with my Computer Science classes.  It started as a way to have fresh content without me generating it but evolved to a research and display space for students.  The rule was that the next group had to have their bulletin board up for Tuesday morning.  It always seemed to generate discussion among the class – I had six classes and six bulletin boards.  If you really believe that the goal as an educator is to teach communication, this is a perfect opportunity.

I wonder if Diana kept pictures of the bulletin boards?  That’s always been a regret of mine.


Students as Creators – Not Curators – of Math

This seems like such a logical statement but, given the beating that education gets from the outside about mathematics, it needs to be repeated and Kyle Pearce handles it in a recent post.

In the post, he even takes a reflective look at his own practice from being happy with his students scoring high on EQAO and changes the focus to deeper understanding of mathematics.

It’s too bad that we continue to have to have these conversations.  Of all of the subject areas, mathematics can lend itself to be fun when you get away from the drill, kill, memorize, regurgitate approach.  I like the reference to Pythagoras, Pascal, and Euler.  It begs the question – did they have to memorize the 10 times table?


What’s on your plate?

Sue Bruyns asks an important question to everyone in education.

“Who can you trust with this task?”

I remember having this discussion once with my superintendent who was a genius in my eyes in the field of leadership.  As it happened, we were in the car together driving to an RCAC meeting in London.  He would pick my mind and bounce ideas off me and I reciprocated.  If you ever have the chance to go somewhere with your leader in a car, take it.  It’s worth it.

One of our discussions was about burnout in education.  He made such an interesting point.  The only time that educators really “get it” is as a classroom teacher, dividing students into groups, establishing rules and norms to balance the workload among the group members so that one mark per group is fair.  But, as you move away from that scenario to assistant department head, department head, vice-principal, principal, consultant, superintendent, director and who knows what else I’ve forgotten, you forget all that.  Your plate gets filled with more and more “stuff”.  Some do it as a control freak.  Some do it to avoid letting others know what they’re doing.  Some do it for job protection or competitiveness for a promotion.  Some do it because they don’t trust others to do as good a job as them.

When was the last time you sincerely thought about delegation of tasks?


Thanks so much everyone for sharing your thoughts and leadership.  I hope that you can take a few moments and link back to these original posts and read them in their entirety.  There’s so much great thinking to be done!

OTR Links 08/01/2014


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

I’m 5 Again


One of the things that I used to tell my computer science students was that every program that they create was actually a story. 

You tell the story to the computer and the computer retells parts (or all) of the story back to the user.  I suppose in the kindest of ways, it was a way from deterring from programming as an academic affair from the very beginning.

As we witness programming languages evolve, it’s increasingly appropriate.  Instead of writing programs like tax calculators, we now introduce programming by a more formal approach to story telling.  We manipulate screen objects, set backgrounds, add interactions, etc.  Programming languages like Hopscotch, Alice, Daisy the Dinosaur, Scratch, and Tynker make story telling the heart of programming.  The logic is to introduce students to programming concepts in a fun, easy to manipulate environment.  From there, the level of sophistication, and choice of languages develops a culture of programming. 

With classrooms across the world moving to tablet based programming, it’s so good to see introductory programming languages embracing that environment.  Frequent readers to this blog know that I’ve tried (played) with many of them.  The combination of a familiar environment and a well crafted developmental environment is a formula for success.

This morning, into the mix, comes ScratchJr.

With ScratchJr, young children (ages 5-7) can program their own interactive stories and games. – ScratchJr website

If you’ve used the Scratch Programming language on a PC, the iPad implementation is a breeze.  Download it, load it, give permission for it to use your microphone, and you’re ready to program.

Hit the ? to get an introduction to ScratchJr, learn about the environment, visit a few examples and you’re off to the races!  If you’re a Scratch programmer, you’re so familiar with dragging, modifying, locking, embedding objects to get the job done.  The same concepts apply here.  There was such a flat learning curve for me.  It’s like programming in Scratch – only easier! 

Normally, there would be concerns about a program being “late for the party” but I suspect that won’t be a problem in the case of ScratchJr.  There’s a huge collection of folks who have been using Scratch for years that I’m sure will become big advocates of the program.  I can just imagine copies flying out of the app store.

Scratch has developed such a large online community of users.  The same will happen with ScratchJr.  There will be all kinds of ideas and support available once this happens.  At present, you can follow the discussion on Twitter here.

You can download ScratchJr here.

OTR Links 07/31/2014


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Digital Citizenship Resources


Common Sense Media serves as a huge repository of resources that addresses many of the curricular needs. 

Like any repository, teachers should use their professional judgement with respect to the resources to ensure that they meets the needs of their curriculum and their classroom.  All of the things like bias, age-appropriateness, etc. need to go into the determination as to the appropriateness of the resource.

One are that many want to address but can find challenges in finding quality resources is the area of digital citizenship.  Can you define what it means in your classroom; never mind a single definition that fits all grades! 

To help the cause, their entire digital citizenship curriculum has been made available as iBooks and freely downloadable through the iTunes store.

If you’re looking for resources of this type, take the time to download and use your judgement as to the appropriateness for your students.

The resources are available for download here.

OTR Links 07/30/2014


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Verification


For me, it really started in earnest with a slow Bronco chase down a California freeway which was captured live and broadcast to the world.  Since then, there’s such a proliferation of media sources, all trying to be first and exclusive with reporting.  It was a natural spillover to the Internet where people share everything (and anything).  It’s the anything that should be of concern.

For use in workshops about searching and authentication, I had compiled this list of “Sites that should make you go Hmmm“.  It’s interesting to direct students to any of the sites and ask them to do research.  (My favourite is the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus)  It’s all in the sake of online literacy and recognizing that just because it’s on the Internet or Google-able doesn’t necessarily make it true.  Insert a call for digital literacy and a good teacher-librarian here.

Now, we can’t send all media people back to Grade 5 but they can up the ante.  They need to check out the Verification Handbook.

But, I would suggest that this resource is good for everyone. 

It’s uniquely available – it’s 14 bucks through Lulu.  But the authors have also made it freely available under a Creative Commons license from their site.

You can read it online, download it in PDF for a number of different formats.

Check it out – after a read, there should be fewer and fewer reasons for getting caught looking for an octopus in a tree.

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