This Week in Ontario Edublogs


As I write this post, I’m at the Ontario Teachers’ Federation “Teaching, Learning & Technology Conference.”  We’re at the end of the first day and what a day it was!  Great activities but it’s always wonderful to see so many professional educators interested in learning new skills and techniques to make the magic happen in classrooms across the province in a couple of weeks.

It’s a great opportunity to renew friendships and make new ones.  I shared my thoughts about “The Best PD” this morning and one of my slides described what I really feel about blogging.  BLOGGING = THINKING = BLOGGING.  I firmly believe that and look forward to seeing if some new blogs fall out of the event.  I know that Marie Swift did a session about making Blogging the Backbone of your Classroom.  I wish I could have seen it but I was doing my own session about Hopscotch at the time.

There definitely was a continuation of blogging happening across the province.  Here’s some of what caught my attention this week.

Spaghetti Bridge Teaser

You can never get too early a start and Brian Aspinall has already posted to his class website one of their first science investigations.

I hope his students and parents are following the blog and try this at home before school starts.  Then, the enrichment can begin from day 1.


A Tribute to my Dad on his Retirement from Education

Things will be different in the Avon Maitland District School Board with Jeff Reaburn’s retirement.  Jamie Weir wrote this wonderful summary to honour him on his retirement.

The #BIT14 committee will benefit as Jeff has volunteered to serve on the committee for this year’s conference.  He’s doing such a wonderful job and I can certainly appreciate Jamie’s kind words.

I know that all of us wish Jeff so many good things in his retirement.


The Wire 106

Coming soon to your internet radio, another education station!

Andy Forgrave writes a nice post announcing the launch of this new station initiated by Jim Groom.  This is such a terrific concept bringing together so much that’s available when you use the best of student efforts and marry it with technology.  It will be interesting to “watch” the launch.

If you’re interested more in this form of broadcasting, make sure you register for #BIT14.  Andy will be leading the learning there.


3 Reasons I Go to Edcamp

I think that some of the most compelling posts come from people who have attended an Edcamp.

This time, it was Sue Dunlop who attended Edcamp Leadership.

She commented nicely on the takeaways for her.  You can’t help but get onside when someone talks about being “challenged” and “stretched”.

I liked the list of three that she mentioned.

  • The Unconference Model;
  • Connections;
  • Learning.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could say that about every professional learning session?

Perhaps that should be the learning goal for all educators – attend just one edcamp in the upcoming year and make some new connections – particularly ones that are pushing you away from your comfort zone.


What another nice collection of posting.  Thanks to these people – take the time to read the entire post.

When you’re done there, check out the complete collection of Ontario Educational Bloggers here.

This Never Gets Old


A couple of days ago, I was channel surfing looking for something interesting to watch on television to kill some time.  We had company on the way so it couldn’t be too time consuming.  I also had my laptop open to the left of me and had half an eye on new Twitter messages flying by. 

I noticed a few in a row from Brian Aspinall in my Ontario Educators stream.  (@mraspinall)

It looked like he was as bored as I was or was doing some research. 

He was retweeting messages about Scrawlar.  It’s one of his babies in the digital world – a combination of word processor / whiteboard built with collaboration and no data collection in mind.  A lot of people like the approach that he’s taken.  I reviewed the product here.

It was actually interesting to see where he was digging up the resources.  I stopped looking for something on the tube and watched him.  I thought I would help his cause and retweeted messages as he sent them.  It’s probably a futile effort because earlier that week we came to the agreement that we probably have the same community on the social network.  Oh well.

There was one that was of particular interest to me.

It was a short tutorial, written in blendspace.  This was a service that I’d never heard of before.  But, I retweeted the message knowing that would somehow, some day, reach my radar for a little more research.

 

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A couple of seconds later, my half-eye noticed that my Twitter message had been retweeted.  Brian?

This wasn’t a terribly unusual occurrence – this is how Twitter works, right?

Then, again and again and again.

I looked yet again and there was a retweeter that I’d never seen before.  So, I checked her bio.

She was from Italy.

I did a little mental math time conversion and realized that it was very early in the morning, her time.

Two things crossed my mind.

  • I wonder what wine region she lives in?
  • Is she camped out at Monza at Curva Parabolica waiting for the Grand Prix?

Am I bad because the two things that I think of when I think Italy are wine and Formula 1 racing?

In reality, she’s probably a hard working teacher preparing for a new class, looking for good resources and certainly Scrawlar fits that bill.

I thought Brian might get a kick out of the reach that his project has so sent him a private message to check the source.

We had a little back and forth about the humility of all this.  We’re just a couple of people doing some learning and sharing in the evening. 

The fact that someone half a world away wants to join in just blows you away.  As Brian noted, he’s just a guy sitting on a living room couch cranking out code on his laptop.  Yet, his work is being appreciated so far away.  But, when you think of the reality, it could be a first year teacher two blocks over looking for good resources.

There’s something about this shared learning that is so impressive.  For how many years have school boards tried to engage teachers with official memos sent from central office and failed?

Yet, the connected learner has that – and so much more.

For me, this moment never gets old.

Another #BIT14 Visualization


After Saturday’s post about Tweetbeam, I received a note from a former student of mine, @JeffClark who invited me to try his Twitter visualization program.

So I did!

Jeff’s done a bunch of visualizations at his Neoformix site.  He calls his Twitter search visualization Spot.

I fed it the hashtag #bit14 and sat back to watch.  I do enjoy a good visualization and I wasn’t disappointed here.

In fact, he visualizes the data a number of different ways.  Your visualization is selected by the icons on the top of the screen.

 

Banner View

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Timeline View

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User View

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Word View

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Source View

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Group View

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I’ve captured the above images real sized and let WordPress resize them for your browser.  Use your local browser to view the original image if you’re interested in seeing it.

Complete descriptions about the views are contained on the page Introducing Spot on the Neoformix site.

I’m glad that Jeff dropped by to remind me of his work.  Visit the Neoformix site if you’re interested in more details about this project or any of the others that have been created.

In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy another way to visualize the buzz leading to the #BIT14 conference.

The Web Behind The Web


This is just cool.

In the beginning, browsing the web just is magic.  You go to a webpage and you get stuff.

As you become a sophisticated user and reader of technology, you know that there’s far more to it than that.  As you become even more sophisticated, you might even start to ask “How did they do that?”  Or, “What technologies are happening on their side?”

Often, you can scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll get a hint “Proudly hosted by ….”  or “This page made by ….”

There usually is more than that.  And, what of a website that doesn’t self-identify?

For the truly curious or for a little/lot of education of the web behind the web, turn to Wappalyzer.

Wappalyzer is an extension that reveals just what’s behind your favourite website. 

So, now you can know.

Install the extension and keep your eyes on the URL window.

For example, this blog is hosted at WordPress.  What besides WordPress is running?

Quite a bit, it seems!

Ignore the Shareaholic (green) icon on the left of the string of icons.  Everything else was discovered running on the server.

Mouse over an icon to reveal the details or click in the area to get details about them all!

Now you indeed know!

I’ve been using this hosting service for quite a while and I certainly didn’t.

 

A Visual Way to Follow Hashtags


As the summer starts to come to an end, Ontario Educators are thinking about back to school and, hopefully, the excitement that will happen the first of November at the Bring IT Together Conference.  November 5-7 in Niagara Falls – plan now to be there!

The discussions and pre-conference buzz has been spreading via the hashtag #BIT14.  Please join in and follow the hashtag.

Follow the hashtag…that’s a technique that every Twitter user needs to know.

And there are so many ways to do it.  If you click the link I just created above, you’ll get text display in chronological order.  It’s a terrific way to stay up with the latest, as they flow in.

Recently, I found another way to follow a hashtag and it’s my current addiction.  Screensaver-ish, it’s just fascinating.  You set it once and then sit back as it pulls in Twitter messages containing the hashtag of interest and a visual to go along with it.

The utility is Tweetbeam.  And, the #BIT14 hashtag display can be found here.

The feed is currently fueled by our social media expert, @mcguirp so I waited until a Twitter message from him popped up to grab the screen.  He’s doing such a great job creating and maintaining the buzz.  It just seemed to be the right thing to do.

So, on your to-do list today.

  1. Check out and contribute to the discussion about the conference – #bit14
  2. Check out Tweetbeam and see if you don’t get engaged with following this or any other hashtag of interest!

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


This is the third post in a row written using Windows Live Writer.  That means that I’ve been using Windows for three days in a row.  That’s a modern day record!  I notice that it’s Live Writer 2011.  I wonder if there’s been an upgrade?  I recall reading recently that it might go open source.  That would be awesome.

Back on topic … here’s some great posting from Ontario Edubloggers from this past week.

A Letter to a New Teacher

On the Voice of Canadian Education blog, Stephen Hurley issued this challenge.

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If you could write a letter to a first year teacher, what advice would you pass along.

He gives some perspective – what an administrator might say, what a student might say, what a teacher might say, what an outsider might say, …

I think it’s a great idea and I’m going to accept the challenge and write a blog post over the weekend sharing my thoughts.

Thanks for the inspiration, Stephen.


My Thoughts on the Peel District School Board’s Social Media Guidelines for Staff and Teachers

Fred Galang shares some of his thoughts about the Peel DSB’s social media guidelines.

Recently, the Peel District School Board released their social media guideline for staff and teachers. As much as I applaud their initiative (they’ll be the first to outline such guidelines for social media use in detail), there were a few items that sparked a healthy convo with my Tweeps over the last two days. Without the risk of repeating myself, I’ll simply address the most contentious for me.

In the beginning, teacher use of social media was really experimental.  I can recall being involved with the OTF Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century series.  In some quarters, there was a wish that there would be rules or guidelines.  I remember having the discussion at the time and we agreed that you just couldn’t put it all into a one pager.  The best advice we got still applies to day “Don’t do stupid things.”

I absolutely agree with Fred’s concerns.  I never was a fan or rules.  They always define a line between someone’s concept of what’s right and what’s wrong.  If you’ve ever been in a classroom, you know that’s an immediate red flag for students to determine where that line actually is. 

My sense is that the document still has the mentality that social media is a “think” that can be clearly defined and all the negatives drawn from it.  The document does identify concerns, particularly about student privacy.  Instead of a social media document that defines that, wouldn’t it make more sense to expand any existing privacy resource to include cautions? 

I do wonder about the concept of having a person and a professional account.  We’ve all seen people try to manage that and post from the wrong account.  What would happen if students actually found out that you’re human and are a fan of the Detroit Tigers?  Certainly the world wouldn’t end.

I still like the original advice “Don’t do stupid things.”

Royan Lee also wrote about the same thing and garnered some comments from Ontario Educators well worth the reading.


How BYOD/T is Getting Easier, How it’s Getting Harder

Not to belittle Royan’s other post, I really like what he did when he tackled the topic of BYOD/T again.

It’s to his credit that he’s identified in one of the comments as a “pioneer”.  He’s certainly been very vocal and open about his experiences over the time that devices were welcomed in his class.  He addressed these in detail in an interview that I had with him.

Royan’s just generally a great guy.  I recall sitting next to him watching his kids swimming and we were just chatting.  I still remember thinking “this guy is going to change the world, one class at a time”.  He’s very vocal but not the sort of evangelist that exudes a “follow me or begone” approach.

In a world where some are debating the merits of BYOD, Royan speaks with the mature voice of experience. 

If you’re collecting a list of definitive resources about BYOT, you need to include this post. 

Dean Shareski did.


Yearning For The Printed Photograph

Facebook friends know that I had a major life event this past week.  I was there with my phone taking pictures and sharing them on Facebook with friends.  It’s fast and efficient and you get to see them all just as quickly as I can post them.  Not all of them were absolute perfection but they were from my eyes.

My wife, on the other hand, goes a more traditional route.  Even though she has a digital camera, it’s off to Shopper’s to get printed copies of them.  She likes the more permanent record of them and the fact that she can put them in an album and leave them on a shelf.

Aviva Dunsiger reflected on the value of the printed photograph.  I couldn’t help but think that this approach (and grudgingly my wife’s) will stand the test of time.

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I think it’s testament to family history and the eye of the photographer that someone later on can use the word “incredible” to describe their efforts.

It makes you wonder about the legacy of images that those of us share online.  I know that I do keep a copy on backup here but there still a trip into town away from being put in an album.  There’s merit in that – one of my own favourite throwback pictures is of two buzzcut kids with their grandmother. 

There probably is a preferable half-way meeting of the technologies to satisfy both worlds. 

Check out Aviva’s entire post as she takes a look at both sides of the discussion.  There’s some pretty wise insights and, as per Aviva’s normal, a bunch of questions to ask yourself.


Thanks everyone for continuing to write and inspire.  Please take the time to enjoy the entire posts and all of the postings from Ontario Edubloggers.  There’s always some great writing happening.

And, while writing this, I downloaded the latest Live Writer to see if I have the latest.  I might have to hang around Windows for another day or so…

British Pathe


How things have changed!

When I was in secondary school, movies were a true event.  It was actually our version of the flipped classroom.

When there was a movie to be shown in history, we flipped with the geography class because it was on the other side of the school and didn’t catch the morning sun and, if I remember correctly, had better curtains to darken the room for the event.  We were the second history class in our grade so word got around when it was “movie time”.

We came prepared – actually prepared for anything but learning.  When the lights were turned off and the projector started, a whole lot took place totally unrelated to the video.  Mostly flying objects – paper airplanes, crumbled paper, …

Surprisingly, I do recall having some great discussions about the video content later so I guess the activity wasn’t completely a waste.

The thought that we might be able to watch the video at home and come to school prepared to talk about it was most certainly foreign!

Not so today. 

With devices being so ubiquitous, and sources like a school or public library, video is an important component of a teacher’s toolkit.

Many of us have fought the fight for years to get better bandwidth and to unblock video sharing sites for exactly this purpose.  Now open, the challenge becomes one of getting the best of the best.

Our times, and our students’ times, have been well documented.  One place to find a huge wonderful collection of important and relevant videos is British Pathé.

Pathé News was a producer of newsreels, cinemagazines, and documentaries from 1910 until 1976 in the United Kingdom. Its founder, Charles Pathé, was a pioneer of moving pictures in the silent era. The Pathé News archive is known today as "British Pathé". Its collection of news film and movies is fully digitised and available online.

Over 80,000 videos from a variety of areas of interest are available at their Youtube site.  It’s difficult to even point to a particular video.  There’s just so much there.  You have to visit and experience it for yourself.  You might consider subscribing to get announcements and access to playlists.

I know that many people search for video using their favourite search engine – having British Pathé as a starting point makes a great deal of sense.  Whether you’re looking for in-class use, videos to assign at home, or even just personal research and interest, you’re going to find this invaluable.

Images from the South West


I was in the drive through at Tim Horton’s listening to the local news on “The Information Station” when a report came on about an inquest into the death of an inmate at the Windsor Jail.

The jail certainly isn’t one of the most modern facilities and is slated to be closed when the South West Detention Centre opens.  The current facility is famous (infamous?) for its awful state.  You read in the newspaper about people having their time to be spent there reduced because of the conditions.  Over the summer, I discussed this with a friend of mine who used to be a corrections officer and he confirmed that it was indeed in need of closing.  Like the Goderich Gaol, it will probably end up being a museum at some point.

The building is really old.  It’s on the route home from work but I guess I was just a little curious this morning as I listened to the news report. 

How old is it really?

As a good digital citizen, I didn’t pull out my phone while in line (that would be wrong and just the outside of the building is a deterrent…) but I did wait until I got home and did some research.  It was very hard to find – there are so many stories about the new facility opening and they dwarf anything else.  Then, it dawned on me that perhaps it wasn’t in Windsor when it open?  Maybe it was in the town of Sandwich.  That searching did appear to be more successful and it looks like it was built behind MacKenzie Hall in 1924. 

In the process, I stumbled upon just a wonderful collection of resources for anyone interested in the history of Southwest Ontario.

I think that my interest in history has really been renewed with all of the efforts in recognizing the events of the War of 1812.

The result?  I’m really getting a kick, and a lesson, from discovering stories and images from this area.

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One of the things that I discovered as I searched for the jail history was this resource hosted by the Leddy Library at the University of Windsor.  It’s an archive of images from Ontario’s south west.

Nicely indexed, searches can be done based on community, subject, title, type, date, or the creator.

Many, but not all, of the images are in the public domain so you need to be respectful in the use.  I just found that the images tell a fascinating story as I clicked around trying to orient the images to what I know today.  I just feel sorry that it took this long to find this resource. 

I guess the lesson here is that it’s cool and all that to look at worldly pictures like the Eiffel Tower.  Sometimes, the best and more relevant things may be just in your own back yard.

It’s “About” Educational Technology


One of the earliest Twitter accounts that I followed was @elemenous.

During my time on Twitter, Lucy Gray has been a great source of information and she travels in interesting online circles.  She shares her work regularly via blog at High Techpectations.  I always check out her collections that she calls “Get Googley in Education” and “Apple of My Eye: Resources Catching My Attention”.  There’s always good stuff curated there.

Speaking of curation, another of my favourite internet resources is About.com.  It’s a nice front page to online resources, and organized by category.

I was pleasantly surprised to see these two excellent resources merge today, in a message from Lucy.

Welcome to About.com’s new educational technology page! My name is Lucy Gray and I’ll be your curator of practical digital tools, tips, and ideas to implement in your classroom. This resource will keep you updated with ed tech news, trends and innovations. And, I’ll be introducing you to exemplary educators from around the world who are doing great things with teachers and students involving ed tech.

This has huge potential.

I’ll be following the development of this resource.  You may wish to do the same!

Popcorn Tour of Essex County


I’ve heard many reasons why students aren’t allowed to create movies in class …

  • installing the video creation software takes up too much room on the image;
  • we don’t have licenses for all students;
  • movie making is reserved for this course;
  • our computers don’t have enough hard drive space;
  • we’ve got to constantly apply updates for bug fixes;
  • <fill in your own>

It results in frustration from the need to put together digital resources and to present them as a movie.

If that’s the case, or you want to get an easy to use, fully functional cloud based creation tool, you need to check out Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker.

It’s got most of the functionality that you need to create your content – layers, timeline, transitions, scrubber bar, preview in the environment, the ability to import created content from a wide variety of sources …

To kick the wheels, I decided to make a video promoting Essex County.  Well, sort of…

I figured the four cornerstones would be Windsor, Amherstburg, Leamington, and Belle River.  (Sorry, Stoney Point)

As I looked at the sources available (Popcorn calls them Events), a couple immediately caught my eye…  Google Maps and a Flickr search.

So, I created a separate layer for each municipality’s map using Google Maps.  Double clicking in the window presented lets you zoom in and move around to get things positioned just the way you want them to be.  Images are randomly generated from a search of Flickr for the community.  Of course, you can upload your own but I thought this was an interesting concept and it worked so quickly.

Once a layer has been created, objects can be moved or stretched on the timeline.  As you would expect, the layers themselves can be ordered after the fact.  I had complete freedom to mix and match.  I started with an idea and it kept evolving as I experimented.  There was nothing in Popcorm Maker to slow me down.

Of course, you need a title and a good kiosk program just runs a continuous loop.  Literally, within five minutes, I had created my first movie!

Creating and logging in with a Mozilla Persona unlocks additional features like bringing in YouTube movies for remixing or the ability to permanently save your efforts in the cloud.  This really did generate some wow at my keyboard.

After playing around with Popcorn Maker for a while, I could easily see how it addresses the issues above. 

If your students have a browser and internet access, that’s all that’s needed to start to create productions from their efforts.  This is the real deal.