One of my morning reads is the Leadership Freak.  This week, there was a really interesting piece of reading in the post “12 Powerful Ways to Make People Feel Powerful“.  That wasn’t all that was in there but the list of 12 appears towards the end of the article.  I’d suggest that it’s a good read for administrators and teachers and also students as they work in groups.

As with most good posts, it closes with a call to action – basically with a couple of questions.  The second one was interesting “Who made you feel powerful? What did they do?

I immediately zeroed in on advice I got from my father a long time ago “Do good by making others do better”.  When I put the two of them together, it made me really appreciate a couple of leaders that entered my life.

One of these leaders was a principal.  This person truly led by example.  There was no activity in the school that he didn’t take part in.  There were clearly activities where he didn’t belong – my computer club being one – but his presence was inspirational to the students just for being there.  In the beginning, I’ll admit that it was a little freaky but once I saw the results from him doing it, I appreciated it so much.  It really validated my efforts.

Later on, as a consultant, I had a superintendent who took his job as leader to the next level.  It seemed that his only goal was to ensure that we were successful.  He pushed us in so many ways.  A couple of examples.

This was another freaky one.  Quite often, we would have to attend the same event in London.  It only made sense to drive together.  He always insisted that I would drive.  That wasn’t a problem; I enjoy driving.  But, his part in the trip was interesting.  He would bring a notebook full of computer and computers in the classroom questions and I was more or less interviewed the entire distance.  Thank goodness for the ONRoutes at Tilbury and Dutton.  The first time we did this, it felt like a job interview!  Then I realized he was doing two things – first, testing to make sure that I was consistent with my convictions.  Secondly, he would learn and then when he would face the  board of trustees, he was on top of what was happening.

The second example really showed his commitment to the group of us who worked for him.  It was a year of financial cutbacks in the board and consultant professional learning budgets were set to zero.  The superintendent budgets remained in place.  I worked with a couple of people who had been working on a provincial conference for at least a couple of years.  They got to go.  Sadly, I didn’t.  It was later that I found out that he quietly had shifted his budget to them.  My take away was his commitment to the good of the group.

To this day, I remain appreciative for these (and other) actions.  They confirmed that there were people who supported me and I guess they did make me feel powerful.  I don’t know that I fully appreciated the extent of these efforts at the time but I did come to.

How about you?  What efforts of others made you feel powerful?


More with the Google Maps Gallery

A while back, I had shared how much fun I had poking around the Google Maps Gallery.

Last night, I went back to see how the development of the resource was going.  I found some really interesting maps.  People are taking advantage of this.  Mapping a school district with its catchment areas is a natural.  Check out the Yakima School District.



Now, I’m really interested and poked around some more.

I’ve always been a fan of the David Rumney Map Collection.  Parts of the collection now appear here.

Check out our little part of North America in 1827.


It’s absolutely a wonderful resource.  Take some time and poke around for yourself.  If you enjoy a good map collection, you’ll love this.

Networked News

About 3am this morning, the dog was up.  I think he wanted to go outside to see if he could see the Aurora Borealis.  As I returned to go back to bed, I checked my iPad.  There was a message there from my friend Allison about the overnight event in Clinton.  I couldn’t ignore it and so started to read.

I flipped on the television and scrolled through the 24 hour news channels, looking for details.


And yet, online, there were reports from the local media – CKNX, CFPL, Blackburn News, and some I’d never heard of.  The story was still early but what details were available were being reported.  In our Clinton group on Facebook, people were aggregating news reports as they happened.  As it turns out, Twitter is serving as an excellent aggregator of the news, once you filter out the references to other “Clintons”.

This morning, the local stations had provided more details.  I did turn to our national news stations and there were no reports at all.  It’s like it didn’t happen.  The closest that I could find news was on Canoe.  As a former resident, I was so anxious for details.

As I sit here fidgeting for details, I think of traditional news media.  I remember Walter Cronkite as “the most trusted man in America“.  I recall watching the daily news read from the likes of Knowlton Nash, Peter Mansbridge, Lloyd Robertson in the evening.  These news shows had a definite starting and ending times with the contented carefully edited to fit in between.  They really weren’t about reporting news as it happened; they were entrusted to provide us with a summary of the day’s news.

News coverage has certainly changed.  Yes, we still have the nightly news summaries but most news sources now have their own 24 hour news channels.  For me, in this case, for the most part, the traditional media dropped the ball.  As I sat there anxiously flipping through channels looking for news, I saw repeats of previous newscasts as well as stories that could best be described as infotainment.  The best news reports were online.

Is this a message for the big, traditional news organizations?  What happens when you’re bested by smaller, more nimble news sources?

This certainly has not been a good week for humanity.  What news that was on was focused on much that was in the headlines. This is now old news.

There is a learning theory about connectivism that I’ve totally bought in to from my experiences and needs.  From Wikipedia (1)- “As Downes states: “at its heart, connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks”.

I think this describes perfectly what I was experiencing.  When I worked with Allison, we had a wonderful network of co-learners and we shared so much.  She continues in that vein.  Her efforts led me to a network of connections that I would never have known otherwise.  They were providing the best of the learning that was available at the time.  For that, I’m so grateful.  As I write this, I’m still so concerned about what is happening and am continually monitoring resources.

(1) Reference:  “Connectivism.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 09 Dec. 2014. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.

Later on – it’s now later than the original post – the story seems to be covered by all the major Canadian news sources.  Details are still sketchy.

Data Spoils a Good Walk

I know, not original, Doug.

Golf is a good walk spoiled.- Mark Twain

But, it’s still an appropriate spinoff.

Today’s the day for Apple’s latest, big event.  The internet is alive with stories and speculations about what might be announced.  I’ve been watching, with amusement, the content from the big Apple fanboys and girls.  It goes even so far as to making indications about what they’re going to buy – even before it’s announced???

Anyway, one of the speculated new devices is the iWatch.  So, it just seems appropriate that today is the day to write a blog post about my birthday present.

My daughter demanded that I blog about it so here goes…  For you, Weaze.

Four years ago, we adopted the world’s best pet.  Ever since Jaimie came home, my walking patterns have changed dramatically.  I’ve gone from a nice stroll down the block to three power walks a day.

“I always crash after a good walk”

A while ago, my friend @sadone told me about an app that I could install on my phone that would count the number of steps I take in a day.  So, Noom Walk was installed and, at the end of the day, it was with curiosity that I would check the number of steps made.  I double the count and that’s Jaimie’s score for the day.  Doug’s advice to me was that I should take 10 000 (20 000 dog steps) a day.  It was always a bonus when that happened.

Mid-August was my birthday and the kids all chipped in to buy me a Fitbit Flex.  Essentially, it’s this rubber device that you wear on your wrist and it counts steps and, if you configure it properly, you can have it monitor your sleeping patterns.  There’s no digital display – it has five LEDs that let you know your progress towards your daily goal of steps.  I configured it for 10 000 steps and so each LED lights up at 2 000.  The band syncs with a computer or smartphone via bluetooth.  I started syncing to my laptop but switched to the phone which seems somehow more convenient.

A green one?  Of course.  You were expecting some other colour?

I’m coming up to about a month of wearing it and here are some of my observations…

  • It’s easier to hit 10 000 than on the phone.  I put the Fitbit on in the morning and just leave it on.  The phone is only counting when it’s actually in my pocket and I’m (we’re) moving.
  • I haven’t worn a watch in years.  Even before I had a smartphone, there were clocks everywhere and so never had the need.  Now, all computers and smartphones have easily visible time devices.  And yet, even though it’s been years, I must look at my wrist a dozen times a day to see what time it is.  There’s got to be a long lost brain synapse connection somewhere.  It amuses my wife who is constantly asking what time it is just to see me look at my arm.  Grrr.
  • I don’t monitor my sleep.  When I first got the device, I tried it and just found it annoying.  I know that I’m a light sleeper as it is, but this seems to make my sleep habit worse.  It was concerning to note that I was restless 30 times at night.  I now take the device off for bed.
  • I find it interesting to take my phone and the Fitbit for a morning walk when they both start at zero.  At the end of the walk, they never report the same number of steps.  Weird.
  • It’s 4 200 (8 400) steps to the firehall and back.  It’s 2 100 (4 200) steps around the Navy Yard in town.  It’s 3 200 (6 400) steps if I extend the Navy Yard walk to include going up to Sandwich Street by the Tim Horton’s.  I’m now becoming a fountain of even more useless trivia.
  • You can game it by taking longer or shorter steps. I can now confirm that not all steps are equal.  You knew that.  I have quantitative data.
  • The best episode on Pawn Stars was the step counting one where Corey attached his device to a paint can shaker…
  • My interest in walking data has changed.  With Noom Walk, at the end of the day, I’d check in and see how far I walked.  Now, I’m forever tapping to light up the LEDs to see how close to my goal I am.  I’m not sure I like that – it’s ruining a good walk!  But it does help set a goal.  There is a nice feeling to sync and get the congratulatory message that you’ve achieved your goal.

So there you go, Weaze.  Unlike the tie that hangs in the closet, this present has become part of my life and has made some changes to the way I do things.

Professional Learning

 After I wrote yesterday’s post, I was working on the September ECOO mailing that will serve to promote the Bring IT, Together conference on November 5-7 in Niagara Falls.  It will be sent to all ECOO members and I’ll post it here once it goes out.  So, as I write this, I’ll be up front – this is about posting to my blog but it’s also an awareness piece for the conference.  I’m co-chairing the conference with my friend Cyndie Jacobs and we have just a wonderful group of volunteers making it happen.

Anyway, as I was writing the message, I wanted to make sure that I included a link to the Lanyrd site so that people could see the various conference offerings.  I was humbled to think that there are 275 presenters currently listed and over 200 events offered for registration.  Even at that, and we’ve added two more presentation spaces this year, there are something like 150 sessions that we couldn’t find room for at the Scotiabank Convention Centre.

My mind wanders again and I think about some of the blogs that I’ve read over the years with titles like:

  • My students taught me everything I know about technology;
  • It’s not about the technology;
  • Today’s kids know so much about technology;
  • I let my kids fail so that they can learn;

You get the idea, I’m sure.  They are nice titles and an invitation to read to see what the author is talking about.

When you peel back the skin from the onion, there’s a common thread that rolls through there.  The authors are pretty savvy technology using teachers themselves.  They know what’s possible and what’s not.  They know the difference between right and wrong.  They know what the promise of technology can deliver.  They’re constant learners themselves.

My mind wanders again and I have this image from a textbook we had at the Faculty of Education.  The author was Guy R. Lefrancois and the title was “Psychology for teaching: a bear rarely faces the front“.  What made the book unique was the inclusion of comics to reinforce his points.  There was one comic that I distinctly remember, on the topic of discovery learning, of a teacher talking to students and the caption read something like “OK, students…go out and discover a way to make teacher rich.”  I’m looking at my active bookshelf and don’t see it.  It’s probably out in the garage in the archives.  Rats!  It would have been nice to include the visual.

I recall a discussion I had at edCampSWO with a friend who made reference to the “fail” blog post and her comment was “My kids aren’t as good as theirs.  If I let them have free rein, who knows what would happen?”

Therein, as Paul Harvey would have said “is the rest of the story”.

You don’t turn 30 students loose on the internet with new whatever technology and hope that magic happens.  A good teacher “sets the table” and defines the conditions for success.  Even the students that fail, fail within the scope of the lesson.  They may come to the table with their self-taught magnificent skill set, some of it which may be foreign to the teacher, and apply these skills appropriately.  In that respect, the use of technology is no different than planning an art lesson where you make available the resources that will ensure success.

But free rein?  Hardly.

To really put that in perspective, take a read of this story from Graham Cluley’s security blog Hackers plotted fake Flappy Bird app to steal girls’ photos from Android phones“.  If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you and inspire the need to have well designed lessons, I don’t know what will.  Do these self-taught skills that are brought to the table by students include knowing digital safety, staying focused on the task, becoming engaged in the classroom activity?  If you haven’t done so, read Sophia Mavridi’s wonderful post “Student Engagement – with or without technology“.

How do you engage?  Where do you get ideas?

That’s where meeting with other professionals at an edCamp or ECOO conference or at your district’s professional learning event can be so valuable.  I’ve mentioned many times that teaching is a lonely profession.  It was reinforced being the only computer science teacher at your school.  How do you know that what you’re doing is right if you have nobody to compare notes with?  More importantly, how do you know in what areas to grow and push yourself?  Hopefully, you have a plan.  If not, you need to connect with the right group of learners.

In yesterday’s post about the infusion of technology in Ontario, one of my questions was about professional learning opportunities.  The technology, by itself, will not do the magic.  It’s your professionalism that will make the difference.  As if we had this planned, a professional that I look up to for my personal inspiration – Peter Skillen, commented on my post from yesterday and shared a blog post of his own from a few months back. “Another Brick in the Wall“.  Take a read and see if that doesn’t inspire.

What are your professional learning plans?

Lots of Questions

Like many,  I think I was surprised to see an article with this title from the CBC appear in my reading last week.

Ontario announces $150 million investment for iPads in the classroom

It’s not that Ontario doesn’t invest in classroom technology.  In fact, they do and have for years.  It’s just that it was surprising to see a particular product mentioned.  I can’t recall something specific like this going back to the days of the Icon Computer.  Usually funding is given to school districts who make their own decisions about platform, support, and implementation.

It was with real curiosity that I dug into the article looking for details.  As it turns out, the article talks about money devoted to the purchase of technology.  It was the author of the article that chose to include the words iPad in the title.  The full announcement, from the Ministry of Education website is located here.

I wasn’t the only one to show some curiosity about this.  Later that day, Justin Yantho tagged me in a Google Plus post.  He had questions and some thoughts as well.  The recent events from the LAUSD didn’t go unnoticed.

Over time, we’ll see exactly what this announcement means.  But it does leave one to wonder a few things…

  • Is this $150M “new” money or does it represent a new total for investment?
  • Will there be professional learning opportunities for teachers to go with this?
  • Do all Ontario schools have the infrastructure (wireless access, bandwidth, etc.) to accommodate an initiative like this?
  • Will there be provision for hiring technicians for school districts to support an even bigger technology workload?
  • Will students be allowed to take portable technology home?
  • Will the money be in place to replace these computers 3-4 years from now when they become obsolete?
  • Will the use of technology be required in classrooms to specifically support curriculum expectations?
  • Will there be a renewed importance on OSAPAC to acquire licensing for software for this technology?


Labour Day

Labour Day was always significant.  As a child, it was the last day that the local swimming pool was open.  We would wait until 4:45 (it closed at 5:00) and then cannonball the lifeguards to get thrown out of the pool for the year.  You know what they say about paybacks – a little older and I was the lifeguard on the receiving end.

Other than that, as a child, it was significant since it marked the return to school.  Labour Day was like a reprieve – it made the first week of school only four days long.  The pain didn’t really start until the second week!  As a teacher, it’s much the same, although I’d be in all through the summer setting things up to my liking.

Maybe it was having a real job or maybe it was moving to Canada’s Motor City, but Labour Day became bigger than life with a parade and an opportunity to meet others before returning to work on the Tuesday.  That Monday night was certainly restless as I would flip and flop all night worrying about how things would go with the new classes.  Despite the worries, it never was bad.  The students went through the same angst.  The weather always seemed to take a turn for the worse on Labour Day only to turn into Essex County heat once the school opened.

While we don’t share a Thanksgiving day with our neighbours to the south, we both do share Labour/Labor Day.

Happy Labour Day!