Reblog – A Sign for Trustees

Some Twitter posts from yesterday made me smile…

But the value added by Lorna Costantini…

…had me going back and reading my original post.

I can’t believe that I posted it over a month ago.  How time flies.  Now that candidate nominations are closed, we have a LOT of people running locally, including one running for mayor who wanted to withdraw but wasn’t allowed to!

It just takes a tour through our town (or any town in the province, for that matter) to see all of the signage up for display.  I remember my father telling me the difference in importance between a sign on someone’s lawn versus a sign placed on public property.  I’ve always wondered about the value of lawn signs, certainly I’ve never been persuaded by someone’s names.  These days, I now look for choice of font and sign design, balance, colour, …  (such a nerd)  I supposed that the biggest takeaway would be the sheer numbers of individual signs as either a straw poll for popularity or the amount of money that someone has committed to getting elected.  I will admit that I do appreciate someone who takes the time to make sure that the sign is level.

For probably the week after the election, the lawn signs will still be there, but they’ll eventually get taken down and hopefully recycled.  During the election campaign, there will be many candidates who turn to social and electronic media to reach out to folks.  My original post talked about the use of technology during election campaigns and I tried to argue the case that lawn signs have a limited life and could be recycled.  Social media presence has the ability to live on after the election.

I still stand by my comments; maybe I’m even more committed to them.  But, I think the post was way too early.  It’s just now that we’re seeing the influx of signs and social media presence.  To that end, I’d like to bring the post forward and ask that it not be applied to just trustees but to all that are running for election.  Just change “school” to whatever institution applies.

Here’s the original post.

Jaimie and I were out for our morning walk and we saw a red and white election campaign sign on a neighbour’s lawn.  We thought – hmmm, a politician who wants to align themselves with the Liberal Party.  As we got closer, it turned out to be a sign for a candidate for the local Catholic School Board.

For my non-Ontario readers, a quick briefing.

In Ontario, we have three major political parties:

and a collection of other parties.

We also have four publicly funded school boards.

  • English Language Public School System
  • French Language Public School System
  • English Language Catholic School System
  • French Language Catholic School System

In addition, each municipality has a mayor, perhaps a deputy mayor, and councillors that are elected every four years.  School board trustees are elected at the same time.  Social media made for some interesting moments at a previous election when people started to take pictures and send a copy of their ballot out on Twitter.

It’s interesting how social media permeates so many of the things in our society.  During the last municipal elections around here, the buzzwords were “transparency” and “openness”.  Even though our community retains the fame (and signs) of being the Safest Community in Canada, there have been issues that have arisen that I’m sure will result in a higher than normal turnout of voters.  So, it seems to me that it’s more important than even for candidates for the school boards to be very visible.

During the last municipal elections, many turned to social media.  I thought, at the time, this was a great idea.  It’s free – but a blog, or Facebook presence, or Twitter presence would raise the visibility of candidates.  I actually started a list of candidates on Twitter and followed the discussion about the election and their thoughts on education.

Then, the election was over.  Down came the lawn signs and the efforts to talk about issues on social media.  To be fair, there are still three local trustees that maintain a presence and do interact on social media.  But, from my perspective, that’s about it.

I wish I could properly attribute this quote but it’s stuck with me.  “The Primary Goal of any Politician, once elected, is to get Re-elected”.

As we walked by the lawn sign, we mused that it will be up for a couple of months and then taken down.  Similarly, how many social media accounts will do the same?

When you think of the things that could be done…

  • promote events at your representative schools;
  • check-in when you do school related activities;
  • share your rationale for school board votes;
  • share pictures of educational events;
  • promote the cause of school/district initiatives (Green Schools, etc.);
  • support fundraising activities;

In fact, here are a bunch of reasons why you should tweet.

Doesn’t it make sense to develop an educational digital footprint, care and feed it during the campaign, and then continue after the election?  Your constituency won’t learn about you from a random lawn sign; through social media, they’ll know your record, your successes, your passions, your dedication….

What An Immediate World We Live In

I’m doing my normal morning routine.  I’m sitting in a chair reading blogs and news stories on my iPad and watching the morning news on WDIV, Channel 4 from Detroit.  (There’s no Canadian equivalent on at 5:30 that gives local weather…)

I had flipped over to Facebook where I follow WDIV and there’s a news story that hasn’t made it to air yet – “Pedestrian bridge collapses, closes M-39 after being hit by truck“.  Now, the Southfield Freeway isn’t one that I drive on regularly but you do see the turn off all the time on the way to the airport.

One of the powerful things about having a device handy when you watch the news is that you can do a little digging.  

So, I opened the Google Maps application and zoomed in.

Already, and this had just happened, the Google Map was showing the traffic situation and the accident location.  Within minutes, WDIV had their morning, mobile news team on site, interrupting the news for the latest details.

As the morning progressed, more details about the accident and what happened were released.

Stepping back, I just marvel at how immediate and current the information was to me.  It’s humbling, it really is.

Later on, I started to think about my weekly trips from Toronto back home to Kitchener.  From East York, it was straight up the Don Valley Parkway, onto the 401 and you’re headed west.  

Until you stop.

Then it’s time to flip around the radio channels to find a local station that’s covering traffic.  There are times when I wonder if anyone is seriously keeping an eye on things.  How many times have I heard the expression “building normally”?

It’s not a big leap to think about connected versus unconnected classrooms.  Connected classrooms are flipping around on their devices looking for the latest and important authorities, sometimes even as it happens.  Unconnected classrooms are flipping through old textbooks looking for materials.  They might read about current events in tomorrow’s newspaper.

Which classroom is yours?

A Roadmap for Special Education

As anyone in the classroom will tell you, devising a plan for success for all students is one of the challenges of teaching.  You want everyone to be successful.

The complex world of planning and individualization gets even more complex with students with special needs.  I was always so appreciative of the resources and the people that could guide me along.

Two parents from Ottawa have created a School Roadmap that attempts to map the flow and identify all of the players and supports.

Education Law, policies and regulations are overwhelming. There is simply too much to know and parents (especially parents of children with special needs) do not always have the time to devote to understanding and researching.  We have taken the time to research and pick out the most important things parents need to know to navigate the educational system in Ontario.

Of real help is identifying the acronyms involved.  Education loves its acronyms.  IEP, IPRC, EQAO and where they fit into the big scheme of things for students with special needs are identified.

The Roadmap is a four page PDF file with links and hot spots to take you away from the Roadmap to the appropriate spot on the web.

As you can imagine, this isn’t a quick activity so be prepared to spend some time working your way through things.  Parents of students with special needs may find the map helpful; teachers may find at least parts of the complex system understandable.

The direct link to the PDF document is here.

Response to Spammers

I don’t know why but there has been a bunch of spam that Akismet hasn’t been catching on the blog lately.  Fortunately, the comments come through on very old posts so you probably don’t see them.  But, it is a little disconcerting (and funny) that they get posted.  I’m sure that the goal is not in the comment but the link back to their original source.  Does it increase their Google advertising ranking?  Or, do they think that I or my intelligent readers will follow the link back to “Spanish Fly”?  Do I cut into any potential income on their part by deleting them?

I hope that you don’t see the comments.  But, in case you don’t, here’s some of the crap that I have to purge on a regular basis.  WordPress is good; the spam is announced when you log in on the computer and I have their mobile app installed so I can catch it wherever I am.

Hey! Quick question that’s totally off topic. Do you know
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Many thanks!

I’m sorry, dude.  I don’t like people who go off topic.  And, a couple other things – nobody uses the term “weblog” anymore and you need to ditch that iPhone4.  Spend all the money you make from your spam money making on an iPhone6 Plus (or as I like to call it, the Google+ version).  You’ll be able to read the content better and spread your garbage quicker with a decent new keyboard.
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I’ve flagged these and, hopefully, Akismet gets smarter by knowing this wasn’t wanted.  I will admit that I’m impressed with the 69 000 pieces of spam that it’s already caught that you don’t have to deal with.  But spammers are always looking for new ways to get through!

Rules About Boxes

Scott McLeod wrote a post on the Dangerously Irrelevant blog that I thought was kind of funny.  I found myself smiling and chuckling as I read my way through it.  I apologize right now to Scott because I’m sure that it wasn’t his intention to be funny.  But, for those who have been around the technology block a few times and proudly wear the t-shirt, we know exactly what he’s talking about with his observations around Iowa the first few weeks of the school year.

He writes under four headings…

1. Big Brother

Does this even need to be said?  It seems to imply that teacher supervision isn’t good enough and that monitoring needs to be done by someone else in charge.  Don’t teachers walk around the room, looking at group work and chip in to help the inquiry and the work being done?  If we’re not going to entertain the serendipity of learning, why not just print the websites that are needed for the activity and leave it at that?

Having monitoring software also begs another question – at home, we would call that spyware – and it’s the most despicable of malware.  Are we explicitly stating that it has a purpose in society?  If we are, then someone needs to define the line where it’s OK and where it’s not OK.  I’m not prepared to do that.  Are you?

2. More sign-offs than buying a house

I remember a few years ago a superintendent coming to me saying that the board of trustees wanted an acceptable use policy that would cover every possible thing that could go wrong, along with consequences.  The six people I worked with at the time and I decided to turn the tables and created an Acceptable Use Policy outlining the positives that we would expect that technology would bring to the table.  Everyone loved it.

In the process, we looked at a number of policies from other boards.  Like those in Scott’s list, they talk about the party of the first part and the party of the second part and the binding contract between them.  The problem was that we could easily spot loopholes.  Principals hate loopholes!  One of our favourite television shows right now is “Border Security” about the CBSA.  One of the questions that they ask people wanting to enter Canada is “have you ever been convicted of a crime?”.  Every now and again, the border agents don’t know the specific law and so they do their research to see if the offense equated to something in Canadian law and then respond appropriately.  Don’t we already have expectations about how students are to behave in school and use things like libraries, textbooks, pens…  Why does technology need a superset of rules?

Besides, nobody reads them anyway.  I just downloaded something from iTunes the other day and had to agree to a 40 page set of conditions.  Of course, I fully devoured all the points and considered how they would apply to me.

3. RTF or WTF?

This demeans the end user.  There isn’t a hacker alive who doesn’t have a list of tools in her bookmarks for converting from one file format to another.  If the student doesn’t, isn’t this a wonderful teachable moment?  If you’re concerned that a student these days won’t be able to open your document with the “new” Microsoft file format, maybe you need to shake your head.

If you’re concerned that they won’t be able to open your word processed document that you saved in Sprint format, maybe it’s time YOU updated.

Besides, who emails documents these days?  Plop it into your Google Drive and share it with those who need it.  Problem goes away immediately.

4. Nope, and nope

So, if students are provided with a laptop, isn’t it part of the program to use it in new and innovative ways?  Calculator?  Pffft!  I don’t even know where I could lay my hands on one.  I know that there’s a number of them on my computer, on my phone, and my tablet.

As for notes on a word processor, isn’t the ability to open Google Docs Research tool or another tab for a Thesaurus important enough to reconsider the whole notion of notetaking?

Thanks, Scott, for your great post.  It does need to be forwarded to those who are in charge of policy.  As I reflect back on his original post and my thoughts, there’s a common thread.  The rules are about the actual boxes and not about the potential that they have for education. 

Perhaps policy makers need to step away and re-evaluate precisely why they’re putting technology in the hands of students.  Do the rules need to be about the boxes?


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.