Doctor, it hurts when I do that


It’s been an interesting week in blogging.  I need to follow that advice.

I thought it was just me that noticed and that I had damage control kick in.  But, once again, I was wrong.

The first inclination that other noticed was a message from @DavidFifeVP asking me where the message went and could I send the link to him again.  Then, last night at dinner, my daughter asked “Has your blog been screwy this week?”  I read your posts and it seems like I get an announcement that a new one is up but I can’t get to it.

Both of them are right.

Last weekend, I had given a presentation using Google Slides so it was only appropriate that I use Google Chrome as the browser to deliver things.  No problem there, and it worked like a champ.

I’m not one to turn my computer off so it just went to sleep and when I got home, opened the lid and away I went. 

As per my normal routine, I started a new blog post in ScribeFire and posted it to WordPress for publication the next morning at 5:00am like I normally do.  After it was posted, Brian Aspinall had sent me a link that I wanted to include so I logged into WordPress on the web and made the change and saved it.  I happened to glance at the screen where normally, you’d find a “Scheduled” button and saw “Updated” instead.  That was bizarre.  Maybe there was a change and I didn’t get the memo.  My next step is then normally to preview and proofread and then I noticed that the title of the post had changed to one that I had used in the past “It’s the Little Things”.  Now, that’s tres bizarre.

I flipped over to Hootsuite to see that the post had been announced to the world.  Wow.  Next step was to undelete the Twitter message and then I needed to also go to Facebook and delete the announcement there because the robots had done their work faithfully!  I updated the title of the post and made sure to change the date and time to the next day and updated.  Darned if the same thing didn’t happen again.  Now I’m starting to wonder about my sanity.  I do what every sane person does.  Repeat the process and click harder.  Same thing.

I open Firefox and repeat the process – do you know how hard it is to type with your fingers crossed – and everything worked well.  It’s all scheduled to go as planned.  Sadly, those who subscribe to my blog probably got a couple of bogus notifications of a new post.  I’m here to say I’m sorry.

The next day, I did my posting routine like normal and happened to be at my Windows computer with Chrome open and I noticed a spelling mistake.  I fixed it and republished and holy deja vue.  Fortunately, I had my Firefox backup scheme thought through and fixed things.

So, what does a good computing citizen do now?  Of course, I retrace my steps.  What had happened since the last time that I didn’t have a problem?

Actually, it turned out a few things.  Chrome updates itself automatically as it does with its extensions.  So, it could be there.  But then, I’d also had been doing my diligence with the HeartBleed situation.  I had gone and changed the passwords as I was notified by LastPass, including LastPass itself.  Check this, trace that, have another coffee, try this, it was like trying to find something in the dark.  Oh, and I had bought a new mouse and installed a new driver under Windows.

The good news was that Firefox needed updating on my Macintosh and the beta channel is now shipping with the new user interface. 

But, I’m no clearer to figuring out this particular puzzle.  Because it was replicated on both Macintosh and Window using exactly the same tools, I have a feeling that it may well be an issue with a tool or program that I’ve installed and that time will allow for an upgrade. 

It’s not the end of the world but I thought that I owed you who where the unfortunate recipients of bad notices an explanation.

And, just a heads up…I upgraded to Ubuntu 14.04LTS yesterday so look out!


I want to do something a little different this week.  Last weekend, two edcamps were held at the same time.  One in London (edcampldn) and one in Tilbury (edcampswo).  It was a very interesting day in risk taking for the organizers.  First, you have to do the math – bring 100 connected teachers together and you’ll need at least capacity for 200 devices.  On top of that, a couple of sessions were held collaboratively through Google Hangouts and a Google Document.  Both sites appear to have done it successfully.  Congratulations to the organizers.

One of the best ways to measure success is to gauge the reaction from the participants.  During the event, of course, monitoring the Twitter hashtags is the best way to go.

But, after the event, blogging is the way to go.  Even better, when you get new bloggers, you know that you’ve changed the reflective practice of some.  In this post, I’d like to identify the blog posts that I found as professional educators share their learning and their thoughts about their learning.

That’s about what I was able to find.  If you did blog about either event and I didn’t find you, please let me know below in the comments.

I’ve already added the new bloggers to the Ontario Edubloggers Livebinder.  If there are any more new education bloggers, I’d love to add them.  Remember, if you want to know about Ontario Education, talk or read an Ontario Educator.

To all those involved, don’t let this be a traditional one shot in the dark event.  Keep the conversation and the learning going.

What a Web We Weave


Doug Belshaw shared an interesting link the other day.  I’ve been playing with it and it only serves to reinforce just how learning Web Literacy really isn’t a linear process.

This project is based on the Web Literacy Map, essentially a list of skills that one should work at to be web literate.  It’s a traditional presentation with categories and specific learnings within the categories.  It’s a very good listing and, by itself, should be printed and stuck into any planning documentation for teaching web literacy.

Then, move on to Doug’s work.  I’m guessing that you’ll need more than a quick look to completely understand what’s going on.

Each of the categories has two active buttons…

  • what should I know?
  • what can I learn next?

Before you dig deeply, click on each of them and see what happens.  You’ll immediately see what I mean when I indicate that the learning is not linear.  I imagined myself working in a web of connections with plenty of overlap and interactions.

Instead of a roadmap, it’s a realistic interactive overview of potential learnings and next steps.

I like the approach – it’s not the sort of thing that lends itself easy for developing lessons, but I really like the concept of empowering the learner with independent research.  “I know this”, therefore “I need to learn that”.

If you can’t use that approach with students right away, try it on yourself.

When the author is in the house…


I thought that this moment at edcampSWO was worthy of note and that it might be also worthy of tucking away in your memory if you’re wondering whether to attend in the future.

At the beginning of the day, I was sitting with my friend @margsang.  We were catching up at light speed and out of the blue, she asked – do you know Brian Aspinall?  Well, of course I do.  She asked “Which one is he?”  I looked around the cafeteria where we were sitting and noted that I couldn’t see him.

“Why?”

”I want to ask him something about Scrawlar.”

Fair enough.  We waited a few moments more and Brian did enter the room and I asked him to join us.

What happened next was some great conversation, back and forth.

  • “I have this problem when I use Scrawlar with Internet Explorer.” Response – Yes, it’s a known issue.  Use any other browser and there’s no problem.
  • “What’s the best way to transfer Scrawlar documents from one year to the next if a student has a different teacher?” – Response was a number of different solutions.
  • “ You know, I find Scrawlar especially appropriate for my students.  With other online word processors, there’s too much of a cluttered interface with ribbons and huge menus. They have difficulty with them.  With Scrawlar, we just do the writing that we need to do.”

Now, I suppose I should have felt badly that I invited Brian to the inquisition.  But, he seemed to genuinely enjoy doing off-the-cuff support.

At the end of the five minute discussion, everyone seemed happy and we moved on to other things.

On my drive home, I kept thinking about how you’d get support for any other product like that.  Here, we had access to the designer, coder, and chief promoter of the product.  Who could ask for more?  His product is obviously a personal passion and he’s not shy about promoting or supporting it.

image

The product is free; teachers set up classes and students use the product without the need for email.  In so many ways, it’s a solution that would fit nicely into classrooms.

Read my review of it here.

If you haven’t taken a look at Scrawlar, I would encourage you to take a look and see if it’s a fit for your multi-device classroom.

Bleeding


Staying aware of things is always the best advice for anyone who connects her/his computer to the internet.  We were really made aware of this over the past week with the announcement of the Heartbleed bug.  It’s scary stuff, especially when you think of how long it has been in existence and how we’ve come so accustomed to relying on the supposedly secure connection between your computer and the website that you’re visiting.

At the bottom of the wikipedia article linked to above, you’ll find a list of websites that have been affected.  The common sense approach would be to change your password on those sites – once they are patched.

Other articles offering advice include:

A really good resource for all things Heartbleed:

Today’s Naked Security Podcast offers an audio insight into what’s going on:

Users of LastPass have a built-in bit of confidence.  Just head to the Tools menu and run a Security Check.  All of the sites that you have saved in this utility are checked.  You’ll determine if the site has been patched or not, along with a recommendation to get over there and change your password if the site is ready to go.

Or, if you’re not using LastPass, they offer

And, for the truly concerned browser, the Chromebleed extension keeps an eye on the sites that you browse to and warns you before you visit.

This issue is going to take a while to resolve.  I read one report that indicated that 66% of the web could be at risk.  That’s a scary thing.  In the meantime, it’s a good idea to do some research and stay on top of what’s happening.

For the really technical minded, read some code.

And, if that’s too deep, take it in as only XKCD can describe it.

A Thimble Full of HTML


In the beginning, there was Notepad…

Everyone just had to have a personal webpage – it was the upcoming thing to have.  So, I bought a book about HTML, roughed out what my first webpage would look like and then began the process of creating a webpage.  It took a long time and when I was done, I had a crappy looking webpage.  It was OK because most everyone else had a crappy looking webpage.

So, it was off to find other alternatives.  At the time, Netscape Composer did a nice enough job and my personal webpage started to look better!  In fact, we used Netscape Composer for the Women in Technology program and the grade 7/8 students did a pretty decent job composing their own.  Later on, the Ministry of Education licensed the Macromedia Suite of web tools and moved along to the Adobe Suite.  With a lot of practise, it was relatively easy to create a decent enough webpage and website.  The nice part was that the graphical user interface took learning most of the HTML out of the process.

Now, most people use a wiki program like PBWorks, WordPress or Google Sites to develop their online presence.  They do an exceptional job of writing the HTML in the background as you compose/edit in the foreground.  If you wish, there is always a tab or link to let you lift the hood and look at the code underneath.  Most people probably don’t.  After all, it requires a knowledge of HTML and most people don’t know the code.

It’s a contentious issue for those who teach web design in a computer science classroom.  Some camps are OK with graphic developers, other camps insist that students learn to write using HTML.  It’s much like the discussion about whether or not students should memorize the multiplication tables.

I would suggest that, no matter where you stand, there is a middle ground.  There is a need to at least having a passing interest in HTML code and how it drives your content.  This blog, I would offer as Exhibit A, is one of them.

On Friday, I show off some of the best that Ontario Edubloggers have to offer.  The post will have three or four blogs and a long time ago, I used to use 6 = signs to separate one from the other.  It looked like this ======.

One day, I stepped back and thought … that looks really ugly especially when HTML supports a divider that would go from the left side of the screen to the right.  You don’t need to count the number of characters – it just works.  All that you have to do is insert the horizontal rule into the page at the right spot.  Problem is that the WordPress editor and the Scribefire editor which I use almost exclusively don’t have a little button to click and insert the code.

Instead, you have to switch from editing visually to editing the code.  It’s just a click away.  When you do it the first time, you’re immersed in at least a bit of HTML.  You then need toidentify the exact spot in the page where to insert the code and then key


to make it happen.


When it works, it works well.  Or, you might want to insert a code generated by an external program.  For example, a Twitter message.  When you ask Twitter for the raw code, you get something like this.

Tweet

Kind of cryptic if you don’t understand HTML.

So, back to that middle ground.  What’s the best way to teach this?

“Best” is in the eye of the teacher and her professional judgement.  But, I would suggest taking a look at Mozilla’s Thimble.

Unlike traditional web development environments where you have to throw out the visual to get to the code or throw out the code to get to the visual, Thimble gives you the best of both worlds.

I know it’s a little small in the blog post but open the image and you’ll see it regular size.

On the left, you have an editing environment.  Computer Science teachers should be immediately drawn to the colours used to show various components of the code.  Using Thimble is easy.  Just type your code in the left panel and the results appear instantly on the right.  Talk about your immediate feedback.

This old coder had a whale of a time playing with Thimble, wishing that I had an excellent tool like this when I was writing my first webpages.  It would definitely have helped flatten the learning curve.

If you’re looking for a tool to teach HTML, I’d recommend having a good look at this and kicking the tires on it.  It think you’ll like what you see.

Privacy, The Internet, and You


A big, no make that huge, shoutout to my friend Diane (@windsordi) for sharing this with me over the weekend.

It’s from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and offers another way to reach students around the topic of privacy.

It’s a graphic novel “Privacy, The Internet, and You“.

The graphic novel is a PDF file that will open on any device that you have in your classroom or your students have at home.

The novel doesn’t stand alone – check out the discussion guide for ideas and suggestion how best to use this resource with students in your classroom.

The Conversation Begins – #BIT14


Part of the huge success of the ECOO BringITTogether 2013 Conference was the amount of social activity that was built into the event.  Unlike traditional conferences that run from 8-3, we designed activities that extended the learning day with events like:

  • Run with Alana
  • Jam Session
  • OASBO ICT Banquet and Concert
  • Minecraft LAN Party
  • Photowalk by the Falls
  • ECOO Banquet
  • BIT Social

If you didn’t meet someone new, you had to be avoiding everything.

This year’s committee is taking the social concept and running with it.  Things apparently are still a secret but details will be revealed in due time!

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The best way to plan three days of learning is to have a voice in things.  To that end, committee member Paul McGuire (@mcguirp) has organized a series of Twitter chats where you can talk about things leading up to the event.  All of the committee that can attend will be there to read your thoughts and allow the best to inform them in conference planning.

As noted in Paul’s Twitter Message, the first of the #BIT14 Twitter chats will be tonight starting at 7pm.  Paul’s asking you to vote on what you’d like to talk about for this first one.

Response, so far, to the Twitter Poll has been impressive.

It’s not to late to have a vote on the first topic.

And, of course, you’re all welcome to join in on the chat.  Think of it as a way to influence the direction of the planning AND to make connections with others in advance of the event so that you can hit the ground running.

 Join the discussion by opening a search for #BIT14 in your Twitter browser.  You can follow all of the discussions surrounding #BIT14 on this Tagboard.

See you online Wednesday night.

History in Your Hometown


In Amherstburg, we take our history seriously.  From 2012-2014, we’ve been celebrating the War of 1812 in numerous ways that bring the event alive for residents and history seeking visitors to the town.  The pride and joy is historic Fort Malden but a walk through town reveals history at every turn.  Street names, parks, even the Marsh Historical Collection tells stories of a community rich in history.  Recent additions to the Navy Yard Park really make you think and wonder.

The stories that could be told if these people were around to tell them.  Of course, Amherstburg isn’t alone – we’re but one community located on the Great Lakes which were the great transportation and dividers of the time.  For the past couple of years, we have been day and over night tripping visiting communities, forts, and historic sites in southern Ontario.  It’s fascinating to think and be proud that we’ve managed to maintain so much.

There’s another part of historic story telling that isn’t as immediately obvious and yet people drive by them daily without much thought.  I’m talking about cemeteries.  Are you aware of the CanadaGenWeb’s Cemetery Project?  It’s ambitious – the plan is to catalogue each of Canada’s ~18,000 known cemeteries.  Imagine the stories!

A number of search tools will let you find a cemetery by name or even a headstone if the name was still readable when photographed.   But, I would suggest that you don’t do this first – find your country and look for the list of cemeteries.  You’ve probably been by so many of them and not known the name or history behind it.

Essex County has a big list…

There’s one, in particular, that I see on a regular basis.  It’s at the intersection of County Road 10 and County Road 20 – the Wyandotte Indian Cemetery.

Further north, the Walls Fugitive / Slave Cemetery

Off into Kent County, the North Buxton cemetery

The list goes on and on.  Unfortunately, not all cemeteries have made the list – in particular, it would be nice to have the Battle of the Thames Cemetery catalogued.  Those that are catalogued have pictures of headstones, historical plaques and more.  There’s even a spot to suggest a change or improvement to the information that’s on file.  The entire collection is a huge repository of history – ours.

In your community, what stories are waiting to be discovered?

21st Century Literacies: Media Literacy in My Classroom


The following is a guest blog post courtesy of Michelle Solomon and Carol Arcus.

aml

The Association for Media Literacy is a volunteer charitable organization comprised of parents, educators and media producers who support the development and application of media literacy. They have been a driving force in the support and development of media literacy curriculum in Ontario since 1978. They have also been recognized internationally for their work, winning an award for “The Most Influential Media Education Organization in North America” in 1998. The AML organizes and provides workshops, presentations and seminars for educators, parents and students. They speak at conferences around the world and for locally organized events: institutes, conferences, PD Days, parents’ nights and university courses.

One of the more recent initiatives is the “21st Century Literacies” series, begun in partnership with York University’s Faculty of Education in 2012. The intent was to address the changing landscape of learning in response to changing media tools and technologies. That first year, a conference was mounted in the Spring to support teacher candidates; the theme was the use of social media in the classroom. Since then, the conferences have continued annually in the month of April, more recently offering workshops on the teaching, integration, and assessment of media literacy skills at all levels.

This year, on April 5, the AML is presenting “Media Literacy in My Classroom”, an opportunity to meet practising teachers who will share their teaching strategies and answer questions such as, “How do I use media to improve the presentation and oral skills of students?” and “What does student media work look like and how do I assess it?” The conference spans the day (8:30 to 4), is free, and is open to York Faculty of Education teacher candidates, as well as all educators interested and involved in media literacy education.

Registration is done through Eventbrite and, at the time of this writing, only a very few seats were left.  If you’re interested, register soon.

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