This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I just flew in from Niagara Falls and, boy, are my arms tired.  Yeah, I know, it’s an oldie but I think a goodie.  Henny Youngman?

Anyway, it was a day of planning for the Bring IT, Together Conference with my co-chair Cyndie Jacobs and we’re excited about the event.  It’s a chance to bring together Ontario educators for three days devoted to technology and, of course, a chance to catch up with some of the Ontario Edubloggers.  They’re always talking about something – here’s some of what I read this week.


A million thank you’s all the way from Greece!

Joanne Marie Babalis checked in reporting “a million” from her online presence.  I’m not sure if it’s hits or followers but that’s certainly a big number so congratulations.

Of course, the goal once you hit a million, is to hit two million so click through and add to her numbers!


“Boom! That just happened” – My Experience at the Google Teacher Academy

I remember my first look at the Google Campus.  I’m sure that my chin had hit the ground hard and was dragging.

Read about Rolland Chidiac’s experience here.  He shared 10 things that stuck with him after his visit to the Google Teacher Academy.


Things We Learn From Our Students

Lorraine Boulos shared an interesting take on a guest blogger for her blog.  She asked a retiring teacher to share some thoughts.  So, Mark Whinton penned three things learned from students.

It’s amazing advice as we head into the 2014-2015 school year.

Sadly, not everyone is listening. Kudos to those that are.


When is something worth writing about?

I really enjoy reading the leadership thoughts from Sue Bruyns.  Reflection has always been job #1 for me – I think it lets you learn from the present and plan for the future.  With social (and traditional) media, there is no shortage of places to write and share your thoughts.

As Sue expertly notes….

Maybe the question isn’t “When is something worth writing about?” but “When is something not worth writing about?”  There certainly is the public forum and there are no shortages of readers.  There’s also the private domain and that can be just as rewarding.

If it’s not memorialized somehow, it may just get lost forever.


Readers, this has been a wonderful week of reading and reflecting.  Thanks so much for continuing to share, think, learn, and grow.

Please take the time to check out these posts and the entire collection of Ontario Edubloggers.

And, most certainly, all the best next Tuesday.

Q&A – Jeopardy Style


One of the favourite tools that was shared during my university class was a Flash based version of the popular game show, Jeopardy.  We talked about using it as a diagnostic tool or as a way to have students challenge their classmates during the research of a particular topic.  It certainly isn’t something that you base an entire course on, but it’s nice to shake things up a bit.  Paired with a SMARTBoard, it also helps students with their presentation skills.

These days, not all devices effectively use Flash anymore and so that opportunity is lost.  Plus, if you created a game at home, you had to remember to bring the questions to school in order to use it!  If there was an application that screamed for a web-based solution, this was it.

Enter Flipquiz.

Like so many things these days, there’s a free and a paid (pro) version. The free version has the features that you need to give it a fair shakedown.

Visit the site and try out the demo quiz that’s online.  Six categories with five questions in each category.

If you’ve watched early evening television in the last 50 years, the presentation is so familiar.

Choose a category and a value…

I’ll take NBA Teams for 400…

I’ll buzz in with the answer “Utah”.  A reveal shows the answer is true.

Selecting student responses can be done a number of ways – hands, call on a student, or I used to use those “That was easy” devices from Staples.

That’s about it! 

You’re not going to use it daily – it would lose its lustre – but add it to your arsenal.

A Sign for Trustees


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; they’ll know your record, your successes, your passions, your dedication….

What would be your reasoning NOT to connect your students to the world?


This is a reblog of a post from Scott McLeod’s terrific Dangerously Irrelevant blog.  His post is a reblog itself of a Facebook post by Laura Gilchrist.

Both ask an important question – what is your reasoning NOT to connect your students?  It’s a really good question.

As of the time of this writing, (Sunday morning), there were no replies to Scott’s post or to Laura’s message.

I’m hypothesizing a few reasons:

  • anyone who wouldn’t isn’t connected themself and so wouldn’t read the question anyway;
  • it’s none of our business;
  • being connected is in vogue and so being a dissenter might not be a pleasant experience;
  • there are some people who actually teach in a non-connected environment so this is not an option;

Regardless, it’s an important question that I think is worth asking and I look forward to reading an answer.  With this post, the question is now asked in at least three places.

From Scott’s blog…

Laura Gilchrist said:

Twitter allows educators to connect and interact with resources, ideas, and people from around the world. Twitter allows educators to share their stories – positive stories included. We need more positive stories because, I’m telling you, there’s a lot of good going on in our schools – good that doesn’t get shared. Those walls you see around you do not have the power to isolate you and your kids any longer.

My question to you: If you have in your hands a tool (phone, computer, tablet + Twitter) that, by just moving your fingers, can connect you, your students, and your communities to resources, ideas, and people from around the world – a tool that can empower kids and educators to learn, create, grow – why would you choose NOT to start using it? What would be your reasoning?

via https://www.facebook.com/lgilchrist/posts/10203253927407020

At OTF Teaching, Learning & Technology Conference – Hopscotch, Sphero, Social Reading


It was a terrific three days in Toronto working with a wonderful group of Ontario educator professionals. The Ontario Teachers’ Federation throws a great event.  The attendees were asked to self-identify as early users of technology.  I think that many left with their heads spinning, full of great ideas.  They were invited to learn where their interests lay because they certainly couldn’t take in everything that was offered.

What was offered was very quickly scaffolded and everyone was encouraged to learn, create, and push themselves to new levels.

Those that joined me got to experience from the following.

Hopscotch

We had a ball learning how to code on the iPad.  We started simply by controlling movement on the screen but very quickly added the elements of sequencing and repetition to our efforts.  By the time we were done, everyone was programming like pros and had learned how to branch programs from the Hopscotch website and modify them to do great things!

Here is the link to the resources shared are on my PD Wiki.

Sphero

Speaking of having a ball, it was only natural that we took the opportunity to learn a bit about programming a robot with the iPad. Many schools are adopting iPads instead of desktops or laptops. How can you continue to work with robots? Sphero fits the bill nicely.  I had a great conversation with Jeff Pelich from Waterloo and we both agreed that the Macrolab and OrbBasic are required downloads to support the programming.

Social Reading

One of things that I strongly believe is that when we read and share, we can all become smarter.  That was the basic message in the social reading station at Minds on Media.  This messy diagram shows the workflow, er, reading flow that I use.

We talked about a number of absolutely terrific sources for professional reading on a daily basis.

and, of course, Ontario Edubloggers.

But the message here was more than just reading.  It’s about sharing.  We identified the sharing links on any of these sources and learned how to send them to Twitter, Facebook, or Instapaper.

Again, the message was more than just sending it to these sources.  We talked about using Packrati.us.  The moment (or shortly thereafter) you send a link to Twitter, we talked about how Packrati.us would send the link to a Diigo account.  I love to use the analogy of a set of dominos tumbling over!  But, when it all works, the links are shared with others and they’re permanently bookmarked in your Diigo account.

But, it doesn’t stop there.  We talked about collecting the good stuff and having it all in one place.  Remember that great article you read last year?  Why retrace you steps to find the article by doing an internet search and hoping that you’re able to find it again?  Tuck it away in Diigo.

Once it’s there, you can do some amazing things other than just bookmarking.

  • Install the Diigo extension so that you’re one click away
  • Create a blog post with the links you’ve shared
  • Save your Diigo links to Delicious so that you’ve got a backup
  • Make Diigo the default search engine for your browser
  • Set up Diigo groups and use Diigo network
  • Get a Diigo Educator account

Yes, it can be messy but are the benefits worth it.  And, people seemed to buy in at their own personal level.  It doesn’t get better than that.  I met a secondary school teacher-librarian who was planning to set up Diigo groups for the various departments in her school; a lady who is planning to cultivate recipes; another lady looking to build a knowledge network about running; and a gentleman going to pull together resources for bass fishing.  How’s that for personalized?

I know that there were a lot of exhausted people who returned home Friday night, but it was a good exhausted.  You can’t beat a event of learning, sharing, and making connections.

A Python Visualizer


Thanks to the ACSE discussion list, I stumbled onto this beauty.  Python is the choice of programming language for a lot of secondary schools.  This visualizer can go a long way to help the cause.

Gone are the days of tracing a program on the blackboard!

Enter the code of the program you wish to test…in the screen capture above, I’ve taken the example given from the site.  When you’re ready to go, click on “Visualize Execution”.

The screen clears to reveal two panels.  On the left is your original code and, on the right, the results from executing the code. 

Now you have the option to step through your code.  The line being executed gets pointed to in the level panel and the results appear on the right.  I had to smile – I think of the awful looking presentation that I used to create by myself.  This is nice, neat, and very readable.

So, you can step through the program, step backwards, and really visualize what’s happening with any program.  Very nicely done!

Thanks, ACSE mailing list for sharing this.

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.

 

image

 

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.