This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Here are some of the great thoughts from the fingers of Ontario Edubloggers recently…

Guided Reading Should Be Happening Every Day

Bill Forrester’s blog is a new addition to the Ontario Blog collection.  In his most recent post, he talks about supporting colleagues with guided reading and admits that it wasn’t always a regular routine for his classroom.

Now, as a support person, he’s seeing the value of this as a regular activity.

In the post, look for some online resources to support the technique.


Volume = Length * Width * Height

Alex Overwijk’s blog is another new one to the group.  Welcome, Alex.

I thought this was a rather unique approach.  He shares a lesson that his students did dealing with volume and how they addressed the concept of volume using manipulatives.

Now, that’s a great approach but not entirely new.

What I liked though was taking the image and posting it to Twitter to get some thoughts from other connected educators.  He shares some of the responses.  Very interesting.  Would you be so bold as to post pictures of your hands-on activities in this manner?


Discovery in Primary Math

I think that the power of social media for sharing goes well over the top when lessons are shared.  Alex did above and Jen Aston describes a three-part math activity that she did recently with a split 1/2 class.

Check out the video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuIJQsV-L5s and then head off to Jen’s blog to read the rest of the story about her activity.

It sounds like so much fun.


How Social Media Can Help Increase Social Capital For Students and Their Families

I think that Tracy Bachellier nails it when she talks about the use of social media and “social capital”.  I love this quote that she embedded in the middle of her thoughts.

“It allows me to organize people a lot faster, to check people out for things I might want them to do. It allows people to find me, or if I want to get advice from people, the fastest way is to get them through facebook or twitter. There’s a lot of convenience involved in interacting with people over social media.” ~ Aimee Morrison, Associate Professor of English Language and Literature (Digital Culture), University of Waterloo

Traditional media takes so long to get results.  By the time it’s researched, vetted, edited and ultimately published, the original premise may well be old news.  Tracy identifies a number of benefits in her post that go well beyond that.

  • Social media helps overcome time and distance barriers
  • Social media builds upon existing ties and relationships
  • Social media facilitates new connections and collaboration
  • Social media provides a platform for advocacy, collective practice and action
  • Social media enhances social participation and engagement

Think about the traditional, controlled techniques of the past.  Buy a book, read it, implement it, review the technique sometime.

The immediacy and potentials that social media affords, as Tracy notes, are just too many and too big to ignore.  If we’re really going to stay on top of the latest and most effective techniques, being connected has to be the solution.  The downside is, as always, equity but we’re getting around that.  I did a quick look around the county here and there are some communities that are using internet voting for the upcoming elections.  A community obviously sees the power and is making it available for all – why can’t we model that in education?


La voix des élèves

You know, a lot of people talk about Student Voice.  Others ignore it.  Some pay lip service.

johanne

This blog post reinforces the need to listen to what is said.  Sometimes, it’s the little things that can make such a big difference.


Using Intelligent Agents in D2L to Enhance Your Online Course

One of my favourite activities when was the DeLC for my district was going to regional meetings and partake in the learning and sharing that was happening.  It’s easy to feel so inferior because there’s so much to learn about online learning.

The Desire2Learn LMS was continually evolving but we thought that we’d struck gold when we first learned how to set release conditions during a course.  In this blog post, Rod Murray shares a number of resources about the “Intelligent Agents” in D2L.  Whether you know them all or not, it’s still a nice review.

Rod


Again, there was some absolutely wonderful thinking and sharing in my reading this week.  I hope that you can take a moment or to and give these posts a little social media love.  Their thoughts are only a click away.  The complete collection is located here.  There’s always a wealth of thinking and sharing happening there.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Ah, Friday.  Time to share some of the wonderful reading that I enjoyed on the blogs of Ontario Educators this past while.


Know the Difference Between a Good Online Course and a Poor One

Anthony Carabache wrote this post to describe how and where you should take Additional Qualification courses.

In the post, he identified 4 “culprits” that should be red flags for you.  As I read them, I started to think of any course that uses technology and I couldn’t agree more.  I don’t think that Additional Qualification courses have a monopoly on them though.  If you’re using any technology whatsoever, you’d be well advised to analyze using these “culprits”.

Culprit #1 – PDF’s and Word Docs - A wise man once shared with me “PDFs are where ideas go to die…”.  Today, that has even more relevance.  Any LMS or sharing device should allow you to have dynamic content that can be changed at a moment’s notice.  I’m an over the top zealot for wikis.  But then, maybe I’m just so unprofessional that I don’t get it right the first time.  If it was perfect, a PDF would suffice because you can use it over and over and over, ad nauseum.


September: New Beginnings

The last sentence in this paragraph from Heather Touzin is disturbing…

Of all of the areas of education with the promise and the actual delivery of technology in the classroom, the use of Assistive Technology has made absolute and complete changes with students.  The technology has never been better.  With faster processors on computers and more sophisticated software and peripherals, school should hold so much promise for these students.

Unfortunately, at the secondary school level, it’s not uncommon to see students abandoning its use.  To be frank, given BYOD initiatives and effective use of technology in all areas, the student using Assistive Technology should fit into the classroom easier.  Technology for everyone has learned from the use with students who require assistance.  Smartphones and now smart applications use voice recognition are a way of doing business.  Results from devices like GPS speak the results to the user.  Bluetooth connects your phone to your car’s stereo.  We’ve all become reliant on this.

I wish Heather luck as she invigorates Lambton Kent classrooms.  I know from following her on social media that she’s keenly interested in technology and I hope the students and parents that she works with take advantage of this.


Weekly Challenge for #EnviroEd # 46 Understanding Slums Through Local Wildlife Habitats

In this post, Rob Ridley takes a spin on the United Nations World Habitat Day.  His post focuses on wildlife other than humans.  The theme is Voices from the Slums.

In his post, he identifies conditions that could be considered slums for animals.

Ideas like:

This, and the rest of the points raised, give real pause for reflections.

They would be good starting points in any classroom – followed by a call to action.


Step Away From the Lite Brite Pattern
How We Can Move Beyond The Lite Brite Pattern

File this under “asked” and “answered”.

I had coffee this morning with my former superintendent, a man I have the utmost respect for.  He challenged everything.  In the beginning, it was frustrating, I’ll admit.  His favourite saying, it seemed, was “That’s tweaking.  I want to destroy and rebuild.”  We were encouraged to bring forth big ideas and projects.  He didn’t want little pilots; he wanted plans to change a system.

I had to go back into my post and add the above to add context to the first link above which is a post from Kristi Keery Bishop.  Her post is inspired by a direction in Hamilton-Wentworth.

Aviva Dunsiger, who used to work with Kristi, took the challenge and wrote the second post – answering the challenge.  Make sure you read both!


It’s Not a Quick Fix

As a new teacher, I never had the luxury of an instructional coach.

I remember trying to get advice about classroom management sitting with a colleague in the staff room.  Heck, I was a new teacher – the students knew it – I was only a few years old than the students in my class.  I didn’t grow up in Sandwich West so I didn’t know anything about the community.  I didn’t know that there was a difference between LaSalle and River Canard and that they were mortal sporting enemies.  I didn’t know that they didn’t play with a J5V football.  I didn’t know the traditional rivalry between Sandwich and General Amherst and that it went further than just sports.  I didn’t know my fly was open.

I didn’t know much and I was a prime target.  Like most first year teachers, I struggled.  It would have been so helpful to have had a person like Jen Aston that I could have called and made an appointment with.

In her latest post, she identifies a whole slew of wonderful ideas about student behaviour and, ultimately, classroom management.

She recognizes that, even with this list, she doesn’t have all the answers…

Make yourself a friend.  Forward the link to her post to a new teacher!


Controlled by the Clock

Eva Thompson is kicking back this school year.  I think that every teacher can empathize with her description about timeliness…how it applies in education and spills over into real life.  I was fortunate in my first school.  We had no bells.  You were expected to move students at the end of a period but our principal noted that, in schools with bells, students would close their binders and get up and leave when the bell rang.  Our philosophy was a bit different.  Yes, the class was over at whatever time it was supposed to be but there was five minutes travel time between classes and you could impinge on it just a bit rather than being cut off in mid-sentence.  

I hope that she does relax a bit.  


Thanks, again, to the wonderful Ontario Edubloggers who continue to write and share ideas.  There’s always something inspirational to read.  I hope you take the chance to read these posts and check out some of the others.

If you’re a new blogger this fall, please follow the link and add the details about your blog.  I’d love to add it to my reading as well.

Cats, Eyesight, and Photo Editing


Right up front, I’ll admit it.  

I’m a dog person.  I have no use for cats or cat videos.  

Now, you can’t beat a good dog video…

I once worked with a gentleman in the Program Department who was quite fond of saying “There’s got to be a workshop in there somewhere.”  We’d drive to places together and between the two of us would see the darnedest things and somehow work them into a workshop, not necessarily in the traditional means.

I had that moment last night when I read this report on a research study – “Cat Watch 2014: What’s it like being a cat?“.

Photo Credit: ucumari photography via Compfight cc

This report is one of three and its purpose is to show how cats experience the world around them.  In the article, they explore sight, movement, hearing, and smelling.  

Much as I’m not a cat person, I did find the article extremely interesting and the videos very engaging.  

In a traditional class dealing with animals, certainly there’s a great deal of immediate use.

But, could you use it more?

I’m thinking Gimp or Photoshop or any of the photo editing software that you might have at your disposal, as applied to cat sight.  In the article, they talked about “muted colours”.

A common classroom learning activity is to adjust the colour and the multitude of options.  I remember using these words myself – “make it an old time picture”.  The context makes sense if you’re old enough to remember “old time pictures”.  To today’s digital youth, that might mean an old digital camera versus their latest and greatest smartphone camera. 

What if the context was to edit an image so that this is what a cat sees?  In fact, the sight video asks and demonstrates the answer with its split screen.

Using your editing tools, can you turn “Human vision” into “Cat vision”?  

As I write this post on a cool Saturday morning, I’ll confess to having Gimp open as another application, playing around with it.  It’s not as easy as it might appear.

Yep, there’s at least part of a workshop in there.

Minds on Media at #BIT14


A very unique, Ontario founded learning opportunity is available for those coming to the Bring IT, Together conference in Niagara Falls.

You have to experience it at least once to understand just what’s happening.  It’s not quite workshop – for that, there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It’s not quite unconference because there is a formal structure to it.  It sure isn’t “sit ‘n git”.

It’s the best model of the learner in charge of the learning that I can imagine at present.  Imagine a room with centres managed by people very comfortable with a particular piece of technology or pedagogy and you just walk over and plop yourself down.  You’ll be asked “What do you want to learn today?”  That starts the process, the conversations, and the learning.

The model is the brain child of Brenda Sherry and Peter Skillen.  They’ve taken Minds on Media to places all over the province and have become a fixture at the annual conference for Ontario computer using educators.  I’ve had the honour of championing a station on a couple of occasions and was a pedagogista at another.  The model respects your prior learning and supports any additional learning that you may need to fill in the cracks or to extend your understandings.

A couple of years ago, I had the chance to interview Brenda and Peter about Minds on Media.  You can read that interview here.

No two Minds on Media sessions are the same.  Brenda and Peter gauge the burning issues in education and fill the needs with Ontario classroom folks who share their experience and expertise.  They’re also ready to extend their own understanding by participants asking the tough questions!

This year, at the Bring IT, Together Conference, you have the opportunity to learn along with…

Student Learning with 3D Printers Heather Durnin
Playing with Programming: Coding for Younger Students Peter McAsh
Frames5: How can you use it across the curriculum? Karen Kelly-Miller
Get Filming with your phone, iPad or Camera! Jose Martinez
3-D Printing Heidi Siwak
Make Your Old Stuff Work! David Scott
Turtle Art Artemis Papert and Brian Silverman
105theHive.org – K12 Student Internet Radio Andy Forgrave and Kim Gill
Tinkering and Making Cathy Beach
Minecraft in the Classroom Jen Apgar
Getting Googly (Using Google Apps for Education Effectively) Marcia Piquette
Working with Microsoft Office 365 Kate Taylor
Game-based Learning Adele Stanford and Derek Walker

Select this session for your Wednesday, bring your own equipment, and get ready for an absolutely full day of hands-on learning.

Google Forms Really Mature


I’ve been a user of Google Forms forever, it seems.  They’re a great way to collect opinions, quick testing, gathering observations, going paperless, …  Entries come in with a timestamp and you can ask for identifying information or just keep it random.  Things are done at the user keyboard and I think that, properly done, it’s one of the better electronic activities that you can use right in your classroom.

There are a couple of really neat features that you can use to make your work look and act even more professionally.  Google continues to work at their offerings to make them mature and just add additional functionality.

Themes

Of course, there’s nothing better than a great looking form.  But, don’t stick to the boring default – choose a cool theme.  Select “Change Theme” from the menu bar and select from some looks that range from fun to professional looking.

Even the best theme can sometimes use a little tweak!

Within each theme (or the blank default), select the “Customise” option and change to your hearts content!

Once you have the perfect customised theme, you may not want to use it just once.  In fact, you may have a theme that you’d like to use consistently throughout that class or that subject area.  

Copy and apply that perfect theme to your new form!  With a background or header image, you can have a consistent display (or even class messages) that appear every time you use that theme.  Lots of ideas can be incorporated.

Mix It Up (but not too much)

Now, I don’t want to say that I went to school with a bunch of cheaters, but I can remember paper tests that were labelled “Test A” and “Test B” and even duplicated on different coloured paper.  They were distributed such that even if you decided to take a peek at the person beside you the questions, while the same, were in a different order.  That functionality is available for your Google Form.  Of course, you could create two separate forms – but that’s old school!  This is 2014.

Just click the “Shuffle question order” and each visitor to the form will have their questions shuffled.  You’ve got to like that.

While you’re at it – there may be people trying to “game” your form by submitting multiple copies of it.  Supposed you’re doing a little quiz and you don’t want to take the best results for an individual making multiples in the hopes of getting one that’s right!  If they have and are logged into a Google account, check “Only allow one response per person”.

If you’re a Google Forms user, check out these features.  Your forms will look, and work, awesomely.

You’ll look like the professional you are with these features.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s Friday and time to reflect on some of reading I did from around the province this past week.  There are some new (to me) blogs featured this week and an old friend.  When you’re done scouting these, make sure that you read the complete collection of Ontario Edublogs.


It’s a Slow Process

Thanks, Brian Aspinall, for giving me the heads up on Nicole Beuckelare’s blog.  It was nice to find something new and to add it to the Livebinder and the Scoopit! page

Her latest post reflects on the length of time that it takes for change to happen.

I had to smile – anyone who works anywhere in education is quite aware of this phenomenon.  It’s amazing to think that computers and related technologies have been around in the classroom for over 30 years.  Yet, there are some people that are just finding this out!  Ditto for the concept of making to learn.  It’s not a new concept; teachers of technologies have known that creation is the best possible way to learn for years.

In her post, Nicole mentions that she had taken part in the PLP Group five years ago.  That brought back memories for me.  I submitted two cohorts years ago.  Both of the cohorts grew incredibly from the experience.  It really helped the eLearning teachers incorporate more web technologies in their online courses.  The elementary school teachers developed a culture of sharing and celebrating everything among themselves.  It didn’t happen over night but it did happen with the intense supports put in place.

But, how about the hundreds of others that didn’t have the experience?  They work hard every day with the tools, knowledge, and understanding that they have.  Change is a longer process here.

The whole concept, again, reinforces the notion that ongoing professional learning is required for all if we want significant change.  Just how many opportunities does your district give you this year?  If there are few to none, are they really serious about making change happen?


My Promise to You

This post flows nicely from Nicole’s.

Aviva Dunsiger is extremely visible about the change that she wants to make.  There’s always a new post of interest about something on her blog.

Her recent post shares some of the techniques that she uses to try to ensure success for all of her students.

It’s important to note the totality of her efforts.  It’s not just technology that’s the answer.  I think that’s an important message for all to hear.  It’s a great tool but isn’t necessarily the only one.

Aviva reflects on the complete package.


The New Wave of Vocab Games

Communication is what it’s all about in the language classroom, whether first or second language.  Interestingly, oral communications, which is so important may well be the less precise of all the communications.  When the recipient of the communication can interpret not only the actual communication but also the intent, you can be “close” and still be understood.

If you want to see this in action, watch me butcher the French language and yet still get the message across.

To be really precise, use a computer!  Ironically, this precision can be very motivating for students.

In this post, Myra Mallette shares two applications that she’s using this year – Quizlet and Kahoot.

If you know of a French teacher looking for a way to further engage students, send them this link.  Well crafted gaming can do so much in the classroom.


New Book ~ Reflecting in Communities of Practice: A Workbook for Early Childhood Educators

When I finished my time at the Faculty of Education, there really wasn’t any way to continue the learning through them.  I guess that the logic was that once you’ve jumped the fence and got your BEd, it’s time to move on and grab the next class.

I’m not sure that the intent of the Faculty of Education, UWO’s blog is to reach out to the entire teaching profession but why not?  Check out this blog to find the latest and greatest resources that have been added to their library.  If it looks good and you have access to that library, great.  If not, forward the title to those who look after the professional collection wherever you work and ask that they purchase the materials and make them available to your organization.

After all, we all know that learning shouldn’t stop just because you graduated!


Thanks to all of the bloggers who continue to share their thinking and push us all to new and exciting things.  There’s always some great learning shared by Ontario Edubloggers.

 

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I’ve got to start this post with a big round of appreciation to Aviva Dunsiger.  Even though she lives 4 hours from me, she knows my blogging habits.  When a post didn’t go through yesterday, she knew it immediately and let me know.  I had to do some work – for some reason WordPress always goes to April in the Chrome browser.  I still don’t know why.  I’m back home to Firefox to write this post so I’m hoping that there are no glitches.  In the meantime, check out Aviva’s blog – she’s always good for an interesting post and you’ve probably seen many references to her blog from mine.

On to some of the good stuff this week from Ontario Edubloggers.


Life in Uganda

There’s a lot being said about Visible Thinking these days.  In this post, Jaclyn shares some of the questions that her class are asking about Uganda to phrase their thinking and research.

Often, we see this sort of thing at the end of the activity.  By placing it up front, students have them at home and at school for reference, parents see what’s happening and it’s bound to make the thinking deeper.


Singing the Homework Blues

Could there be anything that says “back to school” more than worrying about homework – whether as a teacher or a parent?

It’s a tough topic.  If you’re doing any reading about homework, you’ve probably noticed the discussion around the value of it.  In fact, there are some districts that are banning it altogether.

I remember, as a student, having to spend an hour after school in my room “doing homework”.  I recall a variety of activities like writing, colouring, drawing, or my favourite – doing mathematics.  Now that I’m blogging, I wish that I’d paid more attention to writing – I keep getting nailed as a passive writer.  Grrr.

After supper, I had to go back to my room for another hour.  This time, it was to practice playing the guitar.  We were paying for the lessons and I guess my parents were determined to get their money worth.  It probably worked – playing the steel guitar, I’ve known more Hawaiian or Country & Western songs than any student should have to.

As I think about it, the guitar and most of the homework was painstaking practice and repetition.  You’ve got to love the drill and kill – not!  But the fun was in finding a new way to solve a problem or to create a new song on the guitar.  That stuck with me.  As a new teacher, I thought that I had to assign homework.  I can’t remember what was the most useless activity; taking it up or going around checking to see who had done it and who hadn’t.  Later, I ditched the drill homework.  I had subscribed to “Games” magazine and used it as inspiration to give puzzles for homework instead.  Immediately, there was an uptake in doing these puzzles and coming to class on time was a priority since that’s when we solved the puzzle as a class.  And, when you peel back the onion, what’s computer science if not solving puzzles?


Making My Thinking Visible…the MMM Goes Public!

Donna Fry gave me a heads-up on this new blog.  I’ll be honest; I don’t even know who the author is but the first post is interesting.

At first blush, I think it goes beyond just making the thinking visible.

It’s about making the leadership visible.

It definitely goes out on a limb.  Everyone gets a chance to see the message and respond to it.

I wonder why more leaders don’t do this.  (Actually, I know the answer to that and I’m sure that you do too.)


GBL beyond Minecraft

When I read the title to Diana Maliszewski’s post, I thought that maybe she was going to talk about the recent Microsoft acquisition but, in fact, it turned out to be about Bop It!

I’d never heard of this before but really enjoyed Diana’s description about how she’s been using it.

If you’re teaching Drama and Dance, you might just want to check this out.

It sounds like fun.  I wish I was in this class.  I wonder if Diana will bring it to the BIT Conference for a little more social fun.


What a great collection of shared learnings from Ontario Educators this week. Please check out the original posts and all of the work from the Ontario group. There’s always something exciting happening.