Pre #BIT14 Interview with David Hann and Heather Durnin


Michelle Cordy (@cordym) continues her series of interviews of notables presenting at the Bring IT, Together Conference next week, November 5-7, 2014 at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls.  This time, it was an interview with Heather Durnin and David Hann.

Now, I’ve known Heather Durnin (@hdurnin) for a number of years now.  She does amazing things with her students in Huron County.  David Hann was a person that I met for the first time last year at the Bring IT, Together Conference.  He was showing off his 3D printer and talking about how he was using it with his students.  I got the chance to take a peek at his presentation but quickly got called away.  He did make me a plastic replica of the ECOO logo as a takeaway.  I was completely impressed with the detail.

Both Heather and David are presenting separate sessions at this year’s conference.  (Heather is also on the conference planning committee).  I should have known this fact immediately but when I went into Lanyrd to get links to their presentations, I was really struck that there are 334 speakers in the database for the conference.  There just might be a few more…

David’s session at the conference is called “How to make use of a Makerbot 3D Printer in Your School – Year II“.  He is co-presenting with Ray Mercer and the description of their session is here.

Heather will be very active at the conference.  In addition to her responsibilities on the planning committee, she’ll have a station at the Minds on Media event “Three Dimensions in Student Learning” where the learning will be very hands-on.  The Minds on Media wiki went live yesterday and is available here.  Later in the conference, she will co-present with Marc Westra on the same topic.  If you miss her at Minds on Media, attend the session as described here.  If you miss her in both those places, lace up your running shoes and join her in the Friday morning “Run/Walk/Be Active with Alana! / Course/marche/ Soyez actif avec Alana!” event.

Heather and David were interviewed and shared their thoughts about #makered.

Watch the interview here.

There’s still time to register for the #BIT14 Conference.  You’ll get a chance to learn alongside great minds like theirs.

Michelle’s other interviews as we head to the conference appear below.

Time, Visualized


One of the things about being connected to educators online that might be frustrating occurs when they’re not necessarily in your time zone.  I sent you a message – why haven’t you responded?

It might be that you’re boring or it may well be that it’s very late where they are and they’ve just gone to bed!  There are definitely conversion web sites to help you out with that or just ask Google.

Heck, with Google suggestions, you don’t even need to finish your question before you have your answer.  

What if you want it all?  What if you want it visualized?  Then you need to head to the Earth Time Clock.

Staring down from space, at the moment, see our beautiful planet and just where the sun is shining.

On the right side of the screen, you’ll be able to see the current times from locations around the planet.

The resource also features a simulation so that you can see the sun rise and sun set for a particular location.  Don’t forget to click on the moon status as well!

Take a few moments to play with this simulation.  I’ll bet that you get all kinds of ideas for how you could use it in your classroom to address curriculum expectations.  If you like simulations, I’m sure you’ll be fascinated by it.

A Banner for Your Classroom


I love quotations.

Used properly, they really convey a strong message and tug on my emotionally.

I drove back home from north of Toronto today and, on the 401, you drive and focus on the traffic.  As I’m scanning the road, I catch a transport truck going in the opposite direction.  My eyes picked up on a message painted on the side of the trailer.  By the time the message had clicked in, the truck had passed so I can’t tell you the transport line.  Sorry.  But the message that I saw could be plastered all over classrooms for motivation.

If you do like quotations as much as I do, let me give a plug for my friend Paul’s blog.  Every day, he shares a number of quotations on a particular theme.  You never know what the theme is but, as a retired English teacher, he really knows his stuff.

Back to the truck and its quotation…here it is…

“Our Best is the Least We Can Do”

Wouldn’t those be great words for anyone to live by?  Wouldn’t that be wonderful banner for a classroom banner?

What other inspirational words/quotations work for you?

This Has Potential


My wife and I were talking mathematics the other day.  She wanted to know why teachers were getting beat up over the teaching of mathematics.  In Ontario, it boils down to one thing – EQAO scores.  This is big media news as schools are compared to other schools; school districts compared to each other.  And, teachers take the brunt of the scrutiny.  Despite trite phrases like “Not the same way, not the same day”, students are expected to reach a certain level in grades 3, 6, 9 across the province on the same week, on the same test.

I reflected back to my own journey with mathematics.  I have a degree (BMath) focussing on Combinatorics and Optimization and Computer Science.  I love mathematics; I love problem solving; I love visualizing things.  I’m the guy that goes to a restaurant and mentally determines the best value on the menu.  I convert Celsius to Fahrenheit and kilometres to miles just for the heck of it.

But it wasn’t always that way.  I distinctly remember in elementary school breaking down in tears over some of the mind numbing things that we had to do.  One specific thing that sticks out was a multiplication table.  In class, we worked the grid to go as far as 10×10.  For homework, we had to extend it to 12×12.  I spent a great deal of frustrating pain doing it and never got it.  When we got to school the next day, we were expected to lay open our notebooks and we were checked to see how many got it right.  Those of us who didn’t got additional pain by having to go to the blackboard and have our stupidity explained to us.  For years, it seems, I just couldn’t do anything right when it came to mathematics.  True story.

Then, it changed.  My ship had come in, it seems.  I think it was grade 6 or grade 7, I had a complete turnaround.  I don’t recall whether it was explicit in the teaching or just an insight on my part.  I became a mathematics genius.  (Or, at least not the dummy that I was…)  Calculations became just patterns; Geometry became puzzles; somehow I finally got mathematics.  From that point on, every mathematics question became just another puzzle to be solved.  I remember in Grade 10 how calculations became just measurements.  We all had to learn how to use a slide rule for calculations.  I remember one of the kids in the class had a $500 calculator (which today would be powerfully contained on a keychain).  Our teacher impressed upon us the value of our tool and we were able to do calculations quicker than this calculator.  Of course, this technology has been solidly dated but it was cool at the time.

I remember at university a professor talking about how important it was to appreciate those who loved mathematics.  He used this example…

What do you do if you’re good at football?  Practice, Practice, Practice

What do you do if you’re good at a musical instrument?  Practice, Practice, Practice

What do you do if you’re good at baseball?  Practice, Practice, Practice

What do you do if you’re good at mathematics?  Do the odd numbered questions on page 37 and then go outside and practice baseball

Think about it for a bit.

It’s how so many people think and feel about mathematics.  It’s solely about getting the right answer.  It’s all or nothing.

As a student teacher, I remember my first mathematics placement.  It was important to give a lot of homework every night and the logic was that if you did enough of the same problem, you’ll commit it to memory.  I supposed it did commit an algorithm to memory.

On my second placement, I had a little more experience under my belt and I remember the first day going around the class asking if the students enjoyed Mathematics.  The answer was surprisingly “yes”.  When I asked why, the answer was “Because Mr. C. doesn’t give homework”.  Interesting, I thought.  I’ve got to see the end of this class.  Well, it turned out that homework was assigned.  But, it wasn’t doing the odd numbered questions…  The instructions were simple – take one of the problems that we did in class today and redo it differently.  The next day was interesting.  Taking up homework was more of a discussion rather than doing more problems.  These kids were actually talking mathematics.  I had to learn more.

During our preparation period, I asked Mr. C. about it.  He had an interesting philosophy.  His logic was that kids hated mathematics because they were assigned to do problems that they were having challenges with in class.  What do they do when they get home?  They didn’t have him to ask for help.  By reassigning a problem that they knew the answer to, the goal wasn’t to just solve another problem.  It was to think deeply about something that they already knew.

That moment made me completely think about what I thought I knew about homework and it stuck with me forever. 

Obviously, that particular technique doesn’t fit every day but it does make one reflect on the value of homework.  Do you want to amplify a problem?  Is the goal of mathematics just to get the right answer?

So, on to the scene recently we have this new application “PhotoMath“.  Essentially, the app lets the camera take a picture of a problem and it solves it for you, including “showing your work”.  How many times have you heard that in your mathematics life?!

Brian Aspinall and his students kicked the tires on the application and this generated a post from him here.

There have been various reports of people having success with the application and others delighting in finding a problem with its operation.  I would suggest to anyone that it’s new.  It can only get better.

Fast forward and imagine a mathematics classroom with this application in place.  In the beginning, there will always be the question “Is this program doing it right?”  What does it mean when it does?  There are those already touting doom and gloom for teachers and the teaching of mathematics.  Take a look at some of the CNN quotes that Brian pulled for his blog post.

There was a time when we forbid calculators in the classroom because it stole from the learning of mathematics.  Then, we accepted them but banned graphing calculators because it was stealing the need to learn to graph.  Now, they’re accepted and the discussion becomes not one of the value of them, but which of the ones on the market is best! 

In the process, we haven’t killed the process of doing calculations; we’ve made it better.  We haven’t killed graphing; we’ve made it better.  I would suggest that PhotoMath or any of the applications bound to follow, understood and used properly, could make the problem solving process better. 

Who wouldn’t want their own personal tutor at home?  Who wouldn’t like relief from the dull activity of applying the same algorithm over and over until you get it?  What teacher wouldn’t want students who think deeply and talk the story of mathematics instead of just doing the same problem over and over again.

This has real potential.

Pre BIT#14 Interview with Heidi Siwak


Michelle Cordy (@cordym) continues with her series of interviews of presenters leading to the Bring IT, Together Conference in Niagara Falls on November 5, 6, and 7.  This time, she teamed with Jane Mitchinson (@JMitchinson) to interview Heidi Siwak @HeidiSiwak.

Heidi is actually featured twice on the Bring IT, Together schedule.  On Wednesday, she will be running a station dealing with 3D Printing at the Minds on Media event.  Then, on Thursday, she will do her own session “An Introduction to Integrative Thinking“.

You need to follow the link above and head over to Lanyrd to read her complete description.  It starts with a warning…

“This session will not be about the technology. You won’t find out how to use any cool online tools. SAMR will not be discussed. This session is about thinking, knowledge building and the deep practices that shift how students think so that when technology is introduced it supports a new kind of learning.”

With an introduction like that, you can’t help but be hooked.

Michelle’s interview appears below:

Michelle’s previous interviews leading into the #BIT14 conference…

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I really like it when I can add a new blogger to the list of Ontario Edubloggers. 


What George and Basketball Have Taught Me

Please welcome Andrea Gillespie to our group.  She has put her toe in the blogging water and starts of talking about change and included her daughter and George Couros as some of the catalysts for change from her perspective.  It’s a great introductory post.

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It also affirms our decision to bring George to conduct a leadership session and close the Bring IT, Together conference with a keynote address.  Hopefully, the inspiration that Andrea felt will be shared by a whole new group.

For Andrea, welcome to the group and please make it a point to share your leadership thoughts with the province.  Thanks for the tip, Donna Fry.


Speaking of Donna….

Exploring Digital Literacy and the Importance of Confidence

Her recent posts talks about a whole lot of Cs.  First, she identifies the 6Cs from Michael Fullan from his “Great to Excellent” document and then Doug Belshaw’s 8 Elements of Digital Literacies. 

Her discussion of the overlap is interesting and I really liked the focus on Confidence.

There’s a a great deal to consider about confidence. 

Teaching is an interesting profession.  We are extremely confident in the classroom with working with students.  It’s our confidence in our materials, content, and approach that make students want to get onside and learn.  But, put us in a group of colleagues and it’s a different story.  “You go first”.  “No, you go first”.  Is it because we know that we’re all judgmental by design that we’re hesitant to say anything lest we’re wrong?  If we mess up, everyone will know! My goodness.

What’s wrong with being confident in what we know and confident in the knowledge that we have a lot to learn from each other?


PhotoMath Answers Incorrect Homework Questions, Correctly by @mraspinall

I think many of us were intrigued with the announcement that PhotoMath was available for download to your iOS and Windows device.  It was all over the online news.

I’ve started a post of my own to share some thoughts.  Hopefully, I’ll finish it and get it posted over the weekend.

In the meantime, Brian Aspinall was all over it in a post that appears yesterday afternoon.  Straight from the classroom, read the post for his thoughts.  One of the flashpoints for him was this quote from CNN.

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How sacred tests can be!


I Did Get Better!

When I first read this blog post from Aviva Dunsiger, I thought to myself “This should be required reading at every Faculty of Education”.  I love this list.  It could apply to every first year teacher.

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I wish that I had had only two classrooms my first year of teaching!

If it wasn’t for improvement, probably none of us should have lasted beyond that first year.

There’s been a lot written lately about “Growth Mindset” like it’s some sort of new thing.  Pffff!  Read the rest of Aviva’s post to see how she grew in the profession.

I’ll bet everyone can empathize.


Getting Started with PLCs – A Protocol for Group Collaboration

Starting out anew in any organization can be a daunting task.  In her most recent post, Brenda Sherry shares a protocol she used at a first staff meeting as an opportunity to learn about staff and start to build effective learning networks.

In this case, she used the Compass Points Activity and focussed on:

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I like the concept and can only imagine the discussion.

It’s certainly far removed from some of the dictatorial approaches that I’ve experienced in the past.

It will be interesting to see if the approach generates rewards for the staff learning.  Keep us informed, Brenda.


Once again, it’s been a great week of professional reading and sharing from Ontario Edubloggers.

Check out the entire list of the here.

A Digital Citizenship Resource from Edmodo


Online savvy educators incorporate solid digital citizenship activities into their classroom and activities on a regular basis. 

But, what of the newly connected educators wanting to do the right thing.  Or, perhaps you’re using things wisely but are also interested in new resources or activities to breathe some new excitement into the topic.  Edmodo, in partnership with Common Sense Media has made available a “Digital Citizenship Starter Kit”.

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This is a nicely packaged teaching resource that includes not only the kit but digital citizenship teaching modules.

You’ll need an Edmodo account in order to access the material but once you do, you have access to a poster and lessons surrounding privacy, copyright, and citizenship.

I think that these resources will serve a great purpose in the connected classroom concerned about the teaching of these issues.  Your use might also spur colleagues to get on board.