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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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:

image

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”.

image

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. 

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.