My take on Beth’s notion of nourishment

If you read my Friday blog post, This Week in Ontario Edublogs, I hope that you were enticed to read Beth Lyon’s post “A New Year. A New Word” and EduGal’s post “SIMPLIFYING ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION WITH GOOGLE ASSIGNMENTS – E033” because I’m going to reference both. While at it, take a good look at all seven of the blog posts referenced in mind because they’re all outstanding examples of sharing their learning with others.

What got me to write this post was a line in Beth’s blog post…

I also want to nourish my professional learning and participate in opportunities that intrigue and interest me.

That line really resonated with me and got me thinking of all the professional learning opportunities that I’ve been involved with. I’ve had professional learning done to me, I’ve helped set the table to deliver professional learning to others, and I continue to pursue professional learning on my own.

I think many people think of conferences when they think of professional learning opportunities. It’s natural but I think you need to expand your thoughts, particularly these days. Obviously, we’re not going to be getting together for the big learning events for a while now. It’s interesting to see the organizations that claim to be “pivoting” to online equivalents, keeping the same format, and avoiding some of the costs. Personally, I’m not a fan of that approach; I hate sitting in the audience listening to a talking head and I find it even worse when that talking head is in a window on my screen!

There should be and absolutely can be better alternatives.

As I think about this, I think of the first teacher-librarian that I worked with when I got my first teaching gig. I’ll admit the concept was foreign to me. My experience with librarians had been the shushing type who were perched on a chair near the exit of the library so that you couldn’t steal their prized assets. This gentleman was a valued researcher for staff. Regularly, there would be photocopies or newspaper clippings about computer science related pieces in my mailbox. Picture that and you’ll clearly see that I’m dating myself. But it was my first sense that someone else cared that I was learning and it made the trite phrase “life long learner” come into importance.

Over my teaching career, there was so much learning to be done. Technology came hard and fast and I needed to be on top of things. That most certainly kept me busy doing learning for myself to try and stay on top of things. I’d by lying if I said that I did a good job of it but I’ve always done the best that I could.

Learning can become addictive. There’s no two ways about it. It remains that way today for me. If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that there’s a flurry of activity coming from me at 5am. It’s the time of day that I can generally devote to myself. If you were to peek into our rec room, you’d find me with my Chromebook in hand and the morning news on the television. For the most part, my teacher-librarian-equivalent is Flipboard where I follow something like 280 different topics. In the big scheme of things, just the number indicates that I’m falling behind daily! And, like what I learned from my teacher-librarian and social media colleagues, I share what I’m reading in case anyone else cares. The logic is that, if it’s good for me, then it might be good for someone else.

As an aside, I found out that it’s not appreciated by my wife. In a video coffee chat with some dear friends yesterday, she indicated that she didn’t appreciate some of my stuff appearing on her timeline. I guess we should talk about muting me!

Later, in the evenings, I will set aside time to scan the blogging universe and read some of the gems there. Of course, I look largely to Ontario Edubloggers and it helps me curate a nice collection for Wednesdays and Fridays.

Recently, thanks to folks in the ACSE mailing list, I’ve subscribed to the Daily Coding Problem just so that I can still put one or two lines of code together. These days, it’s in Python or SmallBASIC.

As I think about these concepts as I write this, I realize that they’re largely mono-modal. (Is that a word?) That’s where I’m impressed with the work of the EduGals, Rachel Johnson and Katie Attwell. Yes, they blog and they turn their working into words and pictures but their writing lives alongside the podcast that they do on the same topic. It’s there that they can add a little more enthusiasm to the topic they’re currently addressing. I’m now finding that I enjoy both, for slightly different reasons.

So, back to the concept of the conference. It’s a once a year type of event and I know that many teachers get funding to go annually if they’re lucky but more often it’s every other year. By its design, it’s a shot in the arm over the course of a day or three to top you up supposedly. Then, there’s this pivot thing to move it online. If you believe that learning is a community event, then you really need to wonder about the effectiveness. If you believe that learning should be continuous, then you know that the format doesn’t support this. Teachers in Ontario have lived through the current vision of “pivot” and I suspect have concerns about whether this approach will work.

And for the teacher who teaches more than a single subject (and who doesn’t these days), it’s an extra challenge. Teachers have to ask “What subject area gets my attention?|

In Ontario, we’re fortunate to have so many different Subject groups. In my year representing the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario at the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, I put together a Twitter list to follow. It’s a great list to follow as it represents the current messages from each of the groups. But, they’re not the only ones. On Friday, I try my best to look and see who has been active on Thursday and give them a shoutout of Fridays. This past week’s collection can be found here. I find it inspirational to follow the ongoing professional discussion that happens regularly. These folks are my professional conversations these days.

I know that there are probably a million different ways for people to “nourish” their desire to learn as Beth describes it. The above is my game. The final step is to consolidate and that takes the form of blog posts here. I’m not hesitant to share learning or opinions here. I hope that anyone who happens to read finds that it helps. But just as having to teach or present something makes you a little bit more confident in the topic, blogging is what works for me.

I’ll toss it back to you, kind reader. How are you nourishing your own professional learning? Please be kind enough to share below.

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OTR Links 01/23/2021

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Check out these recent posts from Ontario Edubloggers.

Watch Birds and Savour Books

From Jessica Outram, two terrific suggestions for what to do when you’re at home and not going anywhere.

The entry point for both is low but the payback can be very high. Around here, we have two bird feeders hanging just off the patio and, as the temperatures get colder, it gets very popular. Neither of the neighbours have a feeder so we’re the only place around here to eat. So, it’s not uncommon to see the whole gang as the weather gets colder.

It makes Christmas gifts easy to give. A book on identifying birds, bags of sunflower seeds to attract Blue Jays, …

If it ever gets boring (and it doesn’t), there are always quick trips to Point Pelee or Jack Miner.

I enjoyed Jessica’s story telling of how things play out for her with birds. At times, it seems like you’re looking down at a vibrant community. Are people watching us in this way? Do any of the birds that dine here make it to her place? Like most of her posts, she tells an interesting story and you’ll want to read it all.

Then, there are the books….

OneWordx12: Are you in?

A New Year. A New Word.

There are actually a couple of interesting and relevant blog posts from Beth Lyons to check out this week.

The first one proves that she saw something coming in 2020 by doing the whole #oneword thing a month at a time instead of choosing one word for the entire year. I found it really interesting to go through her list of 12 words and try to map out (or guess) what was happening in her personal and professional life.

Then, she starts off 2021 with her word for January. I thought that this was an interesting choice. Yes, it’s one word but she uses it in a number of different contexts just to illustrate how complicated things are these days. I’m not going to mention it here because I think you owe it to yourself to visit her blog to see her writing.

I am going to use one of her thoughts as inspiration for a future blog post. Maybe tomorrow.


Wow! That’s all that I could say when I was done reading this post from Amanda Potts. What an opportunity for her and for her students!

So, she’s bought into Beth Lyons’ concept of a word for a month and “Ask” is January’s word. After reading the post, I’m guessing that it wasn’t in place on December 31 but it’s certainly advice with a real example of success for all.

I know that people are looking for mega-inspiration activities for students to keep them engaged in online learning. So, out of boredom? or inspiration? Amanda wrote to a number of authors of the books her students are reading in class.

In 20 minutes, she had an confirmation from one of the authors that they would drop in virtually to her class and interact with them. What an opportunity.

Amanda summed it nicely when she said that all she had to do was Ask. Awesome.

During the This Week in Ontario Edublogs show on Wednesday, I asked Stephen Hurley is he was willing to share his expertise in Podcasting to a class that was interesting in taking the leap. He was very enthusiastic about the prospects so if you’re considering it, why not ask? He’s on Twitter as @Stephen_Hurley.

No pressure, Amanda, but I’m looking forward to a blog post from you sharing with us how your online guest worked out.


The EduGals are back!

They have an interesting approach to sharing this message. It comes as both a podcast and a blog post.

I had to do a screen capture here just to show you that apparently they’re everywhere you get your podcasts.

I was doing some other work and listening to them in the background and was actually quite interested in their marriage of Brightspace and Google Assignments.

I’ll be honest here; I can pick up quite a bit by listening but this is so rich in content that I needed the blog post to completely understand their message. I thought that they had done a nice job in their explanation complete with their own documented captures.

If you’re using this combination of services, there’s probably some wisdom here that will make your job easier.


I’d only recently followed Hema Khodai’s blog and was pleased when my RSS program indicated that there was something to check out.

Interestingly, the content didn’t come from her but from another educator, Tharmila Apputhurai. The post is only a couple of paragraphs long but I’ll admit that it was one that brought out so much emotion in me.

During 2020, I think I’ve heard so many different personal reflections about what COVID means. But, nothing like this.

I felt as if I had been ordered by my acca to stay in the bunker until the sound and sight of the violence was gone.

I did have to look up “acca” since it was a new term to me and that even further personalized the message for me.

I hope that the message of healing in 2021 rings true.

What’s Your Superpower? Mine Is Teaching!

If there’s a testament to why I follow people on Twitter, this is it. I’ve followed Nilmini Ratwatte-Henstridge for a while now and, quite frankly, she’s been a person that pops up on my FollowFriday list regularly.

Recently, she shared that she had a blog post for us to check out. And I did.

I can’t imagine that, after 2020, there isn’t a teacher who hasn’t felt being pushed further in their profession than at any other time. Nilmini is that boat and shares a list of 10 things and reflections about her feelings.

  • Strike a Balance
  • Discover Your Network
  • Ah, this thing called Technology
  • Be Yourself

You’ll have to click through to discover all 10! I’m betting that you’ll find out all kinds of things about her and probably yourself in these days.

I don’t know if I could agree with “Discover Your Network” more than I do as I write this. I’ve had my network for years now and daily I’m inspired and uplifted by the connections that I’ve made.

Since Ontario Educators are connected anyway these days, why not created your own Personal Learning Network for ideas, inspiration, and people to plan with?

A #VisibleLearning Look At My Playing Reality: Finding Joy In Remote Kindergarten

I’ve always said that they don’t pay kindergarten teachers enough. I’ve often felt exhausted just walking by their classrooms.

In this post, Aviva Dunsiger pulls back the curtain and gives us an inside look at her classroom, activities, and all that it takes to pull it off. It’s a long post but worth putting time aside to read.

There are interesting personal thoughts about what she thinks she’s doing. I always found it interesting to compare what I thought I did with my principal or superintendent in the debriefing after being supervised. My thought always was that I was overly hard on myself. How about Aviva?

So, she lays it all out there in this long post full of thoughts and documentation and she’s looking for advice. Do you have any?

It’s been another great experience to read these posts and then share my thoughts with you. There’s such a wide range of topics. I hope that you can find the time to click through and read the originals.

Then, follow these people on Twitter.

  • Jessica Outram – @jessicaoutram
  • Beth Lyons – @mrslyonslibrary
  • Amanda Potts – @ahpotts
  • EduGals – @edugals
  • Hema Khodai – @HKhodai
  • Nilmini Ratwatte-Henstridge – @NRatwatte
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca

OTR Links 01/22/2021

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

In control

I had this interesting read this morning.

I Monitor My Students With a Chrome App — and It’s Made a Huge Difference

Over the years, there have been a number of applications of this sort that I’ve looked at and evaluate. At the time, they basically worked over the local area network and were used to ensure that students were staying on task.

There were arguments for and against these management types of software and I’m sure that you can easily imagine what they are.

  • invasion of privacy
  • teachers should be up and around looking at student screens as part of good classroom management
  • with computers in remote classrooms in the building, a network administrator could look at screens without having to go to the third floor to the end of the hall…

Quite frankly, I had forgotten about the concept. The notion of student privacy, of course, is always a concern but that was about it. Recently, the idea of software as a proctoring assistant for university exams has made the news, and not favourably. Interestingly, the author mentioned his thoughts about being monitored during his own university course experience.

So, I read this article on Medium with interest. The software was called GoGuardian and allows a teacher to monitor and assist students remotely using Google Chrome. It’s an interesting notion and perhaps the time is right since we seem to do everything in a browser anyway.

I’m really at a loss to talk further about the functionality as this is a commercial product and there’s no free or test drive that I can find.

I guess it’s the sign of the times that technology enables so many different opportunities for developers. The claim on the company’s website is that there has been all kinds of adoption.

So, basically a question here – are you using this or a similar product? If so, how is it working out? If not, would you use it if it was available to you?

Your thoughts in the comments is always welcome.