Whatever happened to …


… $0.99 Ponderosa steaks?

How many ways can you cook a squash?  That was a conversation that we would regularly have during first year at university.   Don’t worry – I’ll get to the point soon.

One of the guys that I lived with came from a farm and, when he would go home on weekends, he’d load up on squash from the fields.  Often, they were the ugly looking ones that you couldn’t sell at the roadside stands.  It was prime time for squash – going to university in the fall.

What got me thinking of this?  It was a comment from Aviva Dunsiger last week when we got talking about “university poor”.  Starting in Grade 9 when I thought that I’d like to go to university, I saved as much as I could.  I had done the work on tuition costs, books, accommodations, etc.  Of course, I couldn’t do it myself and my parents were really supportive.

So, I had everything planned except for one thing – food.  I had no idea.  Living with others in the same situation, we became thankful for the free squash.

Fortunately, there was Tuesday nights at Ponderosa.  We would head up University Avenue, past that other university, and near the corner of Weber Street, there was the steakhouse.  We made a trip every Tuesday because you could get a nice steak and roast potato dinner for $0.99.  We couldn’t cook for that price!  There often was a lineup but it was worth it!  I seem to recall that they “jacked up” the prices at one point to $1.29.  Sadly, this chain of restaurants is no longer available.  But there are many others instead.  Nobody ever really filled that price point though. (even after adjusting for inflation)

But, for this group of four, it was our way of having a nice, affordable meal at least once a week.

And, to this day, I can’t look a squash in the face.

How about you?

  • Do you remember the Ponderosa steakhouse chain in Canada?  Were you a frequent diner there?
  • Were you “university poor”?  How did you cope?
  • Things are certainly different these days around universities.  There are all kinds of restaurant options for students.  Do you think that they can all afford to eat there?  Is “university poor” still a thing?
  • Is there such a thing as an affordable steakhouse in your community?

I’d be most interested in your thoughts to the above and maybe even more?

I got hungry just blogging about this.   Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ” series of blog posts?

Please visit this Padlet and add your idea.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!

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OTR Links 12/10/2017


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

Memories of the Silverdome


I don’t know if it’s just because we’re in the Detroit media area or if it hit the news all over the place.  Anyway, tl;dr – The Pontiac Silverdome which used to be the home of the Detroit Lions Football team began the process of destruction recently.  The Detroit Lions have moved to a new stadium, Ford Field, in downtown Detroit in recent years.

It didn’t go well.

As with stadiums like this, the destruction was done by implosion.  And, as well in times like these, it was televised.  The only problem was that it didn’t come down the first time!

Of course, that’s just fodder for media and social media and the smart aleck comments were flying.  My favourite was that the stadium was “Built Ford Tough”.  Again, another Detroit-ism.  There are some witty comments on that video.

It took a second try …

You can see, in the first video, that the structure still looks pretty good although it was missing the dome; it’s a shame that the building had to come down but, business is business, I guess.  I can’t imagine the cost of maintaining something like that.  You’d have to have lots of big events booked.

I was a visitor to the Silverdome on a number of occasions.  A couple come to mind and I doubt that I’ll ever forget them.

The first memory was to a football game.  The Lions were playing the Dallas Cowboys and I went with a bus load of teachers from my school.  There were four of us senior football coaches who sat together so that we could analyze plays and think about incorporating them in our program.

I remember the seats.  I’m sure that you’ve heard the expression “nose bleed”.  That was us.  Not only were the seats very high up, but they were in an end zone and that makes this story so memorable.

The Lions were marching down to score.  In this case, the seating was great.  We really just looked down on the plays as they were happening.  Plus, I had brought binoculars so I could see all the details.  Our head coach was sitting right next to me and was asking if I could see the label on the ball.  Being nice, I offered him my binoculars so that he could check it out for himself.

That’s where the memory got vivid!  As I handed him the binoculars, the third quarter ended.  You know what that means.  Whistle goes, they mark the spot and the football goes to the same position at the other end of the field.

Do the math. 100 yard field, 10 yard end zone, area at the end of the field and then the angle of depression to the opposite end.  Miles?

Coach got to see the score live.  I got to watch the big screen!  In retrospect, that’s why he was the head coach.  He knew all about time management.

My second memory is about the loudest noise I think I’ve ever heard in my life.  With two of my best friends, we went to WrestleMania III.  One of my friends hated professional wrestling but went because he wanted to be part of things with us.  (and he drove).  The other friend lived and breathed professional wrestling and he talked us into buying these really expensive tickets to be in the pit rather than sitting up in the seats.  He wanted to see all the details.  Me?  I had wrestled in high school but it’s nothing like professional wrestling.  It was just pure entertainment.

It was a night of headline matches and the big one was for the World Championship between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, the 8th Wonder of the World.

The setting was electric.  There was something about the setting that was really unique; with the ring in the middle of the football stadium, it was a long distance from the change rooms so the wrestlers were driven to the ring on a cart.  It made for even more excitement before the match started.  Of course, there was the signature music and the cheering of the crowd.  I’d been to a number of football games and it’s loud with the covered stadium but I’d never heard anything like this.

It was also a long event.  I’ll be honest and acknowledge that I was getting tired toward the end.  But then, Hogan comes to the ring and then Andre follows.  I remember being in awe at the huge size of Andre the Giant.  He looks big on television but even larger in person.  I completely forgot about being tired.  This was entertainment.

It was a long match; the last part you can see above.  I keep looking in the crowd to see if I could see myself.  We were that close.

It you watch the video, right near the very end, Hogan does his signature drawing power from the crowd move before finishing Andre off.  The crowd went nuts encouraging him.  It was SO LOUD.  But, that was nothing like the noise when Hulk pinned Andre.  I’ve never stood next to a jet airplane with its engine on but I can’t imagine that it would much louder than the noise that night in the Silverdome.  Say what you will about professional wrestling, this was a noisy, painful moment that I’ll never forget.

I know that time moves on and you see destruction of the classic stadiums these days as new venues are created and a lot, like Ford Field, appear in the heart of cities.

Yet, it’s somehow very sad to watch the destruction of the Pontiac Silverdome on television.  In another set of circumstances, it would still be going strong.

It sure has memories for me.

OTR Links 12/09/2017


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

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


There’s nothing like the first snow of the year to bring out your inner-Husky.  Now, having grown up in the snow belt, I know that it’s heresy to call what we’re experiencing this morning as “snow” but it’s the sort of thing that gets students here up and checking to see if buses are running or delayed.  Teachers have already done that.

Nothing says more than “winter in Essex County” than walking past the school that we do every morning and seeing the caretaker out in a short-sleeved t-shirt sweeping snow off the sidewalk for students and staff.  Or, Santa Claus arriving by canoe.

If you want one last winter-ish activity for the Hour of Code, check this out.

No matter what the weather is like where you are, I hope that you can take a few moments to read some of the great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers I ran across this week.


Preserve Our Language Project

When Stephen Hurley and I were discussing this on voicEd Radio, he noted that he hadn’t seen me this excited about something before.  It’s a true statement.  This is an awesome project and I found out about it by being tagged by Mike Filipetti last week during Follow Friday time.  I checked out the project and was just blown away.

So, here’s the deal.  When you get a new computer and set it up, chances are it will have an American English keyboard by default.  You can always change it for your preference.  I always opt for Canadian English.  I’ve also experimented personally with a Dvorak keyboard and it delivered as promised.  But, I dropped it for some reason.  I can recall a conversation with a French teacher who indicated that it was important for French students to see a French keyboard when they’re typing in that language.  Fair enough; that can be done easily enough.  Everyone should be able to keyboard in their language.

What if that language is Ojibway?  On my Macintosh, I’d be out of luck.  Scrolling to the Os reveals…

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So, what excited me about this project was that one of the features that they’ve developed is an Ojibway keyboard and made it free to download.  Think it’s not a big deal?  Try this then – switch the keyboards in your class to another language like Persian or Polish and have the students come up with a workaround to be able to type in their own language.

I am excited about this project and some of the other things that you’ll find including videos.  Importantly, check out who all is involved with the project.

It’s a project worth following and please give them a little social media love by sharing this post.


5 ways to turn the ‘hour of code’ into the ‘year of learning’

This post, from Jim Cash, is timely for the end of Computer Science Education Week.  I hope that everyone had a chance to do at least an hour of coding with students.  I also hope that you’re asking yourself “What’s next?”

If you are, this post has some suggestions for moving forward.

I’ll share three with you here…

  • Learn to code by starting your own coding project
  • Think of coding as a literacy
  • Plan a design-thinking, project-based learning activity

You’ll have to click through and read Jim’s entire post to get all five.  His vision of coding as a literacy started an interesting discussion on Twitter.  Personally, I think that  if coding skills are going to become successful and valuable, it needs to be more than a literacy.  How about it becoming a fluency?

As the Hour of Code wraps up and people are thinking of great successes and next steps, ECOO is hoping to engage you in a Twitter chat next Tuesday evening at 8pm with the hashtag #ECOOchat.  I hope to see you there.


What EQAO Doesn’t Know

Just as Jim’s post was timely, this one from Peter Cameron is equally as timely given the Ministry of Education’s review of assessment and curriculum in the province.

This is a long post but well worth the read and to share with others.  Passionate educators will also pause to recognize all of the fallout from testing that certainly couldn’t have been predicted when EQAO was first introduced.

Peter’s post reminds us that there are more than score-buckets sitting in desks in Ontario classrooms.  They’re eager learners who have a whole year to demonstrate their learning in various ways for their teacher.  Yet, there comes that moment in time when they have a pre-determined about of time to write a test for someone else.

If this is deemed to be important, are we doing it properly?  I’d suggest that you forget the notion of the test when you read the post.  Put yourself in the position of the students that he describes.  Would you consider yourself fairly assessed?


Midterm Reflections: #BIT17, PD Day, Midterms, Student Feedback, and Tracking Observations

I had to smile when I read the title to this post from Amy Szerminska.  If I had that many concurrent thoughts, I would have broken it down into five different posts and schedule them for successive days.  There’s a whole week of blogging there!

It was confirming to read her observations of #BIT17 and the importance of connections. You know that Amy is not alone in her thoughts.  We’re more powerful educators when we make these connections.  Hopefully, school districts recognize this when an application is received to go to a conference.  Go beyond the title and what you have always thought about the host; think of the connections that go far beyond the conference.

What I really found interesting was the discussion around the Professional Development Day.  Embedded in the post is her presentation.

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It’s a wonderful click through and those in the audience must really have appreciated the conversation that it would have generated.

Speaking of assessment, you have to love this student’s quote

“It’s weird but if I can negotiate my way to a good grade I don’t mind.”


LONDON GOOGLE SUMMIT: Presenting Google Classroom, Meet Entrepreneurship

In case you were wondering whether or not the Thames Valley District School Board was using Google or not, this presentation from Heidi Solway and Jason Bakker will give you a definitive answer.  I really do like it when presenters make their slide deck and other resources available for those who couldn’t attend to enjoy.

Ignite the passion in your classroom by developing your students into entrepreneurs through Project Based Learning (PBL). This project has students producing product, designing marketing, and handling sales at a Business Fair. We will share how to disseminate steps of the project via Google Classroom, having students manage their business in: Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, Drawings, and Classroom. We will also touch on how students might create advertising pieces using tools such as Garage Band, green screen with DoInk and/or iMovie, Please bring a Chromebook or laptop.

Of course, the folks at Google might take issue with the final statement and the use of the word “or”.

The slidedeck links to a thing popular with the Google crowd right now – Hyperdocs.  In this case, they are worksheets to support the concepts from the project.

For the Office 365 folks, a big project like this could easily be adapted to using the O365 tools.


Classrooms Should Be More Like Trains

A “quiet table” in a noisy classroom is rather like a smoking section in a restaurant. I understand that the noise doesn’t stop when it gets to the table (oh, for the ‘cone of silence’!!) Ideally I’d prefer a room where students could go and work quietly if needed. Putting a table in the hallway or some other quiet corner of the school is also a possibility, but obviously supervision and safety is a concern. At the very least, the “Quiet Work Table” shows students that if they need quiet, that’s acknowledged and addressed in some small way.

When I read this post from Andrew Campbell, I recognized how fortunate I was with my classroom setup.  At the time, I had the ability to organize my students according to activity.

The main classroom had tables with movable chairs and wonderfully, a carpeted floor.  Behind us was a room that was supposed to host a mini-computer that never arrived.  It had tiled floor (which was great to avoid the static electricity from the classroom) and more tables to hold our computers.  Behind that was supposed to be the computer operator’s office.  It turned into a seminar room for my class.   And, of course, we had a hallway for additional organization.  All of the rooms had huge windows so you could stand in one and see what was happening in all three.  For those who needed another level of isolation, I was not against the use of headphones.

I really was fortunate.  Andrew makes excellent points and it’s a reminder that the traditional school design never really takes all this into consideration – how are you making for quiet spaces in your classroom for those that want/need them?


OTF and the Professional Learning Ecosystem

If you’re not aware of everything that the Ontario Teachers’ Federation offers, you will be after reading this post from Brenda Sherry.

I think that I knew about all of the various pieces that she touches on in her post but I’d never seen them arranged all together at once.  Looked at this way, it really is impressive.

TLLP – The Teacher Learning and Leadership Program
OTF Connects – live webinars in the evenings
OTF Summer Institutes – 3 day summer sessions
Pedagogy B4 Technology Conference – 3 days of learning
TLLP – Provincial Knowledge Exchange
Teacher Learning Co-op (TLC) – Collaborative teams

Are you aware of these opportunities?  Read Brenda’s post and then head over to the OTF Learning Page.  Check the left sidebar for even more!


Whew!  Yet again, this is a wonderfully relevant and current look at things from Ontario Edubloggers.  We’re so fortunate to have these people sharing their thoughts with us.

Make sure to add all of the above to your list of accounts that you’re following.

If you’re blogging and not in the list of Ontario Edubloggers, please take a moment to visit and add your details.

OTR Links 12/08/2017


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

Hour of Code – Day 4


So far, I’ve worked my way through a number of Hour of Code activities.  Three of them have made it to blog post status.

It’s been so much fun.

Today, it’s a classic and dedicated to those Computer Science students that I taught.  I can’t think of a year when I didn’t have a student or group of student want to write their own version of Pac-man.  Even today, the name just conjures up visions of business success for the developers and distributors.  It’s still a fan favourite and you can find all kinds of places to play it online.  But, wouldn’t you like to create your own?  Have you ever wanted to make a version that was better than everyone else?

You can at the AgentCube implementation here, courtesy of University of Colorado Boulder, Pädagogische Hochschule FHNW, and Agent Cube.

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Start here.

The tutorial is a short trip through a Google Slides presentation.  Many of the slides have opportunity to learn more about the steps covered.  Or, you can just OK your way through and have a starter game of Pac-man created for you.

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Minimalist is correct.  It’s still a challenging game and the little slider that goes from turtle to rabbit lets you adjust your game according to your skill level.

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Uh oh.

Then, it’s time to look under the hood and make it your own.

There are an abundance of tools to work with the objects in your game.

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A few drag and drops and you’re on the way to making the game yours.

If you or your students enjoy the classics and have this desire to make your own custom version, this one is for you.