My Kansas

Lisa Noble threw out a challenge on her blog with the post Leaving Kansas….

It’s a blog post that describes a young lady with the gumption to say goodbye to her local community and to experience living with other families in another country.  It was a different time and a different era – no texting or hanging out from a distance – connections with family would be difficult and probably impossible at times.  Yet, she stuck with it and had a moment of reunion with a friend recently.  It’s an interesting read and I’d encourage you to do so.

But she does pose some questions to anyone who happened to read her blog and she tagged me explicitly and, knowing Lisa, she’s expecting a response.

Being me, I am left with some questions. What was that defining experience for you – when you knew that you weren’t in Kansas anymore, and that you were okay with that? Who were the people you shared it with? Are they still part of your world? Please share in the comments, or your own writing – I’d really love to know.

Second batch of questions: Do those opportunities still exist for our students and our children in this ultra-connected world? Do we encourage our students and kids to take them, and then get out of the way? How might the technology that enriches our lives be getting in the way of this kind of adventure? How do we help our parent/teacher selves let go?

So, response it is…

The description from Wikipedia sets the stage.

I wish that I could relate an interesting globe trotting story to compare with Lisa’s.  Sadly, I couldn’t.  My “leave home and friends” moment happened when going to university.  Just about everyone from my graduation class took the traditional route and went to the University of Western Ontario.  My friend John and I were a bit different in that we headed east to the University of Waterloo to study Mathematics and Computer Science.

For us, it was a big deal.  On our own, we learned to cook and budget and study and meet new friends for real.  Sure, our parents encouraged all this when we lived at home but it was artificial.  A meal here and there or a job that existed to raise money for school but the ability to go home at the end of the day and live rent free was always there.  University was exciting at first but then the reality kicked in.  No matter how tired and tough the day was, we had to cook and clean or go without.  How can people live like this?  And raise kids?  My parents were saints.

Further studies took me on to Toronto and then a great career in Essex County.  It was all new and exciting, but the reality was that I could always go home.  It was only 3-4 hours away.  Frozen in time, my old bedroom was always there.  We were always welcome to come home and our place was always welcome for parents to visit.

But that was to come to an end.  It was a sad moment when we signed the papers to sell the building that had been home and later home away from home.

I guess it’s our Kansas in that, when we visit these days, there is no place to land and have those family conversations.  The local restaurant or coffee shop becomes more than just a place to eat – it’s also a washroom.  Overnight stays now involve a motel or a very long day of travel.  The bottom line – identifying your own Kansas means coming to grips and facing your own mortality.

Though I’ve lost touch with my friend John, my wife and best friend has been there every step.  My story isn’t nearly as exotic as Lisa’s but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

To address the second question, I do believe that the opportunities do exist for today’s youth.  But, I also believe that it’s not as easy as it once was.  There was a time when going overseas on an exchange was the “thing to do”.  I don’t ever recall advisories from the government about countries that were not recommended for visiting.  The notion that you could experience the real underbelly of another country isn’t always the best of decisions these days.

Even airports are so much different.  Instead of being places to fly the “friendly skies”, we’re all treated with suspicion and considered guilty until our belongings have been x-rayed and we’ve walked through a metal detector or had a full body scan.  On a trip last year, I had a can of shaving gel confiscated because of its size and my wallet double x-rayed because it looked too thick for the homeland security agent.  (Don’t be too impressed; they were all American $1 bills.  I should have traded them for 2 or 3 twenties)

To that end, Lisa’s “How do we help our parent/teacher selves let go?” doesn’t resonate with me.  While it is possible to blindly go and potentially put yourself in danger, only a fool or the truly brave would do it.  Why wouldn’t we use the available technology to ensure a certain level of safety or, in this day of the selfie, fully document the experience?

So, dear Lisa, there’s my Kansas.  I hope that you have more folks that open their lives and share their thoughts.


OTR Links 01/20/2018

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

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

If you were monitoring your Twitter stream yesterday morning, you’ll know that a draft of this post got sent by accident.  Well, let’s call it what it was – a screw-up on my part.  I was in a rush and needed to save the draft before heading out and it got posted instead of drafted.  My thanks to Aviva Dunsiger and Peter Cameron for quickly letting me know.  

#OneWordONT Update – If you are participating, you need to get your post written by this weekend and notify Julie Balen.  From her document, here is the marked growth in this project.

  • 2015 – 23 words
  • 2016 – 65 words
  • 2017 – 76 words
  • 2018 – 168 words and counting

The collection of blog posts can be found here.  Julie had originally blogged about the project here.

From around the Ontario Educational Blogosphere, here’s some great reading for your Friday morning wakeup…

Rethinking Privilege Through A Self-Reg Lens

I think I may have had the same parents as Lisa Cranston.  Like her, this was drilled into my psyche at an early age.

If you work hard, then you will succeed.
If you set your mind to it, you can do anything.
If you don’t succeed, then you have no one but yourself to blame.

The activity Lisa describes in the post is an interesting one to help see that not everyone starts as a clean slate with the same possibilities.  It’s most certainly easily transferable to the classroom or to professional learning situations.

I think that, as teachers, we see and realize this.  But, do we fully understand?

Cabin Crew

So, Anne Marie Luce took issue with the comments that Stephen Hurley and I made on the radio version of This Week in Ontario Edublogs when we equated the pilot of an airplane as a similar situation as the principal of a school.  Essentially, we noted that the pilot is isolated from the rest of the airplane, behind a closed door.

She saw things differently from us.


Anne Marie saw the principal as more the role of a flight attendant working the aisle and reaching out to every passenger/student.  I’d like to agree but with large schools, is it possible?

Then, she took the analogy a bit further talking about the control tower (Ministry of Education) as being even further removed from the needs of the passenger and yet crucial for the success of the flight.

It’s an interesting comparison.  Talking about this might make for an interesting activity at a staff meeting.

In the past week, I was on a plane myself.  We had to be de-iced before we could take off!  Who’s the de-icer in education?

10 Tools in My Teaching Day

I really enjoy posts like this one from Jon Orr.  It’s one of the ways that I learn about new tools that I may have missed.  From his list of things that get him through the day, I need to learn more about Streaks.

I already use a couple of apps to make sure that the dog gets his steps in but this looks like it manages more streaks than that.  It appears to be iPhone related so I may have to look for something equivalent on the Android side of things.

The other nine tools that he describes were known to me.

Interestingly, in the list, Jon doesn’t indicate a browser as one of his tools.  Since he names Keynote in his list, I thought that Safari might show up somewhere.  As a person who lives daily in the browser with all kinds of web applications to do this and that, I found that oddly missing.  But maybe it’s realistic; with the web everywhere, has the concept of a browser just become so invisible that we take it for granted?

My 2018 Bucket List

Joe Archer responds in this post to a challenge to identify 18 goals for 2018, thereby taking a bit of a liberty with the conventional thought of a bucket list.

There are some interesting self-challenges in the post.  I wish him success in meeting them all.  The choice of a second or more language will be a tough one to meet.

You’ll have to read his post to find out just what language he wants to learn.

There are lots of references to Microsoft applications and groups here which those of you who are so Google-centric might find interesting.

Save a Life — Choose Love Over Fear

This post, from Laurie Azzi, is as sobering as the title suggests.  She describes a project with partnership between the Ministry of Education and OECTA “Hey, Are You Doing Alright? Taking Off Masks, Ending Stigmas, Moving On.”

The project addresses the seriousness of Mental Health issues and suggests that we may gain a better understanding by “removing the mask” and revealing the story behind.

In this post, she relates the story of “Sarah: An Emerging Primary Caregiver”.

It’s a story that applies to many people.

There is an interesting statistic that will give you pause

  • Mental illness affects 1:5 Canadians in their lifetime.

Think about your staffroom or your school population and do the mathematics.  The result is why we all need to be aware.

Where There is Tea There is Hope

I was tagged in a Twitter message by Julie Balen letting me know of this new blog authored by Caroline Black.

Kudos to her for taking the leap.

I’ve done at least one thing to get out of my comfort zone today – I started a blog about my learning. Check out my introductory post here:

Her discussion about tea shoots down the notion that bloggers survive on coffee.  You’ll want to send warm thoughts to someone on Manitoulin Island with the power out.

Take a moment to visit her blog and send her a comment.  Many others have beat you there.

And, for the record, my favourite is Oolong.

The Great Micro:Bit Giveaway!

Well, maybe the second greatest giveaway.

Had Brian Aspinall been at the CSTA Conference last summer in Baltimore, he would have known that we gave every registrant for the conference their own micro:bit.

If you missed out on that, then you need to head over to Brian’s blog.  He’s going to raffle off a micro:bit in “early 2018”.  All you have to do to have a chance is register with him.

In case you missed it, I had the opportunity last weekend to interview Sarah Lalonde.  You can read the interview here.

Please take a moment to click through and read all of these blog posts and register to win a micro:bit if you’re feeling lucky.  These folks will appreciate it.

Regardless, you also need to grow your learning network by adding these folks.

A Livebinder with the big collection of Ontario Edubloggers can be found here.

OTR Links 01/19/2018

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


Those that know me know that I enjoy harness racing.  It was actually Biology class that got me started with this interest.  Harness racing was coming to our town and our teacher used the opportunity to talk about family trees and breeding.  If you ever look at a harness racing program, each horse has his/her immediate lineage listed so that you can tell who a horse’s sire and dam are.  Somehow that captured my interest.

If you’re interested, you can really go deep into the pedegree of any horse.  It’s all done for free unlike the current fad of tracing your DNA!

In our town, harness racing was big (and controversial) and became one of the things to do on a Sunday afternoon.  My parents volunteered with the Kinsmen and Kinettes to help run the afternoon.  At the time, you had to be a lot older than we were to even get into the track area.  But, if you knew the lay of the land, there were places where you could stand to watch the races.  For those of us who were lifeguards and worked on Sunday afternoons, you could watch the races from the pool.

I got hooked.  At the time, the standard for harness racing was the ability for a horse to run a mile in 2 minutes and 10 seconds.  If you saw a horse that did that, you knew it had good breeding and excellent training.  Like many things, the sport got so much better.  Today, you get excited when you see a horse that can run a mile in less than 2 minutes.

We enjoyed travelling the province and seeing races at various venues – Clinton, Goderich, Elmira, Hanover, Dresden, Sarnia, Flamboro, Greenwood, Garden City, Mohawk, Barrie, Ottawa, Windsor, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, and Leamington.  There may be others.  It’s sad that some of these tracks are no longer in operation.

It was being in proximity to Windsor that we got to see some of the best horses of all time – Frugal Gormet, Niatross, Cam Fella, Camluck and probably even more that have been forgotten since Windsor Raceway has been closed for a while.

There was a horse that I never got a chance to see and that was Somebeachsomewhere.  It was sad to read this Somebeachsomewhere, Nova Scotia’s Most Famous Harness Racing Horse, is Dead.  This was a legendary racer from his first race, setting speed records in doing it.

And setting records wherever he went.

Fortunately, we have video to remind us what a magnificent horse he was.  Just watching these videos confirms that he was truly in a class by himself.

He truly deserved the recognition for being the Horse of the Decade.

The list of records is such a reminder of how the sport has improved over the years.  Remember when I say that 2:10 was a standard.  A race that goes in 1:46.4 just is unfathomable to me.

For the sport, Somebeachsomewhere has stood as a stud and so his lineage will continue.  I’ll be keeping an eye out – Dr J Hanover has already hit my radar with a 1:46.4 at Mohawk!  I hope to see more.

OTR Links 01/18/2018

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

Exploring innovation

Do you think you’ve nailed something innovative?

Do you think there could be something more than your current educational reality?

Do you get a sense that there’s something more that could be happening?

If you answered yes to any/all of the above, then you’re going to want to check out HundrED.

Screenshot 2018-01-16 at 06.12.00

There is so much here to explore.

Of course, I had to check out the 3 entries from Canada that made it into the collection.

I had certainly known about Roots of Empathy but the other two were new to me.  What’s interesting is the visualization and results that show us that innovation in education can be seen world-wide.

Things like:

And that’s the beginning.  It’s so interesting to explore and read about innovation world-wide.   Explore via the map or a list appears here.

Are there elements of innovation that could be applied to your situation?

I’m absolutely betting there is.