Judging backgrounds

Things are certainly different these days. I’ve never had so many meetings online as I’ve had in the past few months.

Before that, they were kind of a novelty. You’d join the Zoom, Meet, or Skype call and wave to folks and then turn the camera off. With meetings lasting sometimes for an hour or more, nobody needed to see what I was doing. I did make a mistake once and left the camera on for a CSTA meeting and the folks saw that I had a glass of wine. After the heckling, it seemed like a good idea and people joined in in the future. These days, I still meet with Computer Science teachers from the University of Northern Iowa for a beer on Friday afternoon. We start each meeting sharing what we have that particular day.

I suppose that judging how people look in their conference room was always a possibility but we’ve found over the past while that many people focus on what’s behind you. As my son would call you, Judgey McJudge.

I’ve started to pay more attention to interviews on television in particular and what people have in the background. It’s amazing the political statements, pictures, and if they’ve written a book, how it’s in the background. In the movies, we would call that product placement and it’s something that companies pay big bucks to have (who can forget Reese’s Pieces in E.T.); now it’s something that everyone does.

So, what does my typical background look like?

This was a typical picture. My wife would complain that I didn’t wear a shirt with a collar and I’d reply that the one I’m wearing was at the top of the drawer. To my left, you’ll see a tie rack with all kinds of dusty ties. Why do I keep them all? Who knows?

To my right, you’ll see a bookshelf with packed books that could easily fill two bookshelves except I’m too cheap to buy another one. Straight behind me, you’ll see a door. Where does it go? Well, when we added this room onto the house, I wanted a computer area and got it. My wife wanted a second washroom and it’s right behind me. It’s convenient but be aware that the next time we video chat, I might be in the bathtub or at the sink shaving. To my extreme left, you’ll see a patio door that gets left open in moderate temperatures. If you listen to the This Week in Ontario Edublogs podcast, you might occasionally hear wind chimes from the patio if the weather is right and the door is open.

That’s my digital home for the most part. I did try another location for one of my meetings with a CSTA friend. I went out to the patio and was sitting in a chair and it was going well … until the wind picked up. Embarrassingly, I ended up looking like I was in a snow storm with the poplar fluffies coming down and eventually the wind knocked over the umbrella right on top of me. I had to finish the call holding it in one hand. I wish I’d taken a picture.

So, that’s my story and I’ll bet you know what the call to action at the end of this post will be.

But first …

Those who are doing video online are open for judgement too. There’s a user called “Room Rater” on Twitter. The purpose of the account seems to be to capture images and rate them. (D’uh, the name gives it away)

Who could forget the images of our Prime Minister in front of his cottage, addressing the nation.

By this metric, it gets a 9/10. Not bad at all.

Going to this user and scrolling through the screen captures and commentary is fun and interesting.

So, the call to action. You can rate me if you wish but I’d be interested in your own experiences doing online video calls.

What do you have in your background? What do you have in your background that you wish you didn’t? How much planning went into setting things up? Or, anything else about video chatting that you’re interested in sharing. Please do.

OTR Links 07/14/2020

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

A 7 cent solution?

Even the Wilkinsons needed 26 cents which may be almost 4 times what a student in Ontario might get.

When there are shootings in American schools, we Canadians sit back and express our disgust with the “thoughts and prayers” that go out. It’s especially bad when that’s all that there is.

We talk about how this could all be prevented. It just required a little (lot) of work to avoid.

We are about to tangle with something potentially worse as we know that school districts are preparing to re-open this fall in Ontario. While all three of the scenarios involve opening schools, two of the three involve opening school buildings as well.

Recently, I read this Twitter message from Carol Campbell pointing to a press release from the Ontario Parent Action Network.

The actual press release can be read here.

I was aghast at the conclusion that only $0.07 was being provided for the return. This is the sort of thing that needs to be challenged and questioned by the members of the opposition. Fortunately, our MPP Taras Natyshak (@TarasNatyshak on Twitter) has no hesitancy about questioning the Premier.

These are questions that I would suggest that he be asking the Premier about this.

  • Mr. Premier, the Ontario Parent Action Network has analyzed your plans for funding COVID-19 protection in schools and released a document that indicated that your government will provide 7 cents per student to provide for their safety. Can you confirm this or indicate what the actual amount will be?
  • Mr. Premier, this spring your government cancelled the EQAO tests saving the province money that would normally have been earmarked for this program. Can you confirm that testing will be cancelled again and that the funds for this program be allocated to the plans for safe schools in the time of COVID-19?
  • Mr. Premier, we know that educators routinely supplement provincial spending for learning materials in classrooms. Are you expecting that they will provide their own PPE and sanitizer this year?
  • Mr. Premier, in my riding two distilleries Hiram Walker and Wolfhead Distillery have produced hand sanitizer and donated it “where necessary” to the community. Is this part of the plan for re-opening school buildings?
  • Mr. Premier, obviously 7 cents will not provide a complete and safe solution for our schools. Are you recommending that school districts cancel programs and redirect funds towards the safe re-opening of our school?
  • Mr. Premier, we need to offer more than “thoughts and prayers” as school buildings re-open. While the onus is on individual school districts for specific plans, is there an overall Ontario recommendation that this House can stand behind?
  • Mr. Premier, the World Heath Organization has reported recently that COVID-19 may be easier spread indoors. Indeed, our provincial Stage 2 plan currently forbids indoor eating at restaurants and bars. Given that Ontario has an inventory of very old and very new schools, how can you assure Ontarians that all buildings will be safe for students, teachers, and staff?
  • Mr. Premier, you are very public in your pronouncements that you have consulted with health experts on the gradual re-opening of Ontario. What experts have you consulted with concerning the re-opening of school buildings?

If you had the ability to ask a question about this, what would it be? I know that MPP Natyshak follows me, so any suggestions that you make might well be read by him.

OTR Links 07/13/2020

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

My Week Ending 2020-07-12

Here’s a summary of some of the things I learned and published this week.


You can follow my daily readings as they happen here.  Below are a selected few, with commentary, from the past week.

  • “Mistakenly”, eh? I’ve done a lot of work with photos and the before / after images of this are completely different. Someone did some deliberate editing.
  • The bottom line is that society is prepared to pay for the higher prices. People want all the features they can get.
  • Two hours is a major, major improvement in battery life. This upgrade needs to be done immediately.
  • This is really strange. If Apple and Microsoft both go without Intel processors in the future, are we left with just really powerful Chromebooks?
  • Articles about racism in Ontario schools is something that all educators and administrators should be reading and change practice as a result.
  • Finally, there was good news for Kingsville and Leamington as they’re allowed to open to Stage 2. Now to do something about the living conditions of those migrant workers.
  • There definitely are risks in everything that you might want to do outside your personal bunker. This infographic shows one view.
  • I find this so sad. Part of the rich experience of going to university is making new friends from people from all over the world.
  • If individuals are going to get anti-racism right, they’ve got to be inspired by role models taking the lead. If the withdrawal from advertising major sports teams is what it’s going to take, I’m all for it.
  • I’m always somewhat happy that my gear doesn’t make this list. Hopefully, my vendor is aware of what’s happening in the world. There are actually so little that you can do to tweak your router.
  • If you’re looking to expand your vocabulary, why not start with some of these words.
  • Can Trump be double dog dared to sit in a classroom? How about Ford?
  • I’ll admit that I am one of those people who have hung on to a now obsolete Macbook Pro. It still runs nicely but I’ll have no hesitation whatsoever of reformatting and putting Linux on it when the time comes.
  • All my teaching career, I have been spoiled by having great Directors of Education and they’ve all been teachers. Yes, there are business decisions to be made but that’s what the SOB (Superintendent of Business) is for.
  • It takes a lot of laws to make COVID recovery apparently and many of the things included have nothing to do with COVID.
  • I’m still amazed that the news media is even covering the things that Scheer is doing. But, if what’s he’s doing is putting others in danger, yeah, cover it.
  • Everyone wants to have a crystal ball to see what the fall will look like for schools. Here’s Macleans’ vision.
  • A bigger question should be – why would you want your Linux to look like Windows? Linux is lovely and so intuitive these days. Don’t fear it; embrace it.
  • I did a couple of the cognitive tests in the article and I guess I could become president of the United States. Maybe one question should be “Why would you want to be president?”

Blog Posts on
doug … off the record

My daily contributions to this blog are linked below. If you’re looking for a week in review for doug–off the record, you came to the right place.

#FollowFriday – July 10, 2020


voicEd Radio

This week on voicEd Radio with guest Matthew Morris, Stephen Hurley and I chatted about Summer Breaks, Cancel Culture, Family Engagement, Research during COVID, and more.

This week’s show – https://voiced.ca/podcast_episode_post/summer-breaks-cancel-culture-family-engagement-and-more/

Intro Song:

All of the podcasts are archived here.

Blog posts this week came from:

  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @jcasatodd
  • Will Gourley – @WillGourley
  • With Equal Step – @WithEqualStep
  • Anna Bartosik – @ambartosik

Technology Troubleshooting

How did everyone make out during the big storms that went through the province last week?

Around here, the power was out for about four hours. That seems like a lifetime; fortunately, I was blogging at the time on my Chromebook. Power? We don’t need no stinking power. Of course, when I was done, I had nowhere to save it so I just cautiously put it to sleep.

We went for a drive into town to get a sense of how spread the outage was and there seemed to be no house lights on anywhere. When we did get into town, power was on there. And, something neat. The ice cream place which is normally the anti-social-distancing place was completely empty.

Bonus! Ice cream to go with a dog walk.

When we returned home, eventually the power came back and my blog post uploaded and to the end user, it looked like nothing happened. I was a bit worried since it probably was about half-written and posted and it could have looked pretty gruesome had the power not come back on so that I could proofread and post the final.

Video of the Week

If there ever was an anthem for the summer of 2020, this has to be it.

Photo of the Week

I mentioned in one of my Whatever happened to posts that there has been a real shortage of possums around here this year. On the other hand, there are rabbits everywhere. This little one was caught motionless in the front garden, hoping I didn’t see him/her.

Thanks for reading.

Please join me daily for something new and, hopefully, interesting for you. Time willing, this summary appears every Sunday afternoon.

Be safe.


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