Big? Or juicy?

Who hasn’t seen a bumper sticker or t-shirt or just a sign that says:

He Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins

It’s kind of cute and pokes fun at those who have to acquire everything.

Last week, on Twitter, there was a discussion about the value of a Personal Learning Network.  If you use the Twitter service for networking with great educators, then you absolutely know all about the value of having that network.  But, having that network is only the begging.  Milking it for all it’s worth is worthwhile.

A really good, and critical thought for the day, is “how big should it be?”

Some observations:

  • there are bots and services that will sell you additional users for $$$
  • you can follow every user that you can find
  • some people use follow accounts and never post anything personally
  • you can read those posts that appear online every now and again “Top ## educators to follow on Twitter” and then follow them
  • you can find someone you respect and see who they follow and follow their follows

and there are probably other ways to pick those you choose to follow.

There does come a time when the sheer number that you follow becomes unmanageable.  The actual “number” is tough to define.  Follow too few and a looking at messages would let you think that the whole exercise is not worthwhile.  Follow too many and there’s so much going on that it’s hard to know where to start.

In the local newspaper recently, there was a very appropriate story.

Apple picking time: Crop not as big but apples will be larger, juicier than last year

It’s kind of a big deal here in Essex County.  Today, for example, I’ll be heading out to Leamington and will buy things from the stands that line the roads.  I like to support local farmers and I know that the fruit will be fresh and not stored in cold storage before being put out on shelves for sale.

I can’t help but think that the same logic applies to Twitter followers and how to manage them.  There was a time when you’d definitely want to have the biggest list of people to follow.  I’ll confess to doing that myself.  I’ve come to realize that value comes from selecting any future people to follow by checking out their timeline to see if they’re “larger and juicier”.  Metaphorically, of course.

Or, start to use the tools of Twitter to make it better.  If you check out my Twitter profile, you’ll see that I do follow quite a few.  That number hangs around from past history.  Quite frankly, I seldom look at the big stream.

Instead, I’ve tried to make my reading juicier.  If you did look at my profile, you’ll see that I have a number of lists of users there.  Of course, I’m so vested in my Ontario Educator lists.  They form the basis for my FollowFriday stuff and the newsletters.  It also lets me divide and conquer the list of Ontario folks – 4 lists of 500 versus 1 of 2000 to see what’s happening.  And, of course, it’s Ontario!  The lists that you see were either curated by me or I just follow someone else’s list.  If they’ve done the heavy lifting, who am I to complain?  BTW, you’re welcome to follow mine lists if you’re so inclined.

And, I’ll tweak your curiosity.  Everything working properly, you see the lists I’ve elected to make public.  There are others you shouldn’t be able to see!  Curious now?

Using Hootsuite or Tweetdeck allows for a separate column for each of the lists to try and keep an eye on what’s happening.

Screenshot 2017-09-24 at 08.29.53

From my Hootsuite screen…

That’s how I try to manage things to make it “larger and juicier”.  But, I’m not above taking advice from others.  Do you have a better scheme to manage things?

If you do, I’m a quick learner.  Please share.


OTR Links 09/25/2017

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

Whatever happened to …

…. Carmen Sandiego?

Or, should I say “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?”

I drew my inspiration for this post from a comment that Andrew Forgrave posted on my “Whatever happened to” post from last week.  In talking about Bits and Bytes, Andrew went all over the television map and brought back some memories for me but he didn’t include Carmen Sandiego so I thought that I’d give it a post for this week.

If you watched the show, who could forget …

“The Chief” was so deadly serious as she laid out the facts of the crime.  I don’t know if was her sincerity that hooked me or the geographic element that reeled me in.  Regardless, I was a fan of both the computer software and the television show.

Thanks to the internet and modern browsers, we can enjoy the show episodes on YouTube or play it online at locations like this.

The show and the software were definitely meant to be educational.  There were exotic locations with terrific images to go along with things.  We have it easy today when we’re told about a new location.  We just open another tab in the browser and search for it.  For Carmen’s run, the internet and a web browser were either non-existent or just an oddity.  Certainly, opening up your favourite world mapping program and zeroing in on a location wasn’t an option.  You either had to pull out a physical atlas, ask someone who might know, or just play the game without really getting vested in the location or the facts.  Depending upon the option you chose, there was either a great deal of education involved or an educational opportunity lost.

The good news is that Carmen is back!  Now marketed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, there’s an iOS app, a Windows 8 app, and she’s even delving into mathematics.

Could we solve today’s world problems if The Chief came back into full action?

How about you?  For this Sunday morning, please share some thoughts.

  • Were you a faithful viewer of the television show?
  • Did you ever play the computer game?
  • Programs like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego spawned the term “edutainment”.  What are your feelings about that word?
  • What other pieces of software used such “blocky”  graphics?  It’s a long way back from what we expect today.
  • Can you think of any other computer game that spawned a television show?
  • Can you name any other Brøderbund Software?  There are some obvious ones if you were a user of educational software in the 1980s.
  • Carmen Sandiego was a brand of educational software in the early years.  Would its approach survive in today’s schools?
  • The history of Brøderbund Software is interesting and sad in another way.  It had a history of being acquired by another company which was acquired by another company.  Do you see a danger or a benefit of educational software company acquisition?

As always, I’d enjoy reading your thoughts.

The complete collection of posts in this series is available here.

Got an idea for a future post?  Add it to this padlet.

OTR Links 09/24/2017

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

That’s nifty

I have to give a shout out to Alfred Thompson and his blog post from earlier this month.  He was sharing his thoughts about how to create problems for solution in the Computer Science classroom.

If you follow some of the simple stuff online, you might think that the goal is to get a robot to draw a square or something.  It’s an OK place to start but the study of Computer Science goes much deeper.

If you use a textbook in Computer Science (if you can find one that meshes nicely with your program, that is…), you’ll find that the problems offered don’t go that deeply into the discipline.  Consequently, Computer Science teachers are constantly looking for interesting and challenging problems to assign for student solution.  In many ways, it can be the ultimate in personalization as you search for things to match not only the curriculum you’re covering but that are engaging for students.  You know when you’ve hit a good one when students spend so much time coming up with elegant solutions and then are willing to discuss with you how they did it.

Alfred’s post was “Designing Projects for Programming Students“.  Embedded in the post was a link to the SIGCSE collection of “Nifty Assignments“.


Now, this won’t be your first selection for students starting to cut their teeth in Computer Science.  These are problems that are pretty meaty.  Even if they don’t lend themselves to creating a program, they’re a good start for some interesting work with Computational Thinking.

Here’s an nifty problem to start with – rated middle school and up.

For the Ontario ICS courses, you just might inspiration for using the problems “off the rack” or with modification for your needs.  The collection goes back to 1999 so there’s a great deal of inspiration there.  Have at it.

OTR Links 09/23/2017

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

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Another week comes to an end and offers an opportunity for me to share some of the great reading that I encountered this past while from Ontario Edubloggers.

Journey to El Salvador for Teacher Candidates

I guess I’m going to have to file this post from Paul McGuire under “Fake News”.

It’s too bad.  I had all kinds of notes about my own practice teaching experiences, social justice, added value to the curriculum, the relative low costs of the program, and so much more.

I made a point of making sure that it was on the radio show This Week in Ontario Edublogs so that Stephen Hurley and I could talk about it.  Just into our discussion, we got a Twitter message from Paul that the program had been scrapped.

Bummer.  We had so much time allotted to talk about it!

The post is still a good read and example of great planning and learning possibilities.  I’m disappointed that it didn’t come to fruition.


I had a new follower this week from Brock so I checked out her blog which Meg Schned has posted to Weebly.  There was a section dealing with TECHKNOWTEACH which sounded intriguing so I checked it out.

The section is a collection of posts about topics – I don’t know if it’s a class assignment or not – but I found them interesting from someone who will soon enter the profession.  One of the posts dealt with Understanding Copyright.  All right!  How many faculties deal with this, and in particular, Creative Commons?

With technology right at our fingertips, in the form of laptops, cellphones and tablets, accessing information and resources is easier than ever before, however there are rules in place that allow us to take advantage of this properly.

I liked her thoughts and carrying this into her profession will do her well.  I did look at the entire Weebly site and didn’t see a spot where she’s identified her own level of copyright.  I think that, in addition to respecting others copyright and permission that everyone should let others know how they expect their content to be used.

Kindness – It Starts with Us

Lisa Cranston’s recent post shows a great deal of wisdom and perhaps a reminder for everyone about the importance of being kind.

In the post, she shares many personal experiences but one really resonated with me.

We’re all taught to be aware of the student who sits in the cafeteria alon eating lunch with no friends or interactions.  Lisa describes a personal experience as a supply teacher being alone in the staff room.  Should there be any difference?

With reorganization day in everyone’s future, along with the daily flow of occasional teachers, new students, and teacher candidates, this is a powerful reminder that it never hurts to be kind.


My #5BestEd decisions

Lisa Noble tagged me in the announcement of this post in response to a challenge issued by Jonathan So.  The challenge was to identify five moments that made an impact on your teaching.

Lisa follows up with her five and it’s great to see that family remains part of the discussion.  She said I was in the post somewhere, but quickly frankly, I couldn’t find it.  I had clicked the embedded video and had it playing while I was reading the content.  My big mistake was not watching the video…

Anyway, it’s a nice collection and there were two acronyms in her five decisions that stood out to me.

  • AIM
  • PLP

It’s a nice summary and I can see just in my interactions with her online, how they have helped frame her to be the educator that she is today.

I would encourage you to click through and see all five.

Sarah’s Back-To-School Story

How many times this late August have your heard from teachers who have that back to school nightmare with no lesson plans, or being late, or not wearing clothes in front of your class….?

Sarah Lalonde shares a back to school story of her own.  She doesn’t have her own classroom yet and so instead reminisced about going back to school as a student.

It’s somehow comforting to know that it’s not just teachers who are nervous but so are the students.  That may appear to be obvious but I thought that a teacher candidate identifying as a student was something special.

It brought back things that I hadn’t thought of in years.

  • clothes – what to wear
  • bus route – will it be different
  • teachers – will they be different
  • how to set up your locker to make it yours

It inspired great memories for me.  Give it a read and see if it doesn’t do the same for you.

Breakout EDU for the Win!

The concept of Breakout EDU is very popular right now.

What really impresses me is when educators go beyond the box and come up with original and new ways of designing their own challenges.  Earlier, I had been impressed with how Cal Armstrong had used OneNote to create a challenge.

In this post, Jennifer Casa-Todd describes how she sets up a Breakout session as orientation to her library.

Introduce students to the services and resources I offer in the Library by allowing them to DISCOVER these through fun, interactive challenges. So I hid puzzles in books, created posters with hidden clues and got them to answer questions on a Google Form which revealed their word-combination when they submitted the form. It was a really nice mix of traditional and digital Breakout components. I am not going to lie, I was super nervous. You see, unlike a classroom teacher, I have no real rapport with these students coming into the Library. I don’t know their names or their learning needs.

It sounds like a winning combination.  Check out her entire post to get all the details.

Is there room in your classroom for an activity like this?

Caretaker of the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt

Kristi Keery Bishop shares an interesting story about administrators’ orientation.

At our system Administrator’s meeting, we were welcomed and educated by the board’s Indigenous Education team. We were then each offered a Dish with One Spoon wampum belt to be used in our schools. This wasn’t our typical “go get in line to take these new resources for your school” kind of giveaway but a ceremony; we had to thoughtfully and publicly acknowledge our willingness to accept the responsibility of using the wampum for school education and community building but also to accept it as a treaty of friendship.

My first thought was a remembrance of so many meetings that I attended and we “got stuff”.  Sometimes a little overview to go along with it or a handout, but a ceremony?

To me, this adds addition value to the resource and makes everyone think just a little harder about the message from the meeting and how it will be used when returned to the school.

Take some time to read the post.  When was the last time that you had an educational moment that was as meaningful as this one?

Please take a moment and read the entire posts and enjoy their thoughts.  While you’re at it, make sure that you follow these folks on Twitter.

If you’re an Ontario Education blogger and aren’t in my collectionplease consider adding your URL.  There’s a form available at this site for just this purpose.

Every Wednesday morning at 9:15 on voicEd Radio, Stephen Hurley and I talk about some of the great posts that appear from Ontario Edubloggers.  The shows are also archived and you can revisit them here.