This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Another week has passed.  I think this week has been a little slower than others because it’s just been so darn cold.  All this in-house time has given lots of time for blog reading though.  Here’s some of what I read from great Ontario Edubloggers.

Selfies -response to the video

Jamie Weir is looking to crowd source some ideas about selfies for use in her Grade 10 class which starts all too soon for her.  I wish her all the best as she gets back in the saddle again.

As I noted in my reply, this is a big, brave move on the behalf of Dove.  They’ve got to have looked at all sides of the issue before making the video go public.  How will it be received?  Positively?  With skepticism?  Negatively?  I think it’s a great flash point for discussion for her class.



This blog is a new addition to the Ontario Edublogger collection.  Welcome, Dillon Hutton.  His most recent post talks about a classroom activity that he’s planning dealing with Vikings.


He’s got instructions for students and an information piece for parents, including which expectations from the Ontario Curriculum that he intends to cover.  Looks like he’s on a great roll, covering a lot of bases properly.

Colleen Rose

OK, you’ve got to stick with me on this one.

I got a Facebook message from Colleen Rose letting me know about a new blog for me to check out.  I followed the link to an entry entitled “Colleen Rose”.  Then, I checked and rechecked the link and the URL and the title and, yes, I was in the right spot.

So, the author is Tim Bogatz, an art teacher, and he has started a series called 14 for 2014.  He’s embarked on the goal of interviewing a number of people and our favourite photographer/art teacher Colleen was one of them.

Now, technically Tim isn’t an Ontario educator but his interview of Colleen who is, is worth the read.


Hopefully, my explanation makes sense.  If not,  just read the post anyway!

Student Thinking Acts As A Provocation For Teacher Learning

Our blogging friend Aviva Dunsiger has no qualms about showing her refining of her profession in the open.  In this case, she’s musing about ways to get students to think deeper in mathematics.


I like the thought “giving better questions”.

I think that it’s a technique that matures and develops over one’s career.  As a first year teacher, the textbook (and answer guide) is a life saver.  Things only get better from there!

Growth Mindset: Pathways Without Borders

Kyle Pearce takes on the concept of pathways in Ontario Education.  Follow the arrows and you can only imagine the anguish of parents and students as they try to determine pathways and choices.


I remember a conversation with a superintendent once – “you have many options – choose wisely”.  Sadly, when it comes to education choices, you can end up being railroaded down a particular path.  He makes reference to a Grade 8 student.  I had many concerns at that age.  Determining post secondary destinations wasn’t among them.

Remixing “I Forgot My Phone”: Exploring the Greys in a Black and White Debate

As I read Royan Lee’s latest post, I couldn’t help but be amazed as he brought so much together in this unit dealing with media literacy.


I see:

  • brainstorming;
  • class sourcing;
  • Venn diagrams;
  • integration of video;
  • rich classroom discussion;
  • student created video.

All this in a unit on health and media literacy?  They should bottle this lesson and make it available everywhere.  Until they do, check out the post.  This is a goodie.

What a great collection of reading this week.  Please follow the links and check things out.  You can read these and all the collection from Ontario Edubloggers at the Livebinder here.  If you’re blogging and not listed, please complete the form to get added.

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OTR Links 01/31/2014

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

A Chrome Extension Built for Learning

One of the things that I struggle with is trying to learn via video or blog post as often they’ll contain a link that just sounds so interesting.  So, I’ll follow the link and then try to find the breadcrumbs to get back to the original learning. I’ve finally developed a technique of opening the link in a new tab.  Either right-click (or two finger tap) in the page and select “Open Link in New Tab” or hold down the Command Key and click on the link to force it to open in the new tab.  Both work and then I close the new tab or, more likely, have it open until I get to the point where I have so many open that I’ve forgotten what I was originally doing.

I now have a new option.  It’s a Google Chrome extension called “NiftySplit“. Once installed, it injects itself into the Context Menu as a new option.

So, instead of opening the link in a new tab, I’ll open it as a NiftySplit window!

If I go back to yesterday’s post, I end up with my blog post on the left and the reference page on the right.

Both the original and the reference are on the screen.  Just think of all the times that you scrambled for a second monitor to have a couple of browsing windows open.  It’s no longer needed with this extension.

It’s such a great idea; I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it incorporated in the core browser as it continues to get better.


OTR Links 01/30/2014

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

Provincial and Territorial Stereotypes

This morning, I was attracted by the title to this post “Each State’s Biggest Stereotype, According to Google“.  I can just see my teacher-librarian friends shuddering when the methodology for the post was explained.  They used Google’s auto-complete and chose the first option.  They asked “Why is [State] so…”.  It’s not very scientific but it is at least fun.

Then, the Canadian in me kicked in.  Where are the provinces and territories?  I was off to rectify that.

First, I need a blank map of Canada with Nunavut on it.  That rules out the archives here so I went to to get a Free Blank Outline Map of Canada.



Once I had a copy of the map, it was a matter of downloading and bringing it into my editor.  In this case, it was Adobe Photoshop.  The image was encoded to gray 8 so I had to convert it to accept colours.  Then, it was off to Google to see what it had to say about the provinces and territories.  The results were interesting – you can’t make this stuff up – sorry Northwest Territories.



It was fun to have a Photoshop project to do.

When it was over, I remembered a comment from a former Program Department Colleague.  “There’s got to be a workshop in there somewhere.”

I thought of all the things that needed to be done.

  1. Download the map;
  2. Import it into Photoshop.  In Ontario schools, you’d probably use the Ministry licensed Adobe Photoshop Elements;
  3. Do the Google Search to get the content;
  4. Use the text tool to accept your input;
  5. Change the colour;
  6. Type the text;
  7. Move the text so that it’s over the right province or territory;
  8. Rotate the text to best cover the area;
  9. Resize the text so that it’s proportional to the area;
  10. Flatten the image;
  11. Scratch your head about Prince Edward Island;
  12. Type the PEI text and draw an arrow to point to that province.

That’s actually quite a few Photoshop skills for the beginning image editor.

Now, this is a fun little activity using the Google Auto Complete.  You could easily make this more meaningful in a study of provinces and territories by digging into statistics for the topic being taught.  Imports/Exports/Languages/School Completion Rate or whatever you’re studying.  But, it is fun and I would bet enjoyable, all the while learning some editing skills, and undoubtedly sparking some conversation.  “How cold is cold?”  “How flat is flat?”  “How do you know a province is expensive?”

OTR Links 01/29/2014

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

Is it Time for Technology Use to Step Up and Deliver?

Man, it’s cold outside these days.  Today, just another Monday, was interesting reading on Twitter.  School Districts closed; individual schools closed, schools open, buses not running, … I think we hit every permutation in the province.

The problem with owning a dog who is part Husky is that there is no weather that generates an excuse for missing a morning dog walk.  We see elementary and secondary students waiting for the bus during our stroll.  The younger the student, the closer to the Michelin Man, they look.  The older students forfeit comfort for fashion.  No matter what; it’s still plain cold.  On the brutally cold days, do they really need to stand there waiting for the bus?

It brought back a faint memory of a conversation from my Superintendent from years ago when we were debating bringing Online Learning to our District.  That memory became very strong when I read this article. “Illinois School Drops Snow Days for E-Learning Days“.

Then it came back to me…one of the things in the PMI Chart that we had (on the P side) was having Online Learning available during snow days.  That way, students could still learn even though they weren’t physically in school.  I shared the article above online and Joe Sisco got back to me quickly.

I think that he nailed it.

You can’t pull something out of your hat just become today happens to be very cold or blizzardy.  Learning Online has to be part of the regular routine or it’s just not going to work.  It can’t be a one time, or a special activity for a particular reason.  It has to be part of the way that you do business.  That’s where the notion of a Blended Learning classroom pays off.

In Ontario, we are so fortunate to have eLearning Ontario and all the resources and content there waiting to be used.  But, even if you don’t go that route, a well crafted classroom wiki will serve as your own personal LMS.  My university classes are all taught using a wiki.  It’s private; but the students know that everything that we do is done electronically and stored there for them.  It works well should someone miss a class and I used to make them aware of articles or blogs that needed to be read for the next class.  Even after the course is over, the wiki stays functional for them.  It’s heart-warming to see students logging in after the course to dig out a handout or a technique that they remember from my class for use in their current class.

The benefits go far beyond the in vogue badge of honour “My class is paperless.”  It’s a significant change in the way things are done and are just as easily available during snow days.  Do students (and teachers) really need to brave the elements on the very worse of days?  Not if your class is online.

“But my kids don’t have internet access at home!”

Really?  Check the report from Young Canadians in a Wired World.

Please include attribution to

I’ll bet that there’s more than 1% sick on any given day!

“But online learning isn’t as good as face to face learning.”

That’s a nasty message that gets spread by people that don’t understand online learning at all.  In fact, Ontario offers full credits online with the same credit value as it does face to face.  Teachers of online courses learn how to engage students, make group work work, incorporate simulations and gaming, and all of the other things that you would see in a regular face to face classroom.  That whole discussion is worthy of thoughts on its own – here we’re just talking about a day or two.  In a blended learning classroom, it really is just an extension of the regular routine.

It’s getting increasingly difficult to find excuses any more.  In a fully functional blended learning environment, snow days could become just another day where the learning takes place in pyjamas.