This Week in Ontario Edublogs

I always enjoy writing this weekly post.  There are some amazing posts and thinking going on with Ontario Educators.  It’s a way to give a tip of the hat and encourage all folks to do some new reading.

Hey Mr. Business, Are You Kragleing the Curriculum?

James Cowper went and saw the Lego movie.  Normally, that wouldn’t be an interesting blog read except for the connections that James made to his job as principal at Eastwood Public School.

He makes some interesting observations that may be obvious to some people and yet unthinkable by others.  If you’re a principal or school leader in any capacity, it’s worth a read and ponder.  If not, or especially if it strikes a chord with you, the link is worth sharing with others.

Another EdCamp, Another A+

David Fife drove up the 401 to Cambridge to take part in edCampWR.  His experiences with the day were shared in the blog post.  I like the choice of sessions that he attended; I don’t imagine that my choices would be much different.  Coming through loudly and clearly was that edCampWR was another success, yes, but the real focus in his post was about people and the connections that he established/re-established there.

I suspect that the real reason that he was there was to steal ideas for edCampLondon to be held later this spring, if spring arrives.

The one thing he’s got to really steal though is Kim Gill’s mom to bake some treats for the day!

All in a Flap – Students Creating Flappy Bird Clones Using TouchDevelop #CSK8 by @mraspinall

Brian Aspinall’s class went for the gusto creating their own Flappy Bird Clone applications using TouchDevelop.  It was another class that got into programming in this powerful environment.  It’s great to see kids programming with such enthusiasm.  This post is actually a collection of Twitter messages sent out under Brian’s name.  The messages could have been created by Brian or they could have been sent by the students – it actually doesn’t matter.  There’s a great deal of student voice in them.

For example…

I like the way that the messages went beyond the trivial “This is cool” and showed some pretty deep observations about what the students were actually doing.

Brian wraps the article with a summary written in computer science teacher voice which shows just how deeply they delved into this activity.

Organizing for Inquiry Learning

Louise Robitaille and Peter Douglas maintain this web resource to support and share ideas about inquiry in the classroom.  I was looking at their list of applications for the iPad and iPod and how they were using them when I was drawn to a recent blog post.

The post talks about how they organize their classrooms for inquiry.  It’s a good read if you’re looking for ways to do a little rearrangement.

Thanks, everyone, for some inspiring reading.  Please take a moment to visit and share these excellent posts at the links given.  You can check out the complete list of Ontario Edublogs at the Livebinder located here.

If you’re an Ontario Edublogger and not listed, please complete the form and you will be.


OTR Links 02/28/2014

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

Learning to Code

I had an interesting question asked of me recently.

“What’s the best way for a teacher to learn how to code – take a class or learn online?”

I searched my mind for the best answer.  First, as you know, the options aren’t necessarily exclusive, but I think I understood the intent.  I came back with a lame “It depends upon how you learn best” which is probably a correct answer but, I suspect, totally useless.

For me, learning online or via tutorials, is the most expedient way.  Honestly, though, over the years I’ve learned or dabbled in so many different languages, I probably couldn’t sit down and write a program from beginning to end without messing myself up with syntax or any of the rules of the chosen language.

Nonetheless, I think it’s an excellent question and I’m not sure that anyone really has the right answer for all cases.  It’s not framed in the context of knowing how to write the next great program or app.  It’s based on needing to know enough to do meaningful coding with students in a non-computer science class.

If you’ve taken any computer coding course, think of the content.  Most of the time, it covers all of the aspects of the language – including things that you may never need.

Is there a way to learn “just enough” to make a meaningful activity to address curriculum expectations in mathematics or science or whatever subject area you’re interested in?  One of the best examples of learning would be the one provided by  You can check out the tutorial here.

The tutorial uses Blockly as the language throughout the tutorial.

It’s interesting and fun to work through the activities.  Does it take you where you need to be?

How about Python as a programming language?


If not, how about TouchDevelop?

Recently, I had blogged about the creation of a Flappy Bird-like application via a TouchDevelop tutorial.  It’s a great deal of fun and we know that some people have taken it and had students embrace it.  Again, though, how does the teacher learn enough about TouchDevelop to help students who want to modify the program after the tutorial ends?

And, the point of the tutorial is to know enough to move on to other things.  Perhaps being able to code a solution to a math problem or do a little inquiry with some data in another subject area.  As any computer science teacher will attest (hopefully in the open), this is where the student can clearly outshine the master.  And yet, there’s another thing that any computer science teacher will confess (hopefully in the open), it’s not uncommon to assign a problem that requires a skill far above and beyond the ability of a student to apply current abilities and learn enough new to solve.

After all, of all of the disciplines, mistakes in coding can be unforgiving at times.

I’ll be honest – I still don’t know the answer to the original question.  For me, learning a new language has always been hard work.  I’m the first to admit that it’s been a lot of fun but it’s still work.  In an already crowded daily workload, how does a teacher build learning time into having a life?  With a look given towards critical thinking, making, constructing, coding, … is it something that each individual teacher should be left to learn on her/his own?  Even the choice of a language is a non-trivial task – I’ve made reference to a couple of web-based offerings above but there are languages that can be installed locally that work just as nicely.  There are PD events such as the ECOO BIT Conference or the CSTA Conference where sessions focus on various coding projects, but it this enough to give the non-computer science teacher the skills and confidence to us in the classroom in a meaningful way?

Or is a different approach needed?  Is a more directed approach needed at the provincial or district level to try to provide resources and raise the capacity for coding in schools?  Right now, we know that we’re all over the map.  Some do tutorials and are happy with the results.  Some extend the tutorial and truly apply it in the classroom.  Some have computing abilities already and bypass the tutorials for techniques of their own.

I’m still no closer to a solution.  What about you, kind reader?  What advice would you offer?


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OTR Links 02/27/2014

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

More to Think About

I’m still looking for some way to build stories from Twitter messages.  For the longest time, I’ve just built a Storify document.  Storify has a very powerful search that easily identifies Twitter messages provided you can find them.  In a recent post “To Storify or Not To Storify“, I shared how to build the story using a similar search routine from within WordPress itself.

Then, I remembered an installation that I had done a while back by hadn’t really used.  It promises to makes me lean back towards Storify as the way of doing things.

I use the Hootsuite Twitter management software.  One of the things that Hootsuite does to extend its functionality, is to allow for third party apps.  In fact, Storify has such an app.

I had installed it, probably tested it, and then forgot it.

However, now that I’ve found it again, it may offer a solution for me.

Once installed, it injects itself into the pulldown menu for each Twitter message displayed in Hootsuite.

And, when you choose that option, the following dialog appears…

Create a new story or add to an existing documents.

It’s that simple.

This app, one of the ones available from the Hootsuite App Directory, may be enough to remain with Storify.  Now, if I could just embed it into a post….