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….

OTR Links 02/26/2014

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

An Interview with Pat Taylor and Paul Anstett

This is a followup to a previous post on this blog “People Just Want to Connect” – with Pat Taylor and Paul Anstett who, along with me, are moderating a Facebook Group called “If Your Grew Up In Clinton ON, You Remember…”

All three of us grew up in the smallish Southwestern Ontario town.  The Facebook group was actually just a test to see if there were a few people who wanted to remember the good ol’ days growing up.  As of this posting, there are over 1,700 members.  That’s quite a few of us.

Doug:  First of all, how do we know each other?  When was the last time we saw each other?

Pat:  Oh dear, well, I played road hockey with you Doug.  I was the only girl that either you let play, or the only one that wanted to play.  I could hardly wait for the game on the weekends.  You were a year behind me in school.  As for Paul, I am not sure how we met as I think he would have went to the Catholic school.  Paul is going to have to help me out with this one.  Anstetts were pretty popular, lots of kids to play with.  I haven’t seen you for probably 50 years and Paul I am not sure.  We live about 20 minutes from each other, but I can’t remember the last time I saw him.

Doug:  The story of my life.  Pat never gave me a look in high school.

Paul: My earliest recollection of you Pat was in kindergarten. Just one of the many girls in a rather large class. Once the Catholic Separate School was built near our home my parents transferred myself and my siblings. I did kindergarten & Grade One in Exeter Public. It wasn’t until 5 years later when we transferred back to Exeter Public. Most of my friends went to the public school. This would be when I caught up with you Doug and Patsy. I did my utmost to get to know a lot of my school mates by trying to hangout and do different things. The last recollection I have of seeing Doug would be in high school. Pat, I am not sure but I think we did see each other at times over the 26 or so years I worked in Clinton at Anstett Jewellers. Wow, where have the years gone?

Doug:  Actually, Paul, it was last week when I dropped in to see you at your office!

Doug:  What has been the most surprising revelation that has arose from the discussion for you?  For me, it was that Clinton had a car assembly plant years ago!

Pat:  Same for me.  I also didn’t know about the other hosiery buildings (Wearwell), Cantelon Wagon Shop or Clinton Thresher Company building. I wouldn’t have known any of that if it hadn’t been for the postings by Teresa O’Neil.

Paul: I don’t think I was that surprised to find out the numerous and varied manufacturing plants and businesses that thrived in our community over the years as much as the fact that there is nothing left. No industry left to support the family units that made Clinton such a colourful and thriving small town. I am also surprised at the continued efforts of the community to survive in today’s economic pressures.

Doug:  What do you think of the fact that some of our teachers have joined the group?  Do you double-check your spelling and grammar?

Pat: Ha ha, have to be careful what you type 🙂  I think it is great that they have joined.

Paul:I think that the teachers who have joined this group are of the same mind as most of the individuals who grew up in Clinton during the lucrative years following the Second World War. LOL The teachers are much like anyone who look back and recognize that those years were some of the most generous years that life gave so many.

Doug:  Part of the discussion has evolved around the modernization of the town over the years.  What do you think is the most significant one?  I would point to the new arena.  Although I can remember boiled hot dogs during hockey tournaments, I still have cold memories of freezing sitting on the bench!  To me, the new building has so multi-purpose and served to draw the community together.

Pat: I would have to agree, although I also liked the 1st and 2nd arenas.  Lots of fond memories from both of them.  The new one is equipped with YMCA, indoor walking track and a nice community use hall upstairs.

Paul: Well, I suppose as with all communities in Huron County, Ontario and indeed Canada, modernization is pretty much a given. It is said that if you aren’t improving you’re dying. Such a fine line. All communities are faced with the same questions, do we fix or build anew. I think with the transitions that Clinton has seen with the influence of the Air Force Base coming and going the Community has had to adjust dramatically as well as the changing population due to demographics. I myself have many fond memories of slivers in the buttcks from the old arena and many nights spent in the new arena timekeeping and I think along with Crazy Jack being the voice of Clinton, hahaha. Those were the best of times.

As for the newest Arena, I have not had the opportunity to visit and would think that thankfully the Community has had the assistance of the Race track & the Casino to look forward to the future in providing a great venue to continue training future athletes.

Doug:  I hope so too, Paul.  I have so many great memories of the Junior hockey team and the incredible athletes that we went to school with who played.

Doug:  When the group was started, I thought that there might be a few members our age.  Do you get the impression at time that we’re among the youngest?  What would you estimate the age range to be?

Pat: When this group first started, I was afraid to type anything because I thought I would be one of the oldest in the group.  It is so nice to have older members contributing their memories and photos.  I would guess the average range would be 50+.

Paul: Well, I was thinking that when Doug asked me about starting the Group, I did not think of the ages of people so much as wow, this will be a fun venture and I wondered how many we could attract and what memories would surface. I think young or old this Group will certainly have something to offer to everyone.

Doug:  I’ll confess – I have a stack of Yearbooks next to my computer chair that I’m always flipping through to try and make connections.  I really have difficulties when the ladies are not using maiden names!  How do you cope?

Pat: I too have yearbooks beside the computer.  If a name sounds familiar, I click on the name, look at the photo, who their friends are (hoping that somewhere there is a name or picture that connects the dots) 🙂

Paul: Hahaha, I spent about 27 years trying to find my damn yearbooks, when one day last summer whilst cleaning my garage I found a box of magazines that I remember putting under the step but unable to remember what was in the box. I hate throwing things out at least not without checking and when I delved into this box of magazines, lo and behold I find my yearbooks & my wife’s as well. I have not had the time to do any serious searches or scanning but do plan on it in the future. I think for the most part I have been able to catch up with many friends that I went to school with and the search continues.

Doug:  Are you willing to share a high school photo?

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Pat: I did.  I was looking for something else and came across my student card.  Couldn’t believe I still had it.

Paul: I can’t wait to see your student card Pat. Fortunately for you Doug, after meeting with you recently, you have matured quite nicely. Seriously, I would have no problem sharing a photo.

Doug:  Are the reminiscing “rewriting history” for you?  Or should history be what we remember?

Pat: It is great when someone posts something, and I think back, and can say “Oh yeah, I had forgotten about that, or I remember that now”.

Paul: Actually the reminiscing is a wonderful living memory of days gone by and the beauty of it is we were not alone. There are other individuals that we share the memories with, some of the memories are clouded and some are still crystal clear. I think history can only be what is collaborated be the sharing of the same experiences not necessarily the same reactions.

Doug:  In my opinion, this has been such a wonderful virtual reunion.  I wonder if it will turn into a real reunion at events like the Spring Fair?

Pat: I think it would be great to have an actual reunion, realizing that people are all over the map as far as where they reside now.  I am not sure how you would start it, but in earlier comments people posted that they would come to it.

Paul: ”If you build it, they will come.” We have all heard this line and I believe it to be truth. As with anything, when progressive thing abounds then things can be accomplished. I would venture to guess that if there were enough like minded individuals who wished to sit down and work towards a common outcome then a reunion of sorts would be great. I would think the best approach would be to take baby steps and then build in the plans to grow each time it happens. As with all ideas and projects there needs to be someone to light the spark and build off of that. My experience from being a member of Lions Clubs International for the past 27 years simply put is there needs to be someone willing to Chair the committee and steer them in the right direction. Simply put a venture of this sort would need leadership.

Doug:  In many smaller communities, the opening of a store like Tim Horton’s has been devastating.  However, Bartliff’s still goes strong.  What do you make of that?  Does it speak to the community or does it speak to the quality of the products?

Pat: I think people have just gotten lazy, me included some days.  If you can drive through and order and not get out of the car, then why would you park your vehicle and walk to the restaurant.  I do, however, enjoy going into Bartliff’s and seeing some older, very familiar faces,  Bartliff’s is well known for their bakery products, far better than Tim Horton’s in my opinion.

Paul: Tim Horton’s is not an institution it is a convenience. We simply have become a society of conveniences. Bartliff’s being an institution has a different sort of history and is maintaining that culture. I think they continue to survive is because the community appreciates the uniqueness they provide. The patrons catering to Tim Hortons know that they can go anywhere these days and get the same mundane products at their whim.

Doug:  There have been some sad moments in the discussions as well.  Not all of the names that we attribute so many positive memories to are no longer with us.  Have you shed a tear or two as well along the way?

Pat: It is sad when you open up a yearbook and can point a finger to 4 or 5 out of your class that are no longer with us.

Paul: It is sad to think that so & so is no longer with us but I learned many years ago that life wasn’t fair and to make it through I had to look at it differently and the way I look at the past is with all of the happiest memories first for they certainly out-weigh the negative.

Doug:  Finally, where do you see the group going?  Have we exhausted all of our memories or is there room to continue the discussion?  Hopefully, this post will inspire some more conversation.

Pat: It has certainly slowed down.  I could hardly wait to get up every morning to see what has been posted.  I think I sat at the computer for 6 or 7 hours a day reading and looking at photos.  Now I probably spend 1/2 hr to an hour a day, but it is still fun.  The hard part is coming up with something to start a conversation about.  I am thankful for Terry Elliott and his wonderful memory.  I told him I hoped he never got Altzheimer’s, because I love reading his posts. 🙂

Paul: I see the Group growing but slowly from here on. It is wonderful to go on and see the new posts. I think it is just like anything else, you have participants and you have onlookers. There are folk who will benefit from the memories posted by others but I think there are many others who just aren’t comfortable putting their memories out there for everyone to see. Same old thing, a fear of the negative.

Doug:  I keep thinking that it would be nice to somehow index the messages.  That doesn’t seem possible though.  The best you can do to find something is to perform a search and, unfortunately, that assumes that you know what you’re looking for in the first place.

Doug:  Thanks for taking the time to participate in the interview.  I’ll post the link to the group and hopefully it will generate some more thoughts.  I’d be remiss to not express my appreciation for how well the two of you have remained connected to our wonderful home town.  The growth has certainly been organic but the two of you especially gave it a great kick start.

Pat: The big thanks goes to you and Paul for coming up with the idea.

Paul: Thanks goes to you Doug for sending me the message. I just saw the same potential and agreed with you. I have always tried to stay connected to the community. I love the fact that I have been able to catch up and re-acquaint with so many individuals who had an influence on my life. I am so glad to be part of the memories we all cherish.