Clipart on Demand


Sometimes, I could just kick myself.  I always seem to be the last to know.

I was working on a document yesterday and got the text right.  I thought a couple of pieces of Clipart would be nice to break up the text and to illustrate the message I was trying to create.

So I did what I always did.  I looked to the collection of clipart on my hard drive and then went searching for something in my collection of nline Creative Commons resources looking for something that had a friendly license that I could use.  As I was doing this, the little voice in the back of my head said “It’s too bad that this is a multi-step process.  Shouldn’t there be a better way?”

I completed the document and had a few minutes so I thought – if I don’t look, I’m guaranteed not to find it.  If I do look, there might be a chance that I could.  I was using Google Docs, as per usual, for the creation so I went poking around the add-ons.  You can see, from the green checkmarks, some of the add-ons that I’m already using.

As I’m scrolling, I see lots of great enhancements that would make a great word processor even better.  It didn’t take long until I got frustrated looking, but hey, this is a Google resource – I’d be better off searching.  So I did.

Son of a gun!  I added it immediately. 

That voice in the back of my head started talking again – you know about Open Clipart.  I searched this blog and, sure enough, I’d written a blog post about it before.

The acid test is always to search for “house” to see what’s available.

37 pages of results is good enough for me!

I found a suitable piece of Clipart for my document, just tested to see how easily it was to insert, re-size, wrap text around the image and was impressed.  This is a keeper.  How did I last so long with the old method of juggling multiple resources to get the job done?  D’uh.  It’s now a permanent part of my configuration.

I guess I should pay more attention to my own blog.

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OTR Links 08/31/2015


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

Why Twitter?


Yesterday morning, I was tagged in an interesting question from Jennifer Casa-Todd.

Well, let me see now.  Starting at the As, there’s Andrea, Andrew, Andy, Aviva – whoa, this is going to take a while.  As I was contemplating moving the count to my other hand, Steven jumped in with his answer.

I thought that answer might be pretty US-Centric.  Surely, there would be more world-wide.  But how many remains the question.  So, I gave it my best shot, smart aleck style.

Her response.

So, she’s working on something.  A blog post?  A presentation?  A workshop?  Hopefully, we’ll find out if we’re lucky enough to have her read this post and let us know or it gets discovered in some other manner.

But, her initial question and Steven’s response were interesting.

They reminded me of something my dad used to say.  “If everyone jumped off the end of the dock at Goderich, would you?”  As a swimmer, but yet being respectful, I never answered with my real answer “Actually, yes, it would be interesting.”  But his message about blindly following others was well received.  Does joining Twitter fall into the same category?

Jennifer’s question in itself begs a few more questions.

  • What is an educator?  It’s something that I wrestled with when I started the process of trying to connect Ontario Educators on Fridays.  What indeed is an educator for this purpose?  Teacher?  Principal?  Superintendent?  Director?  Consultant?  Early Childhood Educator?  Owner/teacher of a private school?  Trustee of education?  Consultant?  Thought leader?  Developer of educational software or web resource?
  • What is the power of a big number?  The world’s biggest echo chamber?  A place for discourse?  A place to discover and share?  The world’s biggest virtual classroom?
  • What does being “on Twitter” mean?  Being vocal and interacting?  Having an account just for your Linkedin or Digital Profile to say you have one?  Retweeting comments you agree with?  Hunting down and challenging spreaders of misinformation?  Doing nothing except coming out of hiding to say “Vote for me here”.  Being able to say “I gots a PLN”?  Using Twitter as a research network and favouring resources for later use?  Using Twitter to advertise your blog or other products/services?

Maybe Google knows.

I searched blindly for “how many educators are on Twitter” with futility but this set of Twitter Statistics from Statistic Brain Research Institute was in the results.  Hopefully, it’s good information – I’d never heard of them before.  The numbers are so huge that it validates my original response of “lots”.  Subtract the total of active users from the total users tells an interesting story.  There’s a great deal to be inferred from the numbers.  It’s really worth the read and lends an appreciation for getting in early while your desired Twitter name was still available.  The numbers are just so staggering.  It humbles you to think that anyone even knows that you’re there when there are so many other options.

So, does the value lie in the numbers?  I would suggest not, per se, but in the results that those numbers can generate.

Talk to people about the value of Twitter and they’ll talk about the connections.  Connect with the right people and the learning and the value is exponential.  There’s something really special about going to a conference, knowing people, and a bit about them before even meeting them face by face.  I think that you start to build that friendship/colleague profile by understanding what they share and where their interests lie long before ever being introduced.  Can you say that about any other media?

But we’re educators.  The value there?  I like to talk about things I learned during my first cup of coffee and before breakfast, thanks to following the right people.  Ten things I learned this morning, for example….

  • Best Way to Take Notes In Class Isn’t On Your Laptop, Research Finds
  • How a London company is bringing education to Africa in flat-pack boxes
  • Stephen Harper touts $5B surplus but Liberals call it ‘phoney’
  • Al Jazeera Journalists Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison in Egypt
  • Lemming?  3 Destructive Trends in ELearning:
  • 15 Common Mistakes Teachers Make Teaching With Technology
  • Want to set up your classroom for #BlendedLearning?
  • 7 Things Every Educator Needs to Know About Online Learning
  • Did you know chickens love blueberries? Watching a chicken run is hilarious
  • TeachOntario Talks: Teaching Team Supports Inquiry

Where else could you learn that in such a personalized manner than on Twitter?  Certainly television news only scrapes the surface of things that their producers think will be popular.  Radio news is even worse.  Professional education books are dated by the time that they’re written, proofread, revised, printed, shipped, and you stumble upon them at the bookstore.

I know of educators who are using the power of “Twitter as Research Assistant” for assistance with their Annual Learning Plan.

Whew!  That was a great deal of work but I thank Jennifer for the inspiration for her seemingly simple question yesterday morning.  It truly got me thinking and pulling my thoughts together to help me answer the question “Why Twitter?”

p.s. I still am no closer to knowing the answer to the question.

She takes her thinking to a CoffeeEDU next month (actually, in a couple of days).  If you’re in the area, why not join her and the conversation.  Perhaps it will put you over the top with one of your passions.  At the least, she’ll get a sense as to how many coffee drinking Twitter users there are in Aurora.

OTR Links 08/30/2015


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

Dumb Rules


A comment I made yesterday brought back a bizarre memory about rules.

There was a time when our two older kids were in daycare together.  Depending upon my wife’s and my schedules, you’d either drop the kids off in the morning or pick them up at the end of the day.  Because of their age difference, they were in two different rooms.  Between the two rooms, there was a cloak room where the kids’ clothes, boots, etc. were hung up and the doorways were such that you could see from one room into the other.  Each of the rooms had an outside door for entry and exit.  OK, stage set.

Dropping the kids off was no big deal.  They were always excited to see their friends and get involved in the play activities.  Often it was hard to even say goodbye to them as they were off like a shot once their coats and shoes were off.  It was picking them up that was the issue.

And where the rules came in.

Rule #1.  You have to pick up the older child first.  I’m assuming that the rationale was that they could dress themselves but it would take longer than if Dad did it.  A big shoutout to whoever invented velcro.  So, you enter their room, takes your shoes/boots off and take the child into the cloakroom and get them ready.

The problem was that the younger child could see you coming and would come to their entrance to the cloak room which was blocked by a see-through gate.  He was excited to see you, knowing that the family would be going home for supper soon.  In a perfect world, I could just reach over the gate, grab him, dress him and we were gone.  But the rules prohibited that.

Rule #2.  You could then pick up the younger child.  But, I had to leave the first room by its exit, walk around the corner into the second room, take my shoes/boots off and then get him.  The situation was always the same.  He was standing at the gate looking into the other room crying, just knowing that he’d been abandoned again.

Ever the inquirer, I asked “Why do we have to do it this way?”

The answer?  “That’s the rules.”

The response?  “Why?”

The comeback.  “That’s the rules.”

The situation helped me with my own understanding of rules.  The bottom line should be – if you’re going to have rules, you need to know why.  There are good reasons for rules – I get that – and if you could explain why, it would go a long way to understanding.

It made me think of rules in my own school.  My Computer Studies classroom was in one corner on the second floor.  The gymnasium was on the ground floor way on the other side of the school.  Some of the students would have Phys. Ed. before Computer Science (as an aside, if you have a chance to get involved in scheduling, try to avoid the period after Phys. Ed. – just sayin’) and were constantly late.  In our school, we had a rule – there was five minutes transition time between classes.  As a first year teacher, I tried to follow the rules and would regularly try to deal with it.

“Siiiiir, Why?”

My answer?  “That’s the rules.”

Later one day, I picked up the kids from daycare and realized that I was using the same lame reason myself.

It got so frustrating – the next night after the school had emptied, I timed it myself.  It took the best part of five minutes to do the walk.  Stop for a drink of water and you’d be late!

So, I decided to drop in on the vice-principal for a chat.  As a first year teacher, I was really nervous – I didn’t have a permanent contract – how dare I question things that have been established for years?  I explained the situation and got this incredulous look from him. 

“If it’s impossible, it’s impossible.  Bend the rule”. 

I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.  I’ll make the new rule “five minutes and a drink of water”.

In education, we like to have rules.  I suppose in some ways, we rationalize it by thinking that we’re making kids better citizens and keeping things safe.  In practical terms, we probably do many of them to make life easier for ourselves.

But, if we can’t think of a good reason to have and enforce the rules, do we really need it?

OTR Links 08/29/2015


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

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Every week, I gather from my reading blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers to include here.  Folks, you never fail to amaze me with the depth of your thinking and abilities to pull it all together.  Here’s some of what caught my eye this week.


Standing for Principles or Shooting Myself in the Foot

Before shooting herself in the foot, Diana Maliszewski puts in down in a stance about the Microsoft acquisition of Minecraft.  Now, she’s been a big fan of Minecraft for as long as I can remember, a regular presenter about its benefits, and I remember her blocky outfit at an ECOO Conference a couple of years ago.  She takes her time to explain her thoughts about corporate presence in education.

I stepped back and looked around the labs here.  Sony laptop, Wacom tablet, Logitech mouse, HP keyboard, Bose speakers, an Apple looking at me from the top of my iPad.  The only thing non-corporate would be that I’m writing this post in Linux.  It’s too late to close the barn door here.  We buy by brand and each of the products has built upon the nature of the previous technology.  It’s not just a mouse, it’s sculpted to fit the hand. The tablet has wrist recognition.  The keyboard is noiseless.  Where would I be without corporate involvement and making things easier, more productive, more ergonomic, and ultimately better for me?

So, I wonder about her stance on Minecraft.  Will it being branded and supported by a corporate entity change the experience?  How much change would affect her abilities as a classroom teacher to get the best from it for her kids?  Is this a fight worth fighting or is it just a natural evolution?  I would never have predicted that her views would have changed.  It was an insightful read for me; she really nicely shares her opinion about this.


Big Hairy Plans… with a Slower Start

Talk about your outwork visibileness.  (I know – that’s not a word but it’s the first thing that came to mind.)

There were a couple of big takeaways for me from this post by Heather Theijsmeijer.

    1. Great planning and exploration can be stymied by a work action.  It would be great if negotiators could read this and understand the impact that labour disputes have on the most important elements of education – students and progressive educators;
    2. In the post, Heather has laid out her plans for her courses for next year.  By being this open, she’s made herself accountable to herself and the parents/students who follow her blog.  She’s set the table with the comment “I want to blow this course wide open.”  Who wouldn’t be excited to have a teacher that can make a statement like that!

    There is No Road Map to Teaching Success

    If you need to read another blog post about changing everything and taking chances in your profession, then this one from Enzo Ciardelli should be on your reading list.

    My Teachers’ College experience goes back a little further than 12 years but I suspect that I’d say the same thing.  It’s a rather conservative experience while you learn the theories and practice from days gone by.  Practice teaching has the potential of being less conservative when you’re out in the “real world” which is still a contrived environment with students on better than normal behaviour.  Your first couple of years teaching are pretty conservative too.  You don’t want to upset the apple cart until you get that permanent contract.  After that or, after 12 years?  It is time to improve on your practice and take those risks.


    Resurfacing

    Every teacher should have a chance to raise a child.  Sure, you learn about human growth and development in Teachers’ College and you smile as you see your students grow and mature under your classroom watch.  But, as Danika Barker points out in this post, there’s something completely different and special about your own mini-me.

    After a year for parental leave, she’s returning to her classroom and will soon learn another side of parenting.  It’s hard to see your own kids learn and grow while under the care of someone else!  And it continues – first day of kindergarten, first day of high school, first day of college/university, first day at a job…

    Editorial Comment – and they learn some really dumb rules that don’t apply anywhere else than at daycare. 

    It’s good to see her back online and blogging.


    Creating Interactive Math Tasks With Google Sites

    One of the powerful things about working in the Google world, after you get past the wide variety of options (See Peter Beens’ Alphabet/Google A-Z document), is the ease and consistency across the tools.

    Kyle Pearce is constantly writing and sharing ideas and was recently asked a question about implementation with something other than iPads.  Chromebooks makes for a natural question.

    The post is a tutorial about how to extend his original content and extend it to other platforms.

    Step by step, you’ll work your way through an example with lots of screen shots.  He demonstrates his way through the creation and then invites you to test the final product.


    As summer winds down, it’s evident that great thinking from Ontario Educators continues.  Check out all these posts and all of the Ontario Edubloggers here.  If you’re an Ontario educational blogger and not on the list, please do use the form and add yourself.  Lots of people would love to read your blog.