This year, off the record


The year end is the perfect time to give thanks and have a little reflection.

My sincerest thanks to any of you who happened to drop by and read a post or two here on the blog.  While a hobbyist doesn’t blog to increase numbers (there are lots of blogs that have advertising to fill that slot), it’s always rewarding to think that in the wild west of blogging, a few of you stop by here daily or every now and again.  I’ve been writing about my passions – teaching, education, technology, technology in education, etc. for a long time now.

In the early days, my former colleagues might remember the paper newsletters that used to come out monthly.  I’ve always thought that anyone who has learned something or thought about something should share it with others.  Together, we get smarter.  The bigger the together, the smarter we get.  My first superintendent used to put the newsletter in the bundle of paper provided to trustees at board meetings.  I thought it was just filler until I got summoned to his office when he forgot to include it once and he had heard about it!  Of course, it was all my fault.  Maybe it gave them something to do during the meetings?  <grin>

With the popularity of internet services, my newsletter went digital so collecting paper was no longer a show stopper or excuse for killing trees.  When blogging functionality came about on the FirstClass system that we used within the district, the game changed again.  Sadly, that ended and I think a lot of blog posts went away with it.  But, back in 2008, I believe, I started blogging on this platform (and on the Blogger platform) and haven’t looked back.  It’s kind of humbling to skip back and read some of the earlier posts, knowing that I was just learning to use the platform at the time.  I continue to learn, through updates, various third party clients, the native clients, file formats, embeds, movies, and the list seems to be never ending.

But above and beyond this, there are a couple of really important personal things.  I’ve met so many people virtually and face to face as a result of them reading my posts or me reading theirs.  Bloggers/sharers are a very special type of people.  I’ve also learned that there are so many other eager learners who believe in the philosophy of sharing what they know in order to learn from others.  It’s sort of the old “take a penny, share a penny”.  Surely someone remembers pennies.

In particular, I’ve learned that there are so many wonderful Ontario Education bloggers.  Yes, there are bloggers world-wide but it’s important to know what’s happening at home first.  This really struck me as important when a noted Ontario educator who can always find the dark side of anything started reading and informing anyone that would listen that No Child Left Behind was coming to Ontario and it was doom and gloom for the Ontario school system.  So, to so many that I read regularly – the Alannas, Amys, Andrews, Andys, Avivas, Brandons, Brendas, Brians, Cals, Colleens, Danika (there really is only one), Davids, Debbies, Deborahs, Dianas, Dianes, Dougs, Donnas, Enzos, Evas, James’, Jamies, Johns, Julies, Jennifers, Jens, Lisas, Michaels, Muriels, Pauls, Peters, Richards, Robs, Rogers, Rusuls, Sheilas, Sherrys, Staceys, Stephens, Sues, Sylvias, Tims, Toms, ….  thanks.  For the complete list of those I’ve found and read, click the link above.

This year, I’ve tried again to do my part and I’m so thankful that I have and continue to have this opportunity.  Since I do my best to post daily, I do try to mix up my writing styles so that no two posts are too terribly similar.  Sometimes it’s a software review, sometime a comment on an article I’ve read, my thoughts on an event, … my secretary used to say often “You’re such a teacher, you have an opinion on everything.”  Damn straight!  And I’m going to get me some more.  There’s so much to learn.  You can’t stay ahead or even abreast of the curve but you sure can stop falling behind just a little bit.

There are a couple of formats that I do try to work with and refine regularly.

One of these formats is the online interview.  In 2015, I had the selfish opportunity to interview a number of people.  Why?  I just like their online persona or a project that they’re involved with and want to learn more.  These folks were so kind and unselfish to answer questions from this guy that many even haven’t met.  I hope that you enjoyed the interviews as much as I did.  p.s. they’re easy posts to write; just come up with interesting leading questions and watch them shine in their responses.

Stay tuned; I’ve got one in progress and another done.  Because the interviewee is a minor, I’m just waiting for parent consent.

I think I’ve mentioned recently that I really enjoy Stephen Downes’ format of commenting on blogs in a post of his own.  It puts all the comments together in one spot and certainly is a little off the beaten conventional track.  I’ve stolen his format and use it once a week in a post I call “This Week in Ontario Edublogs”.  (TWIOE)  I think his format leads to an interesting post to read and it’s another opportunity to promote the great thinking and blogging coming from Ontario Edubloggers.

One morning, while walking the dog, I had only one of those revelations that only a geeky dog walking blogger could have.  You could actually do a search of your own WordPress site, save the link and use it in your blog.  Now, you may have known that but I didn’t.  It works out well if every 14th post has the same title. I liked it so much that I’ve included it in the hamburger menu at the top of this page.  Or, if you want to see them all directly, just click here.

You’ll find a year’s worth of the best that Ontario Educational Bloggers have to offer.  (along with my thoughts on their posts)  I’m always looking for new blogs to follow so please let me know what I’m missing.

Finally, no year end reflection would be complete without a Top whatever list.   Using the analytics that comes with WordPress, here’s sort of a rough idea of the posts that were popular.  I think it’s misleading since there are also others that get the blog post via email or with some sort of aggregator.  Consequently, you never really and truly know the actual numbers and reach of a post.  I want to differentiate this from those “Top Blogger Lists” that you so often see.  When you discover the list, you find people on there that haven’t posted anything in a year or two but live on by reputation, I guess.

This Top 12 list is done and verified by yours truly in a truly scientific manner as I watch the birds fight over sunflower seeds at the bird feeder outside.  I’m looking at the analytics of blog visits because I don’t have anything else to go by.  These are voted for by you, the clicking public.  I personally think everything I write is wonderful otherwise I wouldn’t have written it.  Remember my secretary’s opinion?

So, here goes.  The past year’s posts by click popularity.

December – The Holidays

School districts have the last day of school before break at various times.  I think the most popular date was last Friday but I know of at least one friend who has today as the last day before kicking back.  Regardless of when it is, enjoy. I always had a holiday tradition.  I got sick. […]

November – My Hour of Code 2015 Collection

OK, so I’ve been poking around adding things to a Flipboard document to support the Hour of Code 2015, December 7-13. 

It’s nothing compared to the TDSB resource that I had written about earlier this week but I like to collect hoard things.  I hadn’t told anyone about it; I just keep flipping things into it as I find them. 

The document wasn’t super secret or anything like that so I hadn’t made it private; I just hadn’t told anyone about it until now. […]

October – Advice for all bloggers

Recently, Donna Papacosta updated her 2014 post “Advice for new bloggers“.  It’s a good read and certainly worthy of passing along to someone interesting in blogging themselves, including students.  As I started to read it again, it seems to me that there’s good advice there for all bloggers, whether you’re new to the party or […]

September – Assumptions

I still remember my brother’s first day of high school.  There are three years of difference between us so there were lots of differences.  His frustration at supper that night was all of the teachers that said “Oh, you’re Doug’s brother.  You must be …. ” and rambled off a list of attributes that they […]

August – When You’ve Lost Integrity …

It was with real disappointment that I read Shelly Terrell’s post “When Education Leadership Fails You #Edchat” the other evening.  It wasn’t actually her post – it was well written – it was the content.  I wasn’t aware of the origin of the post but, as it turns out, I “know” the student work involved.  […]

July – Stop It Already

I didn’t attend the ISTE Conference this year.  As I noted yesterday, it’s never held on a July 4 but it was on a July 1.  I enjoyed time with family and fireworks instead.  At the same time, social media does allow you to track the conversations.  Fortunately, you can follow the discussions with the […]

June – Mindset and More

Sylvia Duckworth (@sylviaduckworth) has released another new Sketchnote.  I know, because she tags me in the release of new notes and I retweet her message to help spread the message.  So, whenever someone else retweets it, I get notified. Given the amount of notifications since this was released, this may be her most popular one […]

May – Etiquette and Protocol

I’ve got to give a big shoutout to Tom D’Amico for finding and sharing this resource. “How to Use Your Smartphone Like a Professional”  I think copies of it, or even better, your own take on the concept should be printed and placed in all meeting room areas and classrooms that have elected to adopt […]

April – My “Perfect” Classroom

I enjoyed reading this post over the weekend.  “The Perfect Classroom, According to Science” By its standards, my old classroom was a little less than perfect.  I’m sure that those who joined me in B41 can agree.  At secondary schools, you don’t typically have your own, devoted classroom but I mostly did.  No other teacher […]

March – Twitter in the Primary Classroom

“One Best Thing is a collection of books created by Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) that demonstrate the use of Apple technologies to transform teaching ​
and learning. Each One Best Thing book shares a unit, a lesson, or a best practice and is designed to help another educator implement a successful practice. It’s a professional learning idea championed […]

February – The Beauty of Fibonacci

Once is nice; twice calls for blogging about it to save it. Earlier this week, Brian Aspinall had blogged and shared a YouTube video that he had created showing how the Fibonacci Sequence works in the programming language Scratch.  I read the post (liked the reference to Computational Thinking) and enjoyed the video. If you […]

January – Disagreeing

I had conversations and a memory on a theme this week that serves to make me wonder about a particular topic – that being how to disagree socially. The comments didn’t take this form, a Saturday Night Live skit, but they might as well have. In one conversation, we discussed how valuable having conversations online […]

Phew!  That’s more copying and pasting than one person should ever have to do!

Did you stick around to the bottom of this post?  If so, thanks.  If not, I hope that you abandoned me in favour of one of the other wonderful Ontario Edubloggers.

Thanks for reading this and I wish everyone a safe, healthy, and wonderful 2016.  Please come back!

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OTR Links 12/31/2015


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

News360


If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’m suffering from Zite withdrawal.  I really enjoy the half hour or so before the dog gets up in the morning to do my own reading so I want to make sure that I’m finding the best stories.  I know that Zite was acquired by Flipboard and, certainly, Flipboard is the first place that I start reading.  I have many categories (it would be embarrassing to give the exact numbers) defined and yet, I still think there’s something missing.

I equate it to getting the best results from internet searching.  There are times when your favourite search engine is bang on with the results.  But then there are times when you know there are better answers.  So often, turning to another search engine or another tool yields what you want.

It’s so bizarre since they all have the same raw materials in front of them.

And yet, it’s the algorithm behind them that helps percolate the results to the top.  It’s like various newspapers that have their own editorial bent to them.  The interpretation can differ.  This differing can open new insights but it can still be frustrating.

So, I do have a good quantity of news searching resources bookmarked and at my fingertips.

Into the mix, seriously now, is News360.

And, I almost missed it.

It came pre-installed on my Windows 10 tablet.  The tablet also came with a year’s worth of Office 365 and my first glimpse made me think that it was part of that package.

In retrospect, I guess I should pay more attention.

So, like so many applications or web resources (News360 is both), I went about adding the categories that are of interest to me.  Just adding the categories doesn’t necessarily do it.  They need to be refined.

The standard thumbs up, thumbs down and bookmarking features are there.

And, of course, what good is a learning environment if you can’t share what you’re reading?

Now, I just have to teach the program to find what I want.  A typical challenge is to encourage a news application that I want Ontario/Canadian content where it’s available.  You’ll see from the big image above that I’ve asking for Windsor, Canada as a category.  At present, almost all the stories are from Detroit.  Hopefully, that gets better over time.

It’s tough to explain why when the reasons are negative.  It’s not that the stories are bad; they’re just not appropriate for the category.

Selection_508I’ve used News360 for a while now and quite like what I see, for the most part.  It’s fast, responsive and seems to yield good results.  With time, I hope that it gets better at finding the types of stories that I’m most interested in.

After all, that’s the true test for resource like this.

OTR Links 12/30/2015


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

Your teacher blog


Yes, you read that correctly – YOUR – teacher blog.

There’s still a week left in the break.  Why not use 15 minutes to start your own blog and start sharing your thoughts, do some active research, collect the professional reading that you’re doing, get serious about collaborative inquiry, post homework, post pictures, post some original art…  The list goes on and on.

In fifteen minutes or less, you can be up and blogging on your platform of choice.  Most people choose either Blogger or WordPress.  You don’t have to buy server space or install and maintain software.  These sites do the heavy lifting for you.

You can be as creative or original as you want.  There really isn’t anything holding you back.  There was a time when managing a web presence did require a certain amount of computery skills.  Now, if you can work in a word processor and upload an image or two, you’re in business.  Reflection, thinking, and perhaps the creation of new knowledge or an opinion is all up to you.  I really like Stephen Downes’ way of addressing the articles that he’s reading.  He has a presence that he calls the OLDaily and, instead of commenting at the source, he comments on articles right there.  It makes following his thinking so easy.  The best thing is that he has a permanent record of what he’s read and his thoughts.

Are you looking for an article to give you a push?  How about “Literature Review: How Blogging Can Assist In The Development Of 21st Century Skills For Both Teachers And Students.

if you don’t want to go it alone, Richard Byrne is offering a discount on his blogging course.

So, what’s stopping you?  Afraid of writing a bad blog?  As a wise man once said “There’s no such thing as a bad blog

Isn’t it time to join the Ontario Edubloggers?

OTR Links 12/29/2015


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

A good browser better


Regardless of the operating system on your computer, if you’re spending time on the Internet, you need to do so with a good web browser. 

Fortunately, there are so many good ones available these days.  By themselves, the browsers connect you to so many good resources and points for information/research/play/work.  Even at that, they can’t cover every base and you may wish/need additional functionality to be at your most productive.  There have been a lot of articles recently about extensions for the Google Chrome browser.  That makes sense since it’s so very popular and school using Chromebooks spend their lives in the browser.

It’s been quite a while since I saw a similar article for the Firefox browser, my favourite.  Perhaps people just read the Chrome stories and go for the same in Firefox?  I don’t know but I decided to share what I use.  Here, in the Firefox world, we call them add-ons, although the menu is interesting in and of itself.  

There’s probably some deeper meaning that I’m missing.

Over the years, I’ve found that I don’t have a static list of add-ons.  Some come and go and I try to keep up with the best of the best.  Also, some are redundant when you already have that functionality with your operating system.  An example of that would be a screen capture utility.  There are some pretty good ones for the browser but Shutter works with anything on the screen so I’ve elected not to have one in my browser – logic being that I want to keep things mean and clean.

Here are the ones that I currently use to get through the day.

Google Keep

  • With a leaky memory like mine, it’s so nice to be able to make myself a note or add to a list while I’m browsing so that I can return it it later.

uBlock Origin

  • I’ve worked with a number of advertisement blockers over the years.  This one seems to be very efficient in terms of speed and memory and has been getting lots of great reviews.  When you have a slow internet connection, it’s amazing how getting rid of the advertising can speed things up. There was a time when I didn’t mind advertising but now it’s so “in your face” and time consuming while downloading, I’d just rather not be annoyed.

Shareaholic

  • You can save yourself a lot of extension resources by just installing this one.

Pinterest

  • Except Pinterest.  While the Chrome version of Shareaholic has a Pinterest option, it isn’t available in Firefox.  So, since I keep a Pinterest board of my blog posts, I have to have this extension to make that bit of life easier.

LastPass

  • Unless your memory is better than mine, or you don’t mind using sticky notes or the same password on every site, having them securely stored on the computer is a must.  There are many utilities to do this.  I just happen to like LastPass and have it installed everywhere I am!

Google Translator for Firefox

  • Regular readers will know that I have enough troubles with English.  It’s so nice to have a translator handy to translate pieces of text or entire websites into English so that I can understand.

Copy Plain Text 2

  • For a blogger, this is a wonderful tool.  The normal copy routine also copies the formatting.  Sure, you can always go in and edit out the HTML codes afterwards but why not just not copy them in the first place?

Scribefire Next

  • I’m working in it right now.  This is my blogging tool.  Rather than working online in WordPress or downloading a separate application, it’s so handy to just open another tab and start blogging.

Diigo Toolbar

  • I’m generally not a fan of toolbars but this is a keeper.  Much of what I bookmark to my Diigo account is done automatically but there are times when I find something that I want to add/annotate immediately.  This is the tool for that.  But it’s so much more than that – I have access to lists, groups, and more.

Web of Trust

  • My community is a great deal smarter than I am.  So, having WOT installed is terrific.  With its traffic light signals of red, yellow, and green, it’s nice to know what the community thinks of a site or a link before getting there.

So, there’s my top 10 list.  I can’t imagine working without that functionality.  Well, actually I can since I’ve tried it with browsers that don’t support add-ons and, when you’ve become used to the functionality, it’s awkward working without it.

What do you think?  Do you challenge any of my assumptions?  Are there other add-ons that you would recommend?  I’d love to hear from you.