February 29

Why not a post devoted to a day?

Today is February 29.  Leap Day.

There’s lots to think about on this day.  Foremost, it means that there’s an extra day in 2016.  That means that March Break comes a day later than normal.  With the ups and downs of the weather, going south for good weather might be a crap shoot.  There just might be great weather here.  Spring training is always on television.

Time and years are an interesting concept.  We’ve made it simple in the computer age but it’s long been mankind’s desire to completely understand and quantify it.  We have time zones, for example, to level the playing field although this interesting article outlines a plan to do away with them.  Even around here, there are things that aren’t digital and need to be adjusted manually so we’re not quite there yet.  I do live in a time zone (ET) that does adjust clocks but there are some areas that don’t.  It hasn’t gone missing by Microsoft which, as a technology company, wants to do it right.  Here’s an interesting bulletin to read.

And you know that they, and all computer manufacturers, want to get it right.  All you ever want to know about Leap Day can be found here.

Or in the computer science classroom.

A favourite programming assignment that shows how to build in scaffolding into coding was a Grade 11 problem in my class.

We’d start small.

Problem:  Enter two dates in the same month, in order (first, second), and calculate the number of days between them.

Now, there were a number of different ways to write the code for that and it was always fun and actually proved to be a nice start.

Problem 2:  Enter two dates in the same month, in any order, and calculate the number of days between them.

That’s a little more challenging because you never know which date would be entered first so you have to develop a solution to properly do the calculation.  Of course, there is more than one way to solve this one too.

Problem 3:  Enter two dates in the year, in any order, and calculate the number of days between them.

You know, this would be a whole lot easier if every month had the same number of days.  We review the number of days in a month by counting on our knuckles!  You use whatever tools are handy.

Problem 4:  Enter two dates that might be in this year and next year, in any order, and calculate the number of days between them.

Now it gets a bit tedious and the questions start.  Siiiiir, when would we ever need to do this other than in your class?  A quick discussion about banks and daily interest or determining the number of days until the next holiday heads that off.

Problem 5:  Enter two dates in the past century, in any order, and calculate the number of days between them.

Finally, sir.  An easy one.  I just need to add a few statements to the last version and we’re done.

Until we discuss leap years.


Of course everyone knows about them; they just never had to write the code for it.  So, we discuss how to determine whether or not a year is a Leap Year, and it’s the sort of thing that makes for a great discussion and algorithm design.  It’s also a practical example of talking about exceptions when you’re coding and how you need to keep your eyes and mind open to check for data that might be a little different from what is expected.  It’s not just about being tricked into dividing by zero.

Thank you, Caesar.

Nowadays, it’s a one-liner on your favourite online spreadsheet.

Excel Online

Google Sheet


OTR Links 02/29/2016

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

Unite for Literacy

I had an interesting conversation a couple of days ago about the limitation of tablets, in this case iPads, in the classroom with a teacher-librarian friend.  It wasn’t something that I’d thought about before but it went to reinforce a few things in my mind:

  • someone needs to be constantly driving the ship and pushing good ideas;
  • professional learning needs to be continuous;
  • you can’t just drop and run with technology;
  • and, importantly, don’t underestimate the power of a good teacher-librarian.

The message was essentially that there can be an “app for that” mentality with the use of the technology.  We’ve heard that a million times but, when you dig a little deeper, you see that there’s an underlying message.

  • only applications installed by the district can be used (and perhaps with a locked down device, that’s legitimate);
  • there are a finite list of things that can be done;
  • everything provided is deemed good and you’re not encouraged to try other things.

In this case, we were talking about literacy and the power of electronic books.  There’s no doubt that an electronic book has the potential for the device to do more for the book that paper can.  Of course, the fallacy here is that it ignores the fact that the greatest literacy device is the imagination of the reader.  And, if there must be an app for everything, once you’ve read the book, it’s done.  What’s next?  What can the child do at home?

There’s another important app that’s missing in all this – the web browser.  By browsing to the right site, lots of possibilities exist!

That’s where the Unite for Literacy site shines.

These days, we’re all so familiar with the concept of the bookshelf as a launch pad for digital materials and it works the same here – on every device I could lay my hands on.  (Well, a computer, a phone, and a tablet…)

The site has a wonderfully rich collection of books that can be filtered with the graphics at the top of the bookshelf.  The terms of use are incredibly friendly and easy to understand.  Kudos for that – why can’t all digital resources follow their lead?

In addition to clicking or tapping your way through the story, there’s an option to have the story narrated.  Nice.  The technology ends there.  Nothing swooshes or moves or animates.  The reader’s imagination is left to take over.

Showing the power of digital, check out the narration language menu.

I’ll bet your mind is spinning with ideas now.  It’s only the narration that changes; the text of the book remains in English.

Consider the newest classroom members who might be on their way to learning English.  All of a sudden, they could become the expert in the room as the book is read in a language they recognize.

It truly is the tip of the iceberg.

If students have access to the technology at home, they can continue with the stories – sharing their abilities or just enjoying stories with family.  Yes, there’s an app for this – just not the kind you might expect.

I know how I’m planning to use it.

Thoughts?  Ideas?  Please share them in the comments?

OTR Links 02/28/2016

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

How to write a successful session proposal

This post originally appeared on the Bring IT, Together website.

For the upcoming Bring IT, Together Conference, the committee expects to review over 500 session proposal (50 minutes sessions on Thursday and Friday) and offer about 150 to conference attendees.

This post will help you become one of the chosen few after a committee reads and reviews each and every submission.

Don’t Procrastinate
It’s OK to submit your proposal at the last minute.  But, that doesn’t mean you write it at the last minute.  Start mind mapping what you want to submit now.  That will start your brain thinking about it and help you write a successful proposal.

A Great Title
It’s the first thing that people see.  You need something that’s going to grab the attention of those looking for sessions to attend.  Look for something that will intrigue and encourage further consideration.

You – A Great Bio
While sessions aren’t judged by the name of the proposer, a solid background on the topic speaks volumes.  Include your background, social media presence, internet resources that you’ve developed, your work in Ontario education, …  All this counts for a strong presenter.  If you’re co-presenting, make sure that you treat all presenters in the same way.

Don’t Name or Theory Drop
Unless you’ve written or co-written some educational theory, adding a line describing it doesn’t add anything to a successful proposal.  Focus on you and your presentation instead.

This is Ontario
And your audience will largely be Ontario educators.  You know what the priorities are for Ontario schools and your own district.  Identify these as solid reasons that your proposal should be accepted.  If you have a unique way of teaching geometry with technology, we want to read it.

The Proposal is Electronic
There was a time when proposals were done on paper and there was a 200 character limit to save on paper printing costs.  Your proposal is electronic and the conference program is as well (Lanyrd).  Use the technology to its best to explain exactly what the session will cover.

What will the audience leave with if they attend?  Specifically identifying the takeaways will make it easier to understand your proposal.  Too often, reviewers will say “I wish they had explained it in more detail.”

If it is your intention to create a community of learners or sharers, make sure that you include that.  Will there be a Twitter list or Facebook/Google+ group created as a result?  Are you looking to share resources?  What will be the URL to your blog/website/wiki?

Exhibitor Connection
Do you have connections with an exhibitor or other commercial entity?  Include that.  The worst thing you can be accused of is being an advertisement for XYZ if people didn’t know that going in.  Let them know up front and they can choose to attend not attend.

Have another set of eyes
Share your proposal with a colleague and ask for their opinion.  “Would they attend something like this?”  “What wording is needed to convince them?”  

Intended Audience
There is a really good chance that your proposal isn’t for everyone.  Clearly identify that the audience is for “Grade 5 Special Education teachers” or “Superintendents in charge of technology use”.

How will you engage your audience?  Unlike the Wednesday workshops, chances are you won’t be hands-on – you’ll be presenting to an audience seated and focused on you.

Good luck!  Please consider these points as you prepare for your proposal submissions.  We want you to be successful.

Check back to this blog regularly for additional tips and information as we lead into Bring IT, Together 2016.  Follow #BIT16 on Twitter and Facebook.

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