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.

Related stories that have appeared on the BIT Blog

OTR Links 02/27/2016

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

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

I think I could spend an entire week writing this post.  There are so many great things being shared and thought about by Ontario Educators.  But I do my best to keep track of things as I find them and pare them down to a reasonable amount.  Here’s my offerings for this Friday.

I was a refugee. I’m haunted by today’s images of child refugees

For most of us, the concept of the refugee is something that we haven’t lived.  We may read about it, see reports on media, and perhaps an interview when it percolates to the top of the news stories of the day.

In a recent blog post, previously posted to PBS NewsHour, Rusul Alrubail paints a picture of what it’s like to live in a city hit by war.

The entry puts a face to things; Rusul is a popularly connected individual on social media.  It’s an emotional post about a real person, a real family, and not just another report that you see on the news.

How Do You Create A “Yes, You Can” Mentality?

As I read this post from Aviva Dunsiger, I couldn’t help but think about how transient teachers are.  In addressing the concept of deficit mindset, she reflects on her own experience of changing schools and having students who have a different background coming into her classroom.

I was reminded of a conversation that I had with a former superintendent once on a trip to London.  We’d always get into these deep discussions and I was so much the richer for them.  In this case, we were talking much along the same lines; it probably was in September.  His solution was that any school district should hire the very best teachers that they could and they teach those students all the way from kindergarten until they graduate in Grade 8.  That would get away from the time wasted getting to know new students and covering things that you would expect to be taught in previous grades but weren’t.  You were responsible for learning in every area of a child’s life.

The closest I ever came was being in a split grade where I had the same teacher two years in a row.

In a perfect world, it makes sense and would put the responsibility for each student’s success with that one teacher.  Of course, that’s not the reality and there are all kinds of reasons why different teachers each year are equally as good.

But, when the day is done, it’s a real reminder that any school is actually driven by a team of professionals.

14 Considerations for Inquiry Based Learning

Any post by Deborah McCallum makes me stop and think.

This time, she takes on Inquiry and has an interesting angle in her thoughts about just what curriculum documents are and what they are not.

She identifies 14 conditions for inquiry although the list says 12.  I’ll bet that by putting her thoughts down. it generated more along the way.  Interestingly, she encourages responses to her post via a padlet instead of the traditional blog post reply.

That, in itself, is a statement about feedback.  Why should it be linear when you can just post everything to a wall and let your visitor decide how she will read the thoughts.

The padlet is an interesting read.  Check it out.

Bringing it (All) Together

So, I was tagged in this post by Anna Bartosik which made for an interesting reminisce about our recent discussions about pączki and dill pickle soup.  For the record, she shared with me her recipe for the soup along with strict instructions about not deviating from her instructions.  She brings into the post references to a couple of other educators that serve to demonstrate that connections could be world-wide.

But, beyond that, there was one thing that really grabbed my attention.

A random post by someone in a chat yesterday inspired today’s blog. The comment in the chat was about profiles on Twitter, and how this individual didn’t see the importance of having one. The reasoning behind it was: she uses Twitter for professional, not personal, reasons, so doesn’t want to share anything on Twitter that’s about her.

I absolutely hate that approach.  I think that we’ve all seen these “professionals”.  They climb out of the woodwork to lead a Twitter chat as a resident expert on some thing.  Other than that, they are invisible.  Sadly, when anyone interacts with them, it gives them credibility.  They’re no more connected than that box of old cables that I have sitting over there in the corner.

Those who have credibility are those who are there interacting constantly.  They’re encouraging, supporting, learning, sharing on a regular basis.  And, most importantly, they’re real people.  You know from their profile and it truly does give other context for their thoughts.

Anna’s got it right.

Now there’s a person to follow and her profile tells why.  The dill pickle soup just happened to put her over the top.  I’ve never seen a post from her telling us to “Buy my book” but instead is engaging at so many levels.  Think of your staff lounge.  Do you engage with the person who never talks about things other than their latest self-promotional creation?  I didn’t think so.  Why should it be any different online?

Genius Day?

There’s been much written about Genius Days and their value.  Student driven, student engagment, student motivation, student inquiry, student …

As Peter Cameron notes in this post, it’s so powerful and the concept is always about “student” driven events.

He’s got a different take.

What would it take to expand the concept?

I’m not sure that I totally agree with “the catch” that he describes.  I could see that becoming another checklist for accountability and another session of sitting and listening to someone else’s ideas.  What’s wrong with being passionate about your own learning and putting it out there via blog or video and let others check in if they truly are interested and passing if they weren’t?

I also believe that most educators are doing it already.  It’s just not formally recognized in collective agreements.  That’s probably a good thing because then language would have to be drafted to build in the accountability part.  By the same token, it shouldn’t be relegated to something that teachers do by themselves in the evenings or on weekends or edCamps either… If professional learning is important to a system, then they should find every opportunity to support it.  One massive event per year doesn’t cut it.

#nf10for10 “Home”

How’s that for a lead in to a blog post?  This one is by Julie Balen.

In the post, she shares and reviews 10 books that she’s identified for just those students.

I’ll bet that those students are in your school as well.  Are these books in your library?  If not, why not send the link to someone with a budget and make them part of the resources?

My If/Then Statement about Infographics

I had a conversation this morning about the so called “digital native” and their ability to do effective research.  Their answer is, of course, “Just Google it”.  Gosh, I hate that expression.

Melanie White has an answer.

While her solution is one that works for her classroom, the creation of the infographic shows some really good advice for students.  (and I’ll bet she had a bit of a revelation creating them too!)  Check out the pair of infographics that she shares.  There’s great advice there for all classrooms.

How’s that for a great collection?  I hope that you enjoyed them and are inspired in your practice.  Why not drop by and give them a comment or a notation on a padlet?  Then, check out the rest of what Ontario Educators are thinking.