This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Fortunately, as I type this, it’s early morning.  The long grass that’s outside the window is a reminder that it needs attention.  Just not now.

Here’s a bit of what I read from Ontario Edubloggers this week.


Who is an educational leader?

Please join my friend Lisa Cranston as she takes the leap into the blogging world with her blog “Leading in Education”.  As it would happen, I also had a similar discussion about “leaders” in educational technology.  The conclusion was that so many of them were white men.  As I write this, I’d like to add another descriptor “English speaking”.  Some haven’t been in a K-12 classroom for a long time (or ever in some cases).  What makes them a leader?

For a long time, I’ve felt the same way as Lisa.  The real leaders are well read, well connected classroom practitioners who try the new ideas and make their own determination as to what’s appropriate for their students.  They don’t just close their eyes and blindly follow the “best practices” from someone who has no idea what is right or wrong but have another book to sell or speech to give.


Do You Dream of Databases?

This post, from Andy Forgrave, was actually a reply to my post last Sunday about “Whatever happened to … Filemaker Pro?“.

I knew that he’d reply when I wrote the original post.  But what I didn’t expect was a lesson in the history of Filemaker Pro and the various Ontario initiatives like the Electronic Report Card, the Ontario Curriculum Unit Planner, … which we know that Andy was so instrumental in the development of these cutting edge projects.

I knew when I read Doug’s post this morning that it would be impossible for me to let it go without commenting. But where to start? How could I start and not go on for hours and hours? And I expect that he knew that it would be difficult for me to not reply. I remember the day when John Taylor introduced us to one another at ECOO. I’m fairly certain he was looking at pushing the OSAPAC database of licensed software to the web from FileMaker at the time.

My original thought was that I would reply by writing my own post on my own blog. But the post would be out of the blue and wouldn’t have the context that Doug’s post provided. In the end, I posted a long comment on Doug’s blog, and based it on his prompt questions. To go broader would open the floodgates and I’d never get any sleep. But I did decide to cross-post it here to EdVisioned.ca all the same. After all, I spent upwards of five years from 1998 to 2003 breathing, eating, and sleeping in Filemaker. I’m sure I had a few Filemaker-inspired dreams along the way.

Into the post, Andy throws an interesting wrinkle.  He talks about database thinking.  That is a powerful and distinct skill.  When Filemaker Pro was commonly available, it was used for so many things that do lend themselves to that sort of organizational problem solving.

Fortunately, spreadsheets have filled much of that gap; they’re much more powerful now than before.  And yet, they still don’t completely fill the gap left by a good database.  Is this something that school districts should be looking in to or has the tap, tap, tap tablet thinking ruled out the type of deep thinking and problem solving that only can be done with a good database?  A good spreadsheet is good but it’s not the same.


The Problem With French Immersion

You have to go back a few years in Andrew Campbell’s “professional” blog to read his thoughts about French Immersion and the impact that it has had on the public school system(s) in Ontario.  Recently, he was one of the speakers on a Metro Morning segment talking about the state of French Immersion and the impact that school districts are feeling.  I was hoping that perhaps he would update his blog with his current thinking but his thoughts on the interview are pretty consistent with the previous post.

I think that French Immersion probably started as a good idea, conceivably to fill a need or perceived need for those parents who wanted their students to be immersed in the language rather than shipping them to a French school or hoping that the FSL program at their school would suffice.  The school districts sold the concept well and the program flourished.  Maybe it was sold too well because it’s now causing the sorts of challenges outlined in Andrew’s blog and by both interviewees in the radio segment.

My thoughts are that, if the program is indeed good, it should be offered everywhere.  Students shouldn’t be shipped to another location just for the program.  If you take a look at the geography of where many of the French Immersion programs are offered, you won’t find it in many less affluent neighbourhoods.  If the program is good for some, it should be good for all.  If it’s something that is going to separate students, then it belongs in a private school and let parents pay for the privilege.


Where to Target?

Two quotes came to mind when I read this post David Jaremy.

  • “The pie is only so big but it can be sliced in a number of different ways”
  • “Don’t water the rocks”

Both came from presentations that I remember hear years ago talking about where to put resources – professional activities, equipment, time, etc.  Both get you thinking about the effectiveness of some “programs” of professional learning.

So, what do we do as organizations?  Do we put our resources into those who may be further away from the goal, at the expense of those who want to move?  Or do we put them into the movers and risk leaving others behind?  Is there a middle ground somewhere?  I really do not know, but as I personally navigate the working world for another 6 years or so, I am anxious to see where it goes, and to hopefully have some small part in finding the answer…..thanks for reading!  Comments please!

So, what does an organization do to continue to grow?  In the post, David makes reference to Lumbermills and the impact that technology had on them.  It was a nice comparison.

Think of the conferences that you might attend.  It’s a great opportunity to catch up with educators from various locations.  How often is there “new blood” to be met?  When there is, does the social media connection help make those new connections?

There’s a great deal to be said about personalized learning and who is in charge – the individual who identifies where she/he needs to grow and that of a system that decides that everyone needs to learn the same things at the same time.  Which is more effective?

So, if you have a budget for professional learning, Where do you “Target the Funds”?  I know that I’m so grateful for some of the activities that were supported by my superiors.  I also know that they wasted money and time by making me sit through some real dud sessions that they thought were going to be good but certainly missed the mark.


Important Learning Videos

In a recent post, Donna Fry shared a number of what she called “Important Learning Videos”.  This is a collection that you might just want to bookmark for later reference.  I was pleased to see that Mary Jean Gallagher made her collection.

I had the privilege of working and also taking courses with Mary Jean.  She is a true gem in Ontario education.


How Do We Learn to Ride Bikes?

In my case, with a great deal of pain.  Like most things, my parents bought me my first bike with room to grow into.  It was huge.  So huge, that I could only do one pedal at a time.  Fortunately, we had a big hill in front of our house.  I could ride down the hill, get off, walk it back to the top and then try again.

This post is inspired by a discussion at #edcampham over the weekend as well as a real personal example I’m living right now. My oldest son is 6 years old and learning how to ride a bike. I put a helmut on him, gave him a few basics, helped him coast and said go! My wife has a slightly different approach and helps him slowly never letting go of the seat and never letting him fall.

But the point of Bill Forrester’s point isn’t bike riding.  It’s about learning in general – the comment on mathematics.

It’s an interesting discussion – does the answer lie in the big red pen with the bright ink or does it involve falling off the bike enough times until you finally learn?


Math Links for Week Ending May 27th, 2014

David Petro’s collection of mathematics links includes one that confirms what we’ve known for a long time.  It’s expensive to buy gas.

I know the logic is supply and demand but have you ever seen gas go down on a weekend?

There’s great data all around us.  I remember teaching Grade 9 mathematics and most of the students were bused by this one gas station.  Their job was to write down the price as they drove past and we made our own collection of real data to graph, analyze, and predict trends and what tomorrow’s gas price might be.  If your school has one of those devices that display car speeds in front of it, wouldn’t that provide some interesting data  to study?


Thanks, once again, to the wonderful Ontario Edubloggers for contributing such great posts.  Drop by their original posts and give them a comment.

I’m out of here; that grass calls.

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